Thursday, June 13, 2024

EU moves to legislate sustainable fashion. Will it work?

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Maeve Galvin, global policy and campaigns director at Fashion Revolution, suggests that the EU could borrow from Senate Bill 62, the garment labour law that passed in California last year, securing a minimum wage for workers and holding brands accountable for violations with third-party partners.

“The proposal does not cover SMEs right now, the company scope is too limited,” says Muriel Treibich of global advocacy organisation, the Clean Clothes Campaign. “It also misses the point of unfair purchasing practices, which allow brands to impose low prices and change orders at the last minute, impacting both the environment and human rights in the supply chain.”

“There is a question mark over how the EU will measure sustainable textiles and garments,” says Dalena White, secretary general of the International Wool Textile Organisation and spokesperson for Make The Label Count, an international coalition working to curb greenwashing in the EU. “The EU plans to use the Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) method, which currently does not include renewability, biodegradability, biodiversity, social impacts or microplastic pollution.”

Fashion Revolution, which produces an annual transparency index based on sustainability information brands share publicly, says there is room for the EU to include the challenge of overproduction in its strategy. “Our data shows that just 14 per cent of brands share information on how much they produce,” explains Galvin.

Broader change is needed

Experts say the EU must acknowledge its broader context, and the need for better infrastructure around fashion if its proposals are to succeed. The main question is what this means for businesses operating outside the EU, and how to connect this strategy with other attempts to regulate fashion in other regions.

“There is a need for national regulation to establish and improve recycling infrastructure, and financial support to scale recycling technologies faster,” notes Boston Consulting’s Boger. The commission encourages member states to create tax benefits for reuse and repair businesses.

“It’s fantastic that we’re starting to see legislation in different regions, but fashion is global,” says Fashion Impact Fund’s Bannigan. “We need to see unity across governments and trading countries. We need more collaboration and more collectivism to build the infrastructure to deliver this vision. It cannot just be a government-down policy.”

Tamara Cincik, founder and CEO of responsible fashion think tank Fashion Roundtable, raises concerns about what this means for the UK post-Brexit, as well as other countries outside of the EU. “There will be additional costs for businesses outside of the EU who rely on trade with EU member states,” she explains. “My fear is that the UK will be left behind on sustainability legislation, and businesses will leave the UK if they don’t get government support to meet the EU’s new requirements.”

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