Several countries across the globe are committed at proactively answer these questions and do their part.
As a consequence, some important regulations came into force during the last ten years, with the aim to ensure substantial support for the change and manage all aspects related to its effective implementation.
The regulatory environment
The EU aims to align the standards of the textile and fashion sector with its sustainability goals, particularly by creating new channels for developing the shift from a linear consumption model to a circular economy. For these reasons, this industrial sphere is facing an interesting wave of change also because of the new regulations to be applied.
In this regard, the European Commission has the aim to:
1) establish a new framework for identifying sustainable products, by increasing the level of measure to guarantee the presence of circular textile items and the use of recycled materials;
2) discuss the existence of harmful chemicals.
Hence, it is imperative to mention the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) which came into force on January 5, 2023 and is already affecting the fashion industry.
This new directive has the scope to strengthen and implement additional sustainability reporting rules for EU companies, those firms listed on the EU-regulated market, as well as EU subsidiaries of non-EU parent companies.
In total, approximately 50’000 companies are now required to report on their sustainability strategies.
The new rules have an important role for the European economic scenario, as they will ensure an increased level of transparency about the impact of companies and their supply chains on people and the environment. Several counterparties, such as investors and other stakeholders will have access to the information they need to assess investment risks arising from climate change and other sustainability issues.
In this regard, a relevant example of further important actions developed by the EU is represented by the plan to introduce Digital Product Passports through the proposed Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation (ESPR), since data shows an immediate urge of environmental action.
In fact, according to a 2021 Joint Research Centre (JRC), several reports gave an estimation about the EU environmental footprint produced by textiles consumption: it ranges between 4% and 6%.
In March 2022, the European Commission followed up with the presentation of an "EU strategy for sustainable and circular textiles," which is part of the 2020 circular economy action plan and includes precise actions laying under the new regulation on Ecodesign requirements for Sustainable Products.
At this stage it is important to note that there is no uniform disclosure about how businesses report on their textile waste and recycling across the European area, as several other nations may implement different criteria for their local markets.
For instance, if a country's reporting framework uses the definition of textiles from the EU Textile Regulation, being all products containing at least 80% by weight of textile fibres, then a report on the recycling of handbags or shoes may not be required, whereas other jurisdictions may opt for a more inclusive approach and include such items.
As it stands, individual countries have introduced their own laws and inform consumers about the environmental properties of their waste-generating products in many different forms.
Finally, all these countries applying environmental regulations have one fundamental aspect in common: the increased ownership of supply chains for their local companies, and I personally believe it is already a good starting point for the future.
What comes next? The world of circular fashion is facing a continuous expansion and progress; therefore we should expect a never-ending development towards a common alignment promoted by policy-makers, in favour of the environment and all its inhabitants.