Today, C&A Foundation and Ashoka Changemakers launch Fabric of Change: Innovating for a Sustainable Apparel Industry, an online challenge that seeks innovations for building a fair and sustainable apparel industry. Winners will receive prizes totaling more than €100,000 to support their solutions.
While there is a growing concern within the fashion industry for environmental sustainability and the working conditions of garment laborers, large-scale change has been slow to take hold. The catastrophic collapse of the Rana Plaza factory in Bangladesh highlighted many of the systemic problems that continue to plague the industry.
“We need to transform the way the apparel industry works,” said Leslie Johnston, Executive Director of C&A Foundation, a private foundation affiliated with global clothing retailer, C&A. “Unsafe working conditions, gender discrimination, and exploitation of garment workers are among the many challenges facing apparel. Through innovation, collaboration and a change in mindset we have the potential to transform fashion into a force for good, creating an industry in which every man and woman — from farmers to garment workers — can thrive.”
The Changemakers Challenge will crowdsource solutions from around the world. A panel of expert judges will select the most promising initiatives to receive funding for scaling, refining or testing their solutions. Challenge finalists will be invited to present their work to industry leaders at the Fabric of Change Summit, to be held in the spring of 2016. Winners of the challenge will be announced at the Summit.
“Fabric of Change will bring together social innovators and experts who have the ability to truly catalyze a transformation within the apparel industry,” said Diana Wells, president of Ashoka. “Building a strong, collaborative network of problem-solvers will be a tremendous step forward toward empowering everyone in the fashion value chain to creative positive change.”
C&A Foundation and Ashoka Changemakers launched the challenge as part of a broader partnership that seeks to support talented social entrepreneurs working to make the apparel industry more equitable and sustainable. The partnership will also map promising innovations and opportunities for transformation in the sector.
Full information about the challenge can be accessed at changemakers.com/fabricofchange. For updates on Twitter, see #FabricOfChange.
There is also a lot of momentum building around improving the output of the apparel industry, with more and more innovations around closing material loops through upcycling and recycling, improving the health of materials, and recent challenges such as the Sustainable Clothing Action Plan’s Extending the Life of Clothes Design Awards and H&M’s annual €1 million competition for new techniques to recycle clothing.
Ashoka Changemakers has a history of partnering with companies to find and celebrate social innovators around the world, through competitions such as The League of Intrapreneurs (with Accenture and GSK), the Join Our Core competition (with Ben & Jerry’s), and the Unilever Sustainable Living Young Entrepreneurs Awards.