Environment: small fashion business fear inflation of labels #161


Europe is working on new criteria for sustainable fashion. But the complexity of these criteria makes us fear that independent brands will be excluded from them, while initiatives are flourishing.

A responsible fashion, yes. Too much paperwork to achieve it, no. The multiplication of initiatives in this field, both to better inform the consumer and reduce the environmental impact of this industry, worries the profession.

Clarisse Reille, head of DEFI, the fashion financing platform, fears that “in view of the complexity of the standards being prepared, SMEs cannot keep up, and find themselves sidelined”. And be considered in the end, as bad students in a sector that employs 600,000 jobs, for more than 150 billion euros in sales.

Far from the field

Several regulatory frameworks are under discussion. Europe has launched a consultation on the development of a new environmental label (the “Sustainable Products Initiative”), in addition to its Green Deal. In France, the law on the circular economy was passed in February 2020. In particular, it includes an index of the Ademe, which has defined a standard, indicating at each stage of manufacture the impact on the planet.

“Companies must, for example, give the rate of CO2 released when the fabric is ennobled [different stages of finishing, such as dyeing, editor’s note] notes the director general of DEFI. This is an impossible task for a medium-sized company that has neither the teams nor the means to do it. This approach “based on detailed reporting, corresponds more to the capabilities of the giants of the sector than to smaller players”, she continues.

However, these small brands are not lacking in sustainable initiatives. They often challenge the clothing groups with their commitments, and are pioneers.

Some give priority to more sustainable raw materials, using organic cotton or recycled materials, while others limit the use of dyes. Improving production by reducing CO2 emissions or water consumption, and with local sourcing, is another way to reduce their impact. But they can’t do everything simultaneously,” insists Clarisse Reille. The danger is that the work they are doing for a more sustainable fashion is erased by requirements that are too heavy for them. ”

200 labels

What to do in these conditions? First of all, use labels. This is what emerged from a survey conducted in late January by the DEFI, among professionals. A necessity. Because today, 76% of the respondents do not know the European initiative, in progress on the display and on the traceability, indicates the association. Worse, they are 65% to know nothing of the French initiative. However, small brands are in favor of an environmental display (56%), which is for them “an opportunity”. Better still, 50% of them think it should be mandatory. But on condition that the approach is adapted. Labels or other certifications are the most popular (51%), as they are obtained in specific areas that are a priority for the brand.

But it will be necessary to sort out and retain “the most serious”, according to the general manager of DEFI. The fashion sector has more than two hundred labels worldwide, with different themes (raw materials, CO2 emissions, water consumption, ethical manufacturing, etc.). “We are not going to put 4 or more labels on a pair of pants, washing, recycling, manufacturing,” continues the expert. It also has a cost! “.

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