Does the environmental footprint of EU products allow greenwashing? – Supply Log

The Higg Material Durability Index is not the only impact measurement tool facing questions.

Two different coalitions wrote to the European Commission this month, expressing concern over an eco-labeling methodology intended to assess the environmental cost of a product from material acquisition through processing, distribution, use and end of life.

the said Product environmental footprintbetter known by its acronym PEF, is currently “not fit for purpose” and could “license greenwashing,” according Make the label counta campaign whose members include Australian Wool Innovation, the Campaign for Wool, the Changing Markets Foundation, Cotton Australia, Fibershed, the International Sericulture Commission, the International Wool Textile Organization and the Plastic Soup Foundation.

The main point of contention in the campaign is the absence of three “key” indicators: release of microplastics, plastic waste and circularity. Although targeted strategies exist for each under the EU Microplastics Initiative and the EU strategy for sustainable and circular textileshe said, targeted indicators to measure and report on progress in these areas “are lacking”.

Too much is known about the harmful effects of microplastic pollution, for example, to prevent this information from reaching consumers, Make the Label Count said. And given the “significant” contribution of synthetic clothing to fast fashion and plastic waste, a clearly defined plastic waste indicator that makes solid waste generation the least preferred option, should not be a “controversial idea”. Currently, only a minimum weight, representing less than 1% of a product’s score, is given to fibers derived from fossil fuels such as polyester, which “will not influence consumer choices”, says the letter.

Similarly, the commission “underestimates” processes such as biological circularity and renewal of inputsthat does not send a “strong market signal” that will help the European Union achieve its ambitious circularity goals.

“Proof that the growth of cheap synthetic clothes is closely correlated with the growth of fast fashion is compelling,” the coalition said. “Omitting indicators related to synthetic clothing, including microplastics, plastic waste and circularity, will show that clothing made from fossil materials is more sustainable, guiding well-meaning consumers to buy more rather than less. clothes mainly responsible for fast fashion.”

Another set of advocacy groups, including the Changing Markets Foundation, Clean Clothes Campaign and Fashion Revolution, were concerned that the PEF, as it stands, paints a “limited and non-holistic picture” of product impact and does not should therefore not be used as a stand-alone method. justify corporate green claimsan issue that has received increasing attention from regulators in recent months.

Like Make the Label Count, organizations say the full lifecycle impact of a product is not sufficiently considered and the methodology risks rewarding recycle PET bottles in polyester fibers by not including microplastic release measurements. Social impacts are also absent, they said, because LCA studies do not shed light on the conditions under which the products were made. Others that deserve more attention are hazardous chemicals, biodiversity and animal welfare.

Crucially, the PEF isn’t about fast fashion, their letter says.

“The EU textile strategy establishes a clear link between fast fashion and the increasing use of fossil synthetic fibres,” he said. “At the same time, the PEF method has proven ineffective in capturing the non-physical durability (or ’emotional’ durability) of a product, i.e. the idea that it is not only physical properties of a product (such as fiber strength) that determine whether it will be used and worn for a long time; factors such as price and trend timing also play a role. due to the fact that not all aspects of the life cycle are covered as indicated above), there is a risk that the method favors synthetic fibers which have led to overproduction.

Baptiste Carriere-Pradal, Chairman of Policy Hub, a think tank founded by the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, Global Fashion Agenda and the Federation of European Sporting Goods Industry, as well as Chairman of the Technical Secretariat of the PEF Project, said that the framework is always “scalable”. During its pilot phase, 14 indicators were included. Now in its second iteration, the PEF impact categories number 16, with a circularity formula that takes biodegradability and “other elements” into account. It’s a welcome addition, he told Sourcing Journal.

“Make the Label is asking for the inclusion of microplastics, while some NGOs are asking for biodiversity,” Carrière-Pradal said. “There is a consensus, from industry to policy makers and civil society, that in the future more impact categories would benefit from being included as part of the PEF. All of these points are explored by the European Commission and all stakeholders look forward to further exploring expanding the scope of the PEF.

But there is a reason not to delay the rollout of the PEF, he said. With the climate crisis escalating, “it is important to have, as soon as possible, an agreed way of measuring the product footprint intended to be communicated to consumers, starting with the 16 impact categories identified”, Carriere-Pradal said, adding that “time is of the essence.

Since the “realistic inclusion” of new impacts will take at least five to ten years to mature, the development of such indicators must take place while the commission strengthens future PEF guidelines, he said.

“Therefore, it is important that the forthcoming regulations on the substantiation of green claims recognize PEF as the only approved method to communicate on the 16 impact categories already identified, while allowing additional impact to be communicated, such as microplastics. , and while working collaboratively on the inclusion of future new impacts and refining the methodology for the future,” said Carrière-Pradal.

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