Coronavirus strengthens case for new EU textile laws – 65 civil society groups publish joint vision
RREUSE is one of the 60+ NGOs calling on the EU to take action to ensure the textiles industry promotes environmental protection as well as inclusive, safe and fair working conditions.
As the European Commission is poised to start developing a new ‘comprehensive strategy for textiles’ in the coming months, today a group of 65 diverse civil society organisations has set out its vision for the global Textile, Garments, Leather and Footwear (TGLF) sector. They have done so by releasing a non-official (or “shadow”) strategy in which they propose a set of legislative and non-legislative actions that the EU can undertake to contribute to fairer and more sustainable TGLF value chains.
The group – a broad coalition of campaigners for fair trade, human and workers’ rights, environmental protection, and transparency – is calling on the European Commission, MEPs, and EU governments to back an ambitious strategy that will kick-start a global re-design of the textile industry’s broken business model for the post-coronavirus world. The TGLF sector has long been characterised by labour rights and human rights abuses along with the immense pressure it exerts on our environment and climate.
RREUSE Director, Michal Len, said “The EU’s plan to address negative externalities associated with the textile industry has to focus on tackling spiralling consumption and production levels. Encouraging longer lifetimes through re-use must be top priority. But the EU’s transition towards a circular economy needs to be tightly linked to a social one. It must ensure fair and inclusive value chains and working conditions for all. “
Members of the European Parliament Delara Burkhardt (S&D), Heidi Hautala (Chair of the Responsible Business Conduct Working Group, from Greens/EFA), and Helmut Scholz (GUE/NGL) have addressed a joint letter to all the Members of the European Parliament to share and support the ‘Civil Society Shadow Strategy’. In the letter, the MEPs stress that “the textile sector has been among the most vulnerable to the COVID-19 crisis due to the power imbalances among its actors and its severe structural problems, including the environmental damage it causes and governance issues. It is one of the most polluting industries, the source of countless catastrophes like that of Rana Plaza, and a hotspot for human rights abuses – which affect women disproportionately”.
Representing the coalition, Sergi Corbalán, executive director of the Fair Trade Advocacy Office said: “Voluntary industry action has failed to bring about a fair and sustainable textile industry, so it’s time for EU leaders to reset the industry’s structure” and added “This ‘Shadow Strategy’ offers theCommission the combined expertise of 65 Civil Society Organisations who have years of experience in dealing with the various impacts of the sector. It’s not a menu from which the Commission can pick specific initiatives and leave others behind, but a comprehensive strategy in which taking action in each field reinforces the efforts put into others”.
The civil society vision for a comprehensive EU Textile Strategy contains recommendations including:
- Ensure companies are legally obligated to take responsibility for not only their own activities but their whole supply chain by applying an EU due diligence law across all sectors, including specific requirements for the TGLF sector. Signing a multi-stakeholder partnership should not exempt business from responsibility.
- Stricter environmental rules that cover how textile products sold in the EU are designed and produced, legal and financial responsibility on producers for when their products become waste, as well as meaningful measures to promote transparency.
- Ensuring brands and retailers are legally obliged to honour contracts and end the culture of unfair purchasing practices that gives them impunity to cancel orders without honouring payments – leaving workers without pay and a wasteful pile up of unsellable products.
- Make governance reforms and better law enforcement in producing countries part of the solution to sustainability issues faced in the TGLF value chains.
- Through trade policy, use EU market power to leverage sustainable production practices in the TGLF industry.
Kelly Piron, Communication and Advocacy Officer, firstname.lastname@example.org