It should be said loud by now: clothes are political!
Our choices, styles, and preferences exist in a context shaped by political and economic decisions. We talked more about this in the previous blog post. If you haven’t already, check it out first, before continuing with this one.
Yet, it took policymakers a long time to take fashion seriously. For a number of reasons, including the idea that fashion is purely a creative domain, to the fact that some fashion companies hold significant economic power. Luckily, things are changing. The EU (along with the US) is now considering new regulations, focused on the sustainable future of fashion.
And by the end of this year, we might have it! If you want to understand better what the strategy is about then keep on reading. We are diving deeper into the EU fashion plans!
A part of a bigger plan
The fact that the EU and companies based here play a big role in the fashion industry isn’t anything new. Neither is the fact that the EU contributes, as a producer and consumer of textiles, largely to the environmental and social crisis linked to fashion. For years, citizens, activists, and organisations have been saying this. Organisations like Fashion Revolution have also been lobbying for years for better policies and regulations in the industry.
So, why is the EU interested in sustainable fashion now? What changed?
The upcoming textile strategy is a part of a new generation of European policies and initiatives, known as the EU Green Deal. You might have heard of it but essentially, this is an elaborate plan to get out of the COVID-19 pandemic as a cleaner, more sustainable, and stronger economy. One of the biggest promises of the Green Deal is to achieve no net emissions of greenhouse gases by 2050. In case you aren’t sure, greenhouse gases are the key contributor to climate change, and finding ways to reduce them in every aspect of our life and business is essential for the future. We previously wrote about this topic here, so give it a read if you want to learn more.
Now, the Green Deal is a big and quite ambitious framework, rather than a single plan or legislation. It is composed of different parts, segments, and groups. Getting complicated? A bit but stick with us! One of the important parts of the EU’s new focus is the Circular Economy Action Plan (CEAP). This is a concrete plan to support the EU’s transition towards the circular economy, building on already existing initiatives. The plan involves citizens, governments, and businesses. Among others, the Circular Economy Action Plan aims to make sustainable products, services, and business models the norm and transform our current consumption patterns. This is exactly where fashion comes in!
In this action plan, the EU Commission recognises the textile industry as one of the priority sectors we need to tackle if we want to reach the Green Deal ambitions. They also recognised the environmental and social impact but also the potential of the industry. So, in the document, the Commission announced that it will adopt a comprehensive EU Textile Strategy in 2021.
In March this year, the European Parliament gave a green light and the Textile Strategy is currently scheduled and waiting to be adopted by the end of the year.
Ok, ready to see what it’s about?
Here’s a little overview.
What is the EU Textile Strategy about?
At this moment, we still don’t know the final shape of the Textile Strategy and things can change. However, the big points of the Strategy have been known to the public for the past few months, so we will focus on those.
The EU Textile Strategy’s biggest goals are the following:
- To strengthen the European fashion industry
- Support the innovation in the sector
- Boost the EU market for sustainable and circular textiles, which includes the market for textile reuse
- Address fast fashion
- Drive new business models
To achieve this, the Strategy proposes several sets of measures. Below, we are summing up the key points.
The Strategy proposes focusing on making fashion products more sustainable. This includes adopting circular design ideas, using better raw materials, and minimising the presence of toxic chemicals. It also includes making sustainable textiles more available to businesses and citizens and easier access to re-use and repair services.
Sounds good, doesn’t it? There’s more!
The Strategy takes seriously the lack of regulations when it comes to sustainable and circular textiles. This is why it will look for ways to provide incentives and support for such materials and manufacturing, as well as increasing transparency and cooperation in the industry.
Moreover, the Strategy is tackling textile waste. Concretely, the Commission will provide guidance to achieve high levels of separate collection of textile waste, which individual EU countries have to ensure by 2025. They will also encourage waste sorting, reuse, and recycling. Perhaps the most exciting news here is the plan for stricter regulations such as extended producer responsibility. What this means is that the companies that make products will have legal obligations towards what happens to that product after use. This is likely to cover any large company that does business within the European Union, regardless of where the company is based at. In other words, such regulation could potentially impact the whole world!
In addition, the Commission is also tackling greenwashing in the fashion industry. In particular, there’s a whole initiative to define what “sustainable” or “green” is, also known as The EU taxonomy. This way, consumers could get a reliable way to judge a product, cutting through marketing claims. Of course, how to measure and calculate a product’s footprint is an ongoing debate. Meaning that no regulation can completely eliminate greenwashing. Yet, stricter regulations could make it harder for the companies to do so.
Is this the answer to all problems?
Policymaking plays an important role in the industry. But we need to change how we do our businesses too. While Les Izmoor is by no means perfect, our entire mission is about this precisely: rethinking how we make and consume our clothes.
So, when we talk about the upcoming EU and worldwide regulations in the industry, we don’t see them as the final goal nor the stand-alone solutions. Instead, we see them as tools that can help us navigate the future of the industry. We are choosing to focus on those opportunities.
Finally, what the above tells us is that the biggest problems of the fashion industry have finally been recognised and addressed. And we have to admit, the ambitions proposed by the EU really give us hope. But the challenge now is to make sure they get adopted and implemented, once the Strategy comes to force. As a citizen, you can play a role in this!
If you’re an EU citizen, you have the power over how the legislation is to be adopted, carried, and implemented. The most powerful thing you can do is to use your voice. Reach out to your Parliament representatives (the MEPs) or even your local government representatives, to let them know that you care about the issue. You can also share your ideas directly with the EU, using this platform.
Though policymaking takes time and may seem complex, don’t forget that as a citizen, you can plan an important role!
Are you looking forward to the upcoming regulations? Do you think they will help the industry and your personal fashion choices? We would love to hear your thoughts on this!
Text is written by Tena from Thinking Threads