Fashion within boundaries

Stockholm Resilience Centre collaborates with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and the Swedish clothing retailer H&M group on how the textile industry can operate within planetary boundaries

Article published by the Stockholm Resilience Centre

Stockholm Resilience Centre is collaborating as the scientific partner in a new research project with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, initiated by the Swedish clothing retailer H&M group.

The project is part of the centre’s ongoing efforts to downscale and operationalize the planetary boundaries framework. This work is coordinated by a team of researchers at the centre who aim to characterize the ‘safe operating space for humanity’ in applicable ways. Researchers contributing to the new textile industry project are Sarah Cornell, Johan Rockström, Tiina Häyhä and Fredrik Moberg.

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation will provide expert input on the circular economy, and act as the intermediary ensuring that the scientific activity carried out at the centre remains independent of the commercial activities of H&M group.

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Cotton is one of the fibres that will be analysed in a new research project focusing on how fashion can operate within planetary boundaries. Photo: P. Greb/USDA via Azote

Down-scaled open source methodology

The collaboration between the centre and the Ellen Macarthur Foundation will explore how a circular economy approach could enable the textile industry to stay within the planetary boundaries. One of the objectives with the project is to develop a down-scaled open source planetary boundaries methodology for the whole textile industry, with the possibility to compare different fibres and recycling methods. It is hoped that the methodology, once developed, would be applicable to other industries.

“Although humanity has crossed four of nine planetary boundaries I believe there is still time to pull back from the brink and create a sustainable future based on a circular economy that continually reuses resources, powered by renewable energy,” comments centre director Johan Rockström.

The new research project provides a unique opportunity to explore more in detail how this could be implemented and inform a transformation of the textile fibre industry into a circular model that operates within the safe operating space of planetary boundaries.

Three year project

The research is envisaged as a three-year project including several senior researchers. A full-time post-doctoral researcher to deliver the core research operations and a full-time PhD-student will carry out information gathering, analysis, and underpinning research.

The centre will also engage MSc students to support in-depth analysis of particular fibres, textiles or points in the value chain.

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