Decoupling growth from consumption

The time is ripe for a circular economy. After everything there was to see and hear at Texprocess, Mecki Naschke from the management consultancy gsm Global Sustainable Management is in good company with her lecture.

‘There are many first steps but developments are happening very slowly’, says Naschke. Market players know how to decouple growth from consumption. But the path to obtaining materials that will remain in a circular economy, using already recycled materials for manufacture and the reduction of pollutants and waste to a minimum is a long and rocky one. ‘Change management is often attempted too hesitantly. Some companies are simply unsure whether and how much demand is there on the part of consumers’.

How can the apparel industry create a more circular economy? As a first step, products need to be conceived and designed ‘that in principle are already capable of regenerating themselves and are therefore inexhaustible’. The lower use of materials and energy could be drivers for this. Only renewable resources should be used. But this is exactly what presents the difficulty. ‘Today, supply chains branch out globally. Often, companies only have limited influence on their suppliers’, says Naschke.

Those who don’t find out about material alternatives and their environmental impact won’t make progress. Only non-toxic, sustainably produced and recycled materials should be used. Increased energy efficiency should be the goal when it comes to production. Recycling should be taken into account when dealing with products to be manufactured. They must be correctly sorted and easily separable. And the longer lasting a product and the easier it is to repair, the better.

After all, the efforts made in promoting a circular economy also result in tangible advantages for companies. They range from cost savings and the development of new markets and customers to employee retention and the reputation of being an innovative company. Vaude, a German manufacturer of outdoor clothing, has been operating a second-hand shop for its goods for almost 20 years. H&M has also been offering to take back clothing since 2013. Ikea is currently in a pilot phase with its buyback project for used furniture. At Patagonia and Nudie Jeans, repairs are part of the programme. Tchibo-Share lends baby clothing and OttoNow is focused on e.g. the leasing of electronic goods. All (initial) steps in the right direction.

Kirsten Rein

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