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Textile sustainability from a consumer perspective Separate appendix to the IVA report Resource-Effective Textiles in Sweden – Textiles from waste to resource, a sector report from the IVA project Resource Effectiveness and the Circular Economy (ReCE)

THEME: CLIMATE-RESOURCES MAY 2020


Contents Textile sustainability from a consumer perspective

4

Extending the active life of a garment

6

Conditions for more resource-effective Swedish textile consumption Making the “right” choice Designing for a longer life A new commercial arena Changing behaviour

10 11 14 15 17

Final recommendations

20

References

22


Textile sustainability from a consumer perspective Separate appendix to the IVA report “Resource-Effective Textiles in Sweden – Textiles from waste to resource”. 4


Textile sustainability from a consumer perspective

This appendix was produced by Malin Viola Wennberg in her role as Communications Manager for an eight-year cross-disciplinary research programme called Mistra Future Fashion 2011–2019. The appendix was produced at the request of the Textiles subproject of the Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences (IVA) project “Resource Effectiveness and the Circular Economy”. The purpose of this appendix is to provide an overview of research focusing on a textile industry that uses resources in a smarter way – from a customer perspective. The research is intended to be used to inform industry and policy decisions. Questions that were asked are: What does a future with more sustainable consumer behaviour look like? Which social policy mechanisms could accelerate the change?

The research conducted within the framework of the Mistra Future Fashion programme had four focus areas, one of which was user behaviour. Much of the research data below was provided by the programme’s international research team. The term “textiles” covers clothes and soft furnishings. The term “clothes” only includes garments designed to be worn on the body. Shoes are in general not included unless otherwise indicated.

Users – consumers – have an important role to play in the transition ahead, but to achieve a more resource-efficient system, support is needed from both the public and private sectors. This textile research overview can be used to establish a list of priorities for tools that should be used and measures that should be implemented and how these can be designed. The appendix should be read as a part of the main report “Resource-Effective Textiles in Sweden – Textiles from waste to resource”.

5


Extending the active life of a garment “Extending the active life of our clothes should be the goal with the highest priority.” 6


Extending the active life of a garment

To reduce the climate impact of Swedish clothing consumption sweeping changes to international systems are unavoidably needed, but there is also significant potential for changed user behaviour at the national level to reduce the climate impact. The figure below shows the climate gains in Sweden of combining measures in both the production and user phases, according to the recently published Mistra Future Fashion report Environmental assessment of Swedish clothing consumption: Six garments – sustainable futures.1 The results show that using garments twice as many times in their original form cuts the climate impact by almost 50 percent. This reduction is mainly due fewer new garments needing to be produced. If consumers also walk or ride a bike to the store, climate impact is reduced by a further 11 percent. In addition to changed consumer behaviour, a change in the type of energy used is also needed. In the diagram below solar energy and the best available production technology are used. Individual consumers may not be able to directly impact the choice of energy used in factories, but everyone can make more use of the garments they already have. Extending the active life of a garment is therefore an important and easy step towards more sustainable clothing consumption. Extending the active life of a garment also means reusing the garment in its original form, i.e. the garment’s intended use when it was designed. Reusing a garment in its existing condition also provides greater climate gains compared to fabric recycling because the recycling process requires the resources to go through the energy-intensive production chain again. According to the EU waste hierarchy, items should always be reused before they go to material recycling and energy recovery (see Figure 2). The fabric in a garment should only be recycled – through a chemical or mechanical recycling process – and used for other prod-

Figure 1: Climate gains from combining interventions to reduce impact, based on Swedish clothing consumption. Source: Sandin et al., 2019.

Current situation

2 x length of life

–49%

2 x length of life + solar powered

–67%

2 x length of life + solar powered production + consumers go to stores

–78%

0

1000

2000

3000

4000

Carbon footprint (1000 tonnes CO2-e)

ucts once the garment can no longer be used in its original form. It is important to point out that the “Minimise/prevent” step is at the top of the hierarchy. According to the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency Swedes consume almost 14 kg of textiles per person per year, of which 10 kg consists or clothes. Personal importation, e.g. via online shopping, is not included in these figures and we can therefore assume that actual clothing consumption is somewhat higher. Meanwhile, Swedes throw away an average of 7.5 kg of textiles per person per year into unsorted household waste which goes to incineration.2 Random sample analysis carried out at the request of the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency shows, however, that more than half of this – around 60 percent – is in satisfactory condition and could be used further in its existing

1

Sandin, G., Roos, S., Spak, B., Zamani, B. and Peters, G., 2019, Environmental assessment of Swedish clothing consumption: Six garments – sustainable futures (http://mistrafuturefashion.com/ wp-content/uploads/2019/08/G.Sandin-Environmental-assessment-of-Swedish-clothing-consumption. MistraFutureFashionReport-2019.05.pdf; accessed 10 March 2020).

2

Swedish Environmental Protection Agency, 2019, Fakta om Textilavfall (http://www.naturvardsverket.se/Sa-mar-miljon/ Mark/Avfall/Textilavfall/; accessed 12 March 2020).

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Extending the active life of a garment

PREVENTION

PREPARATION FOR REUSE

MATERIAL RECYCLING

OTHER RECYCLING, E.G. ENERGY RECOVERY

DISPOSAL, E.G. LANDFILL

Figure 2: EU waste hierarchy.

form.3 This statistic shows once again that a change in user behaviour is an important component in achieving a more sustainable system in the future. Extending the active life of our clothes should be the goal with the highest priority. The Swedish Environmental Protection Agency’s consumer survey from 2018 shows that the main reason people throw clothes and soft furnishings into their household waste is that they do not know what else to do with them.4 This can be compared with the disposal of newspapers or glass bottles, which the absolute majority of people know how to dispose of. Here, a change to the norm is needed so that textiles are seen as a resource rather than waste. A clear and effective collection procedure is also needed. Based on the textile statistics above, the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency recommends that the percentage of textiles in household

waste should be able to be reduced by 60 percent by 2025 from 2015 levels. The Agency also recommends that 90 percent of textiles collected separately should be reused or recycled. The issue of increased producer responsibility is now being studied. The plan is to issue an initial report in 2020 based on the EU’s new Waste Framework Directive which will enter into force in 2025. The directive may also provide incentives for changed user behaviour, depending on which solution is presented for Sweden. In summary, the statistics show that, to a large extent, Swedish consumers do not use their clothes until they are worn out. The research also shows that doubling the life of clothes has the potential to reduce climate impact by almost 50 percent. It is therefore evident that a change is needed to achieve more resource-smart textile consumption.

3

Swedish Environmental Protection Agency, SMED Report No. 176, 2016, Plockanalyser av textilier i hushållens restavfall (http://www.naturvardsverket.se/upload/miljoarbete-i-samhallet/miljoarbete-i-sverige/regeringsuppdrag/2016/ redovisade/plockanalyser-av-textilier-i-hushallens-restavfall-smed-rapport-2016-06-17.pdf; accessed 12 March 2020).

4

Gullers Grupp/Swedish Environmental Protection Agency, 2018, Report Hållbar textilkonsumtion (https:// www.naturvardsverket.se/upload/miljoarbete-i-samhallet/miljoarbete-i-sverige/regeringsuppdrag/2018/ konsumentundersokning-2018-hallbar-konsumtion-av-textilier.pdf; accessed 13 March 2020).

8


Extending the active life of a garment

9


Conditions for more resource-effective Swedish textile consumption “A T-shirt made from organic cotton is not automatically more sustainable than a T-shirt made from conventional cotton.� 10


Conditions for more resource-effective Swedish textile consumption

It is possible to reduce the climate impact of Swedish clothing consumption through changed consumer behaviour, but certain measures need to be implemented. Several studies indicate that Swedish textile consumers are interested in acting more sustainably, but that they have not yet taken the step from thoughts to actions.5 The Swedish Trade Federation’s 2018 sustainability report states that almost four out of five consumers consider it important to buy from “sustainable companies”. The study also shows that retail companies are noticing a growing interest in sustainability among their customers. At the same time the companies respond that one of the main reasons they are not taking an even more active approach to sustainability is that they are experiencing low demand for it from consumers. This is reflected in the consumers’ answer to the question of which parameters are the most important for them when purchasing, on a scale from “fairly important” to “very important”. What people care about most is product quality, followed by price. The fact that a product generates limited climate impact is in seventh place out of nine.6 The consumer survey from the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency reveals that the most important parameter at the time of purchase is style and fit. In the questionnaire only 6 percent stated that eco-labels and environmental information is a deciding factor for them.7 Even if the overall trend indicates increased awareness among consumers, it is clear that consumers are still in need of more concrete tools in order to actually act. The discrepancy between thoughts and actions is also apparent in international consumer research. In May 2019 the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC) and Globescan released a report under the heading “Empowering consumers through transparency – Report on global consumer

research”, in which consumers were interviewed in China, Germany, the UK and the USA on their behaviour and attitudes towards sustainability and consumption within the fashion and textile sector. The consumers stated that they want to be more sustainable but that they lack both the necessary tools to take action and confidence in the sustainability efforts of companies. According to the report, half of the respondents do not trust companies to act in the best interests of society, and only 1 in 10 have a very high level of confidence in companies on this issue.8 Results from both Swedish and international consumer research show that there is some misunderstanding between consumers and producers. Both consumers and producers say that they want to be more sustainable, but they also state that this is not possible at this time due to a lack of sustainable alternatives or sufficient information or interest from both sides. It is important to point out, however, that this can create a circular argument between consumers and producers on who should be taking action. To achieve more sustainable clothing consumption, everyone needs to act. Below is a summary of results and recommendations for necessary measures.

Making the “right” choice What, exactly, is a sustainable choice? A frequently used tool to get consumers to choose a certain alternative is an adding an information label to a garment. These labels may, for example, state that the garment was produced using organically cultivated or recycled fibres. Companies, however, often use their own types of labels in their sus-

5

Swedish Trade Federation, 2018, Starkt ökat hållbarhetsintresse hos konsumenterna - och handelsföretagen är redo. Swedish Trade Federation sustainability study (https://www.svenskhandel. se/globalassets/dokument/aktuellt-och-opinion/rapporter-och-foldrar/hallbar-handel/svenskhandels-hallbarhetsundersokning-2018.pdf; accessed 13 March 2020).

6

Swedish Trade Federation, 2018.

7

Gullers Grupp/Swedish Environmental Protection Agency, 2018.

8

Sustainable Apparel Coalition, 2019, Empowering Consumers Through Transparency. Report on Global Consumer Research (http://apparelcoalition.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/Research-ReportEmpowering-Consumers-through-Transparency.pdf; accessed 13 March 2020).

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Conditions for more resource-effective Swedish textile consumption

tainability communication, making it difficult for consumers to make comparisons between garments from different brands. It is difficult for consumers to judge, for example, which parameters affect a garment’s climate impact and which measurement is effective. One common question concerns which materials should be used to achieve better sustainability. Unfortunately the answer is that no answer is absolutely correct. Textile fibres are often categorised as either “good” or “bad”, but this type of division is too simplistic. Researchers recommend a much more nuanced assessment, where the comparison is instead between whether or not a producer has an effective environmental strategy and how efficiently fibres are used throughout their life cycle. A particular type of fibre can be manufactured in different ways, which means that significant variations exist in the climate, energy and water impact. Today the difference in emissions is greater between different manufacturers than between different fibres.9 A T-shirt made from organic cotton is not automatically more sustainable than a T-shirt made from conventional cotton. Organic may be a good start, but it is important to look at the entire life cycle and consider additional parameters. When calculating the total environmental impact of a garment, we should not only look at which materials are used in the actual garment, but also which resources were used to produce it. Even if a garment is made from organic cotton, the factory spinning the thread and weaving or dyeing the fabric may be using energy from fossil fuels, thereby raising the total climate impact of the garment. Research results from Roos 2019 show that in a garment’s life cycle it is seven times more important to stop using fossil energy than replacing the material used.10 Figure 3 below shows the percentage of a garment’s total climate impact from different stages in its life cycle.11 Fibre production accounts for 16.3 percent, while yarn production, fabric weaving, water processing and cutting and sewing combined account for 63.9 percent. All in all, the production of the garment, i.e. all of the stages before the

9

Figure 3: Climate impact from Swedish clothing consumption. Source: Sandin et al., 2019. Use-phase laundry 2.9% Use-phase transport 10.8%

End-of-life treatment 2.8%

Distribution & retail 3.1% Transport in production 0.5%

Yarn production 10.4%

Confectioning 15.6% Fabric production 14.1%

Wet treatment 23.5%

garment reaches the retail setting, accounts for 80 percent of the total climate impact. It is therefore not always accurate to claim that a garment is more sustainable because it is made from more sustainable fibres. The whole life cycle needs to be considered when describing a sustainable garment. Based on these research results, information communicated about a garment should contain additional details on the garment’s total climate impact – not just its fibre content. In other words, informing consumers about which energy source was used at the factories in the production chain is on balance a more important from a climate impact perspective than informing them which materials were used. It is also important to specify what is actually being measured when labelling something “sustainable fabric” or a “better choice”. The word “sustainable” does not actually mean anything unless the consumer knows what to compare it with or which parameters were used to measure it.

Rex, D., Okcabol, S. and Roos, S., 2019, Possible sustainable fibres on the market and their technical properties. The Fiber Bible Part 1 (http://mistrafuturefashion.com/wp-content/ uploads/2019/03/Roos-D2.1.1.1-Fiber-Bible-Part-1_Mistra-Future-Fashion-2019.02-1.pdf; accessed 13 March 2020) and Sandin, G., Roos, S. and Johansson, M., 2019, Environmental impact of textile fibres – what we know and what we don’t know. The Fiber Bible Part 2 (http://mistrafuturefashion. com/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/Sandin-D2.12.1-Fiber-Bibel-Part-2_Mistra-Future-FashionReport-2019.03.pdf. accessed 11 November 2019).

10 Roos, S., Larsson, E. and Jönsson, C., 2019, Popular supply chain communication guidelines. Mistra Future Fashion report series. 11 Sandin, G., Roos, S., Spak, B., Zamani, B. and Peters, G., 2019.

12

Fibre production 16.3%


Conditions for more resource-effective Swedish textile consumption

Figure 4: Percentage of textile fibres and fabric production in Swedish clothing consumption Source: Sandin et al., 2019.

Nonwoven 6%

Knitted 42%

Viscose Elastane 1% 7%

Woven 52%

Figure 3 above shows climate impact from Swedish clothing consumption, but toxicity and water consumption are also important aspects to include when discussing more sustainable garments. Woven cotton items, such as shirts, are today among the most common garments in the Swedish market (see Figure 4).12 Cotton is often described in positive terms using words such as “natural”, but cotton cultivation is among the least sustainable stages in the garment’s total life cycle based on environmental impact and water consumption. Despite the perception that cotton is a better type of fabric, the opposite may be true. i.e. cotton in many cases may be the least sustainable choice. The water consumption statistics in Figure 5 below show that producing cotton fibres – with the amount of water needed – is the absolute most critical stage, accounting to 87.4 percent of the total impact on water scarcity. Also, we can see that more than 96 percent of water consumption takes place in the various stages of production.13 Thus, in terms of water sustainability, cotton is the least sustainable type of fibre. Growing cotton also requires large quantities of pesticides.

Polyester 35%

Cotton 57%

tion if viscose pulp is produced in a closed cycle in which the water and chemicals are recycled. These results show once again the importance of developing and informing consumers about labels such as “sustainable fabric choice”. What is actually being measured should be further clarified in all labels and claims.

Figure 5: Percentage of water scarcity impact through the Swedish clothing consumption life cycle. Source: Sandin et al., 2019. Use laundry 1% Use other Production 7% 3% Fibre production other 2% Distribution commerce 0%

Regenerated fibres, such as viscose, may in many cases be a more sustainable alternative in terms of water consump-

Fibre production cotton 87%

12 Sandin, G., Roos, S., Spak, B., Zamani, B. and Peters, G., 2019. 13 Sandin, G., Roos, S., Spak, B., Zamani, B. and Peters, G., 2019.

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Conditions for more resource-effective Swedish textile consumption

Figure 6: The Service Shirt, by Rebecca Earley, Centre for Circular Design at the University of the Arts London.

Another problem with garment labels that say “better choice” or “sustainable choice” is the lack of sufficient standardisation. Today it is difficult for both consumers and producers to compare different types of labels. The way in which different companies communicate their environmental efforts in their labels varies and consumers are expected to work out for themselves what they mean. Also, this information is not always readily available on company websites. One respondent in the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency consumer survey expressed this problem as follows: “It’s not like organic food where there is a common EU standard with certain criteria that must be met. You can’t compare an H&M Conscious garment with a Zara garment”.14 This problem needs to be addressed through standardised measurement systems and better information on what different labels actually mean.

Recommendations to facilitate making right choice: •

Garment labelling rules should be changed. In addition to fibre content, the information on a garment should also indicate the garment’s total climate impact.

Include information on what is being measured. Is the garment better from a climate impact, water consumption and/or toxicity perspective? Claiming it is a “better” choice is too vague.

Standardised labels are needed that can be compared between different brands.

Designing for a longer life How a garment is designed has a significant impact on how long it lasts. In a future scenario, garments are designed to be as resource-effective as possible based informed design decisions. Performing life cycle assessment on each garment to identify the best design choices and length of life is costly and therefore not a feasible solution, but since we know that 80 percent of a garment’s climate impact is in the production stage today (according to data presented above in Figure 3), we should be making more carefully considered design decisions. Considering a garment’s entire life cycle when designing it also requires including different types of expertise. Data and

14 Gullers Grupp/Swedish Environmental Protection Agency, 2018.

14


Conditions for more resource-effective Swedish textile consumption

insights from all stages in the process are needed to achieve an effective circular material flow. This requires changing the way we think about, for example, what is considered the beginning and the end. We could say that the first phase in a garment’s life is the material or what the consumer wants. Decisions are taken right from the design stage that impact how the textile resources in a garment will be able to live on after the garment is worn out. The choice of material is an example of a decision that can impact whether or not a garment can be recycled. If a garment can be made from monomaterial, i.e. all parts of the garment are made from the same type of textile fibres, it will be easier to recycle. Separation of mixed textile fibres is one of the most difficult steps in the textile recycling process, because the separation process negatively affects the quality of the fibres and there is no technology yet that is suitable for all types of fibre blends.15 A garment can be designed right from the outset to go through several cycles of use. In the Circular Design Speeds research project Professor Rebecca Earley developed a concept garment called the “Service Shirt”, see Figure 6. The first phase of this garment is in the form of a white top. In the following two phases the top has gone through different dying treatments. In the fourth phase is has become the lining for a jacket and finally it is used as part of a bag and a necklace. The garment and the fabric it is made of have been designed planning for a 50-year life and also taking into account business models for the different phases of the garment. The “Service Shirt” is a concept garment, but planning for multiple cycles of use is a method that can be applied elsewhere. Producers should bear this in mind when they produce new clothes and consumers should consider it when they update their wardrobe.

Recommendations for designing for a longer life: •

The expected life and types of use of a garment should be established at the drawing board stage. The garment can be designed

to be part of multiple cycles, with the same or different users. •

The intended life length must be weighed against the impact of the production phases.

A decision should be taken on how the resources in a garment will be able to live on after it is worn out.

A new commercial arena Even if both of the measures discussed above are implemented – i.e. the ability to compare and choose more sustainable options and a supply of garments designed according to more resource-efficient methods, we will still need a different type of commercial arena to facilitate the process. It may be possible to reduce climate and environment impact from clothing consumption by extending the life of a garment through, for example, shared ownership, repair options, renting and redesigning. These business models are already available in the market today, albeit on a small scale, but they are not being used sufficiently by consumers in Sweden.16 There are also regulations today that make it financially difficult for companies to invest in and develop these types of business models. Many secondhand retailers, for example, feel that taxes and fees make it almost impossible to make a profit from second-hand clothing sales as they chip away at margins.17 Services and new business models need to reflect where consumers are in order to change norms to a greater extent. In 2019 several Swedish clothing chains, such as H&M and Gina Tricot, announced a service whereby certain items in their product range can be rented instead of purchased. Filippa K has been renting specific content from its collection in selected shops for a number of years now. Wellknown brands with stores in central locations that reach a large and broad customer segment offering an option to rent instead of buy is an important step towards a more cir-

15 Roos, S., Sandin, G., Peters, G., Spak, B., Schwarz Bour, L., Perzon, E. and Jönsson, C., 2019, White paper on textile recycling (http://mistrafuturefashion.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/S.Roos.-White-paper-on-textile-recycling.-Mistra-Future-Fashion.pdf; accessed 13 March 2020). 16 Steensen Nielsen, K. and Gwozdz, W., 2018, Report on geographic differences in acceptance of alternative business models. Mistra Future Fashion report series (http://mistrafuturefashion. com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/Mistra-Future-Fashion-Report-3.1.2.1.pdf; accessed 24 March 2020). 17 Sweet, Aflaki, R. and Stalder, M., 2019, The Swedish market for pre-owned apparel and its role in moving the fashion industry towards more sustainable practices. Mistra Future Fashion report series (http://mistrafuturefashion.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Mistra-Future-Fashion-Report2019_01-SRF-3.1.1-S.-Sweet.pdf; accessed 13 March 2020).

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Conditions for more resource-effective Swedish textile consumption

cular economy. Although the transition has begun, there are no concrete mechanisms to accelerate the process. Renting or borrowing, for example, are particularly important in the case of garments that are only expected to be used once or a few times, such as clothes for special occasions. Formal attire rental has been available for many years, but this business model is now expanding to a wider public and offering everyday wardrobe items. In order to rent out on a large scale and achieve profitability logical solutions are needed for laundering and repair, as well as financial mechanisms that facilitate these types of services. Research has, for example, shown that increasing taxes on virgin fibres – and thereby also on new garment production – would be an efficient way of reducing the number of new products on the market and increasing the use of garments that already exist, e.g. through a rental service.18 Choosing a more sustainable option needs to be profitable for both the producer and the consumer in order to achieve a noticeable change in the market. Another business model that is growing its share of the market is second-hand sales. Traditional flea markets have existed for centuries, but since the rise of the internet in the 1990s we have seen a sharp increase in the sale of pre-owned items, thanks mainly to the emergence of apps and online services. Since much of the sales are person to person through, for example, social media groups or buyand-sell websites, it is difficult to measure the actual size of the market. By estimating the number of users we can still see a favourable change in attitudes towards shopping for more pre-owned items. New research into the Swedish second-hand market also shows that one business model with growth potential involves selling second-hand apparel while offering a “firsthand” experience.19 In other words, a shop that sells used clothes looks and feels the same as a traditional shop offering new items. These stores invest a lot of resources into curating their merchandise and therefore gain the trust of consumers who would normally avoid second-hand shops. In the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency’s consumer survey the majority of consumers said they do not buy

used apparel because they “don’t like wearing clothes that someone else has worn”.20 To reach these consumers it is therefore important to invest resources into curating the offering and creating an inspiring retail space where garments are presented as if they were new, i.e. the customer experience severs the connection between the garment and its previous owner. Even if businesses that succeed in creating a “first-hand” experience have significant potential to reach a wider consumer group, it is a costly business model to maintain today. In order for this business model to grow and for companies to increase their share of the market the mechanisms for things like VAT on used clothing need to be changed. Research also shows that the labour cost is very high because the sorting process is both time-consuming and requires personnel with specialist expertise in the garment market. In order to make a profit, many of these companies are today relying on volunteers.21 In stores of the future consumers will receive information about the climate, environmental and water impact of their items when they purchase them. This may involve retail personnel having more knowledge of how the clothes are produced and their impact, or information being available when online purchases are made. Today Swedish consumers get information about sustainable textile consumption primarily through broadcast and social media, but the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency’s consumer survey shows that consumers would prefer to get information in the store at the time of purchase. Only 5 percent say that they receive information in the store today, while 47 percent would like to get information there.22 It is abundantly clear that people do not want to have to search for the information – they want it get it automatically at the time of purchase.

Recommendations for renewal of the commercial arena: •

In order to be able to rent out clothing on a larger scale and make it a profitable

18 Elander, M., Watson, D. and Gylling, A. C., 2017, Evaluation of business models for increased reuse, collective use and prolonged life time of textiles. Mistra Future Fashion report series (http://mistrafuturefashion.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/Mistra-report-D3.3.3.1.-Evaluation-ofbusiness-models.pdf; accessed 13 March 2020). 19 Sweet, Aflaki, R. and Stalder, M., 2019. 20 Gullers Grupp/Swedish Environmental Protection Agency, 2018. 21 Elander, M., Watson, D. and Gylling, A. C., 2017. 22 Gullers Grupp/Swedish Environmental Protection Agency, 2018.

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Conditions for more resource-effective Swedish textile consumption

Figure 7: Percentage of positive behavioural changes based on various tools tested. Source: Müller, Steensen Nielsen and Gwozdz, 2019.

47%

Group goals, feedback and commitment (n=94)

60%

Individual goals, feedback and commitment (n=93)

Information only (n=100)

10%

8%

Control group (n=110) 0%

20%

venture, logical solutions are needed for laundering and repairing garments. Financial mechanisms that facilitate these services are also needed. •

Increasing taxes on virgin fibres – and thereby also on new garment production – could be an effective way of reducing the number of new products entering the market and thus increase the use of items that already exist.

There is growth potential for business models that sell second-hand clothes while offering a “first-hand” experience. These types of models also reach new customer groups that previously avoided buying pre-owned clothes.

Clearer and better information is needed when a purchase is made. Consumers do not want to have to search for information – they want it get it automatically at the time of purchase.

Changing behaviour Another parameter that needs to be in place to achieve resource efficiency in the textile sector is changed behaviour.

40%

60%

80%

100%

As mentioned previously, there is currently a disconnect between thoughts and actions, and further steps need to be taken. The consumer survey conducted by the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency through Gullers Grupp in 2018 showed that the majority of Sweden’s consumers can imagine changing to some extent their shopping behaviour, what they shop for, how they care for their clothes and other textiles, and how they dispose of them.23 The same report indicates, however, that consumers have insufficient knowledge about what various sustainability labels actually mean. A quarter of the respondents in the survey said that 50 percent or more of the clothes they purchase are ecolabelled, but the majority know nothing or very little about what ecolabelling of clothes actually means. Informing customers about what the labels mean is therefore an important first step (see also chapter 2.1. Making the “right” choice). The biggest obstacles preventing consumers from making more sustainable choices have in the past been structural in nature, i.e. the products have not been available or the price has made it impossible to reach sufficient volumes. However, this can no longer be cited as the cause because the number of companies that offer more sustainable options has increased considerably – both in physical stores and online, and in various price categories. What is needed now is a significant behavioural shift.

23 Gullers Grupp/Swedish Environmental Protection Agency, 2018.

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Conditions for more resource-effective Swedish textile consumption

25 kg CO2-equivalent/ life cycle of the garment

Figure 8: Percentage of reduction of climate impact from washing at lower temperatures. Source: Sandin et al. 2019.

15

kg CO2-equivalent/ life cycle of the garment

–0.01%

–0.07%

Low washing temperature

20

–0.29%

10 5 0

Figure 9: Climate impact – users walking or driving to the store. Source: Sandin et al. 2019.

Average washing temperature

–0.18% T-shirt

–0.83% Jeans

25

Driving car to store

20

Current average transport to store

15

Walking to store

10 5 0

+8%

+8%

Dress

+5%

Jacket

+4% –10%

Providing consumers with information on climate impact is a first and important step, but this is often not enough to change their behaviour. Providing information should instead be seen as part of a larger effort to bring about change, combined with additional tools to facilitate the transition. Joanes, Steensen Nielsen and Gwozdz (2019) find that, in addition to information, a combination of tools is needed to really change behaviour. In their consumer survey the specific combination of individual goals, feedback and action received the greatest positive response on the issue of changing behaviour (see Figure 7).24 Feedback on individual goals is about providing consumers with information on how their own actions impact the climate and what they themselves can do to improve their behaviour. It gives the user an understanding of the connection between certain results (water consumption and emissions savings) and the necessary behaviour to achieve results (e.g. purchasing fewer water-intensive products such as jeans). According to the customer survey, this,

–15%

+8% Jeans

Dress

Jacket

–15%

Socks

combined with a clear commitment and a goal for how much people want to reduce their impact, provides the greatest gains. A concrete attempt being made in Copenhagen shows that change through direct individual feedback is possible. Based on the system of signing up for laundry times in a housing cooperative, it was possible to track individual electricity consumption and then share this information with all of the residents. This experiment led to a significant reduction in energy consumption in the common laundry room because the residents started competing with each other. Determining factors here were that the impact of individual choices were made visible to the user and the goal was a concrete one. Another important factor is that it needs to be actually possible for the individual user to reach the goal. “Reducing Sweden’s climate impact from clothing consumption” is, for example, an impossible goal for an individual to achieve, but “purchasing 50 fewer garments compared to last year” is an individual goal that is achievable and concrete.

24 Müller, T., Steensen Nielsen, K. and Gwozdz, W., 2019, Fostering sustainable clothing via social marketing tools – a toolbox. Mistra Future Fashion report series.

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–8%

–16%

T-shirt

Socks


Conditions for more resource-effective Swedish textile consumption

Changing behaviours around buying and disposing of clothes is essential, but it is also important to pay attention to how clothes are used and taken care of at home. Washing clothes at a lower temperature is often cited as a way to reduce climate impact but based on a life-cycle perspective, this does not provide any significant climate outcome. See Figure 8 for the difference per garment when the temperature is reduced.25 This is information that needs to be shared with consumers so that efforts are made where they can actually have the greatest impact. The way in which people get to the store is more important than washing clothes at a low temperature. Figure 3 shows that 11 percent of a garment’s total climate impact comes from the consumers’ choice of transport, while washing it accounts for around 3 percent. Figure 9 below shows the relative climate impact per garment if consumers walk or drive to the shop.26 Walking instead of driving to the store is unfortunately not an option for all consumers, for example those living in sparsely populated areas. For those who

have the option to walk or ride a bike, however, clear savings can be made. This information is important to apply in urban planning contexts; planners can choose not to place a shopping centre in a location that consumers need to drive to.

Recommendations for changing behaviour: •

Getting from idea to action requires more than just information.

Changing behaviour requires a setting a goal that is individual, measurable, concrete and achievable for individuals, in addition to providing general information on the impact of textiles.

Put resources into changes that have tangible results. It is more important to avoid driving to the store than washing clothes at a lower temperature.

25 Sandin, G., Roos, S., Spak, B., Zamani, B. and Peters, G., 2019. 26 Sandin, G., Roos, S., Spak, B., Zamani, B. and Peters, G., 2019.

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Final recommendations “To achieve a more resourcesmart textile sector, garments that already exist must have a longer active life in their original form.� 20


Final recommendations

Today none of the garments in our wardrobe are used enough before we dispose of them. To achieve a more resource-smart textile sector, garments that already exist must have a longer active life in their original form. No other single action – such as more sustainably produced textile fibres or better recycling methods – has the potential to reduce the impact of Swedish clothing consumption as much as doubling the life of the clothes we already own. Actions should therefore be implemented so that through effective measurement, informed design decisions, renewed retail arenas and changed consumer behaviour, it is possible for clothes to have a longer life. See Figure 10 for a visual overview of the gains to be made for the climate, energy and water consumption from doubling the life of garments.

Figure 10: Percentage of change from doubling the life compared to today. Source: Sandin et al. 2019.

Current Doubled life 100% 80% 60%

–49%

–42%

–48%

40% 20% 0%

Climate

Energy

Water

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References

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References

Gullers Grupp/Swedish Environmental Protection Agency, 2018, Rapport Hållbar textilkonsumtion.

Sandin, G., Roos, S. and Johansson, M., 2019, Environmental impact of textile fibres – What we know and what we don’t know. The Fiber Bible Part 2.

Elander, M., Watson, D. and Gylling, A. C., 2017, Evaluation of business models for increased reuse, collective use and prolonged life time of textiles. Mistra Future Fashion report series.

Sandin, G., Roos, S., Spak, B., Zamani, B. and Peters, G., 2019, Environmental assessment of Swedish clothing consumption: Six garments – sustainable futures.

Müller, T., Steensen Nielsen, K. and Gwozdz, W., 2019, Fostering sustainable clothing via social marketing tools – a toolbox. Mistra Future Fashion report series.

Steensen Nielsen, K. and Gwozdz, W., 2018, Report on geographic differences in acceptance of alternative business models. Mistra Future Fashion report series.

Swedish Environmental Protection Agency, 2019, Fakta om Textilavfall.

Sustainable Apparel Coalition, 2019, Empowering Consumers Through Transparency. Report on Global Consumer Research.

Swedish Environmental Protection Agency, SMED Report No. 176, 2016, Plockanalyser av textilier i hushållens restavfall. Rex, D., Okcabol, S. and Roos, S., 2019, Possible sustainable fibers on the market and their technical properties. The Fiber Bible Part 1. Roos, S., Larsson, E. and Jönsson, C., 2019, Popular supply chain communication guidelines. Mistra Future Fashion report series.

Swedish Trade Federation, 2018, Starkt ökat hållbarhetsintresse hos konsumenterna – och handelsföretagen är redo. Swedish Trade Federation sustainability study. Sweet, Aflaki, R. and Stalder, M., 2019, The Swedish market for pre-owned apparel and its role in moving the fashion industry towards more sustainable practices. Mistra Future Fashion report series.

Roos, S., Sandin, G., Peters, G., Spak, B., Schwarz Bour, L., Perzon, E. and Jönsson, C., 2019, White paper on textile recycling.

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The Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences (IVA) is an independent academy whose mission is to promote the engineering and economic sciences and the advancement of business and industry. In cooperation with the business community and academia, IVA initiates and proposes measures to improve Sweden’s industrial expertise and competitiveness. For more information about IVA and the Academy’s projects, see the website www.iva.se. Published by: The Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences (IVA), 2020 Box 5073, SE-102 42 Stockholm, Sweden Tel. +46 (0)8 791 29 00 IVA publishes various types of reports within the framework of its activities. All reports are fact-checked by experts and then approved for publication by IVA’s President. IVA-R 511 ISSN: 1100-5645 ISBN: 978-91-89181-08-3 Project Management: Caroline Ankarcrona & Jan Nordling, IVA Text: Malin Viola Wennberg Editor: Lars Nilsson, IVA Co-ordinator: Gustaf Wahlström, IVA Illustrations: Moa Sundkvist & Jennifer Bergkvist Photos: Shutterstock.com & Unsplash.com Layout: Pelle Isaksson, IVA This report is available to download as a pdf file at www.iva.se


References

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in cooperation with

Profile for Kungl. Ingenjörsvetenskapsakademien, IVA

Textile sustainability from a consumer perspective  

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