For fashion companies, whether large or small; the switch to the circular economy is inevitable. And the Covid pandemic has sped up the whole process.

We’ve read, in its every possible form, that the fashion and textile industries are amongst the most polluting sectors. Right in the middle of a pandemic, though, there’s some good news linked to what has been defined as Covid effect. From an analysis carried out on a sample of excellences in the field by SDA Bocconi School of Management and Enel X, it emerged that “Covid-19 can be regarded as a shift accelerator towards sustainability and circularity in fashion.”

The Monitor for Circular Fashion survey

But let’s start from the beginning. SDA Bocconi School of Management Sustainability Lab’s Monitor for Circular Fashion, supported by Enel X, is a “scientific and technological community” so far consisting of 14 leading companies in the Italian fashion industry and the textile supply chain, including Vibram, Vivienne Westwood, OVS and Radici Group. Monitor for Circular Fashion – 2021, “on its second edition must be seen as a long-term project that is replicated every year and with an increasing number of participating companies – explains Nicola Tagliafierro, in charge of sustainability for Enel X – with the aim of leading companies in the textile and fashion sectors towards circular models. Such shift cannot be improvised, it needs supervision: this is the spirit behind Monitor.”

The above-mentioned Covid effect has emerged from a couple of questions posed by Bocconi researchers to Monitor companies. The question “In what way Covid-19 affected the sustainability strategy of your company?” was answered by the majority of interviewees (a limited but qualified sample) with “new sustainability goals have been reached and investments in sustainability soared”. No company answered, “investments in sustainability dropped.”
This report certainly confirms that this is sector is still dominated by a linear approach, from cradle to grave. Only 20% of global textile waste, which has increased due to the pandemic, is reused or recycled.
At methodological level, “the low statistical significance of the sample” is recognised, but “the results of the survey” – explain the researchers – “integrated with salient points of qualitative interviews can be relevant for all other players in the fashion sector.” It could be said that this group picture of the sector’s forefront could give some indications about the whole industry.
But will smaller companies have the means to follow the breakaway, to use a cycling term, of Monitor companies? “We are determined,” reassures Tagliafierro, “to include and involve also smaller companies, thanks to co-operations with networks closer to such companies.”

The Circular Economy Report provided by Enel X

The report also makes the most of Enel X expertise in the circular economy. The Circular Economy Report is a service provided by a company of Enel Group, based on a methodology validated by RINA and CESI and Accredia accredited, which, thanks to 60 Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), enables companies to measure their level of circularity and improve it thanks to a road map. Based on this approach, 30 KPIs, made to measure for the textile sector, were identified; indicators “that companies,” the report explains, “could adopt to evaluate their own progress.” Identified sustainability and circularity indicators include, for instance, the percentage of co-operations functional to eco-design, the percentage of products offered as repairing service, the share of pre-consumer waste used, the share of recycled water and that of recovered by-products or the incidence of products fully made with biodegradable and compostable raw materials. Indicators included in the Circular Fashion Manifesto presented to the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), which in turn invited players in the clothing and footwear industry to follow a model to measure and improve sustainability in line with Agenda 2030 for sustainable development.

Image: Gil Ribeiro (Unsplash)

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