Critics may have labeled Rio+20 negotiations a disappointment, but the United Nations conference resulted in at least one promising collaboration. Following the three-day event on Friday, Instituto-e, the nonprofit branch of Brazilian apparel brand Osklen, announced that it was partnering with the Italian Ministry for the Environment to promote the development of cutting-edge technologies for eco-friendly textiles. “Traces,” as they’re calling the project, will include a pilot assessment of Osklen’s carbon footprint, particularly the environmental impact of six of its preferred “e-fabrics”—organic and natural cotton, recycled cotton, recycled PET, pirarucu fish leather, jute, and organic silk—from raw-material creation to end-of-life disposal.

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The Italian-Brazilian project, which will involve personnel from both countries, seeks to provide sustainable models, improve social initiatives, evaluate greenhouse-gas emissions, and identify possible mitigation measures. The textile sector, which employs more than 30 million people in the developing world, is voracious in its appetite for land, water, and energy, according to Corrado Clini, Italy’s minister for the environment, land and sea. It also has one of the largest carbon and social footprints in the manufacturing industry, he adds.

The textile sector, which employs more than 30 million people in the developing world, is voracious in its appetite for land, water, and energy.

“Protection of the environment and social development should jointly guide the economic growth in the developing world,” he says in a statement. “Working together, the Italian and Brazilian experts are addressing the complex linkages in the poorest areas of the economic growth with the protection of the environment, as well as of the workplace conditions.”

For Oskar Metsavaht, founder of Osklen and president of Instituto-e, the time is now or never. “We are running out of time to really act the way we shall do: as guardians of this planet towards its preservation,” he says. “We are the generation that is living in one of the most important periods of civilization.”

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