Key Demands Made for EU Strategy on Sustainable Textiles
14 July 2021
The ‘Wardrobe Change Coalition’, a coalition whose members include the European Environmental Bureau, the Changing Markets Foundation and other environmental civil society organizations, has published a paper calling on the European Commission to end so-called “fast fashion”. In its paper, the coalition asserts that voluntary self-regulation has led the textile and clothing industry to use huge amounts of natural resources, pollute with hazardous chemicals, and produce high levels of waste. Moreover, it is emphasised that the fashion sector comprised 74% of the total global textile market in 2020 and 60% of the global demand for fibres. Accordingly, the coalition argues that the overarching objective of the EU Strategy for Sustainable Textiles should be “to contribute to absolute reduction in production of textiles”.
In its paper published last month, the coalition set out four key demands for the EU Strategy for Sustainable Textiles and policy measures needed to achieve them. The coalition’s first demand is that Europe make sustainable textile production the norm. The coalition asserts that this can be achieved by setting minimum ecodesign standards. According to the paper, the standards should require better production processes, traceability, transparency, and information disclosure. Additionally, the coalition suggests a ban on the destruction of unsold and returned goods. Textile products not complying with the minimum standard should not have access to the EU market.
Hong Kong companies that place textile products on the EU market would be subject to any ecodesign requirements adopted by the EU and would in consequence have to consider the environmental impacts associated with their production processes.
Second, the coalition demands that the EU take measures to drive more resource-sufficient textile consumption patterns. In its paper, the coalition asserts that too many claims made on textile products as to an item’s environmental credentials confuses consumers. Therefore, the coalition suggests that the Commission adopt clear criteria for what may be called environmentally-friendly or sustainable. Additionally, the coalition has called for harmonised labelling and more reliable information on a product’s durability and repairability.
More broadly, the coalition demands that the EU ought to abandon the “linear business model” by taxing raw material use by the textile sector, as well as imposing taxes on disposable, non-essential goods and advertising. Additionally, the coalition suggests putting in place extended producer responsibility (EPR) schemes to ensure that those who produce pollution are the ones to bear the costs of waste management and ecological harm. If the EPR scheme were to be adopted, the coalition suggests making participation in the EPR scheme a minimum requirement for sellers wishing to market a textile product in the EU.
The coalition furthermore demands that the EU Strategy for Sustainable Textiles holds Europe’s textile industry accountable for its global impact. In its paper, the coalition argues that current global trading rules stimulate a race to the bottom and a disregard for environmental and human rights standards. In response, the coalition suggests a “trade reset” and stronger human rights and environmental due diligence laws. The coalition asserts that voluntary self-regulation has failed and that there must be strong dissuasive penalties placed on companies that fail to actively prevent harm. Hong Kong sellers of textile products should know that, if adopted, the due diligence laws would be applicable to all business enterprises in the EU and to any company importing goods into the EU, including the textile industry.
The coalition’s demands come as textile production continues to grow despite sustainability initiatives from major fashion brands and retailers. In a 2019 report, the European Environmental Agency reported that only housing, transport and food production make greater demands on global raw material and water resources. Textile consumption has been designated as the fourth highest pressure category in the EU as regards the use of primary raw materials and water and fifth for greenhouse gases.
The European Commission is currently gathering feedback on the EU Strategy for Sustainable Textiles, which was identified as a priority of the European Commission’s European Green Deal, in addition to the adoption of a Sustainable Products Policy and the EU’s “zero-pollution” ambition. The aim of the Strategy, according to the European Commission, is to set in place a comprehensive framework to create conditions and incentives to boost the competitiveness, sustainability, and resilience of the EU textile sector at EU level.
The European Commission plans to adopt the EU Strategy for Textiles during the third quarter of 2021. Hong Kong sellers of textile products and other interested parties can participate in the public consultation until 4 August 2021, via this link.
- Garments, Textiles & Accessories