Field: Carbon footprint, Sustainable manufacturing, Textile waste and recovery, Waste reduction
Global Technical function: Promoting sustainable practices
Technical Function Unit: Raising consumer awareness, Software tool, Training
Geographic Area: United Kingdom
Type of actors: Consumers, Industry, NGOs

Greening the UK’s clothing sector: the Sustainable Clothing Action Plan (SCAP)

SCAP is a voluntary initiative managed by WRAP. Aiming to improve the sustainability of clothing across its lifecycle, it brings together industry, government and the service sector to reduce resource use by developing sector-wide targets. Leading clothing sector companies in the UK have pledged to measure and reduce their environmental footprints by signing up to the ‘SCAP 2020 Commitment’

 

The challenge

Clothing has a significant environmental and social footprint across its supply chain and is exacerbated by high consumption levels. In the UK alone about 2 million tonnes (value £23 billion) of clothing are purchased per annum, with the fast/discount fashion sector (characterised by low cost, short lifetime garments) making up one fifth of the market. As 90% of UK clothing is imported, many significant impacts occur overseas as well.

The measure

SCAP is overseen by a Steering Group of major retailers, brands, recyclers, sector bodies, NGOs and charities. It is made up of four working groups, including:

1) Design group

The group identifies priority actions to reduce the impacts of clothing. It delivers guidance and model wording to embed good practice in corporate requirements for design and buyer specification. It has also identified opportunities to develop a common industry mechanism (Longevity Protocol) to help increase the active life of clothes, and to develop a training package and knowledge hub to promote resource efficiency and sustainable manufacturing. The group also engages with marketing teams, collectors and clothing resellers. 

2) Re-use and Recycling group

The group focuses on textile waste and recovery and diverting textiles from landfill by improving collection and separation systems, and developing markets for re-use and recycling. Activities include developing systems and initiatives (including consumer communications) for improving collection of clothing; separation of clothing for re-use and recycling (where re-use of clothing is preferred to recycling); and market development for re-use and recycling of clothing and lower material grades.

3) Influencing consumer behaviours group

The group identified the key behavioural changes that consumers can make to reduce the footprints of their clothing. It seeks to influence consumers to take action to reduce the environmental impacts of clothing over its life-cycle, thus supporting private demand. The group aims to share insight into consumer behaviours with industry, develop a suite of industry resources for raising consumer awareness, and communicate (through SCAP members) with consumers.

4) Metrics group

The group aims to implement practical ways to measure and report reductions in carbon, water and waste impacts of UK clothing.  The group has developed the WRAP Clothing Portfolio, a software tool enabling companies to assess how actions on garment supply, use and end-of-life can reduce their carbon and water footprints and lead to waste reduction

Lessons learnt

64 organisations have signed up the SCAP 2020 Agreement, representing more than 40% of UK retail sales and include a number of collectors, recyclers and charities. They have pledged to reduce the waste, water and carbon footprint of clothing they supply or receive in the UK by 15% each, starting from a baseline year of 2012.

Further deployment

The SCAP is an innovative initiative that aims at promoting sustainable practices and to transform a particular sector, namely the clothing sector in the United Kingdom. The principle is well transferable to other countries, and to other sectors. SCAP is estimated to be 9 on the GML scale. 

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