Transparency has been a key theme in the sustainable fashion movement for a while now and we believe it’s a crucial step, a key element to achieve sustainability, especially in the context of fashion, an industry with long and fragmented supply chains. In Europe, legislation is making its way through this largely unregulated industry through the  EU Strategy for Sustainable and Circular Textiles, a set of proposed rules to ensure that by 2030 textile products placed on the EU market are long-lived and recyclable, made as much as possible of recycled fibres, free of hazardous substances and produced in respect of social rights and the environment. 

The European Commission’s strategy is an all-encompassing plan that takes into consideration the impacts of the industry at every level of the value chain. Key areas of focus include the implementation of a Digital Product Passport for textile goods that will contain mandatory information regarding the sustainability aspects of a product. Ending greenwashing is also a priority for the EU commission, with the green claims for sustainable textiles requiring sustainability claims to be supported by evidence, verified through EU Ecolabels. The proposed legislation also mentions Ecodesign requirements, responsible waste management, increased transparency, tackling microplastics and extended producer responsibility (EPR). By implementing this strategy, the Commission aims to mobilise designers, producers, retailers, advertisers and citizens in re-defining fashion and those quickest to adapt will naturally enjoy competitive advantages, leading the way towards a sustainable society.

Fashion Revolution’s work towards transparency

Transparency is also a key theme for Fashion Revolution, a global movement that started over 10 years ago with the goal to drive change in the global fashion industry. Their vision is for fashion to conserve and restore the environment, valuing people over growth and profit. The movement has grown exponentially over the years and so has the reach of the infamous questions ‘who made my clothes?’ and ‘what’s in my clothes?’. With their fashion transparency index, every year they score 250 of the world’s largest fashion brands and retailers according to what information they disclose about their social and environmental policies, practices and impacts, in their operations and supply chain, to incentivise them to increase disclosure of credible, comparable, detailed information that individuals and organisations can use to hold them accountable. As the demand for transparency and accountability grows stronger, brands are pressured to publish more information and move beyond greenwashing, yet despite increased pressure, real progress has been too slow in terms of transparency and real positive change. Beyond Fashion Revolution, there are many other organisations fighting for change and pushing for brands’ accountability, in fashion and beyond. 

Stand Earth fossi freel fashion scorecard


Another organisation that’s working to promote transparency is Stand Earth, Earlier this month we spoke to Rachel Kitchin, the corporate climate campaigner at Stand Earth, to spotlight their important work in challenging corporations, industries, and governments to prioritise the well-being of people, our environment, and our climate. Rachel is the corporate climate campaigner at Stand Earth and in our conversation, which you can rewatch here, we spoke about their latest Fossil Free Fashion scorecard. Fashion is responsible for up to 8% of global emissions so they decided to investigate whether brands are working to decrease their carbon emissions. This year’s scorecard, which is the second edition, looks at the fashion industry’s reliance on fossil fuels, ranking 43 of the biggest fashion brands in the world, looking at what they’re doing to decarbonise their supply chains. The overall scores are given based on both materials employed to make clothing and on the use of fossil fuels to power garment factories. Despite the final scores being slightly more positive than the previous scorecard, progress is still being too slow. The highest scores were given to H&M, Levi’s and Puma who obtained B-, C+ and C+ respectively. The hope is that with the upcoming regulations, especially the Eu strategy for sustainable and circular textiles, brands will be forced to make real improvements. In the Netherlands, politician Kiki Hagen, a member of the Democrats 66, is demanding radical transparency through multiple action points she’s highlighted in her proposed initiative to curb the impacts of the fashion industry. Between public pressure and scrutiny and the upcoming regulations targeting the industry, brands will have to take responsibility and prove to be leaders in this transition, to avoid the potential sanctions and reputational risk that comes with inaction. 

Changing Markets’ work on driving change in fashion.

We also spoke to Ximena Benegas this month, the campaigns advisor for Changing Markets’ Foundation. Changing Markets is a Dutch non-profit which leverages the power of markets to expose unsustainable behaviour, hold companies accountable and push for legislation. Through different campaigns and investigations, they bring sustainability challenges to the forefront by partnering with different NGOs with the aim to spotlight the negative impacts of industries such as food and fashion and call out unsustainable corporate behaviour. They first started focusing on fashion through their synthetics anonymous reports which looked at the overreliance of brands on cheap synthetic fibres. By calling out brands’ extensive use of plastic based fibres, they expose common greenwashing tactics with the goal to both educate consumers and demand brands to change. They focus on greenwashing through their website that exposes misleading marketing and unfair business practices that give a false sense of progress in the industry. With over 100 examples of greenwashing, the website provides a comprehensive record and useful guide for individuals to recognise and spot greenwashing so they can make better consumption choices and call out companies that are making inaccurate or unsubstantiated sustainability claims. Ximena also mentions the progress on legislation, with the green claims directive that will require improved and more comprehensive product labelling, making it compulsory to share information on the social and environmental impacts of products being sold in the EU. She believes brands have had enough time to regulate themselves and consumer demand alone hasn’t driven improvements at the scale that’s needed. Therefore, she explains, legislation seems to be the essential missing piece to push brands to achieve real, substantial change and create a baseline standard in the market that can make it easier for individuals to purchase sustainable goods. To dive deeper into Changing Markets’ work around greenwashing read this previous blog we wrote on the topic.


TRASHION: the stealth export of waste plastic clothing to Kenya


Beyond greenwashing, Changing Markets have also recently looked into the issue of fashion waste exports. In their latest report ‘TRASHION’ they exposed the hidden export of plastic waste to the global south, fuelled by the growing production of cheap synthetic fibres. Their investigation revealed that 37 million items of junk plastic clothing are being dumped in Kenya every year, most of it being unfit for reuse. These clothes mostly end up in landfills or get burnt for fuel, which creates environmental sustainability as well as health issues for the local communities breathing in toxic fumes released from the burning of synthetics. Bringing the issue to the forefront has sparked concern from the ministry of environment in Kenya who is now looking into the issue, yet this is a problem that needs to be prevented at the EU level. The implementation of the EU strategy for sustainable and circular textiles will be crucial to bring the industry on the right path, embracing circularity and enforcing extended producer responsibility to ensure that brands are the ones to deal with their excess production and correctly dispose of garments at the end of their life. We concluded our conversation with Ximena with the hope that with consumer demand and political action, brands will join forces and implement sustainability in their supply chain, driving real improvements in the industry. Rewatch our talk here for more insights.