France introduces new measures to fight waste – significant impact on fashion industry
In France, the adoption of the Climate and Resilience law on 22 August 2021,1 which follows the Anti-Waste Law for a Circular Economy from 10 February 2020,2 resulted in the creation of several additional environmental-related rules that affect the fashion industry, in particular regarding the role of manufacturers, importers and distributors of textile and clothing products.
These laws introduce new requirements regarding waste and prevention, consumer information, reuse and fight against waste, spare parts availability, manufacturer liability and environmental or sustainability marketing claims. In this article we provide an overview of the main changes that are being introduced under French law. They are numerous, quite complex and still somewhat incomplete: additional implementation legislation is pending to add requirements/specifications in the form of decrees complementing the statutes already adopted. These developments must be followed very closely because their impact on the fashion industry is significant.
From 1 January 2022, manufacturers and importers of goods intended for the French market will have to inform consumers of the environmental qualities and characteristics of products, including the incorporation of reused material, the use of renewable resources, sustainability, repairability and reusability. This information must be visible or accessible by consumers at the time of purchase, in particular by electronic means, in a format that can be easily reused and exploited by an automated processing system in an aggregated form. In addition, information on the environmental impact or the compliance with social criteria of goods, services or category of goods or services placed in the French market will become mandatory for the clothing industry, under conditions relating to the nature of the products and the size of the company, to be defined by decree.
As regards reuse and the fight against waste, a new obligation is created for producers, importers and distributors of new clothing (and all other non-food products), to reuse or recycle unsold products. In addition, the Consumer Code has been modified to strongly encourage sale without packaging (bags or other types or containers), or with reusable containers. Retail businesses with a sales area of more than 400 m2, have an obligation to make reusable packaging available to consumers.
The AGEC law extended to include new textile clothing products, footwear and household linens intended for individuals and, from 1 January 2022, new textile products for the home (excluding those which are furnishing items or intended to protect or decorate furnishing items) the scope of the “extended” manufacturer liability principle. This "extended" manufacturer liability includes, among other things, the contribution of manufacturers (understood in this context as any individual or legal entity who develops, manufactures, handles, processes, sells or imports waste-generating products or components and materials used in their manufacture) to the prevention and management of waste, an eco-design approach and supporting reuse, recycling and reparation. This implies that the products, where applicable, must display the Triman logo to inform consumers that the products are subject to recycling rules. However, the Triman logo can be replaced by another common sign, regulated by the EU or by another EU member state, as long as this other sign informs consumers that the products are subject to sorting rules and that it is mandatory.
Advertising rules regarding environmental or sustainability claims are also affected, in particular with the modification of the provisions of the Consumer Code extending the list of misleading commercial practices to false or misleading claims, indications or presentations on the environmental impact of a good or service and creating increased fines for such practices. In addition, the Environmental Code now includes a set of regulations governing very strictly environment-based marketing claims.
Recommendations regarding advertising and marketing claims on sustainable development
As an additional layer of constraints, the French self-regulatory professional advertising authority (ARPP) has in place very detailed and quite restrictive guidelines, which forms widely followed soft law. When in breach of these rules, decisions of the Jury de Déontologie Publicitaire, the adjudication body of the ARPP,) may be issued and be published.
Fashion companies have to tread very carefully when communicating on sustainability or environmental benefits or characteristics of their products (e.g. inclusion of recycled materials).
1 Law No. 2021-1104 of 22 August 2021 on combating climate change and strengthening resilience to its effects.
2 Law No. 2020-105 of 10 February 2020 on the fight against waste and the circular economy.