• The 2020 Circular Fashion System Commitment has seen 94 companies commit to 206 targets.
  • They are spread across four action points, with most targets set on circular design (58%), followed by garment collection (49%) and recycling (46%), and the fewest set on reuse (24%).
  • Sourcing recycled post-consumer textile fibres, however, was highlighted as the most challenging action point for clothing brands.
Nearly two-thirds of the signatories set a combined 84 circular design targets

Nearly two-thirds of the signatories set a combined 84 circular design targets

Sourcing recycled post-consumer textile fibres is the most challenging action point for clothing brands as they look to hit their 2020 sustainability targets, the first status report for the Circular Fashion System has found.

Led by the Global Fashion Agenda (GFA), the 2020 Circular Fashion System Commitment launched in spring 2017 pulling together fashion companies including H&M, Target Corp, and Kering to support a more circular fashion system, and commit to setting out a 2020 circular strategy.

This week saw the publication of the first annual status report, detailing how fashion brands and retailers have taken action on circularity over the last 12 months by setting concrete and measurable targets.

By June 2018, 94 companies had committed and submitted 206 targets spread across four action points, with most targets set on circular design (58%), followed by garment collection (49%) and recycling (46%), and the fewest set on reuse (24%).

Nearly two-thirds of the signatories set a combined 84 circular design targets, making it the action point with the most targets. Representing a broad range of market segments and price points, they highlighted the central role design and development plays in creating products that can be looped back into the fashion system and that this area needs further exploration, both at company and industry level.

The circular design targets show four general tendencies: Training in circular design; integrating circularity in design briefs; sourcing of monofibres; and promoting customer care and repair.

Collection and recycling are also high on signatories' minds. Around 49% have set 50 targets on increasing the volume of used garments and footwear collected. Small and large brands and retailers have shown commitment to this action point, but they only represent the low- to mid-priced segments. The garment collection targets show four main tendencies: Expanding existing garment collection schemes; establishing new collection schemes; and engaging customers to increase collection volumes.

Signatories have shown great interest in increasing their use of recycled post-consumer textiles fibres, both in their own product ranges and at industry level. Around 46% of the signatories set 47 recycling targets. The companies span across market and price segments, highlighting a broad interest in finding solutions to address post-consumer textile waste. The recycling targets show two primary tendencies: Sourcing of recycled fibres; and investing in technology.

However, many signatories stated that sourcing recycled post-consumer textiles fibres is the most challenging action point to implement to date because of the lack of materials available.

One company explained that it had yet to find suppliers able to commit to providing recycled post-consumer textiles, while others indicated that their suppliers are already at capacity.

"There is a strong need for an accelerated industry effort to bring scalable and cost-efficient recycling technologies and systems to the market," the report notes. "Getting these efforts to scale goes beyond individual company investments and will require further involvement from regulators to incentivise the use of recycled materials."

A small group of companies have set targets on investing in the development of textile recycling technology equalling EUR9.7m (US$11.3m). These companies primarily represent large corporations in need of scalable solutions.

Some signatories have already established partnerships or placed investments with organisation such as Re:newcell, TreeToTextile, WornAgain, Recycrom, Demeto Project and Evrnu. For example, PVH will support the scaling of Worn Again fibre recycling technology through Fashion for Good and commit to piloting this across one core product area. Some signatories have also begun collaborative projects with suppliers and universities to test and develop fibre recycling systems.

But while the developments are promising, the report calls for a greater collaborative effort in the coming years to accelerate the industry's transition into a circular fashion system.

It summarises the three barriers to change that signatories mentioned the most - a lack of industry tools and standards for circular design, supportive and incentivising regulatory frameworks, and sorting and recycling technology available for scale.

"Global Fashion Agenda will continue to support the signatories in reaching their targets in the coming years, with a particular focus on addressing these key challenges and developing the four main elements addressed in the 2020 Commitment," the report concludes.