Sustainable Fashion: New Measures and Main Regulations

The fashion sector stands out as one of the most impactful industrial pillars both economically and for what concerns the use and consumption of its products. As highlighted in a previous article Sustainability in Fashion: from fast to sustainable fashion, textiles bring with them complex industrial supply chains with a significant environmental and social impact due to the fragmentation and heterogeneity of products, clothing, footwear, and fabrics production among the main contributors to water pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, and landfill overcrowding.

As emphasized by the President of the United Nations Economic and Social Council during the 2019 Sustainable Fashion Summit, the principle of sustainability and the rules of the circular economy must also be respected in the fashion sector.

In Europe, the textile sector holds particular importance, employing 1.7 million workers who operate in numerous micro, small, and medium-sized companies. In response to this issue, since 2020, the European Commission has committed to defining new measures aimed at guiding the sector towards a transition to sustainability and product traceability.

In the second part of the discussion on sustainable fashion, we will delve into the strategies adopted and the implementation of existing rules to discourage excessive consumption of clothing and textiles in general.

Circular and Sustainable Textile Strategy

In 2020, the European Commission started the process of revising textile regulations. The Circular and Sustainable Textile Strategy 2030, published on March 22, 2022, sets out a series of ambitious actions to be achieved by 2030 for the transition of the European textile sector. This strategy addresses the environmental and social challenges arising from the increasing production and consumption of textile products.

According to a study by the European Commission, global textile production almost doubled between 2000 and 2015, and clothing and footwear consumption is expected to increase by 63% by 2030. The Strategy aims to make textile products more durable, repairable, and recyclable, reducing the use of non-recyclable materials and consequently the environmental impact of the sector.

Ecodesign Regulation

A key pillar of the Strategy is the Ecodesign Regulation, which aims to reduce the environmental impact of textile products by imposing stricter standards on design and production. This regulation, which will replace the previous 2009 directive, aims to promote innovation in the textile sector and encourage the adoption of more sustainable practices.

The Ecodesign Regulation introduces binding design specifications that must be environmentally friendly. It also prohibits the destruction of unsold products, thus combating pollution from microplastics. It establishes requirements for product information and traceability, promoting extended producer responsibility and incentivizing textile waste reuse and recycling.

Digital Product Passport

Another key element is the Digital Product Passport, which aims to provide transparent and reliable information about textile products. This tool will enable consumers to make more informed choices and authorities to monitor the environmental impact of the sector. Additionally, it will facilitate the transmission of sustainability information based on other EU measures.

Although the Circular and Sustainable Textile Strategy represents a significant step forward in transforming the European textile sector, there are still significant challenges to overcome. The complexity of the supply chain, resistance to change from businesses, and the need for investments in sustainable infrastructure and technologies will require continuous commitment from all involved stakeholders.

The transition to sustainability will require close collaboration among governments, businesses, and consumers. Only through collective commitment can a better future be created for the textile sector and the planet as a whole.