Environmental information for products has begun to make its way into the CSR strategies of companies in many sectors, including the textile sector. “Since 2017, ADEME (the French Environment and Energy Management Agency) has been deploying with pioneering companies a reference framework for assessing the environmental impact of clothing through a rating system ranging from A to E,” says Erwan Autret, coordinator of ADEME’s Design of High Environmental Performance Products/Services cluster. In February 2020, the process accelerated when the Ministry of Ecological Transition launched an 18-month experiment under the french Agec law [which aims to improve circular economy], with a view to making environmental labelling widespread.” With a great response in the sector since more than a hundred companies have expressed their interest in experimenting the environmental score. Four of them have already started to display the ratings of some of their products. “This is the case for Bonobo, which has presented itself since its creation as a committed “jeans company”, explains Xavier Prudhomme, general manager of the Beaumanoir group. Over time, this positioning has led us to develop eco-design methods, to use organic cotton and recycled materials, to opt for clean washes… And it was while working on this last subject that we became convinced that everything that can be measured can be optimized. This logic also underlies the mobilization of our teams for the implementation of environmental labelling, which we see as much as an information tool for our customers as a lever for continuous improvement. Today, Bonobo’s website provides access to the environmental ratings of 140 products, calculated according to the ADEME reference system.
Like other companies involved in this approach, Bonobo wants to communicate the scores of all its products in the future, despite the complexity of the calculations and the difficulties linked to access to certain data from suppliers, and also despite a reference framework that Xavier Prudhomme describes as imprecise, “particularly with regard to the inclusion of organic cotton or washing techniques that consume less water. Still, in its infancy, environmental labelling is already preparing to change scale. Next year, the European Commission should have a standardized multi-criteria methodology for evaluating the environmental performance of clothing and footwear products. France is actively participating in the development of this European standard, in particular through a working group led by ADEME, in which some one hundred companies from all walks of life are participating. Is this a prerequisite for the generalization of environmental labelling by regulation? “This is the scenario we are trying to promote,” says Erwan Autret in conclusion.