Explained: why new sustainability rules are worrying the fashion industry

European policymakers have displayed ambitions to end fast fashion. The proposed regulations will change the entire industry.

Industry bodies, including the French Haute Couture and Fashion Federation, Italy’s Camera Nazionale Della Moda Italiana and Britain’s British Fashion Council, have spent the past year examining the potential impact on the industry that they represent. They are not entirely happy.

Some of the planned regulations could harm the industry’s competitiveness and stifle creativity, according to a new position paper released by the European Fashion Alliance, a coalition of fashion councils formed last June to lobby on behalf of fashion. fashion industry.

Why is fashion facing stricter regulations?

The European Union is targeting the fashion and textiles sector as part of its Green Deal, a policy initiative to align Europe’s economy with global ambitions to avoid the worst effects of climate change.

According to the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre, textiles are among the bloc’s most polluting sectors, accounting for up to 6% of its overall environmental impact.

The EU’s Sustainable Textiles Strategy aims to transform the industry by the end of the decade, introducing new design rules to ensure products last longer and are easier to repair and recycle, as well as tighter controls on greenwashing, stricter disclosure requirements, etc. responsibility for what happens to clothes that cannot be sold or are no longer wanted.

What are European fashion councils worried about?

The ambitions align with the EFA’s stated goal of driving sustainability in European markets, but there are details that are of concern to the industry.

Plans to force companies to disclose information about volumes of unsold and scrapped inventory would mean making “highly sensitive data” public, the EFA warned. Instead, that information should be made available only to officials, the group said.

Durability requirements also pose a challenge for luxury brands, whose garments are often not designed to withstand the rigorous washing tests typically used to measure the lifespan of garments. According to the EFA, new measures that take into account elements such as consumer care, quality, reusability and repairability are needed to measure durability in a more “holistic” way.

A proposed ban on the destruction of unsold products has hit a nerve, as high-end labels have always preferred to burn unsold and damaged items rather than expose their exclusive image to the risks of deep discounts, overselling the gray market and counterfeiters. Any ban should only apply to products fit for sale and include exclusions for counterfeit products, prototypes and samples, the EFA said.

Mandatory minimums for recycled content would restrict creative freedom and result in substandard products, he added. The focus should be on promoting the use of other low-impact materials “rather than implementing unreasonable requirements”, according to the EFA.

Further steps to increase recycling requirements or introduce digital passports for products must take into account current limitations in technology and industry data collection capabilities, the EFA argued.

What happens next?

European lawmakers have signaled that they strongly support stricter regulation of the fashion industry, but exactly what that will look like is the subject of difficult and ongoing political debate.

The industry, for its part, is stepping up its lobbying efforts, with a particular eye on draft pending requirements to make products more durable, easier to repair and recycle.

Policies must be “achievable, but ambitious”, the EFA said.

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