Recent consumer reports set the value of the UK ethical fashion market at £144 million for 2012, against about £26 billion for the UK fashion market as a whole. Consumers in the UK spend about £780 per head per year, purchasing around 2.15 million tonnes (35kg per person) of which seven eighths is discarded and goes to land waste.
So if something must be done about that and what we have been doing so far has not worked, then we have to change the way we think. Is it really just about ‘taking practical action, seeing what day-to-day things can make students affect change, rather than leading a petition that may be an inspirational gesture but is actually pretty meaningless in terms of environmental impact’?
Richard Milburn definitely agrees. Richard is a King’s postgraduate student and CEO of Tunza Gorilla, an ethical and stylish fashion company whose mission is to protect gorillas and lift people out of poverty in Central Africa. Their long term goal is to have all their clothes made by communities living around the gorillas; creating an eco-manufacturing zone to employ thousands of people. By giving people jobs, this will reduce the poaching and deforestation threatening the gorillas, which will lift people out of poverty, support ethical African cotton growers and generate revenue to provide funds for conservation efforts to protect the gorillas.
“I don’t know anyone who doesn’t want to save gorillas and lift people out of poverty – it’s about creating that kind of unifying principle to engage people, regardless of whether you vote right or left. Most people want to see something change, so you’ve got to engage them and praise them for those things that they do well, rather than having a go at those who, although may be passionate about pushing for a better future, nevertheless have a different approach,” he says.
“Someone in the Fossil Free campaign once told me that I wasn’t green”, said Richard, adding, “which is absurd because my entire life is spent on environmental issues, just my approach is different; so a lot of these activist campaigns tend to ostracize people. If you’re preaching morality, you’ll inevitably get people trying to find flaws in what you’re doing, but if you take a proactive stance and say here’s a couple of things you can do to push this forward, there might actually be change.”
“If you’re talking to investors, you’re pretty sure they don’t care much for the morality of it. If you go to the Union and College and say we think you should move your investments from fossil fuels, which are becoming stranded assets, to battery technology, because clearly that is the future and shows growth prospects, these are the five funds you can invest in, this is their rate of return; then that is a much stronger argument. The people that manage the College fund are concerned with maximizing return for their investors, so they can’t just pull money out. Identify what we want to see change and show the economic returns for that,” says Richard.
If you’re still not convinced that what you eat for lunch or where you buy your clothes can change the world, and that this is actually what matters, you can find more information on here: