France bans destruction of unsold clothing, adds Environmental Scorecard – WWD

While some are still contemplating their New Year’s resolutions, French companies have already set their resolutions – by law.

As of January 1, measures from the anti-waste and circular economy law adopted by the French Parliament in February 2020.

Among them: the end of plastic wrap around fresh produce, newspapers and magazines. Creating public funds to support reuse, and most importantly for fashion and retail – visible signs that reveal the environmental impact of products as well as prohibiting the destruction of new unsold non-food goods in principle.

Despite ominous headlines and the threat of fines of up to 15,000 euros, this is a welcome move for many in the industry. “If we are absolutely clear, there are a number of consumers who have [environmental concerns] is not a priority. Organizing makes sure of it [no business] Elizabeth Cazorla, general manager of BazarChic, the digital sales platform owned by Galeries Lafayette Group, said it can ignore these issues, even when the consumer does not prioritize them.

Beyond the fashion goods themselves, the law’s ramifications include a rethink of packaging to comply with previous bans on single-use plastics, and better information sharing with consumers.

“It is a series of challenging topics – not only because of costs but also in terms of feasibility. This will contribute to the homogenization of practices across the board, making them legible and coherent for the consumer. Nobody can say, ‘I don’t have the time or resources to deal with this,’” Cazorla added. .

“This law sends a clear signal, and [for brands] It speaks of common sense. “Destruction is a mind-boggling and disgusting practice,” said Pierre Maheu, founder of the French label Officine Générale. But destruction is not the only aspect of waste. Resources are consumed at each step, so the entire chain must be broken. It brings back key questions about purchasing, the rhythm of collections, production management, and business growth that is sustainable, not artificial. “

Although product destruction has made sensational headlines, it’s still a fringe practice, according to Damien Pele, director of corporate social responsibility at Galeries Lafayette and BHV.

He said, citing a recent study by the French Agency for Environmental Transformation, or ADEME, which estimated the retail value of unsold fashion goods in 2019 at 1.7 billion euros, equivalent to 4.1 percent of the industry’s sales volume.

Of those, only 5 percent ended up being destroyed, with 23 percent sold through non-discounted-price circuits, 20 percent donated to charity and about 10 percent repaired or recycled. However, that’s between 10,000 and 20,000 tons – the weight of the Eiffel Towers – in new textile materials that end up being destroyed each year, according to another statistic from the Ministry of Environmental Transformation.

In fact, finding a destination for unsold merchandise is not the biggest problem at hand. At Officine Générale, Mahéo has implemented a re-dyeing and personalization program to extend the life of seasonal styles and is about to open a boutique for the brand.

“When possible, items are returned to suppliers, offered with reduced price, in clearances, or employee sales. The remainder is for Secours Populaire, Dons Solidaires, and Association Josephine charities,” COO Lawrence Jayroud wrote in an email.

At Galeries Lafayette, a voluntary policy was established in 2014 which saw donations of 100,000 and 150,000 items between then and 2020, from its own brand and from retailer-bought labels that did not sell within three years of entering store inventory.

And donating is not the only solution. “The law doesn’t say you have to do it, it just prohibits destruction,” Pele said, noting that luxury and premium brands could choose to recycle or recycle in an effort to protect their brand equity. “What we need is a huge investment in developing new technologies that allow for the recycling and reuse of materials, because that’s where we lack viable solutions.”

That business is still in the works, with reps like ReValorem, a Paris-based company that recovers and recycles unsold items and raw materials for the luxury goods industry, and fashion tech startup Tekyn, which won the Innovation Award at the 2020 ANDAM Fashion Award for on-demand production solutions.

Other players – such as resale platform Vestiaire Collective – are also working on ideas such as “resale as a service” or RaaS, or the implementation of digital clothing identifiers, which would allow for greater transparency – and authenticity tracking.

“This new implementation of the anti-waste law comes at a critical time and will revitalize the circular economy at 100 percent,” said Donia Won, chief sustainability and inclusion officer at Vestiaire, noting that the European regulation intends to give clothing a similar rating. To those given home appliances heralded an exciting time for pre-loved and vintage fashion.

This is a view shared by Pele, who has described the scoring ecosystem as a potential game-changer. Inspired by nutrition and energy efficiency results, she will rate the product’s environmental qualities on an easy-to-read scale from A to E. “What will change in 2022 is that they [consumers] Get the keys as objectively as possible to understand the choices they make when buying clothes or fashion items, and the information they ask for according to surveys and studies.”

According to Pele, a standardized official codification system – whether within France or at the European level – would also serve to restore consumer confidence at a time when “there is distrust and doubt because they see too much of [ecological messaging] as marketing and communication hoaxes.”

But “two years” [since the law was voted] It is too short a time to meet all the legal requirements, especially since the decree that should have entered into force on 1 January has not yet been published,” noted Pierre Francois Le Lott, president of the Confederation of Women’s Ready-to-wear in France.

Other brands, institutions and retailers agreed is the Environmental Impact Codification Scheme, or rather the criteria underpinning this consumer-facing indicator made mandatory under France’s 2022 measures and by 2021 the climate and resilience law has been voted into effect in last summer .

“It’s not something you can put together in a few days. Information can be hard to pin down, and claims aren’t easy to support with proof. [at this stage]Cazorla explained.

Several approaches are being considered and the French government has given the industry a six-month trial period to come up with suitable proposals. This may be the biggest challenge this year.

Take the environmental footprint of a product and analyze its life cycle, which is the method preferred by the European Commission. “But that doesn’t include biodiversity, microplastics or organic farming, relying too much on hypotheses rather than tests or reviews,” said Philip Chaeser, who founded environmental design consultancy Ecoeff Lab.

It runs on the EcoDesign score, an assessment method based on product durability and environmental design practices. Backed by all industry associations and DEFI, a French commission for the promotion of textiles and clothing, it relies on ISO standards, hoping to take root on a global level. In the medium term, a successful experience could lead to the adoption of the result across Europe, especially given France’s presidency of the European Union for the first six months of 2022.

We have to look beyond the French or even the European context. “There is no sense in creating a system for just one region, because through thick and thin, the industry is global,” Chesser said.

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