How the fashion industry is becoming more sustainable. Sustainability within the fashion industry has been a growing concept in recent years.
It’s no secret that the industry has a huge carbon footprint, with the apparel business creating around 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions.
However, with consumers looking for a more sustainable way of living, companies are responding to demand for products with more eco-friendly origins.
Brands such as Burberry have recently announced that they aim to reduce climate-changing greenhouse gas emissions at its stores, offices, internal manufacturing and distribution sites by 95% by 2022 and by 2030 cut these pollutants 30% throughout its supply chain.
Burberry has joined a broader effort from businesses and names across the fashion industry as members of the Science-Based Targets initiative, started in 2015.
This initiative is a collaboration among the CDP (formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project), United Nations Global Compact, World Resources Institute and World Wide Fund for Nature.
It has 575 companies who are committed to creating climate-change reduction programs and 231 of these companies have reached a point where they can set measurable targets based on scientific principles.
Other fashion companies who have committed to create or have created goals under this initiative are Chanel, Gucci-parent Kering S.A., PVH Corp., Nike Inc., Puma SE, VP Corp., Hennes & Mauritz, Eileen Fisher Inc, Guess? Inc., Levi Strauss & Co., Gap Inc., among others.
Participating companies in the initiative also pledge to be transparent about their goals by keeping the public updated on their progress.
Measures to reduce emissions can include using recyclable materials but also can be something simple like reusing cardboard boxes or creating operating efficiencies.
Projects like the Science-Based Targets initiative helps brands back their sustainability claims with a set of standards they can use as proof of their commitment.
As there is no standard definition on what ‘sustainable’ means, it can be hard to police companies who falsely claim sustainability in their marketing.
Some countries do have agencies in place to hold companies accountable for their marketing language as Norway is currently investigating H&M’s marketing around their summer ‘Conscious’ collection.
Being able to say a company is sustainable requires a lot of work.
There are a lot of independent organisations doing sustainability oversight, according to Katrin Ley, managing director of Fashion for Good, a global sustainability initiative supported by companies such as Stella McCartney, Adidas, Target, Kering, PVH Corp., and Galeries Lafayette Group.
Ley said: “Working with these organizations or using materials that meet particular standards all help the wider industry and consumers understand where a brand is on the spectrum.”
Some brands have been transparent about their sustainability efforts from the beginning, such as Reformation.
The company has released its own set of fiber standards, Grade A and B.
Grade A fibers are ‘Natural fibers that are rapidly renewable, plant-based and have a potential for circularity,’ such as recycled cotton, Tencel Lyocell and organic linen.
Grade B fibers are ‘almost all natural or recycled fibers’ such as organic cotton, ENKA Viscose and Tencel Modal.
Kathleen Talbot, Reformation’s VP of Operations and Sustainability, said: “We tried to make these standards as holistic as possible, taking into consideration water input, energy input, land use, eco-toxicity, greenhouse gas emissions, human toxicity, availability, and price.”
While there is still a long way to go to make the fashion industry sustainable, it’s encouraging to see many brands committed to becoming eco-friendly and tackling climate change.
How the fashion industry is becoming more sustainable