The Convention on Biodiversity (CBD) is an international environmental agreement and forms the world's most important contract on the subject of biodiversity. A total of 196 countries - including all countries of the project partners - have committed themselves to this agreement. In Article 2 Biodiversity is defined as the variability among living organisms from all sources including 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. (Convention on Biological Diversity, 1992)

The value of biodiversity is multifaceted and affects every person and economic operator without exception. Among other things, the following six values ​​can be recorded (Krishi Siksha, 2011): 

1. Consumptive use value: The diversity of organisms provide, among others: food, clothing, shelter, medicines, proteins, enzymes, papers, beverages, and narcotics 

2. Productive use value: Bio-rich areas are searched for potential genetic properties in plants or animals that can be used to develop better varieties of crops for use in farming and plantation programs or to develop better livestock. To the pharmacist, biological diversity is the main source of new drugs, which can be identified from plant or animal products. To industrialists, biodiversity is a rich storehouse that drives the creation of new products. For the agricultural scientist, biodiversity is the basis for the development of better crops. 

3. Social values: People value biodiversity as a part of their livelihood as well as through cultural and religious sentiments. A great variety of crops have been cultivated in traditional agricultural systems that permitted a wide range of products to be grown and marketed throughout the year, thus acting as an insurance against the failure of any one crop. 

4. Ethical and moral values: Ethical values related to biodiversity conservation are based on the importance of protecting all forms of life against illegal activities like the smuggling of rare organisms, valuable for the maintenance of biodiversity, as well as bio-piracy, illicit trade, etc. 

5. Aesthetic value: Biodiversity is a direct source of pleasure and aesthetic satisfaction – it is a contribution to humanity’s quality of life, outdoor recreation and scenic enjoyment. 

6. Option value: It is impossible to predict which of our species or traditional varieties of crops and animals will be of greatest use in the future. Important ecosystem services and uses for plants and animals are still unknown.

Biodiversity is not only essential for survival, it is also under serious threat. Based on current trends, an estimate of 34,000 plant and 5,200 animal species face extinction. For thousands of years we have been breeding a vast array of domesticated plants and animals important for our nutrition. However, this treasure house is shrinking because modern commercial agriculture focuses on relatively few crop varieties and instead operates more and more monocultures. In addition, about 30% of breeds of the main farm animal species are currently facing a high risk of extinction. While the loss of individual species catches our attention, it is the fragmentation, degradation, and outright loss of forests, wetlands, and other ecosystems that poses the gravest threat to biological diversity. The loss of biodiversity often reduces the productivity of ecosystems, thereby shrinking nature’s basket of goods and services – whether it be food or natural materials for the fashion industry – from which we constantly draw (Convention on Biological Diversity, Sustaining Life on Earth, 2000)

In 2005, the United Nations⁠ presented the most comprehensive study to date on the global state and change of ecosystems (German Environment Agency). The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA) assessed the consequences of ecosystem change for human well-being and has incorporated the work of more than 1,360 experts worldwide in this process. The bottom line of the MA findings is that human actions are depleting Earth’s natural capital, putting such strain on the environment that the ability of the planet’s ecosystems to sustain future generations can no longer be taken for granted. At the same time, the assessment shows that with appropriate actions it is possible to reverse the degradation of many ecosystem services over the next 50 years, but the changes in policy and practice required are substantial and not currently underway (Millenium Ecosystem Assessment, 2005).

In recent years, there has been a clear trend towards sustainability in both the food and the fashion industry. In order to follow the eco fashion trend, more and more designers are creating clothes and (home) textiles from organically produced cotton or other natural fibers. In addition to improving the extraction of natural fibers such as cotton, the improvement and optimization of the subsequent treatment and processing in the textile industry is the focus of many research projects. Here it is mostly about the process of dyeing and the development of new dyes and dyeing methods. Environmentally friendly methods as well as the use of vegetable dyes and the increased use of renewable raw materials are topics that are taken up in various projects. In addition to the production and use of ecological materials and the optimization of the manufacturing processes, it is also important to promote the marketing of ecological textiles and to develop a successful information policy for consumers. It is important to continue to market eco-textiles and to raise public awareness through targeted public relations work and advertising (OPEN4INNOVATION, Fabrik der Zukunft). To raise global awareness on the urgency of food system transformation, and foster commitments for concrete actions, the UN convened a Food System Summit in 2021 (United Nations, Food Systems Summit, 2021). This summit represents many other measures and awareness-raising actions. Measures like these should lead to a rethinking of consumers and subsequently producers, which is urgently needed. The nature and environmental protection organization WWF has published that about a quarter of our ecological footprint can be traced back to what we eat. The consumption of animal products such as eggs, milk and meat accounts for around two thirds of the land use and also of the greenhouse gas emissions of the entire food supply. In addition, many raw materials in our food – such as soya and palm oil – have their origin in the biodiversity hotspots of our planet, such as the Amazon region. Our nourishment can indirectly lead to the clearing of valuable tropical forests or savannas - or not. But the production of food in Europe also contributes to the degradation of the climate and nature, above all through conventional cultivation methods and intensive land use. Improving production conditions in the direction of organic farming conserves resources and preserves biodiversity (WWF Austria, Nachhaltige Ernährung).

  • The fashion and food industries can learn from each other and inspire each other to work transparently and sustainably. 
  • Providing resources and support to suppliers and changing the marketing strategies around sustainable options are two lessons for both the fashion and food industries. 
  • Missed opportunities – such as considering a supply chain that supports biodiversity instead of destroying it – offer insights that are applicable to both industries. 
  • A circular economy can be constructed, moving from the food industry to the fashion industry. For example, a recent study shows that there are enough usable agricultural residue streams from South and Southeast Asia alone for wide scale production of upcycled natural fiber textiles (Sustainable Life Media, Inc, Sustainable Brands, 2021)

Examples of seals of quality indicating biodiversity in the food sector (McKinsey & Company, 2020):


This seal distinguishes companies that do not use animals or their products (e.g. no dung). Added to this is the absence of chemical-synthetic pesticides. Attention is paid not only to soil health, but also to biodiversity, through mixed cultures, crop rotation and the creation of hedges and flower strips and the targeted promotion of species.

This seal certifies products that are organically grown according to the EU organic directive and are vegan. This means that neither the ingredients of a product nor the auxiliary materials used in production may consist of animals or their products.

Farms with this seal of quality only work their soil very gently and pay attention to biodiversity. Varieties appropriate to the location are cultivated in crop rotation in order to compensate for the respective one-sidedness of the plants and to maintain the liveliness of the soil.

A map of biodiversity impact areas that can help companies to determine where to focus their efforts in effectively supporting biodiversity in the production of fashion. Published by McKinsey (McKinsey & Company, 2020):

Convention on Biological Diversity (1992), United Nations. Article 2. Use of terms.  

Krishi Siksha. ENVIRONMENTAL STUDIES, Biodiversity and its conservation (2011).  

Convention on Biological Diversity, Sustaining Life on Earth – How the Convention on Biological Diversity promotes nature and human well-being (2000).  

German Environment Agency, Biodiversity.  

Millenium Ecosystem Assessment (2005).  

OPEN4INNOVATION, Fabrik der Zukunft – Eco Fashion.  

United Nations, Food Systems Summit 2021.  

WWF Austria, Nachhaltige Ernährung – Essen innerhalb der Grenzen des Planeten.  

Sustainable Life Media, Inc, Sustainable Brands. Trending: Could Food Waste Be the Future of Fashion? (2021).  

animal.fair, Ethik.Guide. Tierschutz & Tierrechte, faire Produktion & Handel: Die 13 wichtigsten Lebensmittel-Gütesiegel auf einen Blick (2021).,oder deren Produkten bestehen dürfen.  

McKinsey & Company. Biodiversity: The next frontier in sustainable fashion (2020).