The European Union’s Strategy for Sustainable and Circular Textiles
The EU's Strategy for Sustainable and Circular Textiles is a comprehensive roadmap designed to transform the fashion industry into a more environmentally friendly and socially responsible sector.
By promoting sustainable materials, responsible production practices and by “closing the loop" through circularity, the EU wants to address the significant environmental and social challenges created by our industry and the 150 billion items of clothing it produces annually.
As a family-owned business, we hold a strong sense of responsibility towards leaving behind a better world for our children and taking care of the world we live in. Which is why we want to both align with and surpass the expectations of the EU textile action plan.
What is the EU’s 2030 vision?
The strategy’s aim (it was first created in March 2022 as part of the European Green Deal) is a transition towards a more sustainable and circular model, which is wants to achieve by promoting textile waste reduction, resource efficiency, and responsible production.
Essentially, from fibre to finished product, as well as post-consumer waste, the EU is pushing for a more sustainable future for the fashion and textile industries.
By 2030, the EU wants the significant majority of textile products to be durable, reparable, and recyclable. It lays out plans for these to be:
- Composed predominantly of organic and recycled fibres
- Not containing any hazardous substances
- Made in alignment with social and environmental rights.
- Part of a network of reuse and repair services
This is a tangible shift away from fast fashion …the idea being that as little clothing as possible gets burnt or sent to landfill, and is repurposed or recycled instead.
As part of this vision, the EU wants to reduce the fashion industry’s environmental footprint – by which it means water consumption, pollution, and use of chemicals.
Where do we stand?
Gen Woo is taking conscious steps to align with (and go beyond) the EU’s strategy. We know we are by no means alone in this, but we are very much a part of it. Which is why we will continue to make conscious efforts to embrace innovative practices and prioritise sustainability. Here’s how..
Looking after our people
We’ve been producing beautiful clothing for three decades, and we have many people to thank for that. Which is why we look after them.
We take great pride in manufacturing all our clothing in our own, accredited factory – a safe, inclusive, fair working environment. And beyond our staff we also support our local communities, through initiatives such as the provision of books and computers.
Sustainable material sourcing
Our founder’s passion for sustainability drives our ongoing commitment to sourcing the right materials. Which is why we actively seek out eco-friendly alternatives, such as organic cotton and recycled fibres – the aim being to reduce dependence on resource-intensive materials (like conventional cotton or synthetic fabrics). Our range includes BCI (Better Cotton Initiative) organic and recycled cotton, recycled polyester, FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) viscose, Tencel, linen, bamboo, and deadstock fabric.
Our sustainable fabric mill uses modern dye technologies that significantly reduce the use of energy, water, and chemicals, and our cotton is exclusively BCI. Our fabrics are certified by Cotton Made in Africa and the Organic Exchange Program, and they’re Oeko-tex Standard 100 certified.
Circular economy initiatives
The longevity and recyclability of our products play a key role in sustainability. By designing durable and repairable clothing, we want to do our bit, as a company, to promote a shift away from the disposable culture perpetuated by fast fashion.
Aligning with the EU circular design principles means that all our clothing is durable, repairable and made to last, which we are very open about, in order to promote a circular economy mindset among our customers.
By extending the life cycle of our products and closing the loop, we want to reduce both waste and the consumption of resources.
Responsible production methods aligned with environmental and social rights really matter to us. This includes efficient water usage and reducing the pollution created by chemical processes wherever possible – and we actively track and minimise our carbon emissions. Because while sustainable production reduces our footprint, it’s also so much better for the safety and well-being of all the people involved in our supply chain. Which is why it matters.
The people that buy our clothes are both fashion- and eco-savvy, which we love. This means they want transparent information about our production processes, material choices and initiatives, which we are more than happy to provide. It also gives us a platform to discuss the environmental impact of the wider fashion industry and also share sustainable consumption practices tips.
For our part, we want to both inspire and enable them to make responsible fashion choices. By encouraging sustainable choices we want to play our part in driving significant change.
Our ethical and socially responsible practices are both recognised and certified by respected industry organisations.
- Regular monitoring ensures our garments are produced under strict guidelines, and we prioritise ethical and responsible practices in our supply chain – which has earned us BSCI (Business Social Compliance Initiative) certification.
- As members of ICS (Initiative for Compliance and Sustainability) we actively enhance working conditions within our factory.
- Our social and environmental welfare policies are regularly audited by SEDEX (Supplier Ethical Data Exchange), which has earned us SMETA (Sedex Members Ethical Trade Audit) certification.
Water and energy conservation
All our waste water undergoes treatment to meet environmental standards. And to cut water consumption and improve energy efficiency, we’ve also invested in state-of-the-art technology, including a system that recycles hot waste water to heat incoming fresh water, reducing energy usage and CO2 emissions.
Elsewhere, our sewing machines have been upgraded with efficient Servo motors, we have integrated solar heating panels, and we’re gradually switching over to energy-efficient LED lighting, which we hope will reduce our overall energy consumption by 20-42%.
Packaging and waste
The EU regulations focus heavily on waste prevention and, rightly so, they promote recycling and recovery, implementing extended producer responsibility, setting design requirements for packaging materials, and ensuring reporting and monitoring.
The aim is to foster a circular economy approach, whereby packaging materials are reused, recycled, or recovered, which minimises their environmental impact and promotes resource efficiency. In line with this, we offer eco-friendly packaging options, and all our swing tickets and bags now incorporate recycled materials.
What is the 30 wear rule?
This concept is fast gaining traction in sustainable fashion circles. The '30 wear rule' encourages individuals to invest in high-quality garments that can withstand the test of time, and trends. The idea being that by choosing classic pieces made with durable materials, consumers can help reduce the amount of waste generated by constantly changing fashion cycles. It’s another way to consciously move away from disposable fashion, towards a more sustainable, enduring wardrobe.
What everyone should know about sustainable fashion
To truly embrace sustainable fashion, it’s important to understand its broader implications. One of the key factors of this is the need (or perceived need) to constantly ‘consume’, the antidote to which is what’s known as ‘conscious consumption’.
This involves buying fewer items, choosing quality over quantity, and making sure that the garments we buy and wear are both ethically produced and align with our values. By supporting brands with transparent supply chains and labour practices, we can all contribute to a more sustainable fashion industry.
Fashion companies following the EU strategy
We are excited to see so many brands following the EU directives and producing sustainable clothing. As an example, eco conscious industry leader Stella McCartney is well-known for her commitment to sustainability. The company prioritises using organic cotton, recycled polyester, regenerated cashmere, and sustainable viscose. It doesn’t use any fur or leather in their collections, opting instead for eco-friendly fabrics, and vegetarian and vegan alternatives.
There’s even a “take-back initiative” in place called Stella McCartney Cares Green, where customers can return old or unwanted SM products to be repurposed, resold, or recycled. But SM isn’t alone. Global high street favourite Zara recently partnered with textile recycler Circ to introduce what it claims to be the world’s first garments crafted from recycled polyester and lyocell – exclusively sourced from separated blended textile waste. The process transforms blended polyester and cotton fabrics into new recycled materials, which we think’s fantastic.
Gen Woo: Looking to a sustainable future
Our commitment to sustainability and ethical fashion is – and will remain – unwavering. Which is why we’re continually innovating and exploring new ways to reduce our environmental impact.
By focusing on responsible material sourcing, eco-design principles, responsible production, circular economy initiatives, and consumer education, we hope we’re demonstrating that fashion can be both stylish and sustainable. And that the EU strategy for sustainable and circular textiles can be beautifully woven into the fabric of the fashion industry.
Our own goal? A transformative shift among our peers towards a more ethical and eco-conscious fashion industry, with us in the thick of it.
Author: Alice Cooke