UKRI funds research for a sustainable fashion and textiles industry

A £6 million investment by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) will help the fashion and textile industry integrate more sustainable and responsible practices.

The fashion and textile industry is estimated to be worth £21 billion to the UK economy, and provides more than half a million jobs.

But globally, the sector causes 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions and 20% of wastewater.

Fashion uses more energy than both aviation and shipping combined.

Reducing environmental impact

The complexity and reach of the industry means the true impact on the environment is not fully understood.

UKRI has funded three complementary teams of researchers, working in partnership with industry experts and other stakeholders.

The teams will build a bank of data and knowledge, and support the innovative sector in adopting sustainable circular business models.

Improving knowledge

The three networks are:

  • the Back to Baselines in Circular Fashion and Textiles Network, which is being led by the University of Leeds. It will establish a baseline to analyse the current status of sustainability practices in the industry
  • the Future Fibres Network, which is being led by the University of Exeter. It aims to embed environmental sciences at the heart of fashion, wider apparel, and textile sectors, and establish systematic, circular and sustainable principles as the industry norm
  • the IMPACT+ Network, which is led by Northumbria University. It will assemble a cross-disciplinary team to improve the collation, analysis and assessment of data to advance the reliability and authenticity of environmental impact measures

A circular fashion sector

Professor Peter Liss, Interim Executive Chair of the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), part of UKRI, said:

The fashion industry makes a significant contribution to the UK.

But it also impacts the environment, including using water resources and causing emissions of greenhouse gases.

We need to better understand the true impact.

This investment will bring together industry experts and researchers in environmental science and fashion to embed sustainability in the fashion and textile industry.

Creative leaders in a global industry

Caroline Rush, Chief Executive, British Fashion Council, said:

The British fashion industry leads in creativity and its founders and entrepreneurs are leading innovators in their field.

However, in order to responsibly grow businesses at a time of great change requires platforms, support and co-ordination.

We look forward to working with industry and government to support the UK in retaining its reputation as creative leaders in a global industry and to develop its ability to responsibly and collectively address how we accelerate to a leading Circular Fashion Eco-System in the UK.

Building for future generations

Adam Mansell, CEO of UKFT, the UK Fashion and Textile Association, said:

Sustainable manufacturing and recycling infrastructure will be key drivers in the move to a circular fashion ecosystem here in the UK.

We’re excited to work with the BFC to support our industry to connect, collaborate and share experiences to build the most resilient, sustainable and competitive sector for future generations.

Investing in sustainable practices

Funding of £6 million has been awarded by NERC, the Arts and Humanities Research Council and Innovate UK, all part of UKRI.

This investment is a key part of UKRI’s £15 million circular fashion programme.

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