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G20 Workshop on Circular Fashion

The G20 Italian Presidency and the European Commission hosted a workshop on circular fashion to inform G20 discussions on making economies more resource-efficient. It identified opportunities to speed up the transition towards a sustainable and circular fashion industry, and discussed national and international actions that would enable the global fashion industry to make the change.

June 24th, 2021

G20 Workshop on Circular Fashion

The G20 Italian Presidency and the European Commission hosted a workshop on circular fashion to inform G20 discussions on making economies more resource-efficient. It identified opportunities to speed up   the transition towards a sustainable and circular fashion industry, and discussed national and international actions that would enable the global fashion industry to make the change.

Speakers from across the globe, representing the fashion sector, swapped perspectives with international organisations working with the industry, on circular business models utilised today or currently being developed and the benefits these bring for economic growth, climate change adaptation, and biodiversity, by maintaining the value of products and materials which are too hastily regarded as waste to be disposed of.

One session presented opportunities for implementing circular solutions along the fashion value chain, with presentations on the international Jeans Redesign Project, the Circular Fashion Partnership and on ways that brands (H&M Group, OTB), suppliers (Yee Chain), and end-of-life solution providers (I:CO) can contribute to a circular fashion industry –  including by using more sustainable materials, durability studies, eco-design and the promotion of customer awareness.

In the last 15 years, clothing production has doubled, and the average number of times a piece of clothing is worn before being discarded has decreased by 36%. Another important issue raised was the significant economic and social repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic on the industry, and consequently, the need to transition to a more sustainable and circular fashion industry is more urgent than ever.

The United Nations Environment Programme pointed to the essential connection between consumption choices and the impacts of production and waste.  Value chains will need to transition together towards circularity, and this requires collaboration.

In a chaired discussion on how firms and consumers can mainstream circular fashion, speakers from:
e-retail (Zalando); a sustainable fashion start-up (Riley Studios); design consultancy (IDEO); and organisations working on collaborative solutions (Italian standards body – UNI, Ellen MacArthur Foundation and Indonesian NGO Greeneration) identified two key areas of action:

  • Public-private collaboration – so that brands, suppliers and policy makers can align investment;
  • Better data at every stage of a product’s life – so that circular, sustainable products and materials can be rewarded.

Policy makers, private firms and international organisations all have key roles to play.  The CEO of the Global Fashion Agenda pointed out how a great asset of the G20 is its ability to convene key global actors   to coordinate collective action for change in the fashion industry’s global value chains.

Five speakers from the Youth20 brought their generation’s insight on the need to encourage change – for a future of fashion which meets their values and enhances the lives of future generations.

Three principles were highlighted to increase circularity in the sector: rethinking materials so that they’re free from toxic substances and sourced from renewable or recycled feedstock, use clothes more (made to last longer) and resell them, make products that can be recycled again.

The European Commission reiterated the EU’s commitment to transition to a circular economy and its soon-to-be-published strategy to set the textile sector on a path to a sustainable transition.

The Italian G20 Presidency will step up to the challenge and host a workshop later this year to reinforce collaboration and sharing of best practices.