Climate Impact Labels Are Launching in France: Is Your Brand Ready?

AGEC, the “anti-waste law for a circular economy” 2020-105 of 202 & climate resilience Law of August 2021, is the tour de force of the French government to build a new ecological model where waste-generating products are marked and identifiable with information on their environmental qualities and characteristics.

The objective of the law is an ambitious one –to break away from a linear production model that will fundamentally change companies' production methods and consumers' consumption patterns. The solution? To move to a circular model.

“At the crux of the circular model is the reduction of carbon emissions. The classic linear model on which the economy runs is “take, make, use, and toss,” whereas a circular version operates based on the regenerative flow of the natural world.”

Head to our blog on Fashion Circularity here to learn more.

Now that we have circled  back to this blog, let’s get into it.

Labels keep Brands Accountable

 

This law aims to change the reliance and dependence on plastics, giving the consumer real-time and updated information on the impact of daily purchases.

 “So wait, where in this video did they mention climate impact labels?”

Good question. This video was put together before a much-needed decree was added to the law specifying the need for consumers to have transparent and accessible information about the products they buy.

 We aren’t talking about big green labels on your clothing that say “sustainably sourced cotton” or “contains recycled materials” with no further accountability or traceability. Within a single QR code, consumers will have the assurance that the product they want to buy meets the criteria of the anti-waste law.

Decree (n° 2022-748) calling on environmental labelling of waste-generating products will make it obligatory to provide information on the presence of plastic micro fibres, the overall sustainability and the percentage of incorporated recycled materials, use of renewable resources, and textile product traceability, such as where garments were woven, dyed, and finally assembled. We will dig into this more in-depth later in this post.

 

Bugs within Net-Zero Commitments

It’s like the recently released internal communications of oil and gas companies by the US House Committee on Oversight and Reform. ExxonMobil discusses the "Need to remove language that potentially commits members to enhanced climate-related governance, strategy, risk management, and performance metrics" and removing all references to the Paris agreement. Shell even went so far as to wish Greta Thunberg and AOC got bed bugs. And despite what Shell says here in their ‘Commitment to Net-Zero, ’ on their website, they were caught saying that they “have no immediate plans to move to a net-zero emissions portfolio” in the next 10-20 years.

Now bed bugs are annoying, but lying about emission reductions and falsifying green claims is worse. You have followed along with the investigation and legal actions against big polluting brands like H&M or Boohoo. They are making net zero commitments, but they haven't reduced any of the significant materials they use.

How are these labels going to be enforced?

By developing a mandatory methodology for environmental labelling:

“The actors in the sector will have to work with ADEME [French Environment and Energy Management Agency] to create environmental and/or social labelling for the whole sector. This will allow consumers to quickly identify the most reliable products and make an informed choice.”

When? From the enactment of the law, which is technically already in place, but will be mandatory for all products on January 1, 2023.

But this isn’t just in France. This law mirrors a European-wide push to regulate how green transitions are communicated to consumers. We have seen it in Norway, the UK, and the Netherlands. As new products and technologies are developed with sustainability in mind, rules on consumer sales are tightened and new guidelines and policy rules are introduced.

The European Commission has proposed stronger commitments to consumer protection to keep the continent on track to its green transition.

“We are supporting consumers who increasingly want to choose products that last longer and can be repaired. We must ensure that their commitment is not hampered by misleading information. We are giving them strong new tools to make informed choices and increase the sustainability of the products and our economy with this proposal.”

Věra Jourová, Vice-President for Values and Transparency,  European Commission

‘La Pièce de Résistance’ of AGEC

This act of law contains about 50 measures for providing new tools to better control and sanction offences against the environment and support companies in their eco-design initiatives to guide consumers in new consumption practices (repairability index, information on the full scope of a product’s environmental impacts, and methodological harmonization).

Non-compliance could result in several hundred thousand euros per infraction – and not just in France.

"The message of the law is clear – it will become obligatory, so brands need to prepare, to make their products traceable, to organize the automatic collection of data. Some say the models are too simple, some say they're too complicated, but it's a sign of the maturity of the debate that no one questions the need for these calculations anymore."

Erwan Autret, coordinator at ADEME, the French Agency for Ecological Transition, and the author of the labelling decree.

How will we know brands are compliant? This information will be given in the form of a product sheet of environmental qualities and characteristics, in dematerialized form, accessible at the time of the act of purchase, i.e. the labels.

From January 1, 2023, this dematerialized product sheet will allow consumers of these products to know:

  • The amount of recycled material incorporated
  • Recyclability
  • The presence of hazardous substances
  • Geographical traceability of the three significant manufacturing steps (weaving, dyeing, assembly/finishing)
  • The presence of plastic microfibers when the proportion by mass of synthetic fibres is greater than 50%

To understand, calculate and comply with environmental laws, clothing companies will need a way to accurately and effectively combine integrations, data types like bills of materials, product lists, and data formats that give brands a story they can communicate to regulators and their consumers. With proper data collection, brands will start seeing their impact decrease.

It turns out we have a tool that does all of that.

How our Engine Works

how it works

 

Arbor Process

Did we mention that Arbor automates this process? Imagine the possibilities a brand can have to make the radical systemic change that is needed at its fingertips. This enables brands to accurately communicate the necessary metrics for multiple products, all at once, and to ensure that the information is regularly updated.

Arbor's automated impact intelligence system translates all the cryptic information into different outputs depending on the unique observer. For consumers, climate labels are shown through a widget on the e-commerce platform. Reports can be generated for internal or external use. Companies can also opt-in to showcase this information to governmental organizations or consumer watchdogs. 

Where Data and Labels Meet

Sustainability claims need to be communicated to consumers; simply having certifications isn’t going to cut it. And we need a standardized way to deliver accurate and realizable metrics on environmental impact. French have always been trendsetters, they are one fashionable step ahead, but over here at Arbor, we are keeping up.

One of the methodologies we use at Arbor to deliver our impact calculations is the European Commission’s Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) methodology:

“PEF is a multi-criteria measure of the environmental performance of a good or service throughout its life cycle. PEF information is produced for the overarching purpose of seeking to reduce the environmental impacts of goods and services taking into account supply chain activities (from extraction of raw materials, through production and use, to final waste management). This PEF Guide provides a method for modelling the environmental impacts of the flows of material/energy and the emissions and waste streams associated with a product throughout its life cycle.”

And this is where it comes back full circle to impact labels. Last year Ademe started the study, "Climate Law experimentation: environmental labelling method for clothing textiles and footwear”, where different manufacturers and brands submitted methodologies to assess and display textile products' environmental footprints. Nothing has been made public yet, but PEF and other methodologies have been tested and the project was set to wrap up at the end of September 2022.

What Does This Mean for The Future?

There is a need for the majority of impact measure solutions to have a standardized way to compare between industries and putting methodologies, like PEF, under the microscope brings us one step closer to a trusted source of validation.

It’s like going to a Michelin-star restaurant in Paris. Their chefs weren’t just giving accreditation without a lot of proof. They were awarded those stars through rigorous demonstration of their merit. They need to be consistent, and transparent and go through multiple steps of verification. The final product is a result of all the steps that led to it.

To be able to keep track of all the data around products is key to being able to communicate the impacts of development, not just with AGEC sufficiently, but with other regulations and the increasingly more educated consumer. If you are going for dinner at the Palais Royale in Paris, you expect that your Poisson Saint Pierre with Coco de Paimpol is consistently the best quality. It is only fair that the fashion industry is held to the same standards.