Ten Takeaways from Transformation Conference
Why you need to learn about Digital Product Passport and other highlights from last week's event.
5 Sep 2023

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It started as a murmur, something people would whisper at the end of a meeting.

“Did you hear about the new…?”

Then the talk grew stronger, it became evident that it was actually happening, and we started inviting people to our podcast and our live talks who seemed to know things about it. Last year at Transformation Conference, I asked almost all of the guests about it:

“How do you think it will affect us?”

But it wasn’t until this year’s edition of Transformation Conference that it actually became a reality for everybody participating. I’m talking of course about the upcoming legislations that the EU is about to impose on the textile industry.

There are 16 different groups of laws, relating to traceability of raw materials, transparency of production, greenwashing communication, and end-of-life responsibility. 16 laws that became a through line in all the keynotes, panels, and off-stage discussions that took place at the Stockholm Edition of Transformation Conference last week.

I was asked about this by Elna Nykänen Andersson, the wonderful Press and Cultural Counselor at the Finnish Embassy, who was kind enough to treat the speakers and visiting VIP guests to a lovely dinner in honor of our event.

“How is the fashion industry reacting to the legislations?”, she asked.

“It’s an awakening”, I said. “People are slowly realising how damaging the fashion industry actually is, and that we need to collaborate to solve the problem. “

And that’s how it felt in the room at Stockholm Fashion District last Thursday. If there’s one thing that summarises what we do with Transformation Conference, it’s that we bring people together from different industries. Fashion designers, textile producers, material innovators, tech companies, researchers, investors, and people from the public sector all come together to discuss the pressing issue of how to minimise the textile industry’s impact on the planet, which today is estimated to represent 10% av all global carbon emissions.

We will continue this discussion in our news and podcast feed in the weeks and months to come, but I thought I’d share 10 key takeaways from the conference:

1. DPP, short for Digital Product Passport. Remember this term, as it will likely be the single most influential concept to affect the fashion industry in the years to come. It’s part of the Ecodesign package and proposes that for a product that to be sold in the EU it needs a DPP, a kind of digital ledger that documents everything from raw material, production, distribution, point-of-sales, to the post-consumer life of the product, whether it’s resold, recycled, or repurposed. DPP was the first piece of legislation mentioned by Mauro Scalia, director of sustainability at EURATEX, who once again did a superb job of navigating the new legislation for the audience.

2. Enter the tech consultants! Some estimates say that 300 million products will require a digital product passport in the EU. That’s a lot of data, and with it comes the tech consultants and software developers who are sensing big business implementing new systems. As one of the visiting sustainability experts put it: “It’s a Klondike for tech people”. One of them, David Almroth, Head of Expansion, GS1 Sweden, did an excellent job of explaining the concept.

3. Be prepared to recycle! The Finns are already doing it, and by 2025, everyone in the EU will be required to collect textile waste, a task that will likely fall upon the municipalities to enable and enforce. Today, only about 1/3 of textile waste is collected, and less than 1% is recycled into new materials. This will change.

4. Speaking of recycling. The amount of textile innovation companies coming out of Finland is part of why our partners Business Finland and Helsinki Partners are supporting Transformation Conference, as they want to promote their innovations. We’ve previously had Spinnova, Infinited Fibre Company, and Renewcell on stage. This year it was time for Oncemore, the Swedish textile recycler backed by Södra, and the Finnish companies Rester and Nordic Bioproducts Group. Why are we so good at textile recycling in the Nordics? A long history of forestry, a deep understanding of tech, and strong universities.

5. Fashion brands need knowledge! It was fascinating to hear Angeline Elfström, Business Development Manager, Oncemore, describe how much they support their partners from fashion companies with information, knowledge, and communication assets. It speaks to the fact that brands need outside help to tackle the sustainability transformation.

6. But is it always good to recycle? Sandra Roos, Vice President of Sustainability at Kappahl and one of Sweden’t most highly regarded sustainability researchers pointed out that in some cases – if you account for transportation and the energy it takes to process the recycling of garments – it might just be best to burn the textiles locally and turn it into energy. Say what?

7. Fashion is supposed to be fun, which was underscored by the presentation by Jessica Cederberg Wodmar, EVP Global Sustainability & CSR, GANT. She engaged the audience with her enthusiasm and even brought out examples from their own collection on stage. Product placement? Sure, but when served with charm and charisma I’ll take it.

8. I’ve written before about how Swedish investor Harald Mix is teaming up with H&M for a new venture that aims to solve “circularity in fashion”. The project is still highly secret, but I did manage to get Erik Karlsson, head of H&M Ventures, to confirm the project in our panel of investors. It’s an example of how fashion can collaborate with people from outside the industry, he said.

9. What about the consumer? The program ended with an update from fashion researcher and friend of Scandinavian MIND, Fredrik Ekström, who did a bit about how Gen Z responds to sustainability claims. Takeaway for brands: consumers will try new brands and make a judgement call AFTER the purchase. Retention is key. (Also: only 5% of Gen Z support Greta Thunberg.)

10. Attentive readers will note that there is an election coming in the EU, and it’s unclear whether Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission who instigated the legislative package for the textile industry, will stay. Is there a chance that the legislation will be overturned by new leadership? I asked this question to Mauro Scalia as we walked back to the city through a beautiful late summer-Stockholm after the Embassy dinner. He shook his head and said: “I find it highly unlikely”

So there you have it. Many people asked me what they can do to prepare for this upcoming transformation of the fashion industry. The answer is and always will be: knowledge. Learn as much as you can. And keep following the content from Scandinavian MIND of course.

I love our event roundups on the pod. This time we go behind the scenes of Transformation Conference, with special off-stage interviews by my man Johan Magnusson, who talked to Sandra Roos, vice president of sustainability at Kappahl, Outi Luukko, CEO at Rester, and Sarah Arts, the head of marketing & communications at Asket. Listen here.


• From the horse’s mouth. EU strategy for sustainable and circular textiles.

• Fast Fashion Firms Prepare for EU Crackdown on Waste Mountain

• The university incubator with Klarna, Voi and Instabee as alumni

• Have AI do your work: Google’s Duet AI is now available in Gmail, Docs, and more

See you next week!