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Fashion Industry Advancing Transparency, Circularity – Thread by Thread

Two new initiatives leveraging connected products and scaling recycled polyester aim to accelerate industry transparency, and circular materials and business models.

PANGAIA’s new ‘digital passports’ drive transparency, circularity in fashion

Image credit: PANGAIA

Italian, direct-to-consumer, sustainable apparel brand PANGAIA has partnered with connected products innovator EON to create ‘digital passports’ for its products — to enable greater transparency, traceability and circularity in the fashion industry and inspire responsible consumer choices. Powered by a QR code and cloud-hosted digital twin, the digital passports reveal each garment’s unique journey and offer customers access to product-level impact reporting in a more interactive way.

The digital passports, which are printed directly onto PANGAIA care labels, unlock a bespoke digital experience when scanned by a customer’s phone. Designed to simulate the user-experience of social media platforms, the experience takes the customer on a journey from the product’s origin through to its purchase, transportation — including provenance information and mapping of production and distribution facilities — and aftercare. While PANGAIA already takes steps to report on its products’ impacts and sustainability credentials, the digital passports will now bring together all product-specific data into one place in a fun and engaging way for consumers.

“It is important to us that information on where and how PANGAIA products are made is accessible and engaging,” says Chief Impact Officer Maria Srivastava. “Taking cues from social media, our new digital passports are putting personalized data around traceability and sustainability at the fingertips of our customers in a fun and interactive way, so they feel empowered to make the best possible choices. As well as helping propel us forward on our own circularity journey, we believe that product digitization is fundamental to driving industry change and accelerating an Earth Positive future – one which gives back more than it takes.”

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Following in the footsteps of Allbirds’ recent open-sourcing of its Carbon Footprint Calculator to nudge the apparel industry toward greater transparency, PANGAIA’s new digitized product experience will enable the brand to update customers in real-time as the breadth of its impact reporting evolves. For example, carbon and water impact data could be added retrospectively to a digital passport if the results of a full life cycle assessment (LCA) are pending. PANGAIA says it’s on track to complete LCAs on 80 percent of its products by 2022.

As PANGAIA is still at the start of its own circularity journey, digital passports are also helping bridge the gap until the brand can offer customers a fully circular model. By sharing lifecycle data and aftercare guidance, the company is hoping to encourage current and future owners to extend the life of their products and keep them in circulation at the highest value possible, for longer.

And through EON’s CircularID™ Protocol, PANGAIA is also working to foster a more circular textile industry by ensuring that circular resale, recycling and sorting partners can access the data they need to identify, steward and manage products and materials from one product lifecycle to the next.

“Through product digitization, PANGAIA is redefining the relationship between brands, products and customers — pioneering an entirely new model for sustainable commerce and taking a mission-critical step towards realizing a fully circular business model,” said EON founder and CEO Natasha Franck. “By turning each product into a media channel and medium for ongoing customer relationships, PANGAIA is building transformational relationships with customers and their products. Simultaneously, they are stewarding each product through a circular lifecycle and unlocking new revenue streams through new circular business models such as resale and recycle.”

PANGAIA’s digital passports will debut in its Horizon t-shirt collection, launching this Thursday. Product landing pages will feature dedicated icons and messaging to increase consumer awareness around the product digitization and dedicated customers emails will re-target customers to encourage user adoption. Throughout 2021, PANGAIA will roll out digital passports in phases across current and existing product categories, with new lines being added on a bi-monthly basis.


85 apparel brands, suppliers sign onto 2025 Recycled Polyester Challenge

Image credit: Rūdolfs Klintsons/Pexels

Meanwhile, Textile Exchange and the Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action have launched a joint initiative to further spur a shift in the market towards the uptake of recycled polyester (rPET) and the associated reduction in greenhouse gases (GHGs).   

With 85 brands and suppliers already committed, the 2025 Recycled Polyester Challenge aims to catalyze a sea change in the apparel and textile industry — calling on it to increase the global percentage of recycled polyester from 14 percent to 45 percent at 17.1 million metric tons by 2025. The Challenge continues the successful acceleration that began with Textile Exchange’s 2017 Recycled Polyester Commitment.

The 2025 Recycled Polyester Challenge asks brands to commit to the most ambitious uptake target possible. High percentage rPET commitments from brands are essential to reaching the 2025 45 percent recycled volume target and for building critical mass to reach an absolute 90 percent recycled volume share by 2030. 

The brands that have committed to date include:

“Since our initial use of recycled polyester in 2005, we have adopted rPET in a huge way — focusing on adopting 100 percent Preferred Fibers by 2025,” says Rachel Lincoln, Director of Sustainability at prAna. “By using recycled polyester, we not only create amazing, high-performance garments; we lessen our reliance on fossil fuels and prevent plastic from ending up in landfill.”

Why is this important? 

Polyester (PET) is the most widely used fiber in the apparel industry, accounting for roughly 52 percent of the total volume of fibers produced globally; the apparel industry produces roughly 32 million of the 57 million tons of polyester used each year. Currently, only about 14 percent of this comes from recycled inputs – predominantly from post-consumer PET bottles.

Textile Exchange says we need to bring the share of mechanically recycled (or equivalent) fiber/filament within the polyester market from 14 percent to 90 percent by 2030.

With a significantly lower carbon footprint than conventional polyester, rPET or equivalent needs to comprise at least 45 percent of fashion’s polyester market — equivalent to roughly 17.1 million metric tons of fiber — by 2025, in order to stay within the 1.5-degree pathway recommended by the IPCC.

Today, mechanically recycled polyester from plastic water bottles makes up the vast majority of recycled polyester; however, chemical recycling, textile-to-textile recycling and other technologies will be a necessary part of reaching the goal. Textile Exchange recognizes that more data is needed on the GHG reductions associated with other innovative synthetic alternatives and that even with less significant reductions compared to mechanical recycling, they will be a key part of a market transformation away from fossil fuels. We will continue to explore roadmap scenarios as impact data evolves and as the textile-to-textile recycling market matures. 

What is required to commit? 

Companies committing to this initiative will be required to annually report their polyester consumption to Textile Exchange’s Corporate Fiber and Materials Benchmark (CFMB) survey, which will track progress across all participating brands towards the collective goal. All information entered into the CFMB survey is entirely anonymous and aggregated across all annual report participants to show progress.

"At Reformation, we have always taken a strong stance against sourcing conventional synthetics (aka fossil-fuel fabrics),” says Carrie Freiman, Director of Sustainability at Reformation. “Taking part in the 2025 rPET Challenge is aligned with our brand’s circularity and climate action commitments, and is a great show of cross-industry commitment for a more sustainable future."

Textile Exchange will report annually on the 2025 rPET Challenge, utilizing 2019 volume data as a baseline and a view to accomplishing both Textile Exchange’s and the Fashion Charter’s overall commitment to staying within the 1.5-degree pathway.

Learn more about how your brand can take part in the 2025 rPET Challenge here.

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