Three-quarters of the fashion industry received a failing grade during a recent sustainability index, exposing the massive carbon footprint of the fashion market. Environmental NGO Stand.earth just released a report that analyzed 47 of the top fashion brands for its Fossil-Free Fashion Scorecard, concluding that 35 companies would receive an ‘F’ grade for energy efficiency and a clean energy supply chain. The organization also pointed out that some of the worst offenders were fashion giants including LVMH, Under Armour, Prada, and Lululemon.
“In the wake of a global pandemic that reinforced growing public demand for strong action to curb the climate crisis and protect public health, fashion brands are at a critical crossroads,” the organization wrote. “The fashion industry continues to rely heavily on coal to power the manufacturing of its products, contributing to rising climate emissions and deadly air pollution in countries, such as Vietnam and Bangladesh, where its supply chain is concentrated.”
The Fossil-Free Fashion Scorecard continues the organization’s original index released in 2019. The non-profit decided to revisit the report after two years to examine the progress across the fashion industry as calls for sustainability continue to rise. The report highlights how the fashion industry is estimated to contribute nearly 5 to 10 percent of the global greenhouse gas emissions.
From all 47 fashion and clothing brands, only three companies employed carbon neutrality commitments to slash emissions by 50 percent or greater: Mammut, REI, and Asics. With the exception of Allbirds, American Eagle, H&M, Levi’s, and Burberry, fashion brands across the industry only set goals of 30 percent or lower.
Stand.earth’s study highlights how many companies ignore that the majority of carbon emissions come from beyond the directly owned operations. The reports detailed that nearly 90 percent of greenhouse gas emissions can be tied to the supply chains rather than the company’s owned operations. With three-quarters of the brands failing, many can be attributed to not examining and innovating the manufacturing supply chains, which are responsible for the overall carbon emissions. The supply chains also drive demand for environmentally harmful industry including fracking.
“Fashion brands are driving demand for fracked fibers such as polyester, which are derived from fossil fuel feedstocks, and whose production is associated with significantly greater emissions compared to plant-based fabrics such as cotton,” Stand.earth wrote.
The organization also claims that companies will continue to feel consumer pressure in future years as interest increasingly concerns sustainability. Across the board, consumers are looking for more sustainable practices. Stand.earth researchers believe that it would be detrimental for these companies to not adopt sustainable practices and materials saying that “significant reputational and investor risk, with both consumers and shareholders, increasingly demanding corporate action to cut down emissions in line with the Paris Accord.”
Even though most of the fashion industry failed to enact carbon emission restrictions, many companies have adopted or promoted new plant-based materials. Recently, Champion released a new selection that uses recyclable materials. Other companies have abandoned animal-based materials including leather from their product lines.
Innovative material company Ananas Anam released its signature vegan leather Pinatex, and has since teamed up with fashion brands H&M and Nike to release new products made with pineapple-based leather. The fashion industry is shifting its manufacturing practices, but it becomes clearer that there’s much more to do from removing animal-based materials and carbon-heavy energy use.
“Climate science has made it abundantly clear that the fashion industry’s business-as-usual reliance on fossil fuels is not consistent with a climate-safe future,” the report said.
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