Textiles industry braced for dressing down from EU suits

It never rains but it pours and the disruption afflicting the clothing industry is set to get even worse with news that the EU environmental commission is planning new large-scale regulations. The statement from the EU environmental commissioner Virginijus Sinkevicius labelled textiles the “new plastic” in terms of the amount of refuse generated.

Sinkenvicius indicated that European clothing manufacturers and importers will likely face stricter environmental regulation as the EU aims to ensure businesses avoid using harmful chemicals and wasting water during textile production. Draft legislation suggests firms will be required to provide information on clothing labels about the resources used in manufacturing, as well as setting sustainability obligations in order to sell within the single market.

Cleaning up their act

Until now, chemical and environmental recalls have been relatively low when compared to the more traditional clothing risks, such as strangulation and choking. So far 2020 has seen 9 alerts for chemical issues and 2 for environmental which tracks closely to the overall figures from 2019 (33 and 3 respectively).

However, if and when the draft regulations are signed into law, we can expect to see a sharp upswing in recalls for both, especially as manufacturers could potentially be liable not just for their own violations, but for any occurring in their supply chains. As a result, we expect to see the overall number of clothing recalls, which has been on a downward trend for several years, start to climb again unless immediate action is taken.

One area that is particularly vulnerable is the production and sale of leather goods, which have been an on-going problem for manufacturers and retailers due to unsafe levels of chromium – which can cause allergic reactions – in many products. Thus far, 7 of the 9 chemicals recalls in 2020 have been due to excess chromium, highlighting the need for manufacturers to urgently address their leather production processes.

While the prospect of new regulations should be a cause for concern, the fact that clothing recalls have been on a steady downward trend for several years is encouraging and both manufacturers and retailers should be praised for doing their part to safeguard the public. However, should recalls start to rise again, businesses cannot afford to be caught off-guard and exposed to both financial and reputational damage. It’s crucial to plan ahead and develop a comprehensive recall strategy so that they are prepared for when the worst happens.

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