Five Challenges and Opportunities for the Fashion Industry.

These five priorities set a path for the fashion industry to become a circular system through communication and cooperation between all stakeholders.

The Fashion CEO Agenda 2021 reflects the industry’s priorities and identifies its most pressing issues in relation to its social and environmental impact.

On May 19th, at Dcycle we decided to be part of the Fashion CEO Agenda event held by the Global Fashion Agenda. The organization aims to guide the fashion industry to take urgent and effective action to achieve the UN 2030 goals.

The Fashion CEO Agenda 2021 reflects the industry’s priorities and outlines its most pressing issues in relation to its social and environmental impact. Five types of priorities were recognized at the event. Each of them, accompanied by a panel in which industry leaders, experts, and policy makers presented objectives to put the industry on the right track towards sustainability.

Priority 1: Respectful and secure work environments (SDGs 5, 8 and 12)

The fashion industry employs 65 million people throughout its value chain. Many employees are exposed to work-related risks, both because of unsafe working conditions and discriminatory environments. But how is it possible that we are talking about Industry 4.0 and still have not managed to ensure a safe working environment? The COVID-19 crisis has once again brought to light the importance of creating protection plans for workers.

Objectives to highlight:

  • Due diligence: upcoming EU due diligence legislation is expected to include requirements for companies to document and communicate their purchasing practices and ensure universal human rights.
  • Involve senior management: include these principles as part of companies’ business strategy.
  • Transparency: provide consumers access to data that supports companies’ statements and principles.
  • International collaboration: align existing initiatives, involving all stakeholders and demand support from the EU to implement these standards.

Priority 2: Better Wage Systems (SDGs 1, 8, 10, 12)

Many garment workers are part of the informal economy and face a lack of labor protection. Fast Fashion has increased competition based on low prices, which contributes to even lower wages. Additionally, the limited bargaining power of suppliers means that they have no choice but to accept the conditions offered to them.

Objectives to highlight:

  • Due diligence: create strategies for suppliers to comply with local laws and international agreements. Also, workers should be given a voice through labor unions.
  • Improve purchasing practices: explore improvements in the area of purchasing, training and technological innovation that contribute to creating better wage systems.
  • Role of government: develop policy frameworks that set an example of best recruitment practices. As part of the European Circular Economy Action Plan, the next mandatory criteria and targets for public procurement have been announced.

Priority 3: Circular systems (SDG 12)

Currently, 73% of the world’s clothing ends up in landfills. Although companies are exploring circular business models, progress is slow and improvements in textile collection, recycling and quality are needed.

Objectives to highlight:

  • Extend product’s life cycle: design products to have a longer useful life and to be recyclable. Reduce the use of virgin materials and improve textile collection, classification and recycling infrastructures. Also, include the transboundary movement of waste at a global scale.
  • Safe materials: prevent harmful substances to reach the environment, encourage the use of secondary raw materials and support Product As A Service business models. Our friends at Ecodicta are a great example in this area.
  • Common definition: establish a precise definition of the types of materials, and innovations, that can be introduced to the market and communicate this to the citizens.

Priority 4: Efficiency use of resources (SDGs 6, 7, 12)

Looking at the fashion value chain, the activities with the highest environmental impact are found in the fabric transformation phase, such as spinning, knitting or dyeing.

Objectives to highlight:

  • Incentives and penalties: both financial and non-financial, positive and negative. Reward the best practices and penalize the most harmful ones.
  • Support innovation: encourage the use and creation of new technologies to trace the value chain and promote its efficiency.
  • International exchange: ensure an exchange of information to establish best practice guidelines and achieve benefits of scale.

Priority 5: Smart material choices (SDGs 12, 14, 15)

There is a boom in the use of “sustainable” materials. However, they are often only analyzed individually, without taking into account the holistic view of garments and how they degrade in different ways in the environment.

Objectives to highlight:

Measure products: obtain the right information to measure product sustainability. Create a common database to provide everyone with access to real information.

Encourage the use of sustainable materials: create incentives to produce and purchase sustainable materials, make them accessible and scalable.

Calculate product’s footprint: establish a common methodology to measure the footprint of products in a uniform way. At Dcycle, we calculate the carbon footprint of companies. Find out how we do it here.

Secondary material markets: encourage the recirculation of secondary raw materials through less energy-intensive processes.

Thank you for reading this far. These five priorities set a roadmap for the fashion industry to become a circular system through communication and cooperation among all stakeholders.

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