Sustainability expert on fashion’s future

Starting out in high street fashion, sustainable clothing designer Clare Farrell initially thought she could transform the industry from within. However, after decades of experience producing upcycled clothing, her hopes for positive change lie in more collective solutions.

Throughout her career, Clare has worked for companies such as Topshop, designing products, developing brand images and engaging suppliers. But as someone who recognises the problems inherent to fast fashion, she feels passionately that a gargantuan shift is needed to remodel an overly consumptive industry into something that will fit planetary boundaries.

“I tried for so long to work in radical ways inside the industry,” she recounted, “and it is so obvious that that’s not going to change the beast that it is.”

After leaving high street fashion, she set up her own upcycled label, Goodone. Sourcing post-consumer textiles waste, she transformed it into one-off garments made from contrasting panels. She supported another upcycling initiative called Trade Remade before launching a collection of durable cyclewear, No Such Thing, that is “designed to meet needs, instead of creating them”. 

After persevering with sustainable fashion initiatives for so long, today she prefers to work towards broader changes, campaigning for Fashion Action, leading panel discussions and spreading awareness about the solutions to fast fashion. 

“It makes loads of sense to me to go from the impossible project of trying to change fashion, to a bigger project of trying to bring about system change,” she explained.

‘So fast it can’t get faster’

For Clare, the main concern is the industry’s impact on people and the planet. Brands compete in a race to the bottom, seeking progressively cheaper labour sources around the world, leading to exploitation and rural dislocation. 

On top of this, the textiles and garment industry accounts for around 20 per cent of global water wastage and 10 per cent of annual greenhouse gas emissions. Meanwhile, nearly 90 per cent of the fibres used to produce clothing are incinerated or end up as landfill, according to the World Bank

“Fast fashion relies on big agriculture and the petrochemical sector. Then, thanks to innovation and neoliberal business models, production has sped up to the point where fashion is so fast it can’t get faster,” Clare said.

A ration on fashion

But the positive news is that the solutions are out there. Clare suggests we react to the climate crisis similarly to how we have historically responded to war. For fashion this means cutting back. In a Guardian opinion piece, she wrote: “Fashion culture now would benefit from studying the ‘make do and mend’ attitude of the second world war.”

While we’re on track to consuming 102 million tons of clothing a year by 2030, she recommends introducing a rationing system for how much clothing people can buy. To tackle wastage she wants manufacturers to produce more durable items and calls for “fashion to be made unfashionable”. By this she means treating clothing as a necessity rather than a disposable good.

To achieve this scenario she believes the most effective tool is the power of everyday people. After passing through the commercial fashion sector, social enterprises and charitable work, Clare is adamant that the “complex mess” of the fashion industry can only be untangled with radical transformations from without. While governments stall on making urgent changes, she believes citizen-led democracy is more conducive to progress, as demonstrated by initiatives in France, Canada, Ireland and elsewhere around the world. 

Although it will take an international movement to tackle fast fashion, she has faith in the changing attitudes of young people and the public, saying: “It feels as if there’s a sea of change with the younger generation of consumers coming up who don’t want to shop unsustainably any more.”

For more information and to get involved with the campaign for a more sustainable garment industry, visit Fashion Action or Fashion Act Now’s website.



The 30 by 30 campaign to save UK nature

Kickstarting a campaign to restore 30 per cent of the UK’s nature by 2030, The Wildlife Trusts hopes to give us a fighting chance against the climate crisis. So far the trusts have raised over £8 million to drive the initiative forward, with the support of its president, Sir David Attenborough.

The 30 by 30 ambition aims to rewild a minimum of 30 per cent of land and sea around the country. If successful, the initiative will rebalance ecosystems and help threatened species recover in order to combat the environmental degradation that accompanies climate and ecological breakdown. 

Emphasising its importance, The Wildlife Trusts’ campaigning and communities director, Nikki Williams, said: “The 30 by 30 campaign is vital for the environment at the moment, because we know that nature is taking some crushing blows. We’ve been extracting more resources out of the planet than we have been able to put back. That means the planet is struggling to support the human race and we need to redress the balance. 

“We don’t have to think all is doom and gloom though, because it is possible to rebalance nature. It would mean that people will become happier and healthier. But just as importantly, we will see lots more species running around.”

Echoing these sentiments, Sir David Attenborough said: “We are facing a global extinction crisis which has implications for every one of us. It’s tempting to assume that the loss of wildlife and wild places is a problem that’s happening on the other side of the world. The truth is that the UK is one of the most nature-depleted countries on the planet and the situation is getting worse.”

‘We’re all interconnected’

To reverse the decline of British wildlife, the organisation hopes to mobilise individuals, households, farmers and other landowners to rewild their green spaces. 

By searching for their local Wildlife Trust online, individuals can learn how best to support the initiative. Anyone with a green space can help by planting local plant species to nurture other forms of wildlife. Farmers and landowners can support it by rewilding larger areas, including letting hedges grow out to attract small animals, and cutting back on pesticides. 

Such efforts can help restore natural ecosystems to form a positive feedback loop, allowing nature to regenerate. To demonstrate this, Williams explained that if we protect pine martens, a predatory bird species local to the UK, they feed on invasive species and help indigenous forest life to thrive. 

The initiative would also protect animals such as beavers, known as “nature’s engineers”, who naturally clean up rivers and enable other water-dwellers to prosper in a chain of natural support systems. 

“The more we can establish these kinds of networks, the healthier the planet will become, which supports us too, because we’re all interconnected,” said Williams.

As part of the funding raised for the initiative, the public has contributed over £900,000. To boost this total donate here.

Get involved with the effort to restore the UK’s nature by volunteering.

Find more information about the 30 by 30 campaign on The Wildlife Trusts’ website.


Initiative opens access to electric cars

The UK Government is partnering with charities to establish accessibility standards for electric vehicle [EV] charging points, as the country continues its push towards carbon neutrality.

Providing industry guidance and creating definitions for drivers, the British Standards Institute will set out the criteria, applying labels of ‘fully accessible’, ‘partially accessible’ or ‘not accessible’.

Working with charity Motability and the Office for Zero Emission Vehicles, the Institute will consult key stakeholders, including innovators, charging point operators and disability charities.

Gill Nowell, Director of the Electric Vehicles Association England welcomed the announcement: “We need to ensure that charging infrastructure is designed with disabled drivers in mind, and that it is accessible, reliable and meets drivers’ needs.

“We look forward to supporting wherever we can in this important and far-reaching piece of work.”

Towards Net Zero

As part of the UK’s transition towards carbon neutrality, sales of new petrol or diesel fuelled cars are being halted after 2030, followed up with a ban on selling hybrid vehicles from 2035.

The number of cars powered entirely by electricity in the UK has increased over the past decade, with car insurance dealer RAC estimating that, as of April 2021, there were 239,000 on the roads.

Drivers can have private charging points fitted to their homes, provided they have off-street parking space, but public charging points are increasingly available in garages and on the streets.

According to EDF Energy, there are now more than 35,000 charging point connectors, spanning 13,000 public locations across the country.

“With sales of EVs increasing and the government’s net zero ambitions accelerating, I want to make it as easy as possible for EV drivers to charge up their vehicles at public chargepoints right across the UK, regardless of their mobility,” said Transport Minister Rachel Maclean.

“We are taking action to provide accessibility guidance to both operators and drivers to make sure that the transition to zero-emission driving will benefit everyone in society as we build back better.”

Minister for Disabled People Justin Tomlinson echoed this, emphasising that the “government is ensuring disabled people are at the heart of our plans” and adding that “it is imperative that disabled people have the same opportunities” to access the charging points.

Have Your Say

Throughout August, Motability, in conjunction with charity Designability, is hosting a series of workshops with a focus on accessibility and vehicle charging.

The charities are encouraging interested stakeholders to come forwards and share their views, which will inform the criteria behind these new standards. 

“There is a risk that disabled people are left behind as the UK’s transition to electric vehicles approaches and Motability wants to ensure that this does not happen,” said Barry Le Grys MBE, Chief Executive Officer at Motability.

Designabilty is currently running a variety of focus groups and interviews which, combined with observational research, will help identify “key barriers for disabled people in accessing existing EV chargers”.

Over 1,000 disabled drivers have so far volunteered feedback, which will be taken on board going forward into the design phase.

“We’re excited to be working on this project which will help to set the standard for EV charging points, addressing the barriers to use which to this point have not been considered,” said Catharine Brown, Chief Executive Officer at Designability.

She explained that the charity will “develop user-friendly design proposals” and will “also be developing prototypes”, bringing the new concepts to life and contributing towards a Publicly Accessible Standard.

Charities working with disabled people or individuals with long-term health conditions who would like to participate are urged to get in touch by emailing [email protected].



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Family foundation gifts more than £1bn

In the late 1940s, Great Universal Stores was one of the UK’s leading businesses.

Led by Sir Isaac Wolfson for almost 40 years, the business had almost 80 different companies, and was best known for its catalogue and mail order services.

In 1955 Sir Isaac also set up the Wolfson Foundation, now chaired by his granddaughter, Dame Janet Wolfson de Botton.

Dame Janet is one of the country’s leading philanthropists, and to date the foundation has gifted more than £1bn to 14,000 charitable organisations across the UK.

She was recently named as one of the 30 leading donors in the UK in the Sunday Times Giving List, and has also been awarded the Carnegie Medal of philanthropy for her commitment to funding good causes.

The foundation’s giving focuses in the areas of arts, culture, education and health, and over the next five years they have pledged to make grants worth £175m, with a focus on research and education.

One recent organisation to benefit from a grant made by the foundation is the University of Lincoln, who received a £1m grant to improve rural healthcare around the world.

Commenting on the award Paul Ramsbottom, chief executive of the Wolfson Foundation, said: “There is an important need for high-quality research to address the crucial but largely neglected subject of rural healthcare – in both relatively affluent societies like the UK or in countries with much more limited resources.

“We very much welcome the University of Lincoln’s initiative in this area and are delighted to support the new Lincoln International Institute for Rural Health.”

To find out more about the Wolfson Foundation visit their website or follow them on Twitter.



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City investor funds £100m foundation

Norwegian investor Nicolai Tangen is behind one of the world’s most successful hedge funds, London-based AKO Capital, and his personal fortune stands at £550m.

He is also one of the UK’s most generous philanthropists, and the Sunday Times Giving List put his recent contributions to good causes at £77m.

Tangen’s giving is mostly channeled through the AKO Foundation which he established in 2013 with his wife Katja.

The foundation focuses on making grants to causes linked with the arts, education, culture and climate change.

The Tangens decided to join the Giving Pledge in 2019, an organisation of ultra rich philanthropists who have pledged to give away the majority of their wealth during their lifetime, or in their estate.

In the pledge Tangen, 54, a keen art collector, explains why philanthropy is so important to him and his wife: “Our focus is on education and the arts, and our belief in the change that both of these can make to the lives of others is a big motivational factor.

“Nothing is more satisfying than seeing how education transforms lives, and the return for society generated by investment in education will always outweigh financial returns.

“At the end of the day, this is not about Katja and myself or even about the AKO Foundation, it is about the sort of world we should be living in: a world which is fair, which gives and creates opportunities, and in which we all share.”

The couple’s foundation has so far given away more than £100m to causes around the world, and takes pride in having a ‘lean’ administration and quick decision-making process, meaning the greatest possible proportion of its resources are made available to support beneficiaries.

Charities who have benefited from grants include the UK-based Lively Minds, a charity working in rural Africa where their ‘volunteer mothers’ project recruits local women to run free and informal play schemes for early years children in their villages.

Other projects include the Mosvold-Martinus Trust which seeks to improve the lives of young people in Sri Lanka, and has offered scholarships to allow disadvantaged students to pursue higher education either at university or through vocational training.

To find out more about the AKO Foundation visit their website or follow them on Twitter.



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‘Dignified and fulfilling’ jobs promised

Global finance firm Mastercard has pledged to transform the lives of young people in Uganda through a $200m investment in jobs, training and education.

The Mastercard Foundation’s Young Africa Works programme has committed to enabling more than three million young people in Uganda to access dignified and fulfilling work opportunities by 2030.

Young Africa Works in Uganda focuses on three economic sectors; agriculture, tourism and hospitality and construction and housing, and the project is working with a range of partners to achieve its goals.

One of those is the Mehiel Foundation, a small charity based in Oxfordshire in the UK. Founded in 2010, Mehiel has undertaken 31 projects in 11 countries around the world with the primary aim of tackling the underlying causes of poverty and social injustice, in order to deliver lasting change in the lives of poor and vulnerable people.

Their work in Uganda has involved partnering with Celedi, a local nonprofit, to open a vocational school for girls in the Wakiso district.

The school will focus on equipping young women with skills in baking, tailoring, hairdressing, cosmetics and computing, in order to help them access careers in these areas and become financially independent.

Commenting on the launch of the Young Africa Works Uganda programme Mastercard Foundation President and CEO Reeta Roy said: “We have formed partnerships with a number of organizations and together, if we are successful, they already represent 30 percent of the goal of having three million people in dignified and fulfilling work.

“What’s special is how our partners have come together to intentionally collaborate and leverage each other’s strengths.”

The Mastercard Foundation has also supported the Covid-19 relief effort in Uganda and last year committed around $23.7 million to its COVID-19 response there, with the goal of mitigating the adverse effects of the pandemic on businesses, the education sector and on communities, while strengthening the country’s public health system and response.

To find out more visit the Mastercard Foundation website or follow them on Twitter.



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Young filmmakers needed for eco project

A charity that encourages creativity in young people is recruiting filmmakers aged 18 to 25 to create a short film about the environment.

East London-based Eastside is looking to work with young people who are passionate about telling the story of climate change, and who want to create a short film which will be debuted in time for the COP26 environmental conference, which takes place in Glasgow in November.

They are keen to hear ideas that will put environmental causes front and centre, including championing an issue such as plastic pollution, harmful emissions, food waste, activism or creating and cultivating green spaces.

The finished film could be a mini-documentary, animation, short drama, experimental or infographic style film.

The project is supported by Adobe, and participants will receive support from the charity’s filmmaking team through workshops, both in person and via video call. Successful applicants will also receive a £300 grant towards making their film, a professional mentor and access to tech and kit from the charity.

Previous participants in the charity’s filmmaking and digital projects have found the experience to be essential in helping them build their skills and learn about the industry.

One commented: “I have learned how to not only produce, direct and manage finances for a short film by myself, but have also improved my ability to network with other people in the industry in order to find crew and cast members for my film.”

The films will be a maximum of three minutes long, and made within a 2.5 month period between August and mid-October.

For more information visit the Eastside website or follow them on Twitter.



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‘You always have to look forward’

When Jack Petchey returned home after serving in the Navy in World War II he went back to work in his former office job in a solicitor’s.

But he was soon passed over for promotion, after his boss decided he was ‘not management material’.

Petchey promptly handed in his notice, gathered together his life savings and bought a car, with the intention of running a taxi service in his home in London’s East End.

He expanded into a hire car business, then bought car showrooms and eventually started to invest in property both in the UK and abroad.

Today Sir Jack Petchey, now 95, is one of the UK’s leading philanthropists, having set up the Jack Petchey Foundation and gifted £140m to good causes in the last 20 years.

His foundation focuses on education and achievement for young people, with the aim of inspiring and motivating 11 to 25 year olds across London and Essex to do their best and reach their full potential.

Sir Jack regards the Foundation as his greatest achievement, and it runs multiple programmes and projects every year to help young people learn new skills, make friends and gain confidence.

The Speak Out! challenge is the world’s largest public speaking competition for young people, while they also run Step into Dance, the UK’s biggest inclusive dance project for secondary school pupils.

In an interview with the BBC Sir Jack put his business success down to his confidence in taking a risk. He said: “Many people have said I’ve been lucky in business.

“Well, I spell lucky with a ‘p’- plucky! Because a lot of success is about having courage to make decisions and take advantage of opportunities.”

He also explained his personal philosophy is to embrace optimism and look to the future, saying: “It’s no good looking back, you always have to look forward. I can honestly say I have no regrets.”



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Campaigners tackle cluttered pavements

Sight Loss Councils made up of visually impaired people from around the country have come together to launch the #StreetsforAll campaign, asking for streets to be made safer for all pedestrians.

The Sight Loss Councils are led by blind and partially sighted people and funded by the charity the Thomas Pocklington Trust.

The #StreetsforAll campaign was launched in October 2020 to raise awareness of the dangers e-scooters, cluttered pavements and pavement parking pose for visually impaired pedestrians.

E-scooters are fast, heavy and difficult to hear. Many people ride the scooters on pavements, raising serious concerns about the risk of collisions with blind or partially sighted pedestrians.

In addition, e-scooter trials operating dockless parking have seen e-scooters abandoned across pavements, creating a real danger for visually impaired people to try to navigate.

Mike Bell, National Public Affairs Lead for Sight Loss Councils, said: “Working with Thomas Pocklington Trust, we have responded to this challenge locally and nationally.

“We have worked with RNIB, Guide Dogs, Visionary and London Vision to create sector guidance for local councils and e-scooter operators, based on the concerns of blind and partially sighted people and the actions we wanted them to take.

“We have also looked to positively engage with e-scooter operators, highlighting concerns and pushing for changes.”

Sight Loss Councils have also been tackling the issues posed by street furniture outside cafes and restaurants as tables and chairs blocking pavements are causing physical barriers to visually impaired people’s independence.

York Sight Loss Council recently invited city councillors and officials to ‘walk blind’ so they can experience the challenges outdoor street furniture poses for blind and partially sighted people.

Mike believes the work of Sight Loss Council volunteers has been central in moving the campaign forward. He added: “Our volunteers have written to local councillors and MPs and met with e-scooter operators and local authorities. These actions have had a real impact in shaping the debate.”

For more information about Sight Loss Council’s #StreetsForAll campaign go to their website or follow them on Twitter.


Superstar stockbroker gives away $1bn

Known as a ‘superstar trader’ after he set up one of the first hedge funds in the 1980s, stockbroker Julian Robertson is seen as a pioneer of the modern hedge fund industry.

His trading skills also led him to amass a $4.5bn fortune, and as a keen philanthropist he has pledged to give away the majority of his wealth either during his lifetime or in his estate.

So far Robertson, 88, has donated $1.3bn to good causes, mostly through his own charitable foundations, including the Tiger Foundation, which focuses on funding projects and initiatives in New York City.

And he has also signed the Giving Pledge, a promise made by the ultra rich to donate the majority of their wealth to good causes.

Explaining his attitude towards giving, Robertson stated in the pledge: “In 1990 I set up the Tiger Foundation to help alleviate poverty in New York.

“In my business, I was then working with some great young people who had marvelous leadership credentials, and I wanted to encourage them to be philanthropists.

“This has turned out well, as the foundation has become extremely respected in its quest to alleviate poverty and has spawned a number of young people who have become great philanthropists in their own right.

“Frankly, I count the Tiger Foundation as the most successful venture I have had a hand in starting.”

Robertson’s giving is mainly focused around education, the environment and medical research. During the Covid pandemic the Tiger Foundation launched a $5m emergency fund, and increased their grant giving by $20m in order to react quickly to the crisis.

In 2021 the foundation has budgeted an additional $5.5m towards crisis recovery, which has been used to support families at risk of eviction as well as creating academic support programmes and enrichment opportunities this summer before children and young people go back to school in autumn.

Reflecting on his philanthropy, which was undertaken with his late wife, Robertson has said: “Philanthropy was a part of our lives that we both enjoyed greatly.”

To find out more about the Tiger Foundation see their website.