'We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children'


In 2015, the country members of the United Nations came together and created the so-called ‘Sustainable Development Goals (SDG)’. They agreed on 17 goals that are set to establish in less than 10 years, and that will transform our world. These goals, “meeting the need of humans without harming the natural environment’’, had every nation deciding that to make changes in their country and promote sustainable development, growth and protection for future generations. This meant transitioning in the field of natural environment, society, economically and more. In this article, we shortly discuss the 5 P’s of sustainable development with regards to the apparel industry,.


One of the SDG’s is to end poverty in all forms, and make sure that people are able to unlock their true potential in a healthy environment. This includes gender equality, social protection, employment creation, but also protecting and promoting human health. True Cost reported that there are roughly 40 million garment workers in the world today. Some of these are the lowest paid workers in the world, and roughly 85% of all garment workers are women. The human factor of the garment industry is too big to ignore; as we consistently see the exploitation of cheap labor and the violation of workers’, women’s, and human rights in many developing countries across the world. Sustainable development in the apparel industry is only achievable when a good amount of wages is done to workers, treating all gender-equal and making a healthy environment.


Another principle from the SDG’s is to take care of life below water, biodiversity, and degradation.The SDG Agenda also identifies, climate change as “one of the greatest challenges of our time” and worries about “its adverse impacts undermine the ability of all countries to achieve sustainable development. Increases in global temperature, sea level rise, ocean acidification and other climate change impacts are seriously affecting coastal areas and low-lying coastal countries.

The apparel industry is one of the most pollution-creating industries. Hence, it goes without saying that it is the duty of the fashion industry, and also any other industry, to reconsider their carbon footprint and their overall environemtnal impact. In order to achieve the SDG’s, each manufacturer, each retailer, each logistics provider must fully understand and endeavor to take waste management and emission output measures.


Currently, there are many countries where (minimum) wages do not comply with national living wages.  This means that people do not have the opportunity to enjoy a prosperous and fulfilling life. Poverty eradication, lack of education and financial exclusion can inhibit countries from establishing a national green economy. If businesses in the apparel industry, including Africa, Latin America and the Asia-Pacific, can implement a promising corporate social responsibility strategy, which include the fair wages and working conditions for workers, more human beings will be able to opt for food security, youth employment and financial inclusion. 


There can be no sustainable development without peace and no peace without sustainable development. Peace is one of the most important factors for nation-building, international relationships and a better future. Violence, injustice, suppresion (the list can go on and on…) have a destructive impact on not only a single country, but to humanity in general. The only difference with wrongdoing in the past is that the internet now plays a significant role in achieving peace. We can name numerous countries that have used the internet for opposite objectives, however they remain undisclosed for the sake of this article. The apparel industry can contribute to establishing (and maintaining) peace, by investing time, effort and money to their workers, trade strategy and capacity development.


The agreement by all members of the United Nations have resulted in a Global Partnership for Sustainable Development. Based on a spirit of strengthened global solidarity, focussed in particular on the needs of the poorest and most vulnerable and with the participation of all countries, all stakeholders and all people must work together to achieve the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Now, and in the future. We, including the apparel industry, have to create a positive environment that serves our purpose, so the lives of all will be profoundly improved and our world will be transformed for the better.