Fashion brands have only met 21 percent of their circularity targets for 2020
By Marjorie van Elven
Jul 9, 2019
Signatories of the 2020 Circular Fashion System Commitment, an initiative launched in 2017 by the Global Fashion Agenda (GFA), will have to hurry up if they still want to reach all the circularity targets they committed to. GFA’s second yearly assessment of the progress made by fashion brands and retailers was published today and the results are rather disappointing: it turns out they have reached only 45 (21 percent) of the 213 targets set.
“It's promising to see that the 2020 Commitment has triggered many brands to take action on circularity. However, we need to move faster. If we don't work together to establish a strong ecosystem of collaboration, we will not achieve all of the 2020 Commitment targets and the impact of the fashion industry on the planet will continue to grow," said Eva Kruse, President and CEO of the GFA, in a statement.
A total of 90 fashion companies have committed to taking action, including Adidas, Asos, Gap Inc, Nike, Tommy Hilfiger, SuitSupply, Reformation, Lacoste, Esprit, Filippa K, Inditex, Hugo Boss, H&M, Kering and Bestseller. Only 65 of them responded to this year’s survey.
The 213 targets are related to four action points, namely: implementing design strategies for cyclability; increasing the volume of used garments and/or footwear collected; increasing the volume of used garments and/or footwear sold; and increasing the share of garments and/or footwear made from recycled post-consumer textile fibers. GFA supported the signatories in reaching their targets by developing a toolbox for each action point.
As signatories vary in size and market segments, it was up for each company to set its own targets. Most of them (25 percent) are focusing their efforts on the first action point, as 24 of the 87 targets related to design cyclability have been achieved. Action point number two, collection of used garments and footwear, is the second most popular one, with a total of 52 targets set and 12 met. The companies don’t seem so interested in entering the resale market, though, as only 27 targets were set in that regard, of which 4 have been achieved. Although they seem more interested in recycling, the adoption of recycling practices is going just as slow, with 5 targets met out of 47 set.
What signatories are doing: Circular Design
According to GFA, signatories have trained over 2,500 employees on circular design over the past year. Some of them are in the initial phases, setting up strategies and concepts for such training, while others have already implemented guidelines and processes based on pilots. The main roadblock to circular design is the fact that circularity is a rather new concept, lacking industry-wide standards, definitions and best practices. As a result, signatories often find it hard to find the right partners and training content suitable for their needs.
In the words of Anna Maria Rugarli, Senior Director of Sustainability and Social Responsibility for the EMEA region at VF Corporation, quoted in the report: “Implementing circular design principles does not only imply the creation of educational material or programmes. Even more, it requires company-wide understanding of circularity and supportive internal conditions that enable relevant teams to think, act and work in circular ways”, said Anna Maria Rugarli, Senior Director of Sustainability and Social Responsibility for the EMEA region at VF Corporation, as quoted by GFA.
What signatories are doing: Collection of Used Garments and Shoes
Signatories claim to have collected more than 2 million pieces and 20,000 tonnes of used garments and footwear during the second year of their commitment. Once again, there are companies still in the planning phase while others are already scaling up existing collection projects. Regardless of how far they’ve come, GFA emphasizes that training in-store staff is crucial for the success of action point number two.
The main obstacle in the signatories’ way is logistics, as running a collection scheme requires cross-functional teams and strong partnerships. Companies also complain about insufficient legislation and lack of supportive regulatory frameworks to soothe the logistical processes. Last but not least, they feel the consumer needs to be educated about the importance of returning used fashion, as many still don’t bother to do so even when the possibility is there.
What signatories are doing: Reselling Used Garments and Shoes
Most companies are still in the research and development stage for this action plan, with many looking for external organizations or second-hand platforms to team up with. Others are far ahead, such as H&M, whose brand &Other Stories has partnered up with reselling platform Sellpy in Sweden to offer customers the chance to buy pre-used items. Another point of departure is launching their resale channels in existing platforms. Long-standing companies, such as Guess, can afford to re-release vintage products, leveraging the heritage of their brand.
As for the challenges faced in trying to achieve these targets, signatories mention how time-consuming it is to create reselling channels that consumers trust and that are, at the same time, connected to their brands’ image, goals and values. They also complained about the unpredictable flow of products in terms of volume, quality and timing, which poses a challenge to logistical workflows.
What signatories are doing: Making products from recycled fibers
The majority of companies which took part in the survey are still researching how to use more recycled fibers from post-consumer waste. The main obstacle they face is the absence of ready-to-scale recycling solutions that are price competitive and do not down-cycle the textiles, diminishing their original quality. The GFA stresses, therefore, the importance of investing in new recycling technologies.
“We’ve found most recycled fibres to be less consistent; there’s no way around testing each material and product for long-term durability to ensure that the end product meets our customers’ high expectations,” said Brad Boren, Director of Innovation & Sustainability at Norrøna Sport, quoted in the report.
Once again, fashion brands also pointed out that consumers are not eager to buy a product just because it’s recycled. “The use of post-consumer textile fibres is not necessarily a key purchasing criterion for our customers. Therefore, when we use recycled fibres in our Jack & Jones jeans it is extremely important to offer commercial products with good design and quality which consumers want to purchase”, noted Dorte Rye Olsen, Sustainability Manager at Bestseller, as quoted by GFA.
To see the list of targets each company has set for itself, head over to GFA's website.
Images: Pixabay, Global Fashion Agenda Facebook, H&M Facebook