Key to success for fashion industry’s new charter on climate change lies in collaboration — and greater commitments
October 25, 2018
Apparel companies must work together to move shared factories off coal, ensure commitments go beyond charter’s baseline
SAN FRANCISCO, CA — This week, major apparel brands announced a fashion industry charter to tackle climate change that will be formally launched at the United Nations COP24 meeting in December in Poland. The charter is in partnership with the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
International environmental organization Stand.earth calls the collaborative effort a good first step, but is pushing to ensure apparel companies work together to move their shared supplier factories off coal and go beyond the charter’s baseline standard for greenhouse gas reductions to make long-term pledges that adequately address the scale of the climate change challenge at hand.
“We applaud industry leaders for recognizing what true climate leadership looks like — addressing carbon emissions in not just a company’s stores and headquarters, but throughout the industry’s entire supply chain. And at the same time, a 30 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 is unambitious. We urge apparel companies to instead meet or beat the recent climate leadership commitment set by Levi Strauss & Co.” -Todd Paglia, Executive Director, Stand.earth
COAL: A FASHION FAUX PAS
One charter commitment calls for the fashion industry to stop installing new coal-fired boilers in factories owned by companies and transition its facilities away from coal-fired power generation more generally. But research from the Global Coal Plant Tracker shows that in countries such as China and India — where many of the fashion industry’s factories and mills are located — coal-fired power plants continue to be built.
“If it ever hopes to rein in its climate change impacts, the apparel industry absolutely must move its factories off coal. But to truly address the problem, companies must ensure they are looking beyond their own factories and working collaboratively to support their shared suppliers in reducing energy use and transitioning away from coal to renewable energy.” -Kristina Flores, Climate Campaigner, Stand.earth
A 1.5 DEGREE CELSIUS FUTURE
By some estimates, the fashion industry’s greenhouse gas emissions are larger than all emissions from international flights and maritime shipping combined. Carbon emissions from industry emissions are expected to rise by more than 60 percent by 2030, and the industry could be responsible for a quarter of the world’s carbon emissions by 2050.
The fashion industry charter’s commitments include 30 percent greenhouse gas emission reductions by 2030 throughout a company’s entire supply chain. But bigger commitments are needed to truly tackle climate change. Earlier this year, Levi Strauss & Co set an apparel industry standard by pledging to reduce reduce 40% of greenhouse gas emissions in its entire supply chain by 2025.
“To be true climate leaders, apparel companies must go beyond the baseline commitments outlined in this charter and meet or beat the standard set by Levi’s. But it doesn’t stop there. Due to the scale of the climate change challenge at hand, companies absolutely must commit to long-term greenhouse gas reductions of at least 66% by 2050.” -Kristina Flores, Climate Campaigner, Stand.earth
Long-term climate plans that include greenhouse gas reductions levels of at least 66% by 2050 fall in line with pledges by leading companies like Mars and Apple. These commitments are the only way to adequately rein in the apparel industry’s predicted massive increases in carbon emissions and help the industry meet the world’s goal of a 1.5 degree celsius future.
Stand.earth launched its “Too Dirty to Wear” campaign against Levi’s in December 2017, calling on the company to clean up the climate pollution throughout its supply chain. In April 2018, the group released its “Too Deadly to Wear” report, detailing the fashion industry’s and Levi’s outsized role in the deadly impacts of climate change and air pollution across the globe.
The campaign is calling for fashion industry commitments that adequately address the scale of the climate change challenge at hand:
- 90% reduction in greenhouse gas emission by 2025 in all owned and operated facilities (Scope 1 and 2)
- 40% or higher absolute reduction in total greenhouse gas emissions by 2025 in the full supply chain (Scope 3)
- Transition to renewable energy, with a minimum of 50% of energy sourced through renewables by 2035
- Long-term carbon emission reduction of at least 66% by 2050 for the entire supply chain
Commitments should avoid false or partial solutions that:
- Fail to encompass full supply chains.
- Set faulty targets around reducing emissions levels per clothing unit or per sales volume. Only absolute climate emission reductions ultimately guarantee less climate pollution in the atmosphere.
- Place unwarranted hope in the use of only recycled fibers or a “circular economy” approach, as it does not easily offer the level of savings in climate pollution needed.
- Shift the burden of action to its customers, hoping they adopt less polluting laundering practices.
- Fail to alleviate local environmental and health impacts of its global operations through utilizing “renewable energy credits” instead of investing in local renewable energy production.