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Asos, H&M Among Retailers Setting Fashion Circularity Commitments

Even though truly sustainable fashion is in its beginning stages, some retailers are taking steps to accelerate the industry’s circular future.

On Thursday, 64 companies and corporations shared their individual targets for sustainability, including implementing eco-friendly design, increasing recyclable garment sales and using materials that are more circular in their apparel products by 2020. Leading retailers, including Asos, H&M and Target, together set 143 targets to reduce fashion’s carbon footprint.

The commitments follow last year’s Copenhagen Fashion Summit in May, where these retailers pledged to the 2020 Circular Fashion Commitment—a program enacted by sustainable fashion organization Global Fashion Agenda, which supports the industry’s move to a more circular economy. Over the past few months, Global Fashion Agenda and global nonprofit Business for Social Responsibility (BSR) reviewed individual pledges that highlighted take-back programs and reducing natural resources—all of which collectively support a more eco-friendly pathway for fashion.

“Since the 64 companies signed the commitment, I’ve been very curious to learn about their company targets,” said Eva Kruse, chief executive officer of Global Fashion Agenda. “We have now reviewed all 143 of the targets, and although the focus areas and level of engagement vary from company to company, they all share a common feature by taking steps to transition to a circular fashion industry.”

[Read more about fashion circularity: A New Circularity Roadmap Charts a More Sustainable Path Forward for Apparel]

Retailers have set their individual commitments in one or more of Global Fashion Agenda’s core action points—designing for circularity, increasing the volume of used garments collected, increasing the volume of used garments sold and increasing the share of apparel made from recycled post-consumer textile fibers.

Fostering circular design was the most popular action point among signatories—with a total of 55 companies and corporations indicating that they wanted to train designers in circular design strategies and boost durability and recycleability in their garments.

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Swedish retailer H&M was one of the retailers that expressed this action point in its sustainability commitments. In addition to incorporating designs that are more circular by 2020, H&M said it would like to collect at least 25,000 tons of recycled garments from its clothing collection program. The retailer aims to make most of its supply chain operations, from sourcing to procurement, more eco-friendly in upcoming years.

“Part of our 2020 commitment is to develop and roll out training on sustainable materials and sustainable material use to all applicable colleagues and to continue to work on building circularity into the design process for all our products,” said Anna Gedda, H&M Group’s head of sustainability. “One of the goals for H&M group is to only use recycled or other sustainably sourced materials by 2030 and to become climate positive throughout our entire value chain by 2040 at the latest.”

U.K.-based Asos added circular packaging to its circular fashion system commitments, with the goal of training its product teams on more sustainable practices by 2020. Following other fashion leaders, Asos also plans to launch a clothing collection scheme and recycling program for its consumers in the U.K. and Germany, two of the retailer’s largest European markets. Asos said it will execute this program by engaging with consumers on social media platforms and informing them about how they can foster fashion circularity.

Target also expanded its fashion circularity commitments, setting the goal that by 2020, most of its clothing will be designed for functional durability and extended use. The retailer also said it will invest $1 million in post-consumer recycling technologies to further reduce the fashion industry’s negative environmental impacts.

In May, Global Fashion Agenda will publish an annual progress report, where it will highlight the signatories’ commitment activities and progress over the next four months.