“Gender equality with women being fairly represented throughout the value chain and those advancing change in fashion must be represented in policy, leadership and global media”- Kerry Bannigan, Executive Director, Fashion Impact Fund

Photo: Kerry Bannigan, Executive Director, Fashion Impact Fund

Kerry Bannigan is a British social entrepreneur pioneering global fashion and media initiatives to advance the creative economy as a driving force for sustainable development. As the Executive Director of the Fashion Impact Fund, Kerry spearheads high-level programs with business, Governments, and United Nations agencies to accelerate industry action and support women social entrepreneurs transforming fashion for people and the planet. Current programs include the Conscious Fashion Campaign in collaboration with the United Nations Office for Partnerships and the PVBLIC Foundation as well as the Conscious Fashion and Lifestyle Network jointly managed by the Division for Sustainable Development Goals – United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs. Kerry serves as the President of the Board at the PVBLIC Foundation and provides strategic advisory for impact programs including It’s On US launched by Barack Obama and Joe Biden, G8 Young Summit, G7 Environment, UN Family Office for Sustainable Development, and the SDG Media Summit. Kerry is a founding member of the SDG Media Zone in collaboration with the United Nations Department of Global Communications and the PVBLIC Foundation.   

Recently Denim Focus coordinator Pranta Biswas virtually covered an interview with Kerry Bannigan, Executive Director, Fashion Impact Fund. The key points of the conversation regarding sustainable growth of fashion industry is mentioned below- 

 Could you please give a brief about the Fashion Impact Fund?

The Fashion Impact Fund supports women social entrepreneurs transforming fashion to scale impact for people and the planet. Through finance, media and business partnerships, the Fashion Impact Fund amplifies the visibility and advances the economic empowerment of women social entrepreneurs leading sustainable innovations and solutions.

 Why did you take such bold steps of organizing such an initiative?

Today’s fashion industry is responsible for vast negative social and environmental impacts including water pollution, textile waste, exploited labor, poverty, gender inequality and climate change. From learnings via our global partnerships with the Conscious Fashion Campaign program as well as the stark realities exposed during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is no understatement that for progress to be achieved it is critical that the fashion industry prioritizes gender equality with women being fairly represented throughout the value chain and those advancing change in fashion must be represented in policy, leadership and global media.

Women social entrepreneurs are advocating for a new paradigm in the fashion sector – one that leads towards an inclusive, equitable, and resilient world. So often these agents of change represent vulnerable and marginalised populations harmed by the unsustainable practices of the fashion industry. It is imperative to support their leadership and increase access to finance and media placement. 

What drives us to take action:

Only 35%* activist news sources in the media are women.

Only 25%* of the persons heard, read about or seen in newspaper, television and radio news are women.

Only 2.3%** of venture capital dollars went towards female-founded companies in 2020.

*Global Media Monitoring Project 2020 – 2021 Final Report | **Crunchbase

What role does fashion play in our sustainable future?

Research from Ellen MacArthur Foundation and Fashion Revolution shares that the $2.4 trillion-dollar fashion industry employs more than 300 million people along the value chain globally. Of the 75 million garment workers, 80% of these workers are women between the ages of 18 and 35. Additionally, the fashion industry accounts for about 10% of global carbon emissions and nearly 20% of wastewater. Fashion Roundtable recently included in their Call to COP26 that if fashion was a nation state it would rank as the 7th largest economy. 

All of this is for me to say that fashion holds a critical role in our sustainable future. We need to ensure that the sector is supported as well as held accountable and that governments collaborate with the industry to create legislation and policy. The sector is powerful and influential; it needs to lead as fair, inclusive and equitable for people and the planet.

 How will the Fashion Impact Fund support the Sustainable Development Goals?

Given its global reach, the fashion industry is uniquely positioned to be a driving force in the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals; particularly in relation to climate action, gender equality, and responsible consumption and production. The Fashion Impact Fund supports women-led fashion focused innovations and solutions that are addressing the critical issues of our time, which are naturally aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals framework. 

 Do you support women in manufacturing countries like Bangladesh?

Our goal is to support innovations, solutions and advocacy programs globally that ensure safe working conditions and fair pay for garment workers. Fashion manufacturing is a majority of female workers and we must ensure from fair representation through to leadership that all is heard and supported. 

 Any message to the global textile Industry?

Take action now. Collaborate, support, and share insights. We must move away from ideas and marketing to financing the sector to drive real change.