Article by Centre for Sustainable Fashion | Lou Budd | 05.21.2021

Fashion's role in protecting, restoring and regenerating biodiversity

The United Nations defines biological diversity (biodiversity) as the “variability among living organisms from all sources, including inter alia, terrestrial, marine and other aquatic ecosystems and the ecological complexes of which they are part; this includes diversity within species, between species and of ecosystems”.  

As the UN’s International Day for Biological Diversity approaches on 22 May, here at Centre for Sustainable Fashion (CSF) we are taking a moment to reflect on our work in relation to this year’s theme: ‘We’re part of the solution’. 

The exploitation of nature by the mainstream system of fashion production and consumption is contributing directly to land desertification, drainage of watersheds, water pollution, degradation of coral reefs, an increase in the amount of carbon in the atmosphere, and deforestation. The pervasive approach to fashion in relation to biodiversity is simplistic: a sustainable product or material is seen as a static goal, rather than engaging in the dynamic interactions that take place in living nature. Yet, there is growing evidence of ways in which the fashion sector can creatively seek to value biodiversity in its practices and there is a growing call for action. 

Through our new online course, Fashion Values: Nature, we explore biodiversity in the context of fashion and create a plan for fashion that protects Earth’s ecosystems. Our aim is to build a community of fashion and sustainability thinkers and doers that have the vision, skills, and commitment to radically transform how we live and work through fashion. Across 4 weeks, learners use Design Thinking to develop, prototype, test and evaluate their own fashion product, service or system which supports the restoration and regeneration of nature. 

Seeing ourselves as ‘part of the solution’ is a crucial way in which we can mobilise a global community of changemakers to reimagine fashion’s practices and put nature first. 

“We are in a defining moment for earth’s planetary boundaries. Bending the curve on biodiversity loss will not happen overnight, and in order to move towards long-lasting solutions, we need to meaningfully engage the next generation of fashion leaders about the linkages between biodiversity and the fashion industry.”   – Dr. Katrina Ole-MoiYoi, speaking to CSF about why she is a contributor on Fashion Values: Nature. 

Fashion Values: Nature is the first of four brand new courses to be launched on FutureLearn over the next year. The course has been conceived and developed by CSF’s education team – Prof. Dilys Williams, Nina Stevenson, Lou Budd, Liz Parker and Kae Katz. Contributing experts include Prof. Kate Fletcher, Prof. Lynda Grose, Deepa Patel, Eduardo Escobedo, Dr. Helen Crowley, Dr. Katrina Ole-MoiYoi and Dr. Francesco Mazzarella.