The Ellen MacArthur Foundation launches today a new initiative that brings together key industry stakeholders to build a circular economy for textiles, starting with clothing. The initiative is supported by a core philanthropic funder, C&A Foundation, core corporate partners H&M and NIKE, and a consortium of organisations including the Danish Fashion Institute, Fashion for Good, Cradle to Cradle and MISTRA Future Fashion. The announcement was made by Dame Ellen MacArthur at the Copenhagen Fashion Summit.
Participants in the Circular Fibres Initiative will work together to define a vision for a new global fibres system, which will address the significant drawbacks of the 'take-make-dispose' model currently dominating the industry. The new system for textiles will be based on the principles of a circular economy, generating growth that benefits citizens and businesses, while phasing out negative impacts such as waste and pollution – an economy fit for the 21st Century.
Textiles is the second global materials flow that the Ellen MacArthur Foundation has focussed on. In 2016, the Foundation launched the New Plastics Economy initiative, bringing together key stakeholders including leading businesses across the value chain, city authorities, intergovernmental organisations, scientists, designers and other innovators, to build a plastics system that works. The success of this first initiative, which includes two major reports presented at the Word Economic Forum in Davos, stakeholder workshops and significant media attention, has highlighted the importance of a pre-competitive, collaborative mindset amongst participants.
“At C&A Foundation, we support the production, uptake, and reuse of sustainable fibres. 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.”Executive Director, C&A Foundation Leslie Johnston
Fibres are an important part of today's global economy: clothing production has doubled in the last 15 years, with sales of footwear and apparel reaching $1.67 trillion in 2016. Meanwhile consumers keep their clothing for half the time that they did 15 years ago. After use, only around 15% of apparel waste is collected in the US, while the remaining 85% ends up in landfill. This characteristically linear economy, based on extractive and consumptive patterns, puts high demand on land, energy and other resources. The production and use of clothing accounts for around 3% of global CO2 emissions, and cotton production is now responsible for a quarter of worldwide insecticide use.
As a first step, the Circular Fibres Initiative will produce, with McKinsey & Co. as Knowledge Partner, an analysis of the textiles industry, mapping 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.
“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 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."
- Dame Ellen MacArthur, Founder, Ellen MacArthur Foundation
“At C&A Foundation, we support the production, uptake, and reuse of sustainable fibres. 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."
- Leslie Johnston, Executive Director, C&A Foundation
“Our 100% 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 Fibers 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."
- Anna Gedda, Head of Sustainability, H&M Group
 Energy-related CO2 emissions, The Carbon Trust, International Carbon Flows - Clothing (2011)
 Yale Environment 360 (2016)
Notes to Editors
For enquiries please contact:
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About the Ellen MacArthur Foundation
The Ellen MacArthur Foundation was created in 2010 to accelerate the transition to a circular economy. The Foundation works across five areas: insight and analysis, business and government, education and training, systemic initiatives, and communication. With its Knowledge Partners (Arup, IDEO, McKinsey & Co., and SYSTEMIQ), and supported by Core Philanthropic Funder (SUN), the Foundation works to quantify the economic opportunity of a circular model and to develop approaches for capturing its value. The Foundation collaborates with its Global Partners (Danone, Google, H&M, Intesa Sanpaolo, NIKE, Inc., Philips, Renault, Unilever), and its CE100 network (businesses, universities, emerging innovators, governments, cities and affiliate organisations), to build capacity, explore collaboration opportunities and to develop circular business initiatives. By establishing platforms such as the New Plastics Economy initiative, the Foundation works to transform key material flows, applying a global, cross-sectoral, cross value chain approach that aims to effect systems change. Learn more at www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org.