Policy Highlights From Global Fashion Summit: Copenhagen Edition 2023

Discover a recap of some of the key policy learnings from content sessions at Global Fashion Summit: Copenhagen Edition 2023.

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At the recently concluded Global Fashion Summit: Copenhagen Edition 2023, policymakers, industry, and civil society, gathered to address the critical issues surrounding the fashion industry’s sustainability opportunities and challenges. In line with the theme of ‘Ambition to Action’, the Summit delved into the realm of policymaking, highlighting the crucial need for transformative measures that can revolutionise the fashion industry into a force for positive change.

In light of the recent influx of legislations that are implicating the textiles industry, GFA launched a new EU Policy Matrix at Global Fashion Summit to summarise these key legislations. This Matrix is intended to be an overview of the main regulatory initiatives relating to the five priorities of the Fashion CEO Agenda (FCA) at the EU level. Discover the EU Policy Matrix here.

Discover a recap of the some of the key policy learnings from content sessions at Global Fashion Summit.

Policy Power: The Global Dimension

At the heart of the Summit’s policy discussions were keynote speeches from the European Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, Virginijus Sinkevičius and New York State Assembly Member, Dr Anna Kelles. Both speakers addressed the diverse and ongoing pieces of legislation that seek to tackle the identified challenges in the fashion industry.

Sinkevičius emphasised the need for international alignment between the European Union and the United States to create a global impact on fashion industry policies. He argued that when these major players agree on specific measures, others follow suit, having a ripple effect on sustainability shifts across the globe and propelling action.

Kelles stressed the urgent need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2030, underscoring the fashion industry’s pivotal role in achieving this ambitious target, and the importance of legislation to do so: “Governments must be an equal and active partner for the entire industry to achieve human rights and environmental sustainability targets”.

The session proved to be a defining moment, uniting policymakers with a common vision – to create a greener and more sustainable fashion landscape. Through their collaborative efforts and unwavering commitment to driving legislative action, these stakeholders ignited a spark of hope for a future where fashion thrives without compromising the environment and the well-being of its workers.

Policy Power: The Local Dimension

Danish Minister of Environment, Magnus Johannes Heunicke, took to the stage to offer perspectives on the local dimension of legislation. Drawing on Denmark’s experience, this session complemented the earlier discussion on the global dimension of policy. By translating the EU Textiles Strategy into tangible action on the national level, countries like Denmark exemplify the transformative potential of harmonising global ambitions with local efforts.

Heunicke issued a call to action for those in the audience: “Let the circular economy and Green Innovation fully be reflected in your design, your product, and your business model. We all win when the industry is geared up for a greener and more sustainable future”.

The Launch of the Global Textiles Policy Forum

Amidst the resounding calls for global action and international alignment to drive transformative change in the fashion industry, Global Fashion Agenda launched the Global Textiles Policy Forum. The first of its kind for the textiles industry, the Forum is an initiative aimed at tackling the deeper layers of fashion sustainability challenges and creating a global platform for collaboration.

The Global Textiles Policy Forum sets out to provide a level playing field across the entire fashion sector, ensuring that policies and actions extend beyond the European Union and take into account the realities faced by the Global South. With a vision to achieve a global agreement, similar to the one negotiated for plastics, the forum aims to promote sustainable practices on a global scale. Find out more about the Forum here.

During the launch, A.K.M. Shahidul Karim, Ambassador, the People’s Republic of Bangladesh in Denmark, shed light on the challenges and priorities in the country’s garment industry, including environmental compliance, labour rights, safety, and market access. The Ambassador highlighted the industry’s ongoing efforts in transitioning towards greener, more sustainable, and circular practices and stressed the importance of shared responsibility and continued market access for sustainable progress.

Maisa Rojas, Minister for the Environment of Chile, echoed the global call to action, emphasising the significance of addressing textile pollution through collaborative and globally coordinated policies.

What Comes Next For Communicating Sustainability?

The Summit created space for open discussions around the pivotal shifts and challenges faced by the fashion industry in its pursuit of credible and effective sustainability communication.

During the afternoon session ‘What Comes Next For Communicating Sustainability?’ representatives from media, policy, marketing, psychology and the non-profit sector came together for a candid and layered discussion.

Panellists emphasised the need for a transformative shift from consumer-driven sustainability efforts to citizen-driven demands for stronger regulations and transparency. It emerged that understanding customer behaviours and the psychology behind overconsumption is critical. By tapping into psychological factors, brands can craft sustainability narratives that resonate with citizens, fostering a deeper connection and driving informed choices. Shakaila Forbes-Bell, Writer, Consultant, Speaker, & Founder, Fashion is Psychology reiterated: “Right now, especially among the younger generation, being sustainable is going to satisfy that need to belong and that is something that I think largely sustainable communications are ignoring.”

A key challenge, however, lies in compressing complex sustainability information into concise and compelling marketing messages. Brands must sustain their commitment to sustainability as an ongoing effort as opposed to treating it as a fleeting trend. By maintaining transparency and providing clear information, brands can foster trust and loyalty among consumers.

By embracing takeaways from the session, the fashion industry can move closer to a future where sustainable practices and transparent communication is the norm, catalysing positive change for the planet and its people.

Textile Waste and the Global Circular Economy

A crucial topic captivated audiences on the Red Stage: textile waste and its impact on the global circular economy. As the discussion evolved, some participants were optimistic that real change was on the horizon, driven by the recent publication of the revision of the Waste Framework Directive and the ongoing revision of the Waste Shipment Regulation at the EU level.

Representatives from The Or Foundation delivered a poignant message during the discussion: the fashion industry’s incessant production, particularly in the Global North, has led to a mounting heap of discarded clothing in places like Ghana. The Kantamanto second-hand market in Accra, renowned for its upcycling efforts, struggles to cope with the influx of clothing from the Global North. To address the problem and realise true environmental justice, The Or Foundation called for the introduction of globally accountable EPR schemes that stretch beyond borders, the internalisation of costs of waste management through eco-comodulated fees starting at US $0.50 per newly produced garment, and the disclosure of production volumes as a means to disincentivise overconsumption and drive reuse targets.

In response to the challenges outlined by The Or Foundation, Pernille Weiss, Member of the European Parliament and key policymaker in the confection of the European Parliament´s position on the EU Textile Strategy and in the ongoing revision of the Waste Shipment Regulation, expressed the EU´s commitment to tackle the problem and to truly turn ambition into action: “With measures aimed at forbidding waste exports to non-OECD countries and ensuring that only countries that can treat waste in an environmentally sound way may import such waste, the revision of the Waste Shipment Regulation holds the potential to be a game-changer.”

Furthermore, participants reached a consensus on the urgent need for a well-defined and clear concept of waste in the legislation. They emphasised that such a definition should allow for a clear distinction between waste and used goods. The ongoing revision of the Waste Framework Directive, along with the End of Waste Criteria, will address this crucial matter, with Pernille Weiss adding: “By providing a precise definition, policymakers can support innovation and research to transform waste into resources for circular economies.”

During the discussion, several other policies were brought up and deemed essential for achieving a circular transition and environmental justice in the fashion industry. Among these policies were the Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation and the Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive. Notably, both files are currently undergoing trilogue negotiations.

To wrap up the thought-provoking session, participants underscored the vital importance of genuine collaboration between the Global South and Global North in finding global solutions to address the pressing issues of unaccounted textile waste and the imbalanced material exchange between regions. While Weiss stressed the need for partnerships, The Or Foundation added a vital perspective, with Sammy Oteng stating that: “…true collaboration should entail mutual prosperity, not one-sided dumping of waste onto partners” and “… [authentic partnerships] can only be realised when both parties thrive together, fostering shared prosperity and lasting impact.”

If you missed out on the Summit, you can secure your tickets for the on-demand library and relive the Summit experience here.


Global Fashion Summit: Boston Edition 2023 will take place on 27 September, with policy as a key topic, this time with even more focus on legislation across The Americas. Learn more and secure your ticket here

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