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Fashion Impact Fund, Lenzing Talk Circular Textiles at UN

Fashion industry stakeholders convened for the Circular Textiles Roundtable hosted at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City earlier this month by the Fashion Impact Fund and Lenzing Fibers.

Representatives from the co-founding organizations of World Circular Textiles Day (WCTD), including Circle Economy, Centre for Circular Design and Worn Again Technologies, together with Lenzing Fibers and in collaboration with the United Nations Conscious Fashion and Lifestyle Network hosted the Circular Textiles Roundtable with key stakeholders from across the circularity landscape, including textile collectors and sorters to brands and retailers, industry associations and policymakers.

The United Nations Conscious Fashion and Lifestyle Network, a joint initiative of the Fashion Impact Fund and the United Nations (UN) Office for Partnerships, is an UN-hosted online platform for industry stakeholders, media, governments and UN system entities to showcase collaborations that accelerate the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Participants were brought together to help create and collaborate on a textiles circularity roadmap to 2050, identifying key milestones for transitioning from the current linear model of “make, use and waste” to one which is circular, where products and materials are kept in continual circulation, and replace the use of virgin materials use, and industry workers are supported in equitable, socially just and resilient societies.

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“The scale of change required to transition to a fully circular textiles industry is immense but can be broken down into bite-sized and achievable phases and delivery plans,” Cyndi Rhoades, founder of Worn Again Technologies and co-founder of WCTD, said. “Designing and aligning on circular strategies for implementation and action across the industry today is crucial for achieving future goals and delivering beneficial outcomes for society, economics and the environment in equal measures. Convening these committed industry leaders to evolve collective knowledge and strengthen relationships is a crucial step in fast-tracking necessary change.”

Kerry Bannigan, executive director of the Fashion Impact Fund, said the United Nations Conscious Fashion and Lifestyle Network fosters transparent, inclusive and transformative engagement of global stakeholders to drive urgent action for sustainability.

“The Circular Textiles roundtable aligned with our objective to mobilize expertise, innovation, technology and resources toward a sustainable and inclusive Covid-19 recovery, with the Sustainable Development Goals as a guiding framework,” Bannigan added.

Key insights generated by some of the industry’s leading pioneers included a clear, rationalized plan for scaling up between now and 2050 is needed for all parts of the collecting, sorting, pre-processing and recycling stages. Education, training, new investment and business models are needed to transform the supply chain, including multi-stakeholder models for ownership and distribution.

In addition a data-driven approach needs to be embedded as soon as possible to enable greater understanding and efficiencies for circular flows, along with development of government policies for micro, meso and macro actions that include alignment between global North and South actors.

Overall, the group expressed a desire to see “turbo stakeholder collaboration” and more partnerships established at a greater pace. It also noted a lack of information and action around the social innovation potential for the circular textiles industry and requested more information on realistic and fair proposals for transformation.

“Witnessing leaders across the textile industry come together at the United Nations to engage in collaborative exercises and conversations on circularity, in itself, shows the urgency and need to work together to set up systems and guidelines to achieve this common goal,” Tori Piscatelli, regional marketing manager at Lenzing Fibers, said.

Karla Magruder, founder of Accelerating Circularity, said to enable circularity, “we must align on all strategies to implement and accelerate this necessary revolution.’

“Action, change and fast are descriptors we use for the textile industry,” Magruder added. “Let’s show the world we can take the required action to change fast and create a textile industry worthy of the needs of our industry and world.”

The roadmap template will be released in the coming months and will be used as a foundation for integrating existing industry circularity and decarbonization commitments, as well as for setting a longer-term framework across a range of topics, including transparency, traceability, social metrics, legislation, design, circular materials, and products and services. The aim of the roadmap is to focus industry activities on aligned activities that will accelerate circularity momentum while supporting the industry in reaching its climate targets and delivering against multiple UN Sustainable Development Goals.

World Circular Textiles Day was founded in 2020 to instill a sense of collaboration and positivity within the textile industry. It has set 2050 as a marker for achieving full textile circularity, focusing on materials and planetary boundaries.