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C&A Foundation highlights 'Gaps to overcome for clean & circular fashion'

London - As Chinese textile manufacturers and leading fashion brands continue to investigate ways to clean-up their supply chains and become more sustainable, new opportunities to lay the foundation for a clean and circular business model emerge.

In the new report “Insights From China’s Textile Manufacturers: Gaps to overcome for clean & circular fashion,” China Water Risk and the C&A Foundation analysed insights collected during an anonymous online survey of 85 of China’s leading textile manufacturers with the goal of finding out why change concerning cleaner water and reaching sustainable goals is not happening as fast as it could.

The survey found that most Chinese textile manufacturers are mostly on track going clean and tackling their water risks and moving towards a more circular model. 98 percent of the responders said they are taking actions to become green. 74 percent are recycling water and 88 percent have upgraded their wastewater equipment and 84 percent upgraded their recycling equipment for chemicals. In addition, 72 percent see the business benefits in moving to a circular economy.

However, the survey also found that the textile manufacturers still face significant regulatory, operational and reputational challenges, as well as knowledge gaps. “Our survey identified three overarching wishes from manufacturers to help overcome their challenges. They are: 1) more training, 2) more help with sourcing, and 3) more financial support,” explained Dawn McGregor, project leader. “However, the underlying issue common to all of their challenges and wishes is how to be compliant within the current low-price business model.”

As costs continue to rise, the low-prices offered by brands with a fast-fashion business model is putting extra strain on already thin profit margins. The report argues that this raises a fundamental question of whether the current business model is sustainable. The report also raises concerns that the fashion industry may move its supply chain to another country with lax environmental regulations rather than remain work with Chinese manufacturers to build a new clean and circular business model in search of the cheapest manufacturers.

“China Water Risk has long worked to highlight water risks from the dirty, thirsty and wasteful fashion industry,” says Debra Tan, head of China Water Risk. “With many of these risks now being realised, we are focusing on the solutions and opportunities. We are therefore very pleased to be working with the C&A Foundation on this project, which aims to advance the shift to a clean and circular business model.”

Together the two hope the report will help open the eyes of the fashion industry and fast track its shift to a circular economy by helping their manufacturers take on more sustainable and practical solutions.