With the Close The Loop project, Flanders DC wants to shake up the fashion industry and give fashion entrepreneurs the tools to start working with the principles of circular economy and sustainable business themselves. Initially, Close The Loop was an extensive online knowledge platform with a database of more than 400 inspiring cases. As attention for the topic grew enormously and more and more companies came to us for advice, we decided to take it a step further and offer personal coaching programmes.
In 2017, we developed a first Close The Loop trajectory in which we helped 3 companies to develop a tailored sustainabilitystrategy. Thanks to the many positive reactions, we launched a new project in 2018, this time for no fewer than 8 companies.
In concrete terms, the path means that the fashion entrepreneurs receive help from experienced consultants who, together with them, outline a tailor-made strategic action plan towards a more sustainable and circular way of doing business. These individual trajectories are combined with joint sessions on themes such as 'designing for circularity' and 'sustainable communication'. In addition, we have set up a network of ambassadors where the companies can continue to inspire each other in the longer term. We also developed some specific tools. Furthermore, we undertook a whole range of communication actions to inspire and motivate the wider sector to make the transition to a more circular economy.
The different companies have each made progress in their own way in different areas: the reduction of plastic consumption, the creation of new sustainable collections, the screening and raising of awareness among partners and suppliers, etc.
In order to tackle a number of the companies' common challenges, we developed some targeted tools: a template for a sustainability report, a template for a Code of Conduct and an infographic on packaging.
We brought the companies that participated in the coaching process together in a network of ambassadors. This way, we can have them meet regularly to continue sharing knowledge. We want to continue to expand this network in the future.
In order to inspire as many players in the (broader) fashion industry as possible, we paid the necessary attention to communication: a separate section on our website about the ambassadors, a new brochure, presentations at events, workshops at companies, press articles, etc.
MOST IMPORTANT LESSONS LEARNED
We have gained a lot of experience on our approach over the past years, used different consultants and developed tools so that we now have a strong Close The Loop programme to inspire and help other companies and the wider industry in the future.
Thanks to the many positive reactions, we have been able to build credibility in the fashion sector around the subject of sustainable and circular business. The programme has proven itself and now there are more and more questions and reactions from the wider industry.
We notice that many companies still struggle to find a solution for optimising their packaging. We certainly see potential in projects that further engage with the packaging industry or seek logistical solutions.
There is a need for good European legislation to bring the transition to more sustainable and circular business to a tipping point. Belgian companies are usually too small to be able to put pressure on suppliers, and often do not opt for the sustainable choice of material because of the higher price.
3companies accompanied in 2017
8companies accompanied in 2018
3specialised tools created
28.000website visitors in 2019
WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD?
First of all, we will continue to support the 11 companies in the process where necessary. We clearly see that the topic remains high on their agenda and that they are still taking new actions. We will also continue to expand the ambassadors' network that brings them together each year. For example, companies can join by going through a trajectory or by completing the Close The Loop planner, after which their efforts are discussed.
We have also decided to relaunch the mentoring scheme in 2020. As there is no financial support now, companies will have to make a contribution to pay the consultants.
Finally, in recent years we have noticed a strong growth in the willingness of fashion companies to take real action in the field of sustainable business. Now there is still a need for a good European policy. The policymakers need to question and involve the fashion companies as stakeholders. What could probably also have a positive effect is, for example, (tax) rewards and punishments for companies that do or do not work with sustainable materials. We joined forces with OVAM to take a more active role in this together.