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Circular fashion ecosystem

作者:natashaly

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    Circular fashion ecosystem 6981文字

     

    The British Fashion Council (BFC) wants to make the UK a leader in circular economies, and it has set out a roadmap to get there.

    In a new report published today, the BFC outlines its vision for Circular Fashion Ecosystems as part of its Institute for Positive Fashion (IPF), which was created in 2020 to future-proof the fashion industry, and guide members towards sustainability. It was compiled with Amsterdam-based non-profit Circle Economy, which has run similar projects from Amsterdam and Philadelphia to S?o Paulo and Cape Town, in a bid to double circularity by 2032. The plan is to develop circular fashion ecosystems through workshops with industry stakeholders, sharing knowledge and scaling pilots, and working with local governments to build infrastructure. This will start in London and Leeds, bringing the concept of “Doughnut Economics” to the city level, and scaling circular fashion ventures to make it a reality. After that, the blueprint can be applied to other UK cities and more still globally.

    The first phase of IPF’s work outlined 10 priority action areas to make transformation possible, expanding on three broad goals of maximised utilisation through product circularity, reduced volume of new physical clothing, and optimised sorting methods and materials recovery. The action areas ? including consumer empowerment, innovation investment and post-use ecosystem ? might sound broad, but that’s the point, says BFC chief executive Caroline Rush, because cities have different needs. Future workshops and pilots will add detail to how this is achieved and what exactly it entails.

    In Leeds ? chosen for its rich industrial history ? existing circular initiatives focus on clothing reuse, and local operations generally have some kind of social impact at their core. The main challenge it faces is that different groups are siloed and fragmented. In London, circular fashion has latched onto rental, resale and upcycling. Its main concern is how to balance environmental impact with economics.

    For the BFC, this is an opportunity to address common challenges among its members, and have industry lead where legislation is lagging. While the EU and US are moving to regulate sustainability, political instability in the UK ? including Brexit and three prime ministers in as many months ? has slowed progress. “If we don’t adapt now, the government will have to come in harder with regulation,” says Rush. “While we would like to see industry lead, the government needs to play its part. The revolving door of ministers is a little frustrating in that sense, because we have to keep briefing people instead of making progress.”

    The Doughnut Economics model was introduced by British economist Kate Raworth in 2012 to summarise the challenge and opportunity climate change presents: how do we meet the needs of humanity without exceeding the means of the planet? It exists in the same school of thought of degrowth, but addresses many of the concerns that cutting production to fix environmental concerns would lead to negative social impacts.

    The outer ring of the doughnut consists of nine planetary boundaries, beyond which lies catastrophic environmental degradation. These include climate change, ocean acidification, chemical pollution, nitrogen and phosphorus loading, freshwater withdrawals, land conversion, biodiversity loss, air pollution and ozone layer depletion. The inner ring represents the social foundation (based on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals) or basic essentials for living. These include food, water, health, education, income and work, peace and justice, political voice, social equity, gender equality, housing, networks and energy.

    “Doughnut Economics combines the local context of a city with its global impacts,” says Ilektra Kouloumpi, senior strategist at Circle Economy and Thriving Cities lead. “It’s a whole new way of designing and creating a vision, bringing together elements for what makes people thrive here with livelihoods elsewhere, and environmental impacts here and elsewhere.”

    “This report provides a methodology for how we want to work with the fashion industry, but nothing has actually happened yet,” adds Kouloumpi. It’s now partly up to the UK fashion industry to engage with the plan, and bring it to life. Bringing fashion stakeholders together in one vision is no easy task. Groups consulted by Circle Economy and IPF between April and July 2022 included academics, brands, collectors, consumers, designers, digital innovators, government, institutions, industry bodies and third sector, investors, logistics providers, manufacturers, reprocessors and retailers.

    Over the next three years, IPF will be conducting workshops on regenerative and circular enterprise design with selected businesses; hosting annual “labs” with stakeholders and policymakers to identify gaps and recommend new regulation; and designing pilot projects and helping successful pilots scale. “This is a multi-year, revolutionary endeavour, which will consider the UK’s net zero ambitions and the levelling-up agenda through the government’s 10-point plan,” says IPF programme lead Shailja Dub?.

    The BFC hopes its city-level approach will accelerate change, especially as global stressors, from the war in Ukraine to supply chain delays, roll on. “Everybody is feeling squeezed on all fronts,” says Rush. In theory, different cities will prioritise innovation in different areas, and then share learnings with others. “Hopefully, having support networks to collaborate and accelerate the work rather than do it in siloes, will keep people on track with sustainability.”

    Defining success

    The focus on circularity came about from roundtable discussions with BFC members, highlighting their interests as well as common challenges, says Rush. “Some of the biggest roadblocks British brands have in meeting their environmental targets relate to circular principles: waste management, new business models around rental and resale, creating infrastructure for a post-use ecosystem. That needs to be collaborative, but there wasn’t a clear vision for what that looked like or what role each stakeholder should play.”

    Reaching scale will take a lot more than conversation. “We need to look at how circular design is being taught in academia, upskill people in the industry to work in this way, and build our capacity to enact change,” she continues. “We also need to think about how people are remunerated for their work, and how we incentivise them to hit environmental targets.”

    How to measure success is still up for debate, but will become clearer as mindsets shift in line with the methodology. “In traditional business models, the main priority or metric of success is to show economic growth,” explains Kouloumpi. “A circular fashion ecosystem would need many indicators to measure success, social and ecological. As well as broad indicators, it would have indicators specific to the locality. There’s no one golden answer with the doughnut, you have to bring four dimensional thinking: local, global, social, ecological comes into every decision. More than anything, it’s a thinking compass.”

    For businesses, this means re-assessing governance, finance and ownership. “Part of our work will be to work with pioneering businesses, but also different stakeholders that understand these ‘deep design’ elements. In a circular design ecosystem, we need to move from the traditional model of making enterprises grow no matter what, to making enterprises thrive and support thriving people and the planet. It’s a fundamental shift,” says Kouloumpi. She points to outdoor clothing brand Patagonia handing the reins to an environmental non-profit and specially-created charitable trust, declaring the Earth its “only shareholder” as one example. Others might include cooperative structures, collaborative ownership or stewardship communities.

    IPF plans to work with more progressive brands first, creating case studies to convince more traditional brands of its merits, says Kouloumpi. “It’s all very far-out compared to the current state, but it’s needed.”Read more at:https://www.formaldressuk.com/ | https://www.formaldressuk.com/collections/princess-prom-dresses

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