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CPHFW releases first sustainability requirements revisions - what does this mean for participating brands?

By Simone Preuss


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SS23 looks by Rabens Saloner, Remain and Raeburn (left to right) at Copenhagen Fashion Week. Credits: ©Launchmetrics/spotlight

In 2020, as the first fashion week, Copenhagen Fashion Week developed its own sustainability requirements in collaboration with Danish consultancies Rambøll and In Futurum and the Danish industry association Dansk Fashion and Textile. Since then, participating brands have been selected based on a carefully weighted point system, which considers both impact and challenge level in six focus areas: strategic direction, design, smart material choices, working conditions, consumer engagement and show production. The autumn/winter 2023 edition in January 2023 was the first one where all participating brands had to meet 18 minimum sustainability standards to be part of the official schedule.

Now, taking industry developments and learnings from the past year into account as well as a changing EU policy landscape, Copenhagen Fashion Week has published the first revision of these sustainability requirements, meaning that a substantial number of updates will replace the current framework. “The updated Sustainability Requirements will as such be the new mandatory admission criteria for brands on the official show and presentation schedule as of January 2025,“ stated the organisers in a press release on Monday. “With the updates, we are not only raising the bar for brands on our schedule, but we are also reflecting industry developments and learnings as well as the upcoming EU policy landscape,” explained CPHFW CEO Cecilie Thorsmark.

What does the update mean for brands?

Only brands that comply with the new updates by January 2025 will be admitted to Copenhagen Fashion Week's show and presentation schedule. In a nutshell, three new minimum standards have been added, with the bar for the same having been raised as many minimum standards have moved from commitment stage to implementation stage. Also, 31 additional actions have been added with a strong focus on social sustainability.

What does this entail in detail? While the smart material choices minimum standard has remained the same , two minimum standards have been added, one each in the focus areas of design and working conditions. While the former requires brands to implement circular design principles into their products considering their repairability, recyclability, upgradability and reusability as well as the inclusion of recycled content, the latter requires them to implement control measures to prevent contributing to harm through their purchasing practices.
meaning participating brands need to have a preferred materials list in place

Which minimum standards have been tweaked?

The minimum standards in the focus areas of consumer engagement and shows have been tweaked slightly. While the latter required brands to confirm that they are a signatory of the Danish Fashion Ethical Charter and consider diversity and inclusivity when casting models, the language has been changed to simply say “We are a signatory of the Danish Fashion Ethical Charter and comply with their rules.”

Three tweaks have been made to the consumer engagement minimum standard: While brands earlier needed to confirm that their in-store and online customer service staff is well informed about their sustainability strategy, “through training programmes and/or educational material” has been added in the revised guidelines.

Another change is that while earlier, brands had to educate and inform customers about their sustainability practices on “multiple platforms”, this language has been relaxed to “at least two platforms”.

In the next tweak, CPHFH refers to EU policy as mentioned. Instead of the promise “We do not utilise single-use plastic packaging in store or for online orders but offer recyclable, recycled or repurposable alternatives,” brands can now “make use of plastic in store and/or for online orders in line with the EU’s recommendations on single-use plastic products.”

Which minimum standards have moved from commitment level to clear action points?

Four minimum standards have moved from commitment level to clear action points: strategic direction, design, working conditions and shows. Starting with the latter, while brands had to adhere to zero-waste set design and show production earlier, they now need to specifically refrain from producing/using single-use props for show and backstage productions. Instead, they should opt for rental options and find a long-term second life for all props that are not rented. They also need to abstain from using single-use plastic packaging to produce their showcase and commit to sorting waste according to Danish waste sorting requirements.

In terms of strategic direction, brands now need to have a formally approved sustainability strategy in place that covers both environmental and social considerations compared to less specific wording earlier With reference to diversity and equality, instead of brands simply “including” these aspects in their management approach and “actively considering these aspects when hiring staff, especially for management positions,” they now need to have “concrete guidelines and structures in place to provide equal opportunities and hiring processes for greater diversity and inclusion” in their office(s), especially for management positions. .
“We work strategically with embedding sustainability and international standards on human rights, environment, and climate into our business.”

In terms of design, while the earlier guidelines allowed brands to “design to increase the quality and value of our products economically and materially and inform our customers about the value of longevity,”, they now need to have “concrete criteria in place to ensure the quality and longevity of [their] products and inform [their] customers about the value of longevity.”

Last but not least, the working conditions minimum requirement has become more specific too: While it earlier referred to due diligence, brands now need to have a code of conduct in place according to international guidelines and standards. They also need to work with their suppliers via, for instance, self-assessments, third party audits or training to build their capacity to meet the code of conduct.

“We are committed to exercising due diligence in our supply chain according to international guidelines and standards and work with our suppliers to ensure e.g., freely chosen employment, secure employment or no child labour.”

The same applies to the working environment, which compared to earlier is not only safe, healthy and respectful , but needs to have “concrete guidelines and processes in place” to operate a safe, healthy and respectful working environment for employees in their office(s), “free from harassment and discrimination and where everyone enjoys equal opportunities regardless of gender, ethnicity, age, political/ religious/ sexual orientation, physical appearance and ability.

for all our employees, free from harassment and discrimination and where everyone enjoys equal opportunities regardless of gender, ethnicity, age, political/religious/ sexual orientation, physical appearance and ability

Bar for three minimum standards has been raised

In the focus areas of strategic direction, the fair organisers are now very clear that it is not enough for brands to not destroy unsold clothes and samples from previous collections but to also have a process in place for leftovers. The same goes for the shows focus area, the vague statement “We offset or inset the carbon footprint of our show” has been replaced by “We engage in emission reduction activities for our showcase based on CPHFW’s climate partner recommendations. Unavoidable emissions will be offset.”

Last but not least, the focus area of smart material choices. Here, brands now need to make sure that at least 60 percent of their collection is either certified, made of preferred materials or deadstock fabric. Earlier, that percentage was 50, and interestingly, the reference to new-generation sustainable materials and upcycled or recycled materials has been taken out, probably because it is still too much of a grey area.

In terms of restricted substances, brands not only need to have a list in place that follows the requirements of the EU REACH Directive but also need to have a test programme in place to ensure compliance from their suppliers. Animal lovers will be glad to hear that the wording about collections being fur-free has been amended to collections being free from virgin fur, wild animal skins and feathers, with CPHFW announcing the move officially just a few days ago.

The aim of the sustainability requirements initially was to reduce the show's climate impact by 50 percent and rethink waste systems in all aspects of its production, with zero waste being the ultimate goal. In addition, the show wants to implement a new set of sustainability standards to push the industry towards what it calls “comprehensive change”. In view of the recent amendments, Copenhagen Fashion Week seems to have come a step closer.

“From the very beginning, the aim of the framework has been to push the industry forward, and to create a common language that is relevant for fashion companies. With the revisions, Copenhagen Fashion Week continues this effort. As new regulations are introduced and focus on the industry is sharpened politically, the framework will help strengthen the focus not only on compliance, but on continuously extending the scope of fashion and sustainability,” concluded In Futurum co-founder Frederik Larsen.

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