The fashion industry can reduce emissions – if it wants to

fashion industry In the mood for commitment lately.

In 2019, some of the world’s biggest fashion brands appeared put their names on science-based climate goals, saying it would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent by 2030 in order to stay in line with a UN approved track To keep the climate from warming more than 1.5 ° C. Just two years later, the Sustainable Clothing Alliance, which has more than 130 brand members—including Amazon, Gap, H&M, Nike, and Under Armor—I raised this goal for its members to cut 45 percent in emissions by 2030. In COP26 Climate conference last week, 130 companies joined in announcing that they will reach net zero emissions no later than 2050.

But to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, fashion’s climate resistance hinges on another commitment: cleaner factories.

Forget replacing energy-efficient bulbs in retail stores — according to the World Resources Institute, 96 percent of a fashion brand’s footprint is in its manufacturing supply chain. In other words, it is the factories (and, to a lesser extent, farmers who grow cotton and raise sheep for wool and cows for hides) who will have to do the work so that brands can reach these lofty, well-publicized goals.

Unfortunately, when it comes to factories, brands seem to have more commitment phobia than any 24-year-old on Tinder.

“We are an immigrant company,” says Sanjeev Bahl, founder and CEO CytexA sustainable Vietnamese denim supplier. Like the nomadic digital currency brethren, brands roam from manufacturer to manufacturer and country to country, looking for facilities that can offer them the cheapest rates and the quickest turnaround.

During the pandemic, this fact has become clear to the public. When retail stores suddenly closed, brands and retailers ghosted their suppliers, broke contracts, Cancel ordersand, in some cases, claim deep discounts or refuse to pay for orders that have already shipped. “I have seen what happened before and after Covid. Most of the factories, why do they invest [in low-carbon technology]? Bahl says.

In fact, a A study from the Climate Council The one released this month found no correlation between bold climate commitments from brands and actual carbon cuts. In order to truly decarbonize the fashion industry, brands will have to stop being such chips.

We have the power

The fashion and climate experts I spoke to largely believe that the technology exists to halve the fashion industry’s emissions in 10 years.

There are four large cranes that clothing retailers can pull to get there. The first is converting factories from coal to renewable energy. Solar and wind energy are well-established and cost-effective sources. Rooftop solar alone can meet 10 to 20 percent of a plant’s energy needs, and the rest can be purchased from an off-site solar or wind power plant.

“The hurdles are basically politics,” says Michael Sadowsky, a research advisor at the World Resources Institute. As he and others have pointed out, it is difficult to decarbonize when most fashion is made in coal-fired countries. For example, Vietnam, where much of the world’s fashion is made, does not allow companies to purchase renewable energy generated off-site. But that may change as early as this year, with the Vietnamese government Getting ready for approval Pilot Power Purchase Agreement Program.

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