France is one of the major destinations for Indian apparel exporters as they shipped apparel worth US $ 638 million to France in 2021-22. And looking at the efforts for India-EU FTA, there are enough chances that in the future, India’s apparel export to France will grow. Just a few days back, India’s Commerce and Industry, Textiles Minister Piyush Goyal held bilateral meetings with several CEOs and the French Minister for Foreign and other senior officials. But at the same time, it’s time to pull out all the stops as in France, from 1st January 2023, a dematerialised product sheet has allowed consumers of these products to know the amount of recycled material incorporated in garments, its recyclability and the presence of hazardous substances. It also covers the geographical traceability of the three major manufacturing steps (weaving, dyeing, assembly/finishing) and the presence of plastic microfibres when the proportion by mass of synthetic fibres is greater than 50 per cent. Though so far these are applied to France-based companies having a turnover of € 50 million and at least selling 25,000 units, but in future, it will cover comparatively smaller players too (see below). Going forward, a similar rule is expected for the rest of the European Union by 2026.
Fashion industry experts think that being enacted by France, these new transparency and reporting requirements will lead to too much disclosure in the entire industry and the industry is not at all prepared for the same. On the other hand, few like Marie-Claire Daveu, Chief Sustainability Officer and Head of International Institutional Affairs, Kering believe that the French laws are ambitious but realistic.
Indian exporters working with the French giants are already aggressively working in this regard and they have clear thoughts that no matter whatever the challenges, they have to do it so that they can comfortably continue doing business with major buyers.
There are three types of exporters working with French brands and retailers – first, those who have large-scale operations and already have most of the sustainability practices and processes in place; secondly, medium-level exporters who have a reasonable focus on sustainability but are increasing their thrust on the same; and thirdly, small players who have heard little about the new legislations but are not prepared for the same as they are working with small brands, buyers.
Tirupur-based Eastman Exports, one of the top Indian exporters, is working with a few top French apparel giants and doesn’t have any issue regarding the changes as the company was already following such practices.
“Being associated with Science Based Targets, we are following nearly all the parameters that have become mandatory now and our sustainability targets are aligned with leading brands and retailers known for sustainability, so we don’t see any issue with any change,” says Alagesan Senniappan, Sr. VP Quality Assurance / CSR / Sustainable Textiles of the company.
On the other hand, constantly growing medium-level companies are facing issue of rising cost but they see this increased cost and the entire process as a part of the evolving business practices.
Vivek Saxena, Director, Moissanite Apparels, Noida, says, “Due to these recent changes cost of raw material has increased at least 3-4 per cent and we have to be very specific about the sourcing of the same. But as we have become used to facing plenty of challenges over the years in compliance and sustainability, we are managing this also.”
Working with one of the biggest retail chains in France, Vivek shares that a good aspect is that buyers are supporting in terms of guiding about minute details and even if there is any unintentional mistake, they are coping with the same. “Going forward, as we will be more familiar and used to all the described practices and more French companies will be under the same legislation, there will be no scope of mistakes at all,” he says.
Being in line with the announcements and efforts being made by countries like France, Indian apparel exporters have to be on their toes regarding sustainability as a year before, the European Commission published a document titled ‘EU Strategy for Sustainable and Circular Textiles’ that outlined the Commission’s 2030 Vision for Textiles. It stated that by 2030, textile products placed in the EU market will be long-lived and recyclable, to a great extent being made of recycled fibres, free of hazardous substances and produced in respect of social rights and the environment.