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Brussels, 27 February 2020 – Can developing economies leapfrog to a circular economy? A preliminary study by suggests a positive overall impact of future EU circular fashion on supplying non-EU countries, but stresses the need for further research on this topic.

The European Green Deal and the forthcoming Circular Economy Action Plan are gearing up towards a low-carbon circular EU economy, with textiles as a priority sector. Since a large share of Europe’s apparel consumption is imported, a circular fashion system in Europe will also impact textiles and fashion supplying countries outside the EU. Main suppliers such as China, Bangladesh, India and Cambodia are developing economies. They are exposed to more labour and human rights issues, lower overall operating costs and a larger environmental footprint then developed economies.

The outcome of this preliminary study, based on literature and input from circular economy experts, suggests that the impacts of EU policies to steer the fashion industry towards circular on supplying third countries will be mostly positive. “New job opportunities, lower adverse impacts on the environment, better education, true prices, improved quality, durability and industry resilience are the main potential impacts”, says Josefine Koehler, policy officer of “In the short-term, a temporary downturn in the textile economy of producing countries while adjusting to the new model might be the cost of transition of leap-frogging to a circular model.”

However, “more research is needed to substantiate these preliminary outcomes and avoid unexpected negative impacts on the global fashion value chain”, says Chairman Manfred Mühlberger., therefore, recommends the EU to develop an international agenda around the circular textiles transition that includes accompanying measures to avoid negative impacts and enhance positive ones. International cooperation between policy-makers will also be crucial in order to both clarify and align circular economy policies.

The Research Note Circular Fashion and Textile Producing Countries: A first inventory of the potential impact of an EU circular fashion industry on non-European countries can be downloaded here.

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