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Bridging the Gap - Implementation of Circular Economy in the Apparel Sector

Grants to USA, Canada, and International Nonprofits,
and For-Profits to Promote a Responsible Apparel Industry

Agency Type:

Foundation / Corporation

Funding Source:

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C&A Foundation

Deadline Date:

02/18/18 12:00 AM CET


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Grants to USA, Canada, and International nonprofit and for-profit organizations to promote circular business models in the apparel industry. The purpose of this grant program is to foster a redesign in the apparel industry that is both socially and environmentally conscious.

Circular Apparel:

Circular economy thinking is redesigning the apparel industry to make it work for the people and ecosystems it touches. It challenges the industry on its material choices, manufacturing choices, and retail and use choices. A system in which safe materials are used endlessly, water is restored and energy is clean, biodiversity is valued and improved, allows the apparel sector to be a force for good.

The Challenge:

The global apparel sector is becoming more open to circular economy on a technical level (i.e. technologies that enable circular apparel such as chemical recycling), as well as on a business model level. The latter is especially important, as it implies a shift from ownership to use so that materials and apparel are provided as a service, not a product to be rapidly discarded. These new business models are fundamental for the systemic change of the sector and will result in better use of materials and support better working conditions.

The report of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, co-funded by C&A Foundation, on “A new textiles economy: Redesigning fashion’s future” provides a rich source of circular apparel case studies, as well as an overarching analysis of the challenges and opportunities to scaling circular fibers. The report sets out a powerful vision of an apparel sector that is restorative and fair to all, which is enabled by the shift to circular. This report effectively answers the “why” for circular apparel and creates a call to action on the “how” to implement circular economy.

C&A Foundation is already supporting the implementation of enabling technologies for a circular economy. The Foundation saw a need for a platform that would align the industry on a shared innovation agenda and help scale technical solutions, and thus founded and funded Fashion for Good. At the same time, the Foundation understands that the technologies can only scale exponentially if there are enabling business models providing the right incentives and financing.

Circular business models are highly disruptive. They change the direction of business relationships so that customers become suppliers of material and suppliers become customers of material. Inputs are circular and safe for human and ecological health, products are delivered as services, the lifetime of products is extended and the value of materials (including natural resources) is kept at its highest.

There are many publications on circular business models, including SITRA and Circle Economy’s publication on circular business models for the textiles sector. Whilst there are many commitments to circular economy, few brands/retailers or upstream suppliers are redesigning their business towards circularity. This phenomenon is what C&A Foundation has identified as the “Implementation Gap”.

The Foundation is therefore looking for innovative ways to bridge the gap in the implementation of circular business models in companies at all levels of the apparel value chain. As indicated, many brands/retailers and suppliers are already showing interest in the concept of circular economy, but few move to the next step.

Request for Proposals:

This request for proposals aims to find and fund initiatives that will support the implementation of circular business models in companies related to the apparel industry.

Given the ambition above, the Foundation believes that successful initiatives will incorporate organizational change and design thinking. Design thinking is used to create alternative and innovative solutions to complex problems by:

1. Putting the (hidden) needs of people/organizations at the heart of a design process;
2. Defining the “right” problem/ambition to solve;
3. Rapidly ideating and prototyping multiple solutions before executing on one.

The Foundation also expects successful initiatives will be innovative and bold, challenging the status quo that keeps the global apparel industry linear.

The Foundation will facilitate a learning group for the winners to connect frequently and share lessons and evolving methodologies, with the ultimate aim of publishing each case study.

Applicants should incorporate one or more of the following principles in order to achieve a measurable increase in the implementation of circular business models within the timeframe of the grant:
-Design First. Incorporate design thinking/organizational change as a fundamental approach;
-Innovation. Use innovative processes for implementation that bridge the gap between the idea and actual change;
-Regional. Have a regional focus (regions can be countries or continents);
-Vision. Demonstrate how this proposal can set an example that accelerates the uptake of the circular economy in apparel more broadly.

The Foundation seeks to achieve:
-Successes in implementing Circular Economy. Since this Request for Proposals focuses on bridging the “Implementation Gap,” the Foundation expects to see many numbers of companies involved and tangible results from the implementation;
-Proof of concept. The Foundation wants to see clear outcomes that demonstrate proof of concept. In the full proposal, applicants will be asked to identify the key performance indicators for their outcomes;
-Deeper collaboration. Successful applicants will create and/or leverage networks of companies and other stakeholders with a focus on circular economy. The Foundation aims to strengthen the networks in circular economy at a regional level;
-Plan for scale-up. As a result of the initiative, a clear plan for scaling needs to be developed;
-Sharing of lessons. Successful applicants will capture insights and lessons for broader dissemination to the industry.

In all proposal notes, the Foundation will look for the following elements:
-Incorporation of the above principles;
-Explicit outcomes of the initiative (i.e., what will change because of the initiative);
-The use of channels that can effectively engage internal leadership of companies;
-Clearly delineated roles and responsibilities of all implementing partners;
-Description of how this initiative contributes to longer-term transformation of companies embracing circular economy business models;
-Where relevant/feasible, a description of the role of advocacy between the initiative’s stakeholders and policymakers. Additional considerations:
-Geography: Recognizing that successful implementation strategies for companies are context-specific, the Foundation seeks proposals that focus on a single region or country. The following are in scope: North America, South America, Europe, Asia (with preference for Bangladesh, China and India);
-Regional knowledge: Proposals must come from organizations that have a history of working in the focus region/country and have a base in the region/country in which they are implementing;
-Duration and size of grant: Smaller pilot programs with a clear path to scale are encouraged.

In addition, C&A Foundation applies the lens of gender justice across all programs. The Foundation will prioritize applications that are able to integrate gender equality and equity into their outcomes, but this should go beyond acknowledging the fact that the majority of apparel workers are women.

GrantWatch ID#:

GrantWatch ID#: 182789

Number of Grants:

The Foundation intends to select up to seven proposals.

Estimated Size of Grant:

The maximum budget for one grant proposal is EUR 300k.

Term of Contract:

Proposals should have a duration of no more than three years.

Additional Eligibility Criteria:

Proposal notes from for-profit and nonprofit organizations are welcome.

The Foundation will not support proposals that:
-Focus on technical innovations, such as improvement of waste management or re- and upcycling;
-Only include for-profit consultancy services to individual companies;
-Focus on scaling a start-up with a circular business model;
-Only include research; and
-Are from individuals without a registered legal entity.

Pre-Application Information:

C&A Foundation has a budget of EUR 1.5 million for this program. The proposal may be part of a larger collaboration or program and leverage other funds.

Proposals with cash or in-kind co-financing are encouraged.

This request for proposals is open from December 18, 2017 until February 18, 2018 (12:00 AM CET).

The top 10 applicants will be invited to submit a more detailed proposal, and will be informed by February 28, 2018 and provided the appropriate template. Applicants will receive a lump sum compensation of EUR 2.5k to cover proposal development costs.

Grants below EUR 100k will be notified by March 30, 2018. Grants that are above EUR 100k will need to be approved by C&A Foundation’s Investment Committee in May 2018.

Contact Information:

Before starting your grant application, please review the funding source's website listed below for updates/changes/addendums/conferences/LOIs.

URL for Full Text (RFP):

Geographic Focus:

USA: Alabama;   Alaska;   Arizona;   Arkansas;   California;   Colorado;   Connecticut;   Delaware;   Florida;   Georgia;   Hawaii;   Idaho;   Illinois;   Indiana;   Iowa;   Kansas;   Kentucky;   Louisiana;   Maine;   Maryland;   Massachusetts;   Michigan;   Minnesota;   Mississippi;   Missouri;   Montana;   Nebraska;   Nevada;   New Hampshire;   New Jersey;   New Mexico;   New York City;   New York;   North Carolina;   North Dakota;   Ohio;   Oklahoma;   Oregon;   Pennsylvania;   Rhode Island;   South Carolina;   South Dakota;   Tennessee;   Texas;   Utah;   Vermont;   Virginia;   Washington, DC;   Washington;   West Virginia;   Wisconsin;   Wyoming

USA Territories: American Samoa (USA)   Guam (USA)   Puerto Rico (USA)   Virgin Islands (USA)   Northern Mariana Islands (USA)

USA Compact Free Associations: The Federated States of Micronesia (USA)   Marshall Islands (USA)   Republic of Palau (USA)

Canada: Alberta   British Columbia   Manitoba   New Brunswick   Newfoundland and Labrador   Northwest Territories   Nova Scotia   Nunavut   Ontario   Prince Edward Island   Quebec   Saskatchewan   Yukon


International country outside of the USA, Israel and Canada.