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How Euratex Aims to Make Europe a Global Leader in Sustainable Textiles

The European textile sector will soon have a new rulebook to follow regarding sustainable policies.

The European Apparel and Textile Confederation (Euratex) recently announced a plan to create a more competitive and sustainable European textiles industry, which it will formally make available by the end of the year. According to the organization, the new framework will align with other relevant EU policies—such as the EU Industrial strategy, the new EU Trade strategy, the EU Pact for Skills, the Sustainable Chemicals strategy, the Sustainable Product Initiative and more—to ensure it’s free of contradictions and set up for successful implementation.

The framework arrives at a time when the sector is in need of global alignment in order to slow the effects of the climate crisis. In January, the European Commission identified textiles as a “priority sector” for accelerating a carbon-neutral, circular economy. It aimed to tackle the issue of textile waste, but noted that the industry is highly globalized, and includes piecemeal action at national and local levels that are “insufficient to drive change.” With the new framework, Euratex aims to unite the European textile industry—which it says currently includes 160,000 companies (99 percent of which are small- or medium-sized businesses) and employees 1.5 million people—and encourage more sustainable action at scale.

Through the new framework, the organization aims to accomplish three goals: position Europe as a global leader of sustainable textiles, improve the industry’s efficiency and increase the region’s global market share. In order to achieve these ambitious targets, it first recommends clearly identifying circular and sustainable products based on European—and preferably global—standards, developing a realistic business model that rewards sustainable companies, and increasing recycling capacities throughout Europe. It also calls for more ownership from the European Commission and accelerated sustainability awareness for consumers.

Consumer education has been a top focus for mills and brands alike, as industry leaders publish resources like sustainability dictionaries and responsible manufacturing storytelling to make transparency a universally understood concept.

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The framework also encourages greater digitalization with a “Digital Transformation Fund” that provides businesses with a small investment to implement relevant operational strategies. It pledges to support employees and startups leading innovations within the sector and create dedicated programs to encourage the development of sustainable textiles and new materials.

To increase global market share, Euratex plans to increase market surveillance to prevent non-compliant products from making it past customs, and will work with other countries including the U.S. to agree on mutual recognition of standards and certification procedures. Like many other countries have done in light of the Covid-19 pandemic, Euratex also plans to invest more heavily in reshoring, boosting supply chain development within the Pan Euro Mediterranean region.

In order for a successful implementation once the framework publishes, the organization will create a “textile alliance” to assess policy impact in textiles and avoid contradicting actions from overlapping policy areas.

“The textiles sector is a very ‘wide’ industry; it covers complex and global value chains involving multiple production steps, resulting in a variety of products, some of which are strategic to the European economy,” Euratex stated in the announcement. “To be meaningful, the strategy should consider the entire value chain of the industry, as it is closely interconnected, as well as its direct links with other sectors.”