Skip to content

Sustainable textiles moves up the agenda

A new global initiative has been launched to build a ‘circular economy for textiles’, with a separate cross-industry project announced to promote sustainable cotton.

A new global initiative has been launched to build a ‘circular economy for textiles’, with a separate cross-industry project announced to promote sustainable cotton.  

The Circular Fibres Initiative, established by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, brings together key industry stakeholders such as H&M and Nike to address the ‘take-make-dispose’ business model in textiles, starting with clothing. 

Circular fibres

Industry participants will work together to define a vision for a new global fibres system based on the principles of a circular economy and phasing out negative impacts such as waste and pollution.

Clothing production has doubled in the last 15 years, with 1.7 million tonnes of textiles consumed in the UK every year.

It is the second materials focus that the Foundation has focused on, following the New Plastics Economy initiative launched in January 2017.

“The way we produce, use, and reprocess clothing today is inherently wasteful, and current rising demand increases the negative impacts”, said Dame Ellen MacArthur, founder of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.

“The Circular Fibres Initiative aims to catalyse 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.”

Sustainable cotton

Meanwhile, a separate cross-industry initiative has also been launched to bring sustainable cotton – currently a niche product – into the mainstream.

Cotton 2040, led by not-for-profit Forum for the Future alongside companies such as Marks & Spencer and Target, aims to improve and promote sustainable practices within the cotton industry.

Cotton production uses up to 20,000 litres of water per kilogram of product, and is responsible for a quarter of the world’s use of insecticides. 

One of the first targets is to increase uptake of sustainable cotton to drive production from 13 per cent of total cotton to beyond 30 per cent from 2020.

Tools currently in development include a sustainable cotton sourcing guide, which will serve as a decision-making tool for companies wanting to start or increase use of sustainable cotton.