Fashion brands must tackle climate pollution as part of their COVID-19 recovery strategy. Here’s how.

New report provides the fashion industry with a roadmap to ditch fossil fuels in the supply chain, while encouraging brands to avoid greenwashing.

By Gary Cook, Global Climate Campaigns Director, Stand.earth

As the fashion industry begins the road to recovery from the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, a new report released today by international environmental organization Stand.earth provides brands with an extensive guide to tackle climate pollution in the supply chain. The report, titled Fashion forward: A roadmap to fossil-free fashion, outlines the steps the industry must take to get a handle on its rapidly growing carbon footprint, through a combination of renewable energy, better materials, and greener shipping.

The fashion industry is one of the largest contributors to global warming, boasting greenhouse gas emissions that exceed both aviation and shipping. Climate change emerged as a top-level issue for industry executives in 2019, but most brands have yet to take the steps needed to reduce their carbon footprints and eliminate their reliance on fossil fuels in the supply chain.

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the question of whether global fashion brands will turn their climate commitments into action looms large. A significant drop in emissions is expected for 2020, and many brands are finding that customers are interested in consuming less and are placing a greater value on environmental and social responsibility. For brands seeking to reconnect with their customers post-pandemic, the report underscores the importance of demonstrating how they are taking action to address climate change and drive a phase out of fossil fuels, and why these goals must become a critical part of their COVID-19 recovery strategy.

Now is the time for brands to rebuild their business model and supply chain around a rapid decrease in fossil fuels over the next decade. By doing this, the fashion industry can transform from being one of the world’s largest climate polluters to catalyzing the decarbonization of our global economy.

FASHION PRODUCING COUNTRIES ARE PLANNING AN EXPANSION OF DIRTY COAL

The report details the dramatic addition of new coal power plants that are being planned in Bangladesh, Vietnam, China, and Turkey — all major supply chain countries for the fashion industry — as well as the connection between the rapid increase in the use of polyester fabric and the explosion of fracking in the U.S.

ROADMAP TO FOSSIL-FREE FASHION

  • Renewables in the supply chain: Brands must eliminate coal and transition to a renewable-powered supply chain by 2030; form partnerships with suppliers to embrace sharing capital costs; and also advocate with suppliers to block new investment in coal and demand clean energy policies to green electric grids and transportation infrastructure.
  • Greener and longer lasting materials: Brands must commit to sourcing lower carbon and longer lasting materials, while also steadily phasing out fossil fuel-based plastic fabrics like polyester.
  • Greener shipping: Brands must reduce the climate impacts of how clothing is shipped around the world by supporting short-term solutions like slowing ships and eliminating dirty fuels, while also advocating for a long-term decarbonization strategy by the end of the decade.
  • Don’t pursue greenwashing initiatives like renewable energy credits and carbon offsets.
  • Don’t support false “clean” energy transitions from coal to fracked gas or coal to biomass.
  • Don’t rely on false “clean” shipping proposals such as scrubbers & LNG.
  • Don’t increase the amount of materials sourced from fossil fuels like fracked gas and coal.

As brands look to restart after the pandemic, the industry must implement concrete, collaborative efforts to tackle its pollution problem through a combination of rapidly transitioning factories to renewables, eliminating fracked fabrics like polyester, and greening up shipping.

Gary Cook is the Global Climate Campaigns Director at Stand.earth, an international nonprofit environmental organization with offices in Canada and the United States that is known for its groundbreaking research and successful corporate and citizens engagement campaigns to create new policies and industry standards in protecting forests, advocating the rights of indigenous peoples and protecting the climate. Visit us at www.stand.earth and follow us on Twitter @standearth.

We challenge corporations and governments to treat people and the environment with respect, because our lives depend on it. www.stand.earth