2023 Fossil Free Fashion Scorecard: Fashion’s villain era is far from over

March 23, 2023
43 of fashion's biggest companies graded on their sustainability measures – more than two-thirds got a "D" or "F"

‘Green is the new black’ claim the PR statements, buy these “sustainable” fits and be the clean fashion icon you know you can be! If you read the social media posts it would be easy to get the impression that the fashion industry is finally exiting its environmental villain era and entering a new bloom of sustainability. But behind the scenes, the fashion industry’s negative impact on the climate and clean air and on the health of communities in the industry’s supply chain continue to grow.

Fashion’s growing emissions

As if that wasn’t enough, its coal-heavy manufacturing contributes to air pollution that threatens the health of workers and communities in the Global South – where the majority of manufacturing happens – while brands pocket the profits.

So behind the headline-grabbing (but impact-lacking) shoes made from ocean plastic, party dresses from “carbon emissions”, and questionable celebrity ambassadors, which brands are really doing the work to phase out fossil fuels?

That’s exactly what we set out to answer with the second edition of our 2023 Fossil Free Fashion Scorecard, and while we found a few signs of progress, it’s clear that fashion’s villain era is far from over.

Here are the headlines:

  • Overall, a shocking two-thirds of the companies we analyzed scored D or F grades. It might be a step up from the mostly F grades we handed out in 2021, but it’s still a dismal reflection of an industry with a whole lot of work left to do. Only one brand, H&M, achieved a B- grade, after setting more ambitious targets and engaging actively on renewable energy in its supply chain – although the fast-fashion giant still has a long way to go.
  • Climate commitments in the supply chain: Upwards of 90% of a company’s emissions come from its manufacturing, yet only FIVE of these brands (ASICS, H&M, Levi’s, Mammut and REI) have committed to cutting their supply chain emissions enough to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees C. Walmart, Richemont (Chloé), On Running, MEC, LVMH (Louis Vuitton), Chanel and Boohoo had some of the weakest supply chain emissions targets out there.
  • Renewable energy in manufacturing: Transitioning their manufacturing to renewable energy is the most important change brands can make to their supply chains to cut emissions. But only FIVE brands (ASICS, PUMA, Allbirds, Kering, H&M) have committed to switching some or all of their production to clean energy.
  • Cutting out coal: Some good news is that nearly half of the brands have now committed to phase out on-site coal burning from their manufacturing. That’s big – now the rest need to follow suit. Some big names that still haven’t committed include UNIQLO, Amazon and Walmart.
  • Fossil fuel-based fabrics and false solutions: More brands than ever are turning to recycled polyester as a so-called “sustainable” fabric – except that it isn’t. 70% of brands in this scorecard chose recycled poly from plastic bottles that will just end up in a landfill or incinerator. Only Ralph Lauren, Levi’s and Eileen Fisher reported using less than 10% synthetic fabrics.
  • Shipping their products: Just over half of the brands still don’t have a transportation-related emissions target, despite major increases from some brands in their shipping emissions. As more brands put shipments onto faster (and dirtier) planes during the pandemic, emissions leapt up. It’s time for fashion to commit to Ship it Zero.

What’s really wild is how little the brand’s size, fame or even price bracket can tell you about its climate efforts. At both the top and bottom of the ranking, we found a mix of fast fashion, luxury, and athletic brands – and every single one has a long way still to go. At the end of the day, it can’t be on consumers to “buy better” or choose “more sustainable” brands – it’s their responsibility to DO better – and our job to demand it.

This industry needs leaders across every sector. Join us and tell industry giants Zara, Louis Vuitton and Gap to step up and be climate leaders!

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