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LONDON – A new study suggests multi-stakeholder initiatives (MSIs) in fashion are failing to have any impact. The paper suggests MSIs are failing to address the real issue in fashion – overproduction. It also claims MSIs are not regulated or accountable, and in effect are an extension of the fashion industry itself.

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The paper notes: “These organisations operate outside government and are formed by many stakeholders coming together. The proliferation of MSIs, with dozens in operation, has resulted in the need for a ‘meta-governance’ that, in turn, regulates and coordinates them … the expanding numbers of MSIs are largely ‘uncoordinated’ as many MSIs address overlapping sustainability issues and compete for membership within the same sector.”

The paper notes the cosy relationship between these MSIs and fashion brands. It states: “In addition to the challenges posed by the expanding numbers of MSIs, their intimate relationship with brands is also problematic: their representatives sit on boards and working groups, they fund the initiatives’ work through membership fees, and the more members that sign up, the greater the influence and capacity an MSI has to make a change.”

In an attempt to measure MSI impact, the paper’s authors analysed fashion-specific MSIs at two time points, 2017 and 2021, mapping 50 retailers to the environmental MSIs in which they participate

First, the paper examined the key environmental concerns and issues that MSIs address. Next, they present the study’s methods and the findings from the 2017 and 2021 data. By comparing and discussing these findings, the authors identified two themes of how the landscape has shifted from 2017 to 2021: first, a desire for greater quantification of environmental impact; second, material circularity. The problem for the authors is that, “neither shows acknowledgement of overproduction.”

The paper was written by Alice Payne and Zoe Mellick from Queensland University of Technology, Australia.

Well worth a read: bit.ly/3d1opEW

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