Circular Fashion Manifesto, sustainability is no craze

From the School’s Sustainability Lab to the United Nation’s “Sustainability Pledge”

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Manufacturers, distributors and retailers in the fashion industry rallied under the flag of sustainability – Is it a mirage? A wish? No, it is a program manifesto. Monitor for Circular Fashion, an SDA Bocconi Sustainability Lab‘s initiative powered by Enel X, drafted the Manifesto with a view to creating a multi-stakeholder community among leading companies in the textile-garment industry and the various players in its supply chain and contributing to the transition towards circular business models.

It is called the Circular Fashion Manifesto and it has just been presented to the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, UNECE. It is SDA Bocconi Sustainability Lab’s response to the UNECE’s “Sustainability Pledge”, which comprises a dedicated toolbox of policy recommendations, implementation guidelines, standards plus a Call to Action. The UNECE invites all the players in the garment and footwear industry to implement this toolbox and take practical action for traceability and transparency for improved sustainability, in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The Manifesto calls on fashion brands to subscribe jointly to a specific list of commitments aiming to share the data and know-how necessary to reduce the industry’s environmental footprint, enhance circularity and sustainability of value chains through transparency and traceability, implement circular business processes along the entire value chain, encourage better waste management, attract the interest of all the stakeholders on sustainable manufacturing and consumption and cooperate with other initiatives concerning circularity. Finally, the Manifesto also includes methods for measuring the effects of such initiatives. The various commitments feature specific KPIs to assess practical effectiveness and measure the impact of The Sustainability Pledge throughout the production chain and product life.

Here are the commitments that companies signing the Manifesto undertake to respect in the seven activities of the circular value chain: 

  1. Eco-design: participation in multi-stakeholder initiatives aiming to design and develop more recyclable products, setting standards for mono material garments that make it easier to disassemble products. And, measure product circularity by adhering to the strictest international standards that results from the mapping the Monitor for Circular Fashion is carrying out.
  2. Sourcing of raw materials: measuring traceability by identifying clear and relevant indicators; promoting research into sustainable materials; reducing textile waste.
  3. Manufacturing of semi-finished and finished products: strengthening of joint commitments on traceability; providing training on responsible manufacturing; supporting shared audits with other brands to grant higher efficiency for suppliers.
  4. Transport and logistics: measuring data related to transportation in order to achieve decarbonization.
  5. Distribution and retail: engaging and educating all relevant stakeholders on traceability and transparency; complying with UNECE guidelines on sustainability claims.
  6. End of life: committing to extend the life of products; engaging and educating final users to extend the life of products.

These commitments imply a gradual transformation of the value chains. To achieve this transformation, we need more than mere compliance but rather decisive proactivity and concerted action. The UNECE encourages this approach and has launched a Call to Action inviting companies, governments and industry stakeholders to suggest actions for putting The Sustainability Pledge into practice. Interested parties can submit their proposals on a dedicated online platform (https://form.jotform.com/211244876449059) by 10 September 2021.

“Through this Manifesto, the partner companies of the Monitor for Circular Fashion have presented to UNECE some clear and measurable commitments, with a view to improving the traceability and transparency performance of the entire industry,” said Francesca Romana Rinaldi, Lead Monitor for Circular Fashion – Sustainability Lab SDA Bocconi. “It is a challenging but achievable objective, thanks to a multi-stakeholder approach based on cooperation, dialogue and sharing of good practices.”

“The data to support responsible choices and robust claims is available. The problem is that it is somehow segregated and it is coded in different ways that do not flow among the various actors in the value chain,” Maria Teresa Pisani, Economic Affairs Officer, Economic Cooperation and Trade Division of the UNECE, added. “Traceability and pipeline transparency are essential to achieving sustainable and circular value chains in the garment and footwear sector. I urge all stakeholders that working for greater sustainability to submit their Call to Action and join The Sustainability Pledge.”



SDA Bocconi School of Management.

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