Study sets new environmental goals for the fashion industry

The apparel industry accounts for 6.7% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, and together with the footwear industry generates a total of 8%, according to a new report from Swiss agency Quantis and ClimateWorks Foundation.

If the global apparel industry doesn’t change, the proportion could increase by 49% over the next 15 years, the research revealed, which considered the industries’ value chains across 7 stages - from fibre production/material extraction to end-of-life. Five different environmental indicators were identified: Climate Change, Resources, Freshwater Withdrawal, Ecosystem Quality, Human Health. According to the report, yarn preparation (28%) and dyeing & finishing (36%) are the phases with the highest environmental impact.


Quantis

These findings are not new. In fact, many environmental and human rights organisations have talked about these issues over the last years. Numerous standards offer regulations for these negative impacts, such as the Oeko-Tex Standard, the Global Organic Textile Standard, the Fair Trade Standard, and others. However, these regulations are often just as complex as the textile industry itself. Any difference can cause in consumers, as well as in retailers, more confusion than responsible decisions. There is a lack of universality of standards.

That is what makes this study interesting. As the first “science-driven” study, it is based on the World Apparel and Footwear Life Cycle Database (WALDB), used by fashion companies like Hugo Boss, LVMH and Lenzing; and initiatives and agencies such as the BSD and the Sustainable Apparel Coalition. The database includes figures and information about the supply chains of wool, cotton and leather as well as apparel such as shirts, jumpers, trousers and shoes. The result is a benchmark that allows companies compare their numbers with a quantitative approach.

Just last year, several fashion brands, including Levi's, Gap and Nike, joined a global effort to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and prevent global warming by two degrees. The initiative, called Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTi), was launched by CDP, the World Resources Institute and the World Wide Fund for Nature. Puma and Asics have been part of the movement since 2015, and Kering joined in 2016. The latest fashion brand to sign up is Spanish clothing company Skunkfunk.

The Measuring Fashion report suggest three levels of change: increasing efficiency by switching to renewable energy, disrupting through digitisation and designing for the future. The power of data and transparency will take care of the rest.

Translated by Barbara Santamaria

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