Mandatory environmental labelling of textile products?

By 2024, all clothing, footwear and household linen will have to feature an eco-score. This environmental display was made mandatory by the French Climate and Resilience Act in 2021. To date, the government is still working on the criteria and methodology for this scheme. Discussions will continue at least until the autumn. In early July, we visited La Caserne, on the occasion of the visit of Bérangère Couillard, Secretary of State for Ecology, to take stock of progress on environmental labelling for textile products. We'll explain!

What is environmental labelling for textile products?

Environmental labelling was born out of the Climate and Resilience Act (2021). It is an eco-score representing the climatic and ecological impact of a product on a label or packaging. This score is calculated over the product's entire life cycle according to a validated reference system and a letter ranging from A to E. To obtain the letter to be displayed, you need to compare your data with those of a standard product in the same category and comparable in weight.

The textile eco-score allows :

Consumers can compare the environmental impact of products and choose the most environmentally-friendly. The aim? To reduce the environmental impact of fashion and contribute to the transition to a more sustainable economy.

Textile companies and fashion brands, to measure and reduce the environmental impact of their products, gain in competitiveness and progress in terms of eco-responsibility.

This eco-score will be accompanied by 8 criteria selected by the government to provide maximum transparency for consumers (they are presented below in the article). This measure aims to reduce the consumption of natural resources, greenhouse gas emissions and pollution from the textile industry. An important step towards more transparent and sustainable fashion!

When will the methodology be finalized?

Discussions will continue at least until the autumn. From 2024, brands will be able to implement environmental labelling on a voluntary basis, before it gradually becomes compulsory.

The limits of PEF

Launched in 2013, the PEF (Product Environmental Footprint) is a methodology developed by the European Commission. In March 2023, it was deemed incomplete due to its failure to take into account several elements. Indeed, to date, the methodology does not integrate the following elements:

  • Biodiversity : PEF indicators relating to the impact on biodiversity are inadequate. For example, deforestation is not taken into account by the "land use" indicator.
  • Microplastics : Synthetic fibers in clothing produce microplastics, which massively pollute the environment and the food chain. This major problem of the textile industry is ignored in the LCA and favors synthetic materials and fast-fashion.
  • Garment durability: The quality of products and their renewal cycle strongly influence their environmental impact. At present, these factors are not taken into account in LCA guidelines.
  • Production methods : the geographical origin of raw materials and farming practices is not taken into account. This prevents organic cotton from being valued, despite its lower impact than conventional cotton.

As a reminder, PEF is not an eco-score: it's a methodology whose results can be used to calculate a score that's easy for consumers to understand.

In an attempt to find a consensus, the French Ministry of Ecology studied 11 methods for calculating and displaying eco-scores from a variety of players. To avoid the pitfalls of the PEF, the official methodology is still being developed by the European Commission, the Ministry and players in the textile industry. It will be published after the start of the 2023 academic year, and the textile eco-score will gradually become mandatory in France in 2024. For the moment, no timetable has been communicated by the government.

Ecobalyse: the simulator for France's future environmental labelling system

For several months now, the French Ministry of the Environment has been working on Ecobalyse, a tool designed to help industry players meet their display obligations. It is based on reference methods (ADEME Impacts Base, European PEF) and is now available in beta version.

To avoid the biases of the PEF, Ecobalyse is proposing to integrate new criteria in the near future, such as organic farming and environmental labels. As with the Nutriscore, this will provide a better representation of a product's ecological impact. This approach would allow qualitative information to be taken into account, rather than being limited to the quantitative indicators provided by Life Cycle Assessment (LCA).

We look forward to the integration of organic farming and label criteria into the Ecobalyse tool.

Example of a simulation on Ecobalyse for :

An ecru 100% post-consumer recycled cotton tee-shirt, weighing 100g with a weight per unit area of 200g/m², traceable: the material is processed, spun, knitted and made in France.

This indicator has no dimensions, and is measured in Points (Pt), milliPoints (mPt) or microPoints (µPt), with 1 Pt = 1,000 mPt = 1,000,000 µPt. 1 Pt corresponds to the total impact of a European over one year.

What criteria are used for environmental labelling?

Although the methodology has not yet been validated, we do know the 8 impact criteria selected by the Government, which will have to be displayed in addition to the eco-score.

  • Water consumption
  • The physical durability of textiles
  • Production conditions
  • The use of pesticides and chemicals
  • Discharge of microplastics
  • Adding value to recycled materials
  • Recovering reconditioned textiles
  • The impact of fast fashion

These elements have been validated, but need to be further developed and weighted, so that they can be displayed alongside the eco-score.

Physical label or digital display?

According to the Minister, the first stage of mandatory labelling will be phased in gradually, and will only be available on the Internet. However, she encourages all players to provide as much information as possible on physical labels.

In a report on exchanges with the working group in charge of environmental food labelling, ADEME highlights the complementary nature of these two approaches:

  • Display on physical labels gives consumers immediate information.
  • Dematerialized display offers the possibility of providing more information while guaranteeing transparency of methodology, without overloading the label or packaging.

What are the challenges of environmental labelling of textile products?

For textile companies, the challenge is to collect the data needed to calculate the environmental impact of their products. This data can be difficult to obtain and analyze.

For industry players: the challenge is to ensure that consumers can understand the information and scores. This data can be complex and difficult to interpret.

Despite these challenges, environmental labelling of textile products is an important measure in the transition to more sustainable fashion. It's an important step forward for consumers, textile companies and the environment.

First steps towards a more conscious textile industry

Since January 1, 2023, the anti-waste law for a circular economy (AGEC) requires companies in the textile sector to provide consumers in a dematerialized and free format with information on :

  • Traceability: the country of origin of the last 3 stages in the transformation of a textile product (weaving/knitting, finishing/printing, making-up).
  • The risk of rejecting plastic microfibers due to the use of synthetic materials.
  • The presence ofhazardous substances.
  • The presence of recycled materials and the product's recyclability .

The companies concerned are those with sales in excess of 50 million euros, and producing more than 25,000 parts a year (producers, importers, distributors). Smaller companies will follow in subsequent years. This obligation is a very positive first step towards greater transparency in the textile industry.

While we don't yet know whether accessories will be subject to the textile eco-score obligation, we are already making progress on calculating the impact of all our products. As a historically committed player, we guarantee the traceability and impact measurement of our creations. Social responsibility has always been one of our cornerstones. We manufacture ethical products, with a fair trade approach. That's why, alongside the eco-score, we encourage brands to go even further in terms of transparency (governance, social impact, impact on human health, animal welfare).

We believe that today, together, we can change the face of the textile industry.


The website

La loi 2021-1104, on Légifrance, published on August 22, 2021.

Press releases and dossier published on on environmental labelling.

The textile industry is concerned about the introduction of environmental labelling for clothing - Le Monde

Similar articles