SMEunited & SBS present recommendations on EU’s new textile strategy

SMEunited and Small Business Standards (SBS) have presented their recommendations to ensure that EU’s new textile strategy allows SMEs to fully benefit from the green transition. Both associations believe that sustainable product design, support of circular models, setting up of local recycling infrastructures and the development of European standards are key to more sustainable textiles.

The European textile sector is predominantly made up of SMEs, among which 88.8 per cent are micro enterprises (less than 10 employees). SMEs are active in all areas, ranging from manufacturing over trade and services. Their focus is on high-quality and technical textiles, while in the textile services sector, they offer repair, rental, laundry and cleaning services, the two entities said in a media release.

According to SMEunited and SBS, an effective EU strategy for sustainable textiles requires consideration of the entire value chain, in order to ensure that the textile industry recovers from the COVID-19 crisis in a sustainable and competitive way. Indeed, the value chain of production, the consumption of raw materials and the lifecycle of the textiles are decisive stages for the sustainability of the end product. Moreover, the greatest sustainability potential lies in the use cycle.

The upcoming strategy should, therefore, include a clear plan to eliminate factors that prevent SMEs from moving to more sustainable business models. It should support businesses that already apply circular economy and provide helpful tools, conducive framework conditions and technical support for those who face difficulties with the implementation of greener business models.

Sustainability criteria should already be applied during the product design stage to ensure that textile end products remain in use for a long time, can be recycled and thus reduce waste.

European sustainability standards are essential to strengthen SMEs in the textile supply chain. “Common European standards would enable both manufacturers and service providers to offer products that can be universally used and applied by the industry. Standardisation of sustainability certificates and labels would also significantly reduce the burden on SMEs,” declared Maitane Olabarria, SBS director.

Véronique Willems, SMEunited’s secretary general, pointed out: “Another important contribution to more sustainable textiles could be given by the setting up of local and regional networks in charge of collecting and recycling old textiles as well as by supporting the development of value chains which turn the reused and recycled textiles into new products.”

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