How the fashion industry can help tackle climate change. As an industry that’s worth billions and the second most polluting business behind oil, fashion has a direct impact on the environment.
The processing of raw materials required for textiles and the vast amount of water used contributes to the emission of greenhouse gases contributing to climate change.
Partially to blame is that the fashion industry has one of the most complex and longest value chains i.e. raw materials all the way to end of consumer-use. There is also a lack of business transparency on all levels.
In December 2018, a group of leading fashion brands and NGOs launched the Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action, under the United Nations.
The charter recognises the importance of meeting the goals set out in the Paris Agreement and sets out a series of commitments on climate change, including the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 30% by 2030, public reporting of emissions and developing a common messaging strategy to communicate the importance of climate action within the fashion industry.
So what changes can the industry make to help tackle climate change and make our world a more sustainable one.
- Switch Raw Materials
With raw materials making up the majority of a garment’s climate impact, switching fabrics can help reduce it. A switch from virgin polyester to recycled materials – made by mechanically or chemically breaking down plastic drink bottles – can reduce the carbon footprint of polyester by 40%. Likewise, switching from conventional to organic cotton can cut harmful emissions by 46%, as the nitrogen waste from fertilisers is eliminated.
Outdoor apparel brand Patagonia have long been known for their use of recycled polyester but other big players are getting in on the action – Nike, H&M and Adidas are among the top 10 users of sustainable sythetics.
- Make Energy Savings Along The Value Chain
Along with switching fabrics, firms can reduce their energy use in warehouses, stores and offices. Finding efficiencies at the transport stage can help businesses help the environment. When Hugo Boss analysed the carbon footprint of their transport operations, they realised swiching from air to rail freight could cut emissions by 95%.
- Invest in systems to re-use rather than throw away clothes
Several brands have in-store collection points for garments at the end of their life, which can be recycled or resold for charity.
In 2014, Cambodian fashion brand Tonlé kept 70 tons of CO2 from entering the atmosphere by processing pre-consumer waste. In the future, automated processes like optical fiber sorting may make recycling clothes easier – after all, we can’t keep throwing millions of tons of clothing into landfill each year.
- Change The Disposal Fast Fashion Culture
For the fashion industry to make a positive impact on the environment, the culture of fast fashion needs to change. The necessary reductions in greenhouse gas emissions won’t be possible unless we buy a lot less clothes and stop thinking of clothes as disposable.
How the fashion industry can help tackle climate change