Action on wool’s eco rating challenge in the EU brings together an international coalition of organisations that want to ensure clothing sustainability claims in the EU are credible. The EU is shifting to a climate-neutral and circular economy, which means products need to be more energy-efficient, durable, reusable, repairable, and recyclable. Because the fashion and textile industry has such a big environmental footprint, the European Commission is reviewing sustainability claims on apparel and footwear.

What Is The Issue?

The problem with the European Commission’s proposal is that the methodology they plan to use to measure environmental impacts of clothing – the Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) – is incomplete. It currently downplays or excludes critical environmental impacts and does not reflect the EU’s own sustainability and circularity goals.

Why This Is Crucial?

Having a standard methodology for sustainability claims can help make fashion and textiles greener. The proposal is likely to set a global standard and could deliver positive outcomes if the method behind it is amended. We must act now and get it right to ensure the claims that companies will use on their labels are credible, that consumers are not misled and to help the industry to make the green transition the EU wants to see.

What Consumers Should Know

The environmental impacts of microplastic pollution should be included to inform consumer choices. Laundering synthetic clothes accounts for 35% of primary microplastics released into the environment.

Renewability & Biodegradability

Only products made from renewable raw materials can be truly sustainable. The inherently circular attributes of natural fibres, including renewability at start-of-life and biodegradability at the end-of-life need to be accounted for in a credible product claim. Inclusion of parameters to account for biological circularity could address this limitation.

Equitable comparison of fibres

The impact of forming natural fibres is fully accounted for in PEF but not the full impact of forming fossil fuel-based fibres (accounting starts at extraction). The same system boundary should be used for natural and fossil fuel fibres to inform consumer choices.

Social impacts

The socio-economic impact of fibre production and textile manufacturing is not considered in the PEF methodology. Credible measures of sustainability encompass planet, people and prosperity.

Duration of service

The use-phase has a major influence on a garment’s environmental footprint. Factors that extend the lifetime of clothing, including odour resistance, wrinkle resistance, less frequent laundering and the rate of reuse by further owners should be included in PEF methodology.

Production practices

The impacts of fibre production are assessed without considering whether sustainable agricultural management practices are used. By failing to assess and incentivise sustainable agricultural practices, an important opportunity to achieve the EU’s goal of ‘protecting and restoring natural ecosystems’ is lost.

“Credible claims in the fashion industry is a fundamental step towards ensuring consumers make informed choices when buying garments. The fact that this is now being implemented at EU level is wonderful. But it is fundamental for claims on labelling to be accurate and comprehensive, so it does not misrepresent or unfairly favour certain fibre groups. This is why I am proud to be working on the Make the Label Count campaign, calling for a level playing field for sustainability claims and in doing so, drive the change we so urgently need.”

Source: Livia Firth, Make the Label Count co-spokesperson and Creative Director of Eco-Age