InStyle Badass Woman Livia Firth has been fighting on the frontlines of fashion sustainability for more than a decade, and she has some strong words for companies whose values aren't in the right place.

By Shalayne Pulia
Feb 17, 2020 @ 9:00 am
Eco Age

“I think we need to take every single CEO of every single fast-fashion company and bring them to Botswana and give them a slap,” said Eco-Age co-founder and creative director Livia Firth at the global premiere of her latest Fashionscapes sustainability documentary The Diamonds of Botswana on Wednesday. The 14-minute long film, directed by The True Cost’s Andrew Morgan, gives an inside look at the southern African country’s booming and sustainable diamond trade that has literally paved the way for generations to lift themselves out of poverty.

The film follows Firth as she travels to Botswana to understand the diamond industry and meeting with everyone from female truck operators in the mines to the president of the Republic of Botswana. She concludes through the film that the unprecedented collaboration between businesses and the government is the missing link that has led to communities, people, animals, and natural landscapes thriving as a result of the diamond industry.

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For example, 70 percent of sales of De Beers diamonds go to the South African country’s government and are then allocated towards things like education and housing, according to De Beers representative Pat Dambe, who spoke alongside Firth, Morgan, and two other Botswanan diamond industry veterans at the premiere. Dambe also attempted to debunk the notion that all diamonds from the continent are related to highly publicized “blood diamonds,” or diamonds mined in war zones that perpetuate conflict. “There are 18 countries in Africa that are focused on the diamond industry and out of 18, 15 of them are responsibly sourced,” she said.

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There is a palpable air of positivity in this film, a welcome respite from the doom-and-gloom news of companies operating with a “we believe in tomorrow because we’re destroying today” mentality, according to Morgan. “I think what struck me was that it wasn't an afterthought,” he added. “What you're hearing is stories about an actual intentionality to the way they're doing the work in first place.”

Firth has been tackling sustainability with intention on the frontlines of change in the fashion industry well before the term “sustainability” became as trendy as it is now. Since launching Eco-Age more than a decade ago, she has been highlighting eco-conscious brands who can apply for an Eco-Age approved Brandmark, which means a company meets all of Eco-Age’s standards for sustainable excellence, including respecting the rights of workers, enhancing the economic stability of the community, and promoting inclusion and equality across the board.

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Firth has also been able to promote sustainable brands as the founder of the Green Carpet Challenge. “The future is about active citizenship, collaboration, new business models, and putting people and the planet above profit,” Firth said when she was honored as a one of InStyle’s 50 Badass Women in our February issue. “Social justice is as important as environmental justice, in fact you could argue that it comes first.”

Firth’s trip to Botswana seems to have given her a new sense of hope. As she says in the film, “I came away from Botswana wondering if this country represents something even bigger — a new vision for doing business and if so, it is certainly something that needs to be protected with integrity and vigilance.”

Fashionscapes: The Diamonds of Botswana is now out on YouTube. The film will also be available on Amazon Prime this spring. 

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