Securing The Future.

Is Fashion Ready For New Sustainability Legislation?

 

With 2025 bringing new climate commitments, brands and suppliers in the fashion industry need to work hard during 2024 to ensure their supply chains come up to scratch.

The last two years have witnessed a marked increase in the focus on traceability. Traditional hubs of fabric and garment manufacturing such as China and Bangladesh have had to face issues ranging from living wage protests and cost increases to extreme weather and growing international concern about working conditions.

None of these factors is likely to diminish and the sector is going to face up to its responsibilities for supply chain transparency and accountability.

Changes that will happen in 2024 and beyond

EU and fashion clothing

The EU’s Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive, Waste Framework Directive and Ecodesign Criteria for Consumer Textiles are all due to launch mandatory reporting requirements during 2024. However, in spite of the efforts of activists to expose their working practices and overproduction, some brands are still reluctant to disclose information that would give a wholly transparent picture.

Any company with a reluctance to comply with this legislation would be wise to consider the effects of the Uyghur Forced Labour Prevention Act in the US. In the last 18 months, following an additional enforcement budget of $64 million, US Customs Border Protection (CBP) has detained clothing and footwear worth $46 million. US legislators are also looking at ways of closing existing loopholes in the law to further strengthen the hands of the CBP.

Waste Framework Directive 1

With no viable alternative to compliance, brands and suppliers must look at ways in which they can make meaningful differences within their supply chains that support their partners, improve sustainability and guarantee economic viability.

Circularity goals for 2025 and 2030 will also require significant investment in initiatives such as reverse logistics, post-consumer material processing and a greater use of recycled content in new textiles. The financial resources for such investment are only likely to be available to larger suppliers, so smaller businesses will need to develop niche markets that protect them against domination by their larger rivals.

Creating a fairer and more resilient supply chain

Supply chainThe disruption to global supply chains that was partly brought about by the covid pandemic exposed the true nature of the inequality between fashion brands and their suppliers. A model where brands were often calling all the shots, rather than a strategic partnership that benefitted all stakeholders.

The ultimate solution to this imbalance of power is a combination of transparency and equalised cooperation from a wider contribution across the supply chain in decision making.

Tier-two suppliers are already boycotting brands who refuse to accept price increases and payment terms on higher-end fabrics, and it’s in the upper end of the market where change is most likely to happen soonest, rather than areas where supply is almost exclusively price-driven.

Higher-quality brands also have more to lose from negative publicity about unethical or unsustainable working practices, but these companies should lead by example.

They must accept that better working conditions, a living wage and the higher cost of raw materials, chemicals and even the water used in manufacturing processes all contribute to higher production costs, and pass on these increases to their customers rather than demanding suppliers to continue to absorb them.

How technology will transform the industry

technology clothing

Technology is likely to play a significant part in creating a more robust supply chain, and this will become evident in both soft and hard technology.

Data-driven businesses have the potential to become more responsive to market challenges. Artificial Intelligence is already using validated and certifiable data to create global supply chain models that can respond to a wide range of political, environmental, economic, and sociological changes.

Hard technology such as robotics is transforming manufacturing in more established regions such as China. By replacing previously labour-intensive jobs with automated and semi-automated processes, production can be increased at a lower cost per item. However, this progress also brings new challenges.

Labour-reliant economies will suffer from the loss of jobs, while the re-education of workers to transition from semi-skilled labourers to skilled engineering workers will take time and place further pressure on education systems that will struggle to meet the new demand. Power shortages in some regions may also be a challenge for industries who will consume more energy as they move from manual to automated production.

How brands must respond to the situation

It is clear that the days of fashion brands dictating every stage of production and logistics are over. Legislation will demand closer scrutiny of working practices through greater transparency and collaboration with all stakeholders in the supply chain. Activists have alerted the public to unacceptable practices and greenwashing, so brands must be able to demonstrate that they are making genuine progress in improving both workforce welfare and environmental conditions.

collection shredding recycling reusing 3One way in which UK brands can contribute to a more sustainable fashion industry is through garment and textile recycling. A reverse logistics system enables discarded fashion items to be returned to the brand when replacements are bought (possibly with the incentive of a small discount on the new purchases). The returned items can then be collected by the brand and sent in bulk for shredding and recycling.

Avena Group is a secure destruction and recycling company that professionally manages textile recycling for fashion brands. With their commitment to zero waste-to-landfill, they ensure that the maximum amount of reusable fibre is extracted from used garments.

With their three-tier process, the highest grade of fibres are separated out and respun into new yarn; this can be used to make new fabrics. Second-grade fibres are also valuable; they are made into padding for upholstery and sound-deadening in office screens and vehicle interiors. The small amount of third-grade material is used to generate efficient energy.

If you are a fashion brand or supplier and would like to explore how Avena Group can help you comply with the new legislation, explore SECUREBRAND and register your interest below or get a quick quote.

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