‘a better way’ programme criteria #4: Product composition/processes

For nearly 50 years Première Vision has served as the central hub of the upstream fashion industry, a catalyst fostering connections, exchanges, and discoveries. With the introduction of its innovative “a better way” programme, the show is committing to driving the sector’s transformation by sharing key analyses of the environmental and social performance of its exhibitors.

The program is based on 5 criteria: Social initiatives, Impact of production sites, Traceability, Composition, and Product life cycle and end-of-life. Five questions are used to assess how robustly each of these key areas is managed.

Now let’s explore the characteristics covered by the pillar dealing with product composition.

1. GRS / GOTS / RWS / FSC / LWG Certifications

This first criterion is based on the presence of at least 30% of the textile collection being GRS / GOTS / RWS / FSC certified, or on obtaining an LWG certificate for tanneries.

GRS, Global Recycled Standard, can be applied to different types of recycled materials such as textiles, plastics, leathers or metals.
This certification ensures the traceability of the value chain and attests to the presence of at least 20% of recycled materials. It also examines environmental aspects such as the management of chemical substances, waste and energy management, wastewater treatment, as well as social criteria throughout the value chain.

GOTS, Global Organic Textile Standard, certifies products from organic farming or breeding, prohibiting the use of GMOs, synthetic pesticides, insecticides, or herbicides.It ensures the presence of minimum of 70% organic fiber content in the finished product. The certification regulates the use of chemicals throughout the value chain from fiber cleaning to finishing, water and energy consumption, waste management, and wastewater treatment, thereby ensuring good environmental performance and optimal safety for workers and consumers. GOTS also ensures compliance with and improvement of working conditions according to the criteria of the International Labour Organization.

RWS, Responsible Wool Standard, is the most widely recognized certification that guarantees animal welfare in sheep farming and a responsible and traceable value chain up to the final product. Its goal is to identify and promote good practices among breeders by ensuring animal welfare throughout their lives and sustainable land management, paying particular attention to soil health and biodiversity. It also includes social criteria.

FSC, Forest Stewardship Council, sets requirements to promote forest conservation and restoration, maintain biodiversity, and respect the rights of workers and indigenous peoples. FSC aims to create economically viable added value for local communities. The FSC chain of custody enables traceability throughout the production chain.

LWG, Leather Working Group, identifies responsible tanneries by evaluating numerous environmental-management parameters. It reviews the traceability from hides right up to the slaughterhouse, the monitoring of regulated heavy metals and chemicals, energy assessment, water consumption measurement, management of atmospheric and noise emissions, solid waste management and effluent treatment, evaluation of social responsibility, and health and safety risks at production sites.

2. Recycled materials and Reach regulations

The goal of recycling is to limit the use of virgin fibers, minimize environmental footprint, and preserve resources.
‘A better way’ asks Première Vision exhibitors whether they use at least 30% recycled materials in their collections.

These materials can come from various sources: pre-consumer textiles and leathers, from the industrial phase (fiber/filament production, weaving/knitting, fabric offcuts) or unsold finished products, post-consumer textiles, from the collection of used garments, or from plastic production waste, PET bottles, fishing nets.

Products must also comply with the REACH regulation established by the European Union to better protect human health and the environment from risks associated with chemical substances. Substances are classified into different groups that involve usage restrictions, authorization requirements, (or a specific communication).

3. Life Cycle Assessment

A Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) evaluates environmental impacts throughout a product’s life cycle. Governed by the ISO 14040 and 14044 standards, it is a multi-stage approach, going from the extraction of raw materials to the end of a product’s life, involving multi-criteria, examining various categories of impact, such as climate effects, biodiversity and resources, etc. It requires good traceability and in-depth knowledge of the value chain to obtain reliable, robust data during the life-cycle inventory. The analysis and interpretation of results aim to establish a dedicated action plan to revise design, production, or distribution choices in order to reduce impacts.

4. Absence of hazardous substances / Metal-free tanned leathers

Textiles, leathers, and accessory components may require the use of chemicals during their multiple transformation stages.

‘A better way’ asks exhibitors if they ensure the absence of hazardous substance residues (chemicals, pesticides, heavy metals…) tested and verified by an external independent laboratory. Two certifications are also taken into account: Oeko-tex Standard 100, which certifies product harmlessness through an analysis of regulated and non-regulated substances that may be harmful to human health, and the EU Ecolabel, which regulates substances that are hazardous to the environment and to health, attests to the reduction of air and water pollution during fiber production and guarantees the physical- durability qualities of textiles.

As to leather, exhibitors are asked about the use of metal-free tanning. These tanning methods can be of vegetable, synthetic, or mixed origin, using an innovative solution that combines plant-based and synthetic tannins. The maximum allowed concentration of metals is 0.1% of the weight of the finished leather.

5. Emerging Alternative Materials and Animal Welfare

Two fibers alone, polyester and cotton, account for 76% of global production. Today, new fibers, or the development of existing ones, make it possible to diversify resources to minimize environmental impacts and reduce pressure on cultivated land. Several types of lower-impact alternative materials fall into this category.

Bast fibers such as linen, hemp, and nettle all share common environmental characteristics. These crops require minimal irrigation except in cases of severe water stress, use minimal inputs, and allow crop rotation to promote natural soil activity and strengthen it.

Bio-based synthetics are derived from biopolymers obtained by transforming renewable natural resources. Molecules are extracted from biomass to form these synthetic materials. The structure of a biopolymer is similar to its petrochemical counterpart; only the source of the raw material differs. Polyurethanes, polyesters, polyamides, and resins can be derived from cornstarch, castor oil or sugarcane residues. More recently found on the market, a new generation of fibers emphasizes resource circularity by using by-products from the agri- food or cosmetic industries. Cellulose derived from the residues of hemp oil, citrus, algae, or the pineapple industry is recycled into new fibers, replacing virgin cellulosic resources.

Lastly, exhibitors are encouraged to highlight animal welfare initiatives. Responsible breeders can share their alignment with the 5 animal freedoms: freedom from hunger, thirst, and malnutrition; freedom from discomfort; freedom from pain, injury, and disease; freedom to express species-specific behaviors; and freedom from fear, distress, or heat stress. The practice of mulesing is prohibited (preventive surgery involving the removal of a portion of the skin to prevent parasite infestation).

Product composition and the choice of raw materials go to the very heart of the development of an article, just as they are at the heart of environmental performance. Design choices can favor the physical durability, repairability, or recyclability of products.

These parameters related to the final stage of a product’s life cycle are addressed in the next “a better way”  pillar, which will share the program’s requirements regarding a finished product’s durability and end-of-life.

Find out more about the ‘a better way’ program and discover the 5 criteria in detail:

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