Assessing the social impacts of circular strategies in the Apparel Value Chain
The apparel value chain is essential for the livelihood of millions of workers around the globe. However, human rights violations, and the lack of a sustained income of workers demonstrate the poor working conditions present in this sector. Circular Economy (CE) is applied by businesses as a framework to achieve sustainability, thus contributing to its economic, environmental, and social dimensions. Nevertheless, there is a lack of knowledge on its social impact. Our research project Assessing the social impacts of circular strategies in the Apparel Value Chain is a collaborative 4-year research project supported by the Laudes Foundation.
We aim at analysing the Fashion Value Chain from a Global and local perspective with emphasis in India, Spain, and the Netherlands. We use a novel framework to assess social impact for CE called the SIAF-CE⚥, the first phase of the research project provides evidence of quality of jobs, community wellbeing and gender equality of applied circular strategies in the fashion field. The second phase is concerned in co-creating, alongside of key stakeholders of the global apparel value chain, images of the future that are both circular and inclusive and that leave no one behind. The third phase comprises a piloting phase where a selection of environmental and social impact recommendations will be tested and evaluated with different businesses in the three countries. Finally, the fourth phase consist of an analysis of power dynamics, barriers, opportunities, threats, and levers to a transition to a more Inclusive, and fair circular apparel value chain.
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Phase 1: Map the System (2020/2021)
- Desk research to identify key issues and considerations for quality of jobs, sustainable livelihood, and gender equality.
- 90 semi-structured interviews & 210 workers surveys in three countries
- System mapping of the current Apparel value chain
- Gender based Job Inventory (link opens PDF 242 kb)
Phase 2: Scenario Analysis (2021/2022)
- Series of collective futuring workshops, aimed at devising four scenarios of circular strategies along the identified VCs. During workshops we will co-create different scenarios identifying drivers, barriers, impacts and trade-offs and draft recommendations for both businesses and policymakers on how to implement inclusive circular strategies for each scenario.
Phase 3: Piloting (2022/2023)
- Piloting of recommendations with incumbents and startup businesses in the Netherlands, Spain and India
- Creation of Community of Practice (CoP).
Phase 4: Amplify (2023/2024)
- Dissemination plan detailed in communication annexe including organizing - along with partners - practical workshops in respective countries.
- Active engagement of the community of practice
Assessing through a gender-inclusion lens the social Impact of circular strategies in the Apparel Value Chain: The Dutch Case
Suarez-Visbal, L.J., Carreón, J.R., Corona, B. et al. The Social Impacts of Circular Strategies in the Apparel Value Chain; a Comparative Study Between Three Countries. Circ.Econ.Sust. (2022). DOI: 10.1007/s43615-022-00203-8
Transitioning to an inclusive circular Apparel Value Chain in Spain: What businesses can do (English)
Transición una cadena de valor textil inclusiva y circular en España: Que pueden hacer las empresas (Spanish)
Transitioning to an inclusive circular apparel value chain in India: What businesses can do (English)
Community of Practice
Book chapter launch
We are proud to announce that the book 'Social and Cultural Aspects of the Circular Economy: Towards Solidarity' has been published by Routledge. This collection of essays brings together discussions arguing that circular economy must be linked to society and culture to create a viable concept for remodelling the economy.
We wrote Chapter 9 'Assessing through a gender-inclusion lens the social impact of circular strategies in the apparel value chain: The Dutch case'. In this chapter, we discuss the social ambition of the circular economy in the sector and introduce the Social Impact Assessment Framework for Circular Economy called (SIAF-CE⚥). It assesses social impacts for workers and communities in a gender-disaggregated way. Using the SIAF-CE⚥ framework practitioners can identify impacts attributed to the implementation of circular strategies on the quality of jobs, and at an individual and community level. You can pre-order a copy through the Routledge website.
We will be sharing some of the insights recalled in this chapter during an open and free webinar taking place on April 5th, at 1:00 pm (CET). You can register for the event using this registration form.
The Netherlands, Spain, and India: From June 2021 to October 2021. Using futuring techniques of world making scenarios a total 80 key stakeholders of the Apparel value chain (of the three countries) co-created a first draft of 4 collective images of inclusive circular fashion futures per country.
The Netherlands, Spain, and India: From September 2021 to January 2022. Using futuring techniques of people centre designed and Back casting a total 80 stakeholders of the Apparel value chain co-created a first draft of 4 collective images of inclusive circular fashion futures.
Exploring the social impact of circular economy in the textile and apparel value chain
In this session, we will explore the outcomes of our most recent social impact study in the apparel value chain. The study explores the social impact of the different circular strategies implemented in India, Spain and the Netherlands. The panel will discuss critical challenges and possible ways forward to a more inclusive and circular sector.
Doctoral Researcher: Lis Suarez Visbal
Lis Suarez-Visbal is an ASHOKA Fellow, Fabric of Change Globalizer, founder and former director of FEM International and ETHIK; two NGOs focused on women empowerment and sustainability in the fashion industry. Lis has over 15 years of international experience working with a range of stakeholders from businesses, policymakers from north and south, around sustainability issues in the sector. She holds a MSc in Sustainable Business & Innovation from Utrecht University, a Certificate of Management from Harvard University and a BS in Finance and International Development & Finance.
Supervisor: Dr. Ir. Jesus Rosales Carreon
Dr. Jesus Rosales Carreon is an assistant professor at Utrecht University. Jesus is part of the Copernicus Institute leading efforts to develop work in circular economy and sustainable cities. He has profound knowledge of increasing eco-efficiency and reducing the environmental and social impacts of industrial processes and has proven skills in leading interdisciplinary projects and multi-cultural teams.
Supervisor: Dr. Blanca Corona Bellostas
Dr. Blanca Corona Bellostas is an assistant professor at the Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development. Her main research interest and expertise are related with the sustainability and circularity assessments of products and services. She has more than 7 years of experience in the life cycle sustainability assessment of innovative technologies and products. She develops and applies assessment approaches to make informed decisions about which strategies to prioritise, and how to improve them.
Promotor: Prof. Dr. Ernst Worrell
Professor. Ernst Worrell PhD is professor of Energy, Resources & Technological Change at Utrecht University. He has experience in multinational research teams and has led studies for corporations, government, European Commission, World Energy Council and the United Nations. Author of over 300 scientific publications, he is also the former Editor-in-Chief of the peer-reviewed journal Resources, Conservation and Recycling (until 2013).
Book chapter co-author: Claudia Stuckrath
Claudia Stuckrath is a consultant and a researcher at the Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development with a focus on Circular Economy and Innovation. She works as a specialist for Utrecht University Living Labs for Sustainable Development. She has been published in recognized peer-reviewed journals and actively participated in innovations within the built environment and fashion industry.
Research Assistant: Doria Zabeo
Doria Zabeo is a circular economy and waste management enthusiast. She recently graduated from the Master in Sustainable Development at Utrecht University, specialization in Earth System Governance She holds a bachelor's in international sciences and Diplomacy.
Research Partner Spain: Maria Almazán – Smart Green Industry
Maria Almazán is an Ashoka Fellow, and Fabric of Change Globalizer. Former director of Fabrics for Freedom Foundation and director of Latitude. Currently, she leads the innovation front of SGI. Maria has taught at IED Madrid and Vigo University, where she combined teaching with technical and strategic advice on textile projects, sustainability, and the study of new methodologies to deal with the sustainable issues we are facing.
Research Partner India: Kanika Ahuja - Conserve India
Kanika Ahuja is the Director at Conserve India and the India Project Manager for this research project. She holds an MBA from Shri Ram College of Commerce and a Bachelor of Engineering. She is also a Certified trainer for Livelihoods creation by UNHCR and a Mentor for Atal Tinkering Labs, NITI Aayog, Government of India. She is a social entrepreneur passionate about fair trade and circular economy to shape responsible businesses of the future.
Research Analyst: Devanshi Bhatnagar-Conserve India
Devanshi Bhatnagar is a public policy graduate from National Law School of India University, Bangalore (India). She also holds a Bachelor’s in Economics. She is working with Conserve India as a research analyst. She is deeply passionate about sustainability and education and believes that sustainability should always be at the core of any change-making activity.
Research Steering committees
The research Steering committees in the three countries are groups of volunteer experts that help advance the mission of the research. Many thanks to their insight and contributions.
Ytha Kempkes: Co-Founder at the Atelier Made Here
Laura Coppen: Head of Circularity in Zalando
Marjolein Mann: Senior Policy advisor in ROVA
Prof. Dr. Elise Van Nederveen Meerkerk: Professor Economic and Social History at Utrecht University
Diego La Moneda: Director of the NESI Forum, Co-founder Fundacion Global Hub for the Common Good
Maria Lopez Escorial: Independent consultant specialized in social innovation, Professor at IE Business School
Victoria de Pereda: Independent Sustainability and Design Consultant
Francisco Blanco Caracciolo: Área de Salud Laboral y Medio Ambiente de CCOO de Industria
Tamara Antón Nadales: Tecnica del Area de Salud Laboral y Medio Ambiente de CCOO de Industria
Archana Datta: Expert- SCP and Circular Economy at Asian Institute of Technology
Bhaskar Natarajan: Senior Policy Advisor at Alliance for Energy Efficient Economy
Pranav Khanna: Business and Creative Lead at Frajorden, UN/CEFACT Contributor- Traceability for SVCs (Leather & Textiles)
Vivek Ahuja: Assistant Director, Academics and Peer Learning at Ashoka University
Shalini Goyal Bhalla: Managing Director, International Council for Circular Economy
Anita Ahuja: Ashoka Fellow, Co-founder and President at Conserve India