A major problem that should be covered by the proposals is that of textile waste (an estimated 92 million tonnes are dumped worldwide each year). Extended producer responsibility legislation, which is already in place in countries like France and Sweden, will make companies responsible for paying for the collection, sorting and recycling of textiles. “If there is any real pressure on Extended Producer Responsibility, we will have to move away from disposable fashion, which I think would be an incredibly positive outcome for the industry,” Bergkamp continues.
Greenwashing is also likely to be a key point of contact, with the UK cracking down on false or misleading marketing around a product’s environmental impact, through its Green Claims Code released last year. The EU should also introduce specific labeling guidelines for brands that wish to claim the ecological credentials of a product. “[It’s about] transparency for clients, ”explains Pascale Moreau, founder of Ohana Public Affairs.
The pandemic has also highlighted the need for more protections for garment workers, who have lost their jobs or faced dramatic wage cuts due to billions of dollars in canceled orders. The Garment Workers Protection Act passed in California last October – which guarantees hourly wages for garment workers and holds both manufacturers and brands accountable for wage theft and illegal compensation practices – has created a precedent for greater brand accountability within its supply chain, and it is hoped that proposed EU due diligence legislation will do the same. “The big question is, how rigorous is it going to be? Asks Elizabeth Cline, policy director of the advocacy group Remake. “Will this include this responsibility for brands? Are there real incentives for companies to not only be accountable for human rights, but to change their business behavior to support human rights? “
Of course, even when a law has been passed, it is essential to ensure that it is effectively implemented. “The legislation we’re seeing is really exciting, but it’s also just a very start,” Cline notes. “Obtain these [laws] past is half the battle.
While much of the focus is currently on stricter regulation for the industry, financial incentives – for example, for brands using more environmentally friendly fibers (which the Textile Exchange demands) – will also be essential. “Legislation is incredibly important, but it must be both rewarding and punitive in nature. There have to be both incentives and regulation that go hand in hand to really influence change, ”Bergkamp adds.
Considering the amount of work that is going on right now, there is no doubt that 2022 will be a key year for legislation in the fashion industry. “Covid-19 and the climate crisis have really enabled us to recognize that the problem of overconsumption of fashion and the inherent human rights issues will not be resolved through voluntary efforts,” concludes Ayesha Barenblat, Founder and CEO of Remake. “A lot of the changes we need will come from smart legislation. Watch this place.