Image: H&M

The European Commission is looking to make sustainability and circularity “the norm” across the 27-member bloc. In a new package of legislative proposals released on Wednesday, including a proposal for a Regulation on Ecodesign for Sustainable Products, an EU Strategy for Sustainable and Circular Textiles, and a revision of the Construction Products Regulation, the governing body of the European Union aims to ensure that “almost all physical goods on the EU market are more friendly to the environment, circular, and energy efficient throughout their whole lifecycle from the design phase through to daily use, repurposing and end-of-life.” 

The proposed sustainability-focused legislation coming out of the European Union puts forth new requirements for textiles, “setting mandatory minimums for the inclusion of recycled fibers in textiles,” while also banning “the destruction of unsold products under certain conditions, including unsold or returned textiles.” Additionally, the Commission states that product-specific information requirements will ensure consumers know the environmental impacts of their purchases, with “all regulated products” – including apparel – to come with Digital Product Passports, which will help to cut down on rampant greenwashing and “make it easier [for consumers] to repair or recycle products,” and will aid in the facilitation of “tracking substances of concern along the supply chain.” 

“In a competitive, resilient, and innovative textiles sector,” the Commission states that producers have to take responsibility for their products along the value chain, including at the end-of-life stage, hence, the introduction of a mandatory – and harmonized – EU-wide extended producer responsibility scheme as part of the revision of the Waste Framework Directive in 2023. The content of textiles is also coming within the purview of the European Commission’s proposal, with the governing body angling to set “mandatory minimums for the inclusion of recycled fibers in textiles,” in furtherance of an effort to “make them longer-lasting, and easier to repair and recycle.” 

As for other key takeaways, the EU Commission endeavors to address the sheer volume of goods manufactured by the fashion/apparel industry every year, calling on companies to “reduce the number of collections per year and take responsibility and act to minimize their carbon and environmental footprints,” while also looking to the individual Member States to “adopt favorable taxation measures for the reuse and repair sector” in order to provide “incentives” for the introduction of sustainable products and services. 

Ultimately, the proposals set a framework and a process through which the Commission, working in close cooperation with relevant stakeholders, “will progressively set out requirements for each product or group of products,” the Commission states. In other words, the new proposals “leave most of the key details to the delegated acts that the (Commission) will work on in the coming years,” Joan Marc Simon, executive director of non-profit organization Zero Waste Europe told Reuters. The European Union proposals follow from climate and sustainability-centric efforts from the United Kingdom, namely, to target greenwashing in the retail sector; France, which has implemented a law that bans the destruction of unsold apparel, and the U.S., with the Securities and Exchange Commission proposing uniform rules for Environmental, Social, and Governance disclosures by publicly traded companies.