22 Nov 2017 Press release Resource efficiency

Young Canadian wins top UN Environmental prize

  • Kaya Dorey wins Young Champion of the Earth prize for her sustainable apparel business innovation
  • Kaya is one of six inaugural winners from around the world to be announced throughout November
  • Winners receive US15,000 seed funding, intensive training, and tailored mentorship to help them bring their big environmental ideas to life

22 November 2017 – The United Nations Environment Programme today announces Canadian fashion designer Kaya Dorey as a Young Champion of the Earth for introducing to market her unique apparel business that not only delivers on sustainability but also an urban street style for a generation wanting to end our ‘fast fashion’, wasteful consumerism.

Kaya, 29, is one of six young winners – each representing a region of the world – being awarded a prize by the United Nations Environment Programme and polymer-producing giant Covestro given to support outstanding individuals between the ages of 18 and 30 who have big ideas to protect or restore the environment.

Kaya began her label, NOVEL SUPPLY CO., after her hunt for clothing that both suited her style and was made sustainably from natural fabrics, failed in her local shops of Vancouver. Her ‘conscious apparel company’ produces garments free from toxic dyes and synthetics, instead sourcing hemp and organic cotton and environmentally friendly inks.

The business is based on the ‘closed-loop’ philosophy of production, which strives for sustainability by improving economic and environmental goals simultaneously. To do this Kaya is creating a ‘take-back’ programme so that the company takes responsibility for the garments it produces when they are worn out, as well as ensuring there is a solution for any waste created in the manufacturing process.

Alongside sustainable manufacturing, Kaya’s dream is to establish an automated manufacturing hub for other local clothing labels. This automated process will have machines that both manufacture apparel and facilitate research on the composability of fabrics and the innovation of new, more sustainable fabrics.  

“No one really thinks about their $5 t-shirt and how that became $5. Garment workers are getting paid lower than livable wage and in terrible working conditions. We have this fast fashion problem, it’s made people think they’re going out of style every single week so they need something new,” says Kaya. “My vision goes well beyond just a clothing line; I really want to make sustainability cool. I want the aesthetic, the design, the creation of the garment to go beyond just a t-shirt.”

“Going forward we need to start caring about what is going into the actual product, that’s why I’m pursuing an automated manufacturing hub locally in Vancouver where we’ll be able to create more product and pay people more – it’s more ethical, it’s more just, and more efficient for businesses.

“I want to create a model that can be used all around the world so that we wouldn’t be taking away jobs, instead we’d be creating different, safer more ethical ones. We can’t do it on our own, it’s just about coming together to make these changes in the world.”

Head of UN Environment Erik Solheim says: "From boosting food crops in the Pacific to sustainable fashion solutions in North America, it's a delight to announce the first Young Champions of the Earth.

"The breadth of innovation and ambition shown by the inaugural winners is nothing short of exceptional, and proof that we must continue to channel support to the world's younger generation for the solutions we need to secure a sustainable future."

Patrick Thomas, Covestro CEO, remarked: “At Covestro, we feel strongly about giving young people opportunities to make positive changes that directly affect them and their own communities. Young Champions of the Earth has allowed this to happen via some amazing and exceptionally diverse ideas which help the environment and benefit the world we live in.

“Our employees have also embraced the competition by becoming mentors to our Young Champions, which tells us that securing a sustainable future is highly important for them personally and professionally. We are really pushing boundaries with this and will continue to support the great work of UN Environment.”

About Young Champions of the Earth

UN Environment and Covestro introduced the Young Champions of the Earth competition this year to accompany its long-running Champions of the Earth award, which recognizes outstanding environmental leaders from government, civil society and the private sector. This new, young competition recognizes the importance of supporting the innovation of the world’s newer generation to find lasting environmental solutions to the issues increasingly affecting them. 

Selected from more than 600 applicants, the six inaugural Young Champions represent each global region (Africa, Asia-Pacific, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, North America, and West Asia). Regional winners will be announced throughout November.   

What do the Young Champions receive?

Each winner receives the following: 

  • US$15,000 in seed funding;
  • Attendance at the United Nations Environment Assembly in Nairobi, December 2017, and the United Nations General Assembly in New York, September 2018;
  • An introduction to the world’s environment ministers at the Champions of the Earth Gala Dinner in Nairobi, December 2017;
  • Publicity and recognition through online and global media;
  • Access to high-profile mentors and customized training in communications, project planning, financial management and more.
  • Participation in an intensive, one-week entrepreneurship course in Europe in the first quarter of 2018.


About UN Environment

UN Environment is the leading global voice on the environment. It provides leadership and encourages partnership in caring for the environment by inspiring, informing, and enabling nations and peoples to improve their quality of life without compromising that of future generations. UN Environment works with governments, the private sector, the civil society and with other UN entities and international organizations across the world.

About Covestro

With 2016 sales of EUR 11.9 billion, Covestro is among the world’s largest polymer companies. Business activities are focused on the manufacture of high-tech polymer materials and the development of innovative solutions for products used in many areas of daily life. The main segments served are the automotive, electrical and electronics, construction and sports and leisure industries. Covestro, formerly Bayer MaterialScience, has 30 production sites worldwide and employs approximately 15,600 people (calculated as full-time equivalents) at the end of 2016.

For more information, please contact:

Robert Few, Head of News and Media, UN Environment, +254 715 618 081, [email protected]