European fashion retailer C&A has debuted its line of “C2C Certified” T-shirts, which the company says are made of 100% organic cotton, produced using only chemicals that are designed for safe cycling as biological nutrients, and manufactured in a socially and environmentally responsible way. The clothing line will be available for consumers beginning in June.
C2C Certified means the products have been made using safe, healthy materials designed to stay in a perpetual cycle of use and reuse – even when the consumer is finished with the product.
C&A says the shirts embody the notion of a “new future,” one that includes a cycle of use, reuse and rebirth of clothing in which “the T-shirt you are wearing is in an endless cycle that does not create waste, or that it becomes nutrition for the soil at the end of its use.”
This idea of the circular economy as applied to fashion – or circular fashion – was first coined by H&M in May, 2014, according to the Circular Fashion Network. H&M routinely wins awards within the fashion industry for its work in moving the industry toward transparency and sustainability. The company says it was the first fashion retailer to make its supplier list public in 2013, and continues to update the list, which now covers 56% of second tier factories. The retailer recently added another transparency layer on hm.com for all products in the women’s collection. Information that is communicated on hm.com includes the factory’s name and address, number of workers, worker interviews, information about the materials, and information about the design team.
This is part of the company’s goal to develop a consumer labeling system that allows customers to compare products’ sustainability performance between different brands, making it possible for customers to influence companies to a much greater extent than today. “The more informed customers become, the more pressure they will put on companies to act sustainably,” H&M says.
Last fall, H&M Foundation – the nonprofit foundation funded by H&M – and the Hong Kong Research Institute of Textiles and Apparel announced a four-year partnership with the aim of recycling blended textiles into new fabrics and yarns. The organizations said the technology will be licensed widely to ensure broad market access.
Recycling blended textiles is a huge challenge because no commercially viable separation, sorting and recycling technologies are available for many of the most popular materials, such as cotton and polyester blends.
While single-fiber fabrics such as denim jeans can be recycled, meaning these garments can be reused to make new apparel and textiles, used apparel and textiles made from blended or unknown materials are usually either discarded in landfills, or downcycled into insulation, carpeting and other low value applications. Under the $6.5 million partnership, H&M Foundation will contribute financially to help develop a series of research projects. The Hong Kong Research Institute of Textiles and Apparel will conduct the research and work to commercialize the outcomes. The Innovation and Technology Fund of the Hong Kong SAR Government will provide additional research funding and support.
Reebok and Timberland are two other clothing retailers with an eye on sustainable product development. Reebok recently announced that it will bring plant-based footwear to the market later this year in an initiative that the company says will create shoes that are “made from things that grow.” The first release will be a shoe that has an upper comprised of organic cotton and a base originating from industrial grown corn (a non-food source). While the company doesn’t expect the line to be a significant sales driver initially, the goal is to expand the range over time. “This is really just the beginning,” Bill McInnis, head of Reebok Future, told Environmental Leader.
Timberland, meanwhile, has established rigorous environmental standards – Timberland Environmental Product Standards (TEPS) – for all Timberland products with the aim of significantly increasing its use of recycled, organic and renewable materials, especially materials like recycled rubber and recycled PET. For example, the company expects that by 2020, 100% of footwear will include at least one material containing recycled, organic or renewable (ROR) content.