The EU is shifting to a climate-neutral and circular economy, which means products need to be more energy-efficient, durable, reusable, repairable, and recyclable. Because the fashion and textile industry has such a big environmental footprint, the European Commission is considering making sustainability labels mandatory for apparel and footwear.
The problem with the European Commission’s proposal for clothing sustainability labels is that the methodology they plan to use to measure environmental impacts of clothing - the Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) – is incomplete. It currently excludes critical environmental impacts and does not reflect the EU’s own sustainability and circularity goals.
Clothing sustainability labels can help make fashion and textiles greener. The proposed labels are likely to set a global standard and could deliver positive outcomes if the method behind it is amended. We must act now and get it right to make the label credible, ensure consumers are not misled and help the industry to make the green transition the EU wants to see.
Consumers should be able to trust a clothing sustainability label. We are asking European Commission policymakers to update the PEF methodology to make the label count for consumers. Here is where we can start:
The impact of forming natural fibres is fully accounted for in PEF but not the full impact of forming fossil fuel-based fibres (accounting starts at extraction). The same system boundary should be used for natural and fossil fuel fibres to inform consumer choices.
The use-phase has a major influence on a garment’s environmental footprint. Factors that extend the lifetime of clothing, including odour resistance, wrinkle resistance, less frequent laundering and the rate of reuse by further owners should be included in PEF methodology.
The socio-economic impact of fibre production and textile manufacturing is not considered in the PEF methodology. Credible measures of sustainability encompass planet, people and prosperity, and this should be reflected in the label.
“Accurate labelling in the fashion industry is a fundamental step towards ensuring consumers make informed choices when buying garments. The fact that this is now being implemented at EU level is wonderful. But it is fundamental for labelling information to be accurate and comprehensive, so it does not misrepresent or unfairly favour certain fibre groups. This is why I am proud to be working on the Make the Label Count campaign, calling for a level playing field for apparel labelling and in doing so, drive the change we so urgently need.”
“The European Commission started the PEF in 2013. Since then, we’ve had major advancements in research and knowledge around the environmental impacts of the textile industry, but these aren’t included in the current methodology. If the Commission proceeds to use the PEF without updating it, the fashion and textile industry won’t make the green transition we all want to see.”
"Life Cycle Assessments can only be compared if they follow exactly the same methodology and boundaries. Such a suite of generic LCAs for textile fibres does not exist. The EU cannot create non-fiscal barriers to trade, such as mandatory product sustainability labels, that will negatively impact some of the poorest on the planet, without first commissioning the studies required.”