Companies in the apparel industry are increasingly focusing on the concept of the circular economy — a system in which safe materials are used endlessly, water is restored and energy is clean, and biodiversity is valued and improved — but it remains a challenge to incorporate the concept on a business model level.
In 2018, C&A Foundation, the corporate foundation of international retail chain C&A, has earmarked nearly $1.8 million (1.5 million Euros) in grants to help bridge the gap between the concept and the implementation of circular business models at all levels of the apparel value chain.
Circular business models can be highly disruptive, points out C&A Foundation. “They change the direction of business relationships so that customers become suppliers of material and suppliers become customers of material. Inputs are circular and safe for human and ecological health, products are delivered as services, the lifetime of products is extended and the value of materials (including natural resources) is kept at its highest.”
Cross-organizational initiatives designed to advance the concept of the circular economy in the apparel industry have flourished this year, including the Circular Fibres Initiative and Cotton 2040. And individual companies like Levi Strauss and Ralph Lauren Corporation are embracing circular economy guidelines.
But in order to fully scale the circular economy concept within a business, C&A Foundation claims, businesses must have access to the right incentives and financing. With that in mind, C&A Foundation is seeking to find and fund initiatives that will support the implementation of circular business models in companies related to the apparel industry.
Successful Proposals Will Include…
A request for proposals says the foundation is looking for potential initiatives that will enable companies to develop, embed and grow circular business models. Applicants should incorporate one or more of the following principles in order to achieve a measurable increase in the implementation of circular business models:
- Incorporate design thinking/organizational change as a fundamental approach;
- Use innovative processes for implementation that bridge the gap between the idea and actual change;
- Have a regional focus (regions can be countries or continents);
- Demonstrate how this proposal can set an example that accelerates the uptake of the circular economy in apparel more broadly.
Other elements of successful proposals would include:
- Many numbers of companies involved and tangible results from the implementation;
- Clear outcomes that demonstrate proof of concept, with key performance indicators identified;
- Deep collaboration with other companies and stakeholders;
- A clear plan for scaling needs to be developed;
- A plan for capturing insights and lessons for broader dissemination to the industry.