The problem with the European Commission’s proposal is that the methodology they plan to use to measure environmental impacts of clothing - the Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) – is incomplete. It currently downplays or excludes critical environmental impacts and does not reflect the EU’s own sustainability and circularity goals.
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 reviewing sustainability claims on apparel and footwear and is exploring options including “mandatory sustainability labelling” for products and using the Product Environmental Footprint methodology to substantiate claims.
This short animation explores what this could mean and why PEF should not be used in its current form:
Having a standard methodology for sustainability claims can help make fashion and textiles greener. The proposal is 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 ensure the claims that companies will use on their labels are credible, that consumers are not misled and to help the industry to make the green transition the EU wants to see.
Consumers should be able to trust sustainability claims on their clothing labels. 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, whereas the impact of forming fossil fuel-based fibres starts at extraction. With clothing made from fossil fuel-based fibres receiving an environmentally ‘free’ raw material (ie oil), it’s not possible to have an equitable comparison of products, and technically sound solutions to this problem have been proposed.
The use-phase has a major influence on a garment’s environmental footprint. Factors that extend the lifetime of clothing, including adjustable fit, 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.
The impacts of fibre production are assessed without considering whether sustainable agricultural and mining management practices are used. By failing to assess and incentivise sustainable production practices, an important opportunity to achieve the EU’s goal of ‘protecting and restoring natural ecosystems’ is lost.
The PEF system is designed to facilitate like-with-like comparisons, but assessments of textiles made from natural and synthetic fibres are not yet comparable. Current PEF limitations present a significant challenge to the delivery of both EU strategy and the PEF goal of providing fair comparisons of products based on their environmental credentials. This white paper addresses the concerns with the current PEF methodology, identifies the main challenges posed and provides recommendations to not only offer more meaningful guidance to the EU consumer but also assist in delivering the EU’s environmental policy and sustainability objectives.
MEP Carlo Calenda and 29 colleagues delivered a letter to the EU executive, asking them to carefully consider the upcoming textile legislation. The letter draws their attention to the PEF Process, which could result in supporting a greenwashing scenario in the clothing and textile sector. If the PEFCR category rules are not adjusted to include renewability, biodegradability and microplastic pollution, the 30 signatories believe it would “fundamentally undermine the credibility of any EU action and the ability of consumers to act responsibly”.
Read the full letter.
A white paper, published by Veronica Bates-Kassatly and Dorothee Baumann-Pauly with the Geneva Center For Business and Human Rights (GCBHR), attempts to expose fast fashion’s false sustainability promises. The first in a series of papers highlights a flawed definition of sustainability in fashion and how unscientific methods and selective implementation hinder meaningful change.
Read the report here.
The Commission’s Sustainable Products Initiative will be pushed back until the first quarter of 2022, according to Marius Vaščega, Environment Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius’ head of cabinet. Along with the Sustainable Products Initiative, the revision of the Ecodesign Directive, the proposal on substantiating green claims, the Strategy on Sustainable Textiles, the Sustainable Corporate Governance Initiative, and the Directive on Empowering Consumers for the Green Transition are all expected to be presented to the College of Commissioners on March 30, 2022.
Delivering EU environmental policy through fair comparisons of natural and synthetic fibre textiles in PEF – Executive Summary (ENG)PDF 0.3MB
Delivering EU environmental policy through fair comparisons of natural and synthetic fibre textiles in PEF - White Paper (ENG)PDF 0.9MB
Make the Label Count - Briefing Document (ENG)PDF 1.8MB
Make the Label Count - Briefing Dokument (DE)PDF 1.8MB
Make the Label Count - Document d’information (FR)PDF 1.8MB
Make the Label Count - Documento informativo (IT)PDF 1.8MB
Make the Label Count - Documento Informativo (ES)PDF 1.8MB
Make the Label Count - Documento Informativo (PT)PDF 1.8MB
“Credible claims 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 claims on labelling 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 sustainability claims and in doing so, drive the change we so urgently need.”
“We’ve had major advancements in research and knowledge around the environmental impacts of the textile industry, but these aren’t yet included in the current PEF 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 that will negatively impact some of the poorest on the planet, without first commissioning the studies required.”