EU Strategy for sustainable & circular textiles

Unravelling sustainability laws in fashion part 2

In collaboration with Otrium, we’re launching a series of blog posts aimed at simplifying the newest and forthcoming laws and legislation around sustainability in the fashion industry. These posts will also contain guidance to help fashion brands comply with these policies.

Our first blog post unraveled the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), and can be read here. Within this piece we’re focusing on the EU Strategy for sustainable and circular textiles, what it contains, and how fashion brands can contribute to and prepare for this new strategy.

The purpose of this new strategy

The European Commission published the EU Strategy for sustainable and circular textiles to tackle problems in the textile industry. The proposal aims to decouple economic growth from the consumption of finite resources by making steps towards a circular European fashion landscape. If successful, the strategy would be beneficial both for businesses and the environment.

Greater longevity for clothing and sustainability-focused product design are key to reducing the fashion industry’s negative environmental impact. When implementing the strategy successfully, the European fashion landscape in 2030 will consist of:

  • Recyclable textiles with longer lifespans
    Textile products must be composed of recyclable fibres as much as possible, be free from hazardous substances, and be produced in a manner that supports social and environmental responsibility goals. 
  • High-quality textiles worth repairing and reusing
    Consumers benefit longer from high-quality, affordable textiles, fast fashion is out of fashion, and economically profitable re-use and repair services are widely available. 
  • Producer responsibility throughout the entire life cycle
    In a competitive, resilient and innovative textiles sector, producers take responsibility for their products along the value chain, including when they become waste. (i.e., Extended Producer Responsibility policy).
  • Less textile waste
    The circular textiles ecosystem is thriving, driven by sufficient capacities for innovative fibre-to-fibre recycling, while the incineration and landfilling of textiles are reduced to the minimum. (i.e., Eco-design policy)

To reach this vision several key actions should be taken:

The main regulations that support these key actions

The EU Strategy for sustainable and circular textiles is based on existing European initiatives, directives and regulations. The following three  are central to the EU strategy for textiles.

1. Eco-design for sustainable product regulation

This regulation will expand durability and recyclability for specific product groups (e.g. textiles, tyres , paints, etc.) by implementing requirements to improve products’ circularity and energy performance. In addition, the regulation will require information disclosures for products’ environmental impacts and traceability of all substances of concern throughout the products’ lifecycle.

2. The voluntary EU Ecolabel scheme

The label enables consumers to make informed choices and identify environmentally friendly products.  It aims to promote a circular economy and implement criteria for various products, including textiles. For example, textile products have to meet certain requirements on harmful substances, water use, air pollution, colour resistance to washing, light exposure, and perspiration. 

3. Waste Framework Directive

The Waste Framework Directive was developed in 2008 to improve  waste management, and protect human health and the environment from hazardous substances. The directive is based on the waste hierarchy establishing an order for managing waste. 

It introduces the polluter pays principle, meaning that the polluter should bear the costs of pollution prevention and control measures.

What does the Strategy mean?

All the signs show that soon there will be extensive binding legislation for textiles. Since the EU strategy will be applicable to all European companies, we recommend that fashion brands and producers quickly get up to speed on integrating the circularity principles into their business models. 

But where to start? To make it a bit more concrete we will give insight into two existing initiatives in the UK and the US. This will give you an idea of what a legislation might look like, for whom this will be applicable and how you might have to disclose your sustainability practices in the future.

Textiles 2030 WRAP (UK)

Textiles 2030 is a voluntary initiative launched by the organization WRAP (Waste & Resources Action Programme). This initiative aims to reduce greenhouse gases and the water footprint of products. In addition, it creates and delivers a circular roadmap for textiles in the UK.

Currently, the agreement gathered 92 signatories representing 62% of the UK clothing market.

Retailers and brands will have to report on:

  • The total quantity of textile products placed on the market.  
  • The fibre breakdown of the total quantity of new products sold.
  • The improvement actions taken, measured as a proportion of relevant products by weight. 
  • And commit to build visibility of their supply chain.

The Fashion Act (New York)

The New York Fashion Sustainability and Social Accountability Act, will be the first US law that will hold all major brands accountable for their environmental and social impacts. 

This applies to fashion companies doing business in New York and generating an annual global revenue of $100 million or more. Reaching luxury brands as well as fast-fashion brands. 

Fashion companies will have to:

  • Map at least 50% of their supply chains and disclose environmental impacts (GHG, water, chemicals). 
  • Report the total volumes of materials they produce.
  • Reduce their impacts, including by setting and meeting Science-Based Targets for their greenhouse gas emissions. 
  • Disclose median wages for workers and what measures are in place to embed responsible business conduct into policies and management systems.
Authors

Marit Luijckx

Former colleague, Sustainalize

Aurélia Bichet

Aurélia Bichet

Intern, Sustainalize

In collaboration with Otrium.

Read part 1 of our blog series: Unravelling sustainability laws in fashion

Don’t hesitate to reach out to our colleagues if you need any help or assistance in the process.

Published on: 30 juni 2022

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