Conservation International Releases Guide for Fashion Industry: How to Build Stronger, Respectful Partnerships with Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities

USA – English

USA – English
Conservation International Releases Guide for Fashion Industry: How to Build Stronger, Respectful Partnerships with Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities

USA – English

USA – English

“Indigenous Partnership Principles”  developed with Indigenous Peoples and local communities to inform consent, collaboration and recognition 

COPENHAGEN, Denmark, May 21, 2024 /PRNewswire/ — Today at the 2024 Global Fashion Summit, Conservation International, alongside Textile Exchange, released a first-of-its-kind set of guidelines for fashion, apparel, and textile companies that are looking to partner with Indigenous Peoples and local communities.

Editors, please note: additional quotes can be found at the bottom of this release. The release is available in French, Portuguese and Spanish here.

The Indigenous Partnership Principles were developed in partnership between Conservation International and Textile Exchange with direct input and leadership from Indigenous Peoples and local communities. The principles include 12 criteria to guide companies to better center Indigenous Peoples and local communities’ rights and perspectives across their product development initiatives and supply chains.

Worldwide, there are over 370 million Indigenous Peoples across 70 countries and these communities protect an estimated 80% of the world’s intact biodiversity. Yet recent research from Textile Exchange revealed that only 5% of 252 fashion companies surveyed said they were consulting Indigenous Peoples on their company’s nature and biodiversity strategies.

The creation and production of fashion and textiles impacts Indigenous Peoples and local communities, affecting their culture, land and cosmology. At the same time, these communities and their traditional knowledge systems are often undervalued and excluded from industry benefits.

The guidelines aim to represent the perspectives of Indigenous Peoples and local communities. To achieve that, Conservation International worked with 33 representative Indigenous Peoples and local community stakeholders from around the world whose experiences with the fashion, apparel, and textile industries spanned the value chain—from sourcing and design to manufacturing and waste.

“It’s critical to recognize that Indigenous Peoples have a rich and robust fashion community, and have knowledge, practices, and designs that have been developed and passed down for millennia,” said Quinn Manson Buchwald, director of the Indigenous and Traditional Peoples Program at Conservation International, who co-led the development of the Indigenous Partnership Principles. “Not only have these nations and communities historically been excluded from ventures that impact their lives and design heritage, but the fashion industry can be notorious for extractive methods of materials procurement that do lasting damage to the ecosystems many Indigenous Peoples and local communities call home.

“Additionally, well-intended conservation strategies are often created without input from Indigenous Peoples and local communities, which risks violating Indigenous land rights and pushing local communities off the land that defines their identity and provides their livelihoods,” said Buchwald, who is himself a citizen of the Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians of Montana and the Manitoba Métis Federation. “Such displacement often creates vulnerability and can increase exploitation.”

The work of Indigenous Peoples is woven throughout industry supply chains – they play a vital role in ensuring sustainable resource use, protecting ecosystems from overuse and helping to limit the impacts of waste and pollution.

Effective partnerships with Indigenous Peoples and local communities – considered to be among nature’s best stewards – can guide fashion, apparel and textile companies toward better-informed nature and biodiversity strategies that respect Indigenous and local rights, culture and intellectual property.

The dozen Principles aim to address this wide range of concerns and potential threats from the fashion industry on behalf of their Indigenous Peoples and local community partners, and contain guidance such as:

  • Understand and reduce the environmental and social impact of your practices;
  • Obtain consent;
  • Respect Indigenous and local design; and
  • Invest in the future of the craft and industry of Indigenous Peoples and local communities

“Now that the fashion sector has begun to better understand and address its outsized impact on the environment, it’s a natural next step to look ourselves in the – heavily male-led, most often white – face and think about better inclusion industry-wide,” said Virginia Borcherdt, senior director of sustainable fashion at Conservation International and co-lead of the Indigenous Partnership Principles. “It’s the right thing to do: establishing respect for and recognition of all our stakeholders helps these companies inclusively serve consumers as well as protect people and the planet.”

The Indigenous Partnership Principles, for the Fashion, Apparel and Textile Industries will be formally introduced during the panel “Pathways to Indigenous Partnership” at the 2024 Global Fashion Summit.


Dayana Molina, Indigenous Designer and Activist at NALIMO and consultant for the development of the Indigenous Partnership Principles, said (in her native Portuguese and translated into English):

“É imprescíndivel repensarmos os modelos atuais da moda. O impacto tradicional da moda, é muito danoso. O futuro do planeta, depende de todos nós. E por isso é tão importante refletirmos sobre todas atuações e esferas sociais; possibilitando futuras parcerias com populações indígenas; poluindo menos e gerando mais soluções. Não existe a possibilidade de tratar nenhum assunto sobre a vida no planeta terra, sem a lente da sustentabilidade.”

“It is essential that we rethink current fashion practices. The traditional impact of fashion is very harmful. The future of the planet depends on all of us. That’s why it’s so important to reflect on all actions and social spheres; to enable future partnerships with indigenous populations; to pollute less and generate more solutions. It is impossible to address any issue related to life on planet Earth without the lens of sustainability.”

Beth Jensen, Senior Director of Climate and Nature Impact at Textile Exchange, said:

“The fashion, textile and apparel industry is just beginning to think about and truly understand the impact that it has on nature and biodiversity. Our hope is that this work will support the inclusion of indigenous and local community voices from the beginning of any strategic planning and business integration activities.

Textile Exchange is so pleased to partner with Conservation International to take the next step of providing some specific guidance to the industry in this area, ensuring that it is centered in and led by the Indigenous Peoples and local communities themselves.” 

About Conservation International: Conservation International protects nature for the benefit of humanity. Through science, policy, fieldwork and finance, we spotlight and secure the most important places in nature for the climate, for biodiversity and for people. With offices in 30 countries and projects in more than 100 countries, Conservation International partners with governments, companies, civil society, Indigenous peoples and local communities to help people and nature thrive together. Go to for more, and follow our work on Conservation NewsFacebookTwitterTikTokInstagram and YouTube.

About Textile Exchange: Textile Exchange is a global non-profit driving beneficial impact on climate and nature across the fashion, apparel and textile industry. It guides a growing community of brands, manufacturers, and farmers towards more purposeful production from the very start of the supply chain. Its goal is to help the industry to achieve a 45% reduction in the emissions that come from producing fibers and raw materials by 2030. To get there, it is keeping its focus holistic and interconnected, accelerating the adoption of practices that improve the state of our water, soil health, and biodiversity too.

For real change to happen, everyone needs a clear path to beneficial impact. That’s why Textile Exchange believes that approachable, step-by-step instruction paired with collective action can change the system to make preferred materials and fibers an accessible default, mobilizing leaders through attainable strategies, proven solutions and a driven community.

At Textile Exchange, materials matter. To learn more, visit

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