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Hazardous and exploitative working conditions, greenhouse gas emissions, pollution and water consumption, hazardous substances... The fashion industry is responsible for numerous social, health, and environmental impacts, occurring at each stage of its complex value chain.
In response to these risks, new regulations are emerging in several countries and at the European level to stimulate and guide the CSR transformation of the textile and apparel sector.
Due diligence, environmental communication and reporting, greenwashing... The new laws address various issues and serve as a roadmap for fashion brands, which will need to transform their operations to ensure compliance. This includes tracing their entire value chain to assess, reduce, and communicate associated risks and impacts.
In this article, we provide an overview of all CSR regulations in France, Europe, and worldwide that fashion brands need to be aware of.
CSR regulations in the textile and apparel sector in France
France is a pioneer in CSR legislation, and as we will see, several of its laws will soon be adopted at the European level.
It has notably legislated on producer responsibility in product end-of-life, due diligence for brands, and consumer information on environmental issues related to products.
French Textile Extended Producer Responsibility (REP)
In France, based on the polluter-pays principle, any actor placing a product on the market must finance its end-of-life management (collection, sorting, and valorization). This is known as **Extended Producer Responsibility (**Responsabilité Élargie du Producteur, REP).
To organize this, REP schemes have been created for different product categories, including the apparel, household linen, and footwear (Textile, Linges de maison et Chaussures, TLC) sector, established in 2009.
Companies that are part of a REP scheme collectively finance an approved eco-organization through an eco-contribution. This organization takes care of their obligations related to the end-of-life of their products. For the textile sector, Refashion (formerly known as Eco-TLC) fulfills this role.
Recently, the AGEC law (Anti-Gaspillage pour une Économie Circulaire, Anti-Waste for a Circular Economy) has introduced new provisions related to REP, such as a unique logo to guide consumers in waste sorting, a bonus-malus system for eco-contributions by companies, and the creation of new REP schemes to include more products in the framework.
On the 24th of April 2013, the Rana Plaza, a building housing clothing manufacturing workshops, collapsed, resulting in over 1,130 deaths. In response to this catastrophe, the French due diligence law was enacted on the 27th of March 2017.
All companies with over 5,000 employees if their headquarters are in France, or over 10,000 employees if their headquarters are abroad, must have a publicly available vigilance plan.
This vigilance plan should enable them to identify risks in their supply chains and prevent serious harm to people or the environment that could result from their activities, including through their subsidiaries, suppliers, or subcontractors.
Environmental Communication Regulation in France: AGEC and Climate and Resilience laws
To accelerate the ecological transition, the French authorities aim to promote sustainable consumption.
The AGEC and Climat et Résilience (Climate and Resilience) laws, enacted in 2020 and 2021, include several measures to better inform consumers about the environmental impacts of products.
For fashion brands, there are four key measures to note regarding consumer information:
Moreover, the Climate and Resilience Law has officially categorized greenwashing as a deceptive commercial practice punishable by law. To learn more, we invite you to read our dedicated article on the regulations governing greenwashing.
International CSR regulations in the fashion industry
While France is often cited as an example for its incentive laws promoting an ecological and social transition in the fashion industry, regulations are also emerging in other countries.
Textile CSR laws in the United States
The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (UFLPA) came into effect in June 2022 to ban products made through forced labor of Uyghurs in the Xinjiang region from the US market. Several products, including cotton-based textiles, are affected.
The UFLPA stipulates that companies importing into the United States must be able to prove
either that their products do not come from the Xinjiang region
or, if they do, that they are not produced through forced labor.
This requires the implementation of robust traceability processes that allow brands to map all actors in their supply chains and collect the necessary evidence for import authorization of their products.
Other laws signal a regulatory shift towards the duty of vigilance for fashion brands:
The State of California has also adopted a bill that will require companies with over 1 billion dollars in revenue operating in the Californian market to annually disclose their greenhouse gas emissions report (scopes 1 and 2 starting from 2026, scope 3 from 2027). This law is named the Climate Corporate Data Accountability Act.
The use of hazardous substance is also regulated by the TSCA (Toxic Substances Control Act) of 1976: the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) has the ability to restrict the use of specific substances in the manufacturing process of finished goods or product parts. Penalties for non-compliance arise to $50,000 USD per day and per violation.
Textile CSR laws in Germany
In Germany, the duty of vigilance is also mandatory under the LkSG (Supply Chain Due Diligence Act). It came into effect on the 1st of January 2023, for companies with over 3,000 employees and will also apply to companies with over 1,000 employees from the 1st of January 2024.
Among the obligations it imposes are appointing a accountable person, conducting a risk analysis, publishing a risk management, prevention, and reduction strategy, establishing a complaint procedure within the supply chain, and reporting.
Textile CSR laws in the United Kingdom
In the United Kingdom, the Modern Slavery Act was enacted in 2015. It requires brands with a turnover of over £36 million to publish a modern slavery statement and imposes a due diligence mechanism.
Regulating the fashion industry at the EU level: the European textile strategy
On March 30, 2022, the European Commission adopted the European Union strategy for sustainable and circular textiles to meet the expectations of European citizens regarding human rights, which have grown significantly since the Rana Plaza disaster, and to address the urgency of establishing rules to mitigate climate disruption.
Another European law, this time addressing leather goods or furniture brands, demands complete traceability across the entire production chain: the European Regulation on Deforestation-free Supply Chains. Enacted in June 2023, it will come into effect in 2024. To grasp the obligations stemming from this new legislation, please refer to our article.
Table summary of all the regulations to know
As the European Union and national governments gradually regulate the fashion industry to make it sustainable, it becomes urgent and strategic for brands to map their supply chain, including their tier 2 and higher-tier suppliers.
Indeed, traceability is essential to:
Identify social and environmental risks as required by due diligence
Collect the necessary data for mandatory ESGreporting and impact measurement.
Meet regulatory transparency requirements.
Verify the accuracy of claims regarding the environmental and socialperformance of products.
Demonstrate compliance with increasingly stringent environmental and social laws.