Insights from the Unpacking Global Policy Masterclass

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The Unpacking Policy Masterclass at Global Fashion Summit: Copenhagen Edition 2024, brought together key industry players from BESTSELLER, the American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA), the European Environment Agency (EEA), and Sourcing Journal. This session provided a platform to dissect the global policy landscape and its implications for the fashion industry, especially in the context of the 2024 EU elections and the new European Commission mandate.


Setting the Geopolitical Stage

The Masterclass began by setting the stage with an overview of the geopolitical climate, highlighting how the significant elections worldwide, particularly in the EU and the US, are poised to shape the future of fashion legislation. Besides elections, the session presented the main legislative efforts tackling the fashion industry in different regions, including the EU, the US, South America, Asia, and Africa. Key geopolitical elements discussed included the global election supercycle, with over 50% of the global population expected to vote throughout 2024, fragmentation and different speeds of sustainability adoption, the climate adaptation imperative, prioritising economic security, the geopolitics of the ocean, and the challenges posed by artificial intelligence.


Policy fragmentation: a call for global action and harmonisation

The legislative environment is rapidly evolving, with over 30 new pieces of legislation affecting the industry across various regions. Once under minimal regulation, the textile sector is now facing a wave of legislative scrutiny:

Legislative Efforts in the US


  • In the US, the regulatory landscape is evolving rapidly with states at the forefront of the regulatory efforts, introducing several key proposals and acts targeting the fashion industry. Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) proposals in California and New York and several Fashion Acts like the one in New York are setting the stage for more stringent regulatory frameworks. Chemical legislation and ESG and climate reporting requirements are becoming increasingly prevalent. More information on the US legislative landscape can be consulted in the GFA Policy Matrix: Americas.


  • The main challenge lies in harmonising the requirements and timelines of state legislation at the federal level. This dissonance can lead to aggregated costs and practical difficulties for companies trying to comply with varying regulations. The discussion highlighted the need for policies that go beyond imposing fees and obligations, advocating for opportunities that promote circularity and eco-modulation.

Legislative Efforts in the EU


  • The EU is at the forefront of regulatory efforts with over 16 proposals impacting textiles. These proposals address all aspects of the textile value chain, from material sourcing and the design phase to communicating sustainability, consumer empowerment, the upholding of human rights, and end-of-life processes. Much of this proposed legislation is ongoing, including initiatives like Eco-design for Sustainable Products Regulation (ESPR), the Green Claims Directive or the introduction of EPR for textiles under the revision of the Waste Framework Directive. More information on the EU legislative landscape can be consulted in the GFA Policy Matrix: EU.


  • The challenge for the industry will be in how these regulations are implemented over the coming years. As these legislative measures take effect, the focus will be on ensuring they are practical and enforceable, creating a more sustainable and accountable fashion industry in the EU.

One of the critical takeaways from the session was the challenge of managing disparate regulatory requirements across different jurisdictions. The complexity of adhering to varied regulations at international, country-wide, and regional levels is a major concern for brands. Without harmonised global legislation, companies face a “patchwork approach” that complicates compliance and stifles innovation. This fragmented regulatory landscape underscores the necessity for global and cohesive policy frameworks that ensure effective and environmentally beneficial regulations.

A recurring theme throughout the masterclass was the call for harmonised global legislation. The textile industry operates on a global scale, making fragmented regulations counterproductive. A unified legislative approach, similar to the global policy process seen in the plastics industry, is essential to ensure universal environmental standards and a level playing field for all. Harmonised legislation can streamline compliance, reduce administrative burdens, and drive industry-wide progress.


Industry Perspective: Challenges When Implementing Legislation

From an industry perspective, companies are not opposed to new legislation; in fact, they welcome it and strive to be ambitious in their sustainability efforts. However, there is a need for brands to be receptive and proactive, staying ahead of the curve by anticipating upcoming legislative requirements. Brands and other stakeholders must engage with policymakers, providing technical recommendations to ensure that the legislation developed is realistic and fit for purpose. By co-developing legislation, the industry can help create regulations that are both effective and practical.


Looking Ahead

The Unpacking Policy Masterclass was a clarion call for unity, proactive engagement, and thoughtful legislation. The insights shared during the session highlighted the pivotal role of policy in accelerating impact and shaping the future of the fashion industry. As the industry continues to evolve, the need for aligned global policies and collaborative efforts remains paramount to driving sustainable progress and innovation.

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