The Green Deal and the European strategy for textiles
The future of the sector, according to the European Commission
"Transforming the EU into a fair and prosperous society, with a modern, resource-efficient and competitive economy where there are no net emissions of greenhouse gases in 2050 and where economic growth is decoupled from resource use."
The European Green Deal is a policy document of the European Commission in the form of a Communication to the Parliament of December 2019 that commits the EU to ambitious environmental challenges. For the industry, this translates into objectives such as Zero pollution, restoration of ecosystems and biodiversity, decarbonisation of energy sources, adoption of circular production models. The textile industry is explicitly mentioned as a "resource-intensive priority sector" subject to specific measures and action plan.
The European Commission is aware that the Green Deal's vision is ambitious and implies a transformative process that requires costly efforts for some sectors and member countries. Therefore, the Green Deal " will make consistent use of all policy levers: regulation and standardisation, investment and innovation, national reforms, dialogue with social partners and international cooperation. The European Pillar of Social Rights will guide action in ensuring that no one is left behind".
But even this may not be enough. The Green Deal will also affect European policies on international trade if non-EU countries do not adopt policies consistent with European ambitions. Therefore, countervailing duties are also hypothesised so that the price of imports considers the carbon footprint and the impact on the environment while respecting the WTO rules.
The objective of a circular economy model directly involves the textile industry that has to waste less and recycle more. In this direction goes the extension to textiles of the EPR (Extended Producer Responsibility) rules that charge companies with the management cost of the products’ end of life. It is an obligation outlined in 2018 by the European directive Circular Economy and became law in Italy in September 2020. The law requires the establishment of consortia for the recovery of used textile products by 2022, financed with contributions from companies, as is already the case today, for example, with COMIECO for paper or COREPLA for plastic.
The policy initiatives that must be made consistent with the achievement of the objectives of the Green Deal are many, for example, the "European Industrial Strategy", the "New EU strategy on foreign trade", the "EU strategy for sustainable chemistry" and, obviously, the "EU strategy for sustainable textile products" for the definition of which a public consultation was launched in March 2021.
Ambitious goals, therefore, but also great opportunities for the competitiveness of European textiles. There is a challenge within the challenge. As Mauro Scalia, Euratex sustainability director, recalled in an interview: " One thing is discussing ambitions for zero-pollution, the other thing is to see how this will be addressed in the real legislative process – whether there will be soft policy or hard regulation".