Clothes contribute more to climate change than international flights and shipping combined. Producing raw materials – from cotton to artificial fibers – as well as spinning, weaving and dyeing require enormous amounts of water and chemicals that can end up untreated in our water systems.
And ‘fast fashion’ is driving up the sector’s environmental footprint as it contributes to an increased tendency to see clothing as disposable. Europeans have almost doubled the size of their wardrobes over the past 15 years, with a significant proportion largely unused, according to a recent European Parliament report.
The EU’s retail clothing sector sources textiles and clothes from all over the world. In addition to sourcing at the most competitive rates, they must also consider how industries, such as cotton production, are regulated in different countries, both in terms of the environment and international labour standards.
Two-thirds of consumers say sustainability is extremely or very important, according to a recent fashion industry report. About a third say they have switched brands to those with positive environmental and social practices.
EURACTIV organised this high-level event to discuss the balance retailers must achieve when sourcing textiles and clothes. Questions included:
- As industry schemes are currently voluntary, should the European Commission put forward legislative plans to reduce the fashion industry’s environmental impact?
- Should the new Commission develop a European ‘textiles strategy’ to tackle recyclability?
- Can policies banning hazardous substances used to process and dye fibres be effective in reducing demand for fast fashion and waste generation?
- What role for consumers? Will environmentally-conscious shoppers put pressure on retailers to ensure more sustainable sourcing?
*Special guest participants from Uzbekistan: Uzbek Minister of Labour; President of the Federation of Trade Unions of Uzbekistan; Chair of the Association of Textile Producers of Uzbekistan.
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