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Ellen MacArthur, H&M, Nike Challenge Take-Make-Dispose Model with New Circular Fibres Initiative

Image Credit: Ellen MacArthur Foundation

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation continues to drive forward the circular economy agenda with the launch of a new initiative that brings together key industry stakeholders, including C&A Foundation, H&M, Nike Inc, Fashion for Good, Danish Fashion Institute, Cradle to Cradle and Mistra Future Fashion, to build a circular economy for textiles, starting with clothing.

The Circular Fibres Initiative will see these organizations work together to define a vision for a new global fibers system, which will address the drawbacks of the take-make-dispose model that dominates the industry. Circular principles will be at the heart of the new textiles system, with the ultimate goal of generating growth that benefits citizens and businesses while phasing out negative impacts such as waste and pollution.

“The way we produce, use and reprocess clothing today is inherently wasteful and current rising demand increases the negative impacts. The Circular Fibres Initiative aims to catalyze change across the industry by creating an ambitious, fact-based vision for a new global textiles system, underpinned by circular economy principles, that has economic, environmental and social benefits and can operate successfully in the long term,” said Dame Ellen MacArthur, founder of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.

Fibers constitute an important component of the global economy: clothing production has doubled in the last 15 years, with sales reaching $1.67 trillion in 2016. At the same time, consumers keep their clothing for half the time that they did 15 years ago. Following use, 85 percent of apparel waste ends of in landfill. The linear model of the industry puts high demand on land, energy and other resources. The production and use of clothing accounts for 3 percent of global CO2 emissions and cotton production is now responsible for a quarter of global insecticide use.

As its first order of business, the Circular Fibres Initiative in partnership with McKinsey & Co. will produce an analysis of the textiles industry, mapping out how textiles flow around the global economy and the externalities that arise from the current system. It will explore what a new circular economy for textiles — one that is restorative and regenerative — could look like and lay out the steps needed to build it. The initiative’s first report is due for publication in autumn 2017.

“At C&A Foundation, we support the production, uptake, and reuse of sustainable fibers. The Circular Fibres Initiative is important because it will establish the shared agenda and deep collaboration needed to shift the apparel industry to regenerative and sustaining business models,” said Leslie Johnston, Executive Director of the C&A Foundation.

Last week, C&A debuted the first ever Cradle to Cradle Certified™ GOLD T-shirts, marking an industry-first achievement for a fashion garment.

“Our 100 percent circular vision and our goal to only use recycled or other sustainably sourced materials by 2030 plays a key role in our sustainability agenda. We are aware that our vision means a big change on how fashion is made and enjoyed today and if we want to take the lead in this challenge, collaboration and accelerating innovation and circular systems together with the industry is crucial. The Circular Fibres Initiative will define a shared vision for a new global textile system and it will be an important foundation for collaboration to accelerate the journey towards a circular textile industry,” said Anna Gedda, Head of Sustainability at H&M Group.


Libby MacCarthy is an Editorial Assistant at Sustainable Brands, based in Maine and France. She is a former urban planner specializing in sustainable cities, and an urban farming and film photography enthusiast. She holds a BA in Environment, Society and… [Read more about Libby MacCarthy]


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