Climate change, resource depletion and the destruction of the natural environment present existential crises requiring fundamental shifts in both how the economy functions and how society acts. The Sixth Assessment Report of the IPCC sends a stark message – time is running out to prevent catastrophic climate change with experts stating that society has four years to deliver urgent and radical action. Within this context, the fashion and textiles supply chain is the third most detrimental globally, accounting for around 5% of global greenhouse gas emissions, consuming 98 milliontonnes of non-renewable resources every year, and using 93 billion cubic metres of water annually.
Circularity has a key role to play in addressing these challenges. If acted upon globally and across sectors, the circular economy can deliver the reductions in greenhouse gases needed to reach the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement. For the fashion sector, reducing the flow of materials, improving clothing utilisation, andplanning and investing in the solutions needed to scale closed-loop recycling, will collectively lead the transition.
In this report on Phase 1 of the Circular FashionEcosystem Project, we have presented our analysis ofthe current state of the ecosystem, the case for change and our vision for a new, circular target state for the UK fashion industry. This vision is centred around three target outcomes:
Target outcome 1:
Reduced volume of new physical clothing
Target outcome 2:
Maximised utilisation through product circularity
Target outcome 3:
Optimised sorting methods and materials recovery
Collectively, the 30 recommendations proposed in this report, across ten priority action areas, provide a blueprint for the future of the fashion industry. They drive change across the multiple dimensions of the system, clearly setting out the areas and initiatives where different stakeholders should take ownership of removing barriers and lead implementation of solutions.
For the fashion sector, this chance to transform the economy to a more regenerative model also presents an opportunity to address the systemic environmental and social challenges that exist in its global supply chains, while realising commercial opportunities in its consumer markets as the balance of products and services shifts. In pursuing partnerships for change, it will be vital to consider which groups, regions or environments might be negatively impacted by the transition. Including them on the journey and re-evaluating strategies as needed, to minimise potential unintended side effects, is fundamental to achieve a circular fashion ecosystem that brings improved societal and planetary wellbeing, resilience, and prosperity.
The way we behave and relate to clothes is shaped by the social, cultural, and material structures around us. However, a shift in mindset is essential to bring about the change required. Wide-scale collaboration by all parties will be critical to success, requiring all stakeholders, including those viewed as competitors, to work together as never before and deliver against the vision.
The transition required is significant, but the ecosystem is ripe for change. With stakeholders aligned behind the need for transformation and the collective vision to achieve it, the UK fashion industry has a real opportunityto drive that transition and create a world-leading circular fashion ecosystem that retains its creativity and emotion, is fair and equitable and provides a radical blueprint for change for others to follow.
This report calls on all those engaged in UK fashion to come together, embrace that vision, and create a circular fashion ecosystem for the UK.