Brand scores in this area
One step forward and two steps back on greener shipping
This category assesses how brands set targets and take action to reduce emissions from upstream shipping and advocate for zero-emissions vessels and infrastructure.
The sprawling global supply chain of the fashion sector is already an important driver in the growth of emissions from ocean freight and air cargo shipments, sectors that are heavily dependent on fossil fuels. Ocean and air transportation are each responsible for 2% to 3% of global GHG emissions and their total emissions are rapidly increasing. Container ships also contribute significantly to air pollution due to their reliance on toxic heavy fuel oil. Ocean-going ships, which carry more than 80% of world trade goods by volume, could contribute 17% of human-caused carbon emissions by 2050 if no action is taken.
Worse, the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in global air freight – which is over 100 times more carbon intensive than slower shipping methods – growing by a massive 40% in 2020, and by an additional 15% in 2021. Prices to ship by air-dropped by more than half compared with pre-pandemic levels. Apparel and textiles remained among the largest market segments in both ocean and air shipping in 2021, making up 11% of freight volume from East Asia to North America. As global exports continue to rise, so will the sector’s transportation footprint.
Considering the increasing emissions from transportation in the fashion sector, the 2023 Scorecard evaluated brands’ shipping sustainability strategies and found that the overall performance of the fashion industry is far from satisfactory. Brands continue to focus their sustainability efforts on their Scope 1 and 2 emissions, while their own reported data shows that upstream shipping emissions (being between suppliers and from suppliers to the brand company) are often far higher. In 2021, one fast fashion retailer’s (Boohoo) upstream transportation emissions were up to 47 times higher than its Scope 1 and 2 emissions combined.
More than half of brands (51%) have still not set shipping-related targets,and the vast majority are not taking effective measures to reduce emissions from upstream transportation and distribution. In the 2023 Scorecard, 16 brands received a grade of F on the green shipping section, including ALDO, American Eagle Outfitters, Amer Sports, Boohoo, Burberry, Capri Holdings, Columbia, Fast Retailing, Gap Inc., Guess, MEC, Prada, Salvatore Ferragamo, SHEIN, Under Armour, and Walmart. The only brand to score above C- in this category was Mammut with a grade of B, due to the company’s 2030 Zero Emission Vessels (ZEVs) target, transparency and target-setting, and near-term emissions reduction initiatives. Not all of the 43 brands assessed in the 2023 Scorecard reported their upstream shipping emissions.
Slow progress on zero-emissions shipping
The 2023 Scorecard tracks brands’ commitments and advocacy for ZEVs. It found that limited progress was made during the past 18 months, as only five brands had committed to transitioning to ZEVs in their supply chain. Mammut is still the only brand committed to meeting the target date of 2030, while Amazon, Inditex, Patagonia, Target, and REI have also taken the step of committing to ZEVs by the later date of 2040.
Amazon, Inditex, Patagonia, REI, and Target are members of the Cargo Owners for Zero Emission Vessels (coZEV) initiative, launched in 2021. coZEV is a cargo-owner-led initiative targeting 2040 for maritime shipping decarbonisation. While not perfect, coZEV is an important step forward in cutting shipping emissions. Importantly, it excludes the use of polluting LNG and calls for mandatory policy actions from governments to help them achieve these ambitions. However, the target date of 2040 is too late, and the initiative does not commit brands to take near-term actions to reduce their freight emissions.
Shipping emissions have taken off
Energy consumption and GHG emissions related to upstream product transportation and distribution are important when considering the environmental impacts in the fashion industry. In 2021, the upstream transportation-related emissions from Gap Inc. were over 4.4 million metric tons CO2e, followed by Inditex (around 1.8 million metric tons CO2e). Nike, H&M, and Fast Retailing also ranked among the biggest transportation emitters in this scorecard (see Figure 8).
The years 2019 to 2021 witnessed a rapid and significant increase in upstream transportation and distribution emissions from apparel and footwear brands, the highest being for Gap Inc., lululemon, Hugo Boss, Ralph Lauren, and Levi’s (see Figure 9).
Emissions from brands that reported their upstream transportation data increased by 43.78% in 2021 compared to 2019. In part, this is because the transportation-related emissions of Gap Inc. grew by an astonishing 740.44%. In addition, lululemon’s transportation emissions doubled during the same timeframe. The dramatic increase in transport-related emissions could indicate a shift to more emissions-intensive air freight. The shift to higher-impact transportation methods during the pandemic has only heightened the need for brands to cut their fast-growing emissions, both in the longer term through ZEVs and with immediate commitments to slower shipping and cleaner ports.
Emissions rising, and few companies taking near-term action
Few of the companies examined in the 2023 Scorecard have taken action to reduce GHG emissions from transportation in the near term. Less than half (19) of the companies have reported taking even limited measures to avoid aviation and commit to slower shipping methods such as maritime, rail, and land, or shorter supply chains, which can have an important impact on reducing emissions.
Positive examples of progress were found, however:
- Nike reported a significant reduction in its upstream shipping emissions after launching the Move to Zero air freight program and piloting alternative fuels for both ocean freight and air freight.
- Mammut committed to near-shoring its production in order to reduce transportation emissions.
- Amazon, H&M, Levi’s, Nike, Primark, PUMA, and VF Corporation reported working with Maersk Eco Delivery to scale up the use of clean fuels in ocean transportation and reduce marine shipping emissions.
- PUMA is piloting a project to launch a new shipping type in cooperation with Maersk called “Sea Priority”. The goal is to allow countries to prioritise ocean freight shipments to reduce delivery time and avoid air freight.
Despite these commitments, Amazon and Levi’s both reported increased emissions from transportation. Brands need to prioritise shipping via shorter routes, slower methods and cleaner ports, and move beyond pilot programs to dramatically cut their logistics footprint in the near term.
Shipping emissions transparency growing, but still opaque
Out of the 43 companies in the Scorecard, 25 report shipping-related emissions annually. Just seven brands have provided a breakdown of their transportation methods, which is essential to hold them accountable to commitments to cut out aviation.
Overall, transparency and target-setting in shipping are extremely poor. Four companies (Columbia, MEC, SHEIN, Under Armour) have not reported any information on shipping, while over half of companies (22) have not reported setting targets that include transportation and distribution emissions in their GHG reduction targets.
Beginning of the journey on last-mile delivery
Last-mile delivery, particularly for the major retailers included in this 2023 Scorecard (Amazon, Walmart, and Target), is another significant source of emissions, yet still very few companies are even beginning their journey toward zero emissions in this area. In the 2023 Scorecard, only four companies (Allbirds, Amazon, H&M, Inditex) have committed to transitioning their last-mile delivery to zero-emissions electric vehicles.
Overall, despite its significant environmental impact, shipping has not drawn enough attention from the fashion industry, and companies have not yet made developing and implementing sustainable shipping strategies a priority. As major customers of both ocean and air freight, apparel and footwear brands have an opportunity and a responsibility to serve as critical catalysts in reducing emissions from air freight by committing to slower shipping. They also have an opportunity and a responsibility to drive the investment needed in both ships and port infrastructure to decarbonise cargo vessels by the end of the decade. Brands must take immediate action to ship their goods by slower methods rather than high-emitting aviation, and support ZEVs infrastructure by committing to ZEVs by 2030.
- “Climate Change and Flying: What Share of Global CO2 Emissions Come from Aviation?,” October 22, 2020, https://ourworldindata.org/co2-emissions-from-aviation; “Carbon Revenues from Shipping: A Game Changer for the Energy Transition,” May 12, 2022, https://blogs.worldbank.org/transport/carbon-revenues-shipping-game-changer-energy-transition.
- “Maritime Shipping,”, https://theicct.org/sector/maritime-shipping/#:~:text=Ocean%2Dgoing%20ships%2C%20which%20carry,thousands%20of%20deaths%20each%20year.
- “World Air Cargo Forecast 2022–2041” (Boeing, 2022), https://www.boeing.com/resources/boeingdotcom/market/assets/downloads/Boeing_World_Air_Cargo_Forecast_2022.pdf.
- “Taking Stock of the Pandemic’s Impact on Global Aviation,” March 31, 2022, https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/travel-logistics-and-infrastructure/our-insights/taking-stock-of-the-pandemics-impact-on-global-aviation.
- “World Air Cargo Forecast 2022–2041.” p.6
- ibid., p.37
- “Boohoo Group Plc Annual Report & Accounts 2022,” May 3, 2022, https://www.boohooplc.com/sites/boohoo-corp/files/2022-05/boohoo-com-plc-annual-report-2022.pdf.
- “coZEV 2040 Ambition Statement,” 2021, https://www.cozev.org/initiativesfeed/send-demand-signals-for-zero-emission-shipping.
- Sources: 2022 corporate CDP reports and annual reports. Companies that did not continuously and/or consistently report their emissions data are not included. Amazon, Target, and Walmart are excluded because they ship a significant amount of non-apparel and footwear goods.
- Sources: 2020, 2021, 2022 corporate CDP reports and annual reports. Companies that did not continuously and/or consistently report their emissions data are not included. Amazon, Target, and Walmart are excluded.
- Excludes Walmart, Target and Amazon. The total emissions change including these companies is 50.63%
- “Keeping Shelves Stocked in Trying Times,” May 4, 2022, https://www.maersk.com/news/articles/2021/12/08/keeping-the-shelves-stocked-in-challenging-times.