Circular Manufacturer Guidelines

The Circular Manufacturing Programme aims to increase awareness of the key role that garment manufacturers play in closing the loop in textile production. The programme provides complimentary resources and a 4-step action plan to gain knowledge, maturity and resilience:

The circular.fashion and Sqetch Circular Manufacturing Guidelines (CMG)

Introduction

The Circular Manufacturing Guidelines support garment manufacturers in the transition towards a circular economy and outline the necessary steps towards establishing a circular economy in the global clothing industry.

The CMG Objectives: Circularity in the fashion industry

Garment manufacturers play a crucial role in closing the loop and establishing a circular economy in the fashion industry. Transforming existing linear business models into circular models can deliver economic growth, besides environmental and social benefits.

The Circular Manufacturing Guidelines (CMG) are a comprehensive introduction to:

  • the materials that meet the requirements of textile recycling technologies today
  • quality assurance and product longevity
  • supply chain engagement
  • closed-loop water-, waste-, energy- and climate emissions management systems.

Since technologies like recycling are constantly developing, the CMG is a “living document” that will be updated in parallel with the latest advancements and legislations.

This version of the CMG specifically addresses Ready Made Garment Manufacturers (RMG) with facilities providing Cutting, Sewing, Knitting and/or Final Product Assembly, including shipment of the following products:

  1. Denim (jeans, jackets, etc.)
  2. Basics (T-Shirts, hoodies, legging, etc.)
  3. Formal Wear (suits, blazers, etc.)
  4. Outerwear (jackets, coats, etc.)
  5. Womenswear (dresses, blouses, etc.)

Please note this version does not include guidelines for: Materials and Components production, Wet Processing, Finishing and Distribution.

The CMG expects facilities, materials, processes and practices to be socially- and environmentally-compliant, and relies on third-party certifications to recognise these efforts and commitments. For manufacturers that have yet to obtain any formal certification, sustainability accomplishments should be presented in an up-to-date CSR report or Code of Conduct.

Please note that although the CMG provides expertise and guidance in enabling circular production, the Circular Service Provider (CSP) certification will only be granted following successful completion of the Circular Management Self-Assessment (CMSA) questionnaire.

A. Circular Materials

A.1. Materials: When sourcing materials and components to fulfil orders, sustainable and circular materials should be prioritised for, but not limited, to:

  • fabrics
  • trims (e.g. sewing thread, zippers, buttons)
  • technical materials (e.g. interlining, interfacing, fusing, paddings, down)
  • labelling (e.g. care and size label)
  • packaging

A.2. If you source materials and components, follow these three main criteria to shape your selection:

Sustainability: Prioritise materials and components that have been assessed and certified for their social and environmental performance by GRS, GOTS, C2C, or similar.

Innovation: If materials are not certified as sustainable, select materials that offer innovative solutions and add value to the final product, e.g. they have easy-care coatings to reduce the need for washing and repairs; are multi-purpose/functional, e.g. waterproof, odour-reducing etc. Select materials that provide innovative solutions to unsustainable materials that add value to the final product such as new aesthetics, multi-function, multi-purpose, lightweight, easy-care, etc.

Circularity: Select materials that do not heavily contribute to the depletion of the earth’s finite resources, i.e. a) recycled/recyclable materials, b) compostable and c) biodegradable.

A.3. Material Data:

Material Specification: All materials and components need to be stored with a specification sheet that must be available on request, which includes the supplier’s name, address and contact details, material code, composition, care and instructions.

Material Recyclability: To be able to assess if your products are circular and recyclable, data including material composition, fabric construction, dyestuff, printstuff, colour etc. must be collected.

Material Traceability: To ensure traceability and transparency of your products, every location that materials are sourced and produced must be documented.

Please refer to the Circularity.ID Open Standards which enable the publishing of product data in a format that can be utilised across a variety of software applications along the product life cycle.

A.4 Circularity Cycles

Make sure your products, including materials and components, fit either the biological cycle or the technical cycle in the CMG online training or Circular Design Software (CDS):

Biological Cycle:
Naturally compostable: Product can break down in soil, marine environments or home composts without leaving harmful residues.
Industrially biodegradable: Product breaks down in a controlled environment by means of microorganisms and anaerobic digestion. The resulting biogas that is created can be used in industrial applications such as alternative green energy.

Technical Cycle:
Mechanical Recycling: Product meets mechanical recycling requirements and therefore can be mixed with a percentage of virgin material to perform as a new material.
Chemical Recycling: Product meets chemical recycling requirements and can be fully recovered at the molecular or fibre level.

To assess whether your product fits any of the recycling cycles, make sure that you are aware of the requirements of the fibre-to-fibre recycler or biodegradability facility.

A.5. Packaging not only protects your product during transit, but is also an integral part of product appearance, which influences consumer perception.

Furthermore, packaging resources and decisions highly impact the quality, longevity, value proposition and cyclability of the product. Make sure to select packaging items for optimal product safety and longevity, and provide your staff members and partners with handling instructions and training. Select your packaging according to use of renewable resources, their durability, reusability, recycling and biodegradability. Try where possible to reutilise used packaging materials, avoiding individual packages and single-use plastic.

B. Manufacture for Longevity

Producing better quality, longer-lasting clothes is a win-win situation that benefits manufacturers, retailers, and customers alike. The product processing, handling, assembly and finishing has a huge impact on a product’s longevity: the longer a product’s lifespan, the lower its impact on the environment, planet and people. Extending the lifespan of clothes by an extra nine months of active use can reduce carbon, waste and water footprints by 20% to 30% each, as well as cut resource costs by 20% (WRAP, 2018).

B.1. Quality management

Quality management is essential throughout the manufacturing process – from the sourcing of raw materials to the sale of the finished item. Product quality is defined in terms of the quality and standard of fibres, yarns, fabric construction, colour fastness, surface designs, and the finished garment. To assure the product’s durability and quality as well as reducing its environmental footprint, make sure to establish:

  • a documented and qualified quality management system
  • safeguards against garment failure and cohesive monitoring systems
  • customer satisfaction and loyalty feedback loops and improvement strategies
  • regular QS training and auditing

B.2 Quality and performance of raw materials

Set internal key standards that all materials and components must meet.

B.3 Quality of the finishing processes of the product

Look deeper into performance testing and set some baseline criteria fitting the needs of your facility and your client.

B.4 Durability factors

Make sure to select the most suitable stitching, components and processes to make the product both durable and easy to disassemble. Durability increases the active life of clothes, while easy disassembly helps speed up the recycling process. Expectations for individual items vary, e.g. ties, jackets, blazers, coats and outdoor wear are expected to last for over five years, while underwear and tights have an active life of less than three years. In a saturated marketplace, quality and durability will help retain customers while attracting new buyers from your competitors. Durability factors include:

  • Garment construction, including raw material choices; style, cut and fit choices; and manufacturing processes
  • Resistance to surface abrasion, odour and staining, including choices of raw materials and finishes
  • Colour fastness, including selection of appropriate colouration techniques and dyes
  • Communication with clients, including the sharing of information about product care, disassembly, repair and re-use options

C. Closed-Loop Production Systems

C.1. Water

Emissions Compliance and Water Stewardship (systems)
If your facility uses a pre-treatment for freshwater prior to entering the manufacturing process, make sure to establish a water stewardship system to avoid any water pollution. Support and advise your suppliers and subsidiaries to avoid water pollution. Produce your products with a technology that reduces water consumption in the manufacturing process i.e. an Effluent Treatment Plant (internal and/or external) to treat the processed wastewater before discharging it back into the environment.

C.2. Chemicals

You must have an inventory of the chemical products used in the manufacturing process. Used chemicals should be aligned with the ZDHC (Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals). If your supplier can’t provide the required ZDHC certificate, order chemical testing with a detailed analysis of chemical products used.

C.3. Renewable Energy and Carbon Management

Develop a renewable energy optimisation plan with set targets, measures and monitoring systems. Work with renewable energy sources internally (i.e. waste heat, solar panels) and externally (renewable energy supplier).

Calculate and track the product-attributable purchased electricity and direct on-site emissions that constitute the final manufacturing stage of the product. Electricity and emissions data need to be compiled from all of the linked facilities per manufacturing unit, including quality control, packaging and storage of final products, and on-site treatment of process wastes. The total product-relevant renewable electricity is the sum of the product-relevant renewable electricity used at all facilities that are involved in the final manufacturing stage divided by the total time spent producing the products.

The total-product relevant carbon offsets are the sum of the product-attributable carbon offsets purchased by you, your subsidiaries and subcontractors involved in the final manufacturing stage. The percentages of renewable electricity used and direct on-site emissions offset are based on these values and the total product-attributable purchased electricity and direct on-site emissions.

C.4. Material Reutilisation and Waste Management

Develop a material reutilisation and waste management system with set targets, measures and monitoring systems. Appoint a dedicated and qualified staff member or team to monitor, manage and optimise the sorting of waste in your facilities with regard to materials reutilisation, recycling and composting.

The waste materials need to be separated and clearly marked to ensure traceability throughout the manufacturing process. There must be adequate, safe storage for waste materials in order to avoid contamination and deterioration.

Ensure that the products or cutting waste and leftover materials are attributed to an end-of-use solution to enable the circular potential of each material used.

Use a tool such as the circular.fashion Circular Material Check to enable an in-depth analysis of the material’s composition and chemical treatment to ensure alignment with recycling requirements.

Identify and build partnerships with fibre recyclers that can take care and create value out of your leftover materials. Reach out to circular.fashion via materials@circular.fashion to engage with their partner network of innovative fibre recyclers.

C.5. Storage and Inventory

Inventory: all materials, components and chemicals must be tracked with a unique number, supplier and quantity.
Storage: all materials, components and chemicals must be clearly labelled and stored separately from each other, in a safe, clean, dry, and dark space.

C.6. Shipping

Source materials from the most local supplier to avoid long distance shipping. Make sure to use the most environmental- and climate-friendly shipping method for your products and support your suppliers and subsidiaries to improve their shipments too. If you can’t avoid shipment by air, balance out your environmental footprint by investing in carbon-offset schemes.

D. Corporate Social Responsibility

D.1 Trustworthy Supplier

Ensure sustainability in both the company and across the supply chains.

Become socially-compliant based on sustainability guidelines that ensure ethical working practices and industry practices that do not harm the environment.

D.2. Staff Engagement

Set standardised education and training targets and ensure that your staff, subsidiaries and contractors meet those requirements by continuous learning and qualification activities such as the Circular Design Sprint. Develop incentive systems to empower team members to take responsibility.

D.3. Compliance Management

Establish resource sharing, as well as quality and compliance management systems, a code of conduct, set targets and develop monitoring systems to meet your joint goals.

D.4. Fair Labour Practices and Social Fairness

Ensure a safe environment and good working conditions for all workers, as well as for reliable and efficient production. Providing safe factory working conditions reduces staff turnover, leads to greater productivity, commitment, and performance. Being recognised as a brand or organisation that is socially compliant also has favorable effects on reputation and customer loyalty. Regular fair and safe labour audits as well as membership in unions and labour organisations help to improve working conditions.

D.5. Certifications and Audits

If your company holds sustainability and circularity certifications, you must be able to show the approved certificates with a unique certification number, name and address of the certification body, certification date and expiry date.

Certifications should cover environmental, social as well as management-related criteria and should refer to your business operations, processes, materials and components used at your headquarter and subsidiary facilities.

If you do not hold certifications, define your CSR guidelines in a Code of Conduct Report your CSR performance in an annual report, based on the reporting guidelines of the GRI (Global Reporting Initiative) and publish the report. Appoint and qualify a dedicated staff member or responsible department and establish a compliance management system.

Overview of selected certifications and standards:

CertificationsEnvironmentalSocialManagement
Bluesignx
BSCI (Business Social Compliance Initiative)xx
C2C (Cradle 2 Cradle) Bronze, Gold, Silver & Platinumxx
EU Ecolabelx
Fairtradex
FSC (Forest Stewardship Council)x
GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard)xxx
GRS (Global Recycling Standard)xx
IWTOx
Detox to Zero by Oeko-Texx
Eco Passport by Oeko-Texx
SteP by Oeko-Texxx
OCS (Organic Content Standard)x
Responsible Wool Standardxx
Responsible Down Standardx
SA 8000x
UN Global Compactxx
Upmadexx
ISO 9001:2011x
SA 8000 (Social Accountability)xx

E. Engage with the Supply Chain

E.1. Stakeholder Engagement

Share knowledge and support your supply chain partners and suppliers to improve the environmental footprint of their products and services to help close the loop.

Develop incentive systems for your supply chain partners to make best practice beneficial (i.e. long-term contracting).

E.2. Engage with Clients

Act in the best interests of the client by providing guidance to achieve circularity based on extensive knowledge of the Circular Manufacturing Guidelines. Advise clients on innovative tactics, strategies, and product development along the supply chain.

E.3. Data and Knowledge Management

Establish comprehensive Life Cycle Assessment, Product Data Management and Enterprise Resource Planning Systems to optimise your operation’s effectiveness and reduce its environmental and social impact. Textile labelling is mandatory if you trade and sell textiles, and there are legal requirements set in different markets (i.e. Europe and US) in accordance with their product safety legislations. By providing information on the product’s country of origin, composition and care instructions, as well as information on the product’s circularity footprint, you enable the user to prolong the product’s lifespan.

F. Closed-Loop Recycling

F.1. Create or join Partnerships in the Textile and Fashion Industry

Currently only 10% of all garments worldwide are being collected for recycling. The European Union has a 30% collection rate. It is estimated that in the next few years, the collection rate will increase to 75%. Each stakeholder in the industry has a key role when it comes to textile waste.

Build and inform yourself on partnerships between stakeholders in the industry. As demand for services such as repair and upcycling are increasing, explore new business opportunities beyond traditional manufacturing services that are drivers to close the loop in the garment industry.

F.2. Manufacture to enable the Reverse Supply Chain

The current infrastructure, as follows, is being challenged:

  • Use phase
  • Collection
  • Sorting
  • Reuse
  • Recycling

To facilitate closed-loop systems, garments need to be manufactured in a way that they can re-enter the system through recommerce and fibre-to-fibre recycling. Ensure that the garments manufactured make technical, financial and environmental sense for sorting facilities and fibre-to-fibre recyclers.

Even if a material technically meets the recycling requirements, chemicals used in the recycling process can increase process costs and thereby decrease the profitability of the recycling process. Ensure materials are checked for their recyclability, or invite your material suppliers to conduct a circular material check, e.g. with circular.fashion.

F.3. Contribute to make recycling materials competitive in price, quality and availability.

  • Make smart circular manufacturing choices
  • Make material information accessible

Enable the transformation to data-driven circularity in fashion by adopting the circularity.ID solution. The circularity.ID holds material and product data, along with the product’s entire story. Through this system, data becomes accessible to all stakeholders in the fashion ecosystem at any point in time to assess and handle products in a circular economy. Become familiar with the circularity.ID Open Data Standard and be part of a unified solution to store information about a garment to enable its recyclability.

F.4. circularity.ID Sorting

Thanks to the sorting software, every year up to 150 thousand tonnes of discarded clothes can quickly be identified at sorting facilities and sent to the matching recycling partner.

G. How to apply the CMG – next steps

To put the Circular Manufacturing Guidelines in practice, you can:

Take the Circular Manufacturing Self-Assessment
Based on Self-Assessment results, you can undergo Circular Manufacturing Online Training
Get a Circular Service Provider badge on sqetch.co and promote your services and expertise
Calculate your product’s CO2 emissions

And finally, get started on sqetch.co to showcase your business and receive more quotes from brands interested in circular manufacturing. Just log in and fill out your profile to let 20K+ businesses know about your production capacities.

H. Further Resources

1. circular.fashion

The circular.fashion Circular Material Library. Please contact the material team at materials@circular.fashion for more information.

The circularity.ID is the world’s first infrastructure solution that connects the whole supply chain where the garment manufacturer is a key stakeholder. Customer Interface, White Paper and the Open Data Standard: https://circularity.id/#_standard

Circular Design Kit – download the digital version here

Circular Material Checks by circular.fashion: circular.fashion offers to conduct Circular Material Checks on a diverse range of materials. Please contact the material team at materials@circular.fashion

2. Sqetch

The Sqetch Digital Toolboxes and Trainings:

Sustainability & Compliance
Toolbox
to help you implement sustainable strategy. Provides essential guides, checklists, templates and tools to make your business more sustainable.

Sustainability & Compliance
Training
includes a one-on-one 45min video consultancy session with Sqetch CEO Marte Hentschel to give you advice on available tools and systems for certification, supply chain transparency and compliance management.

Production & Quality
Management Toolbox
on how to source and manage production, to ensure orders can be fulfilled in the required time, quality, price and conditions.

Production & Quality
Management Training
includes a one-on-one 45min video consultancy session with Sqetch CEO Marte Hentschel to give you advice on available tools and systems for pricing, product data management and quality assurance.

The Sqetch manufacturers directory

The Sqetch consultancy services provide expert checks on CSR strategies and roadmaps, supply chain optimisation and digitisation – contact: info@sqetch.co

3. The B-Hive tackles the lack of transparency from chemical suppliers by gathering all the data from chemicals and enabling factories to make quick inventories of the chemicals used and automatically verifying if this complies with Oeko Tex, Bluesign etc. https://www.thebhive.net/

4. The CFDA Sustainability Resources:
https://cfda.com/resources/sustainability-resources

5. C2C Methodology for Applying the Final Manufacturing Stage Requirements:
https://s3.amazonaws.com/c2c-website/resources/certification/guidance/MET_Applying_Final_Manufacturing_Stage_FINAL_040420.pdf

6. C2C Certified ‘How-To’ Guide:
https://www.textilbuendnis.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/FashionForGood_C2C-CertifiedTM-How-To-Guide.pdf

7. Nice Code of Conduct and Manual for the Fashion and Textile Industry:
http://ethics.iit.edu/codes/NICE2012.pdf

8. Chem Map Tool:
https://www.chem-map.com/mrsl-testing-chemicals/

9. Chemical Circularity in Fashion by the Laudes Foundation:
https://www.laudesfoundation.org/en/resources/2020/05/chemical-circularity-digital.pdf

10. REopt™ Lite web tool:
https://reopt.nrel.gov/tool

11. WRAP – Design for Longevity 2018:
https://www.wrap.org.uk/sites/files/wrap/Design%20for%20Longevity%20Report_0.pdf

12. WRAP – Sustainable Clothing Guide:
https://wrap.org.uk/sites/files/wrap/WRAP%20Sustainable%20Clothing%20Guide.pdf

13. State of Fashion 2020 (Mc Kinsey):
https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/retail/our-insights/the-state-of-fashion-2020-navigating-uncertainty

14. Pulse of Fashion Industry 2018 (CEO Agenda):
https://globalfashionagenda.com/publications/#pulseofthefashionindustry
Update 2019: https://globalfashionagenda.com/pulse-2019-update/

15. A CALL TO ACTION FOR A CIRCULAR FASHION SYSTEM (Global Fashion Agenda, 2017):
https://www.globalfashionagenda.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/GFA17_Call-to-action_Poluc-brief_FINAL_9May.pdf

16. Upmade Certification: https://www.upmade.org/certification

17. Higg for Facilities:
http://apparelcoalition.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/Higg-FEM-3.0-Assessment-Questions-Final_v6.pdf?utm_source=email&utm_medium=email

18. BSCI provides a comprehensive Social Compliance Assessment:
https://garmentspedia.blogspot.com/2015/11/bsci-audit-checklist.html

Disclaimer

While we have taken reasonable steps to ensure this report is accurate, circular.fashion and Sqetch do not accept liability for any loss, damage, cost or expense incurred or arising from reliance on this report. Readers are responsible for assessing the accuracy and conclusions of the content of this report. Quotations and case studies have been drawn from the public domain, with permissions sought where practicable. This report does not represent endorsement of the examples used and has not been endorsed by the organisations and individuals featured within it. This material is subject to copyright. You must not use this report or material from it to endorse a commercial product or service. For more details please see terms and conditions of circular.fashion (request at team@circular.fashion) and Sqetch.

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