New report gives fashion brands a roadmap to ditching fossil fuels in the supply chain

New report gives fashion brands a roadmap to ditching fossil fuels in the supply chain

Thursday August 20, 2020

Stand.earth’s latest guide outlines steps industry must take to tackle climate pollution as it recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic

SAN FRANCISCO — 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. With scientists warning that global emissions must be cut in half by 2030, along with a rapid phase out of coal, the report outlines why it is increasingly critical for major fashion brands to turn their commitments into action.

“Despite commitments to slash their emissions, the fashion industry’s supply chain saw more dirty coal, more fossil fuel-based fabrics, and more delivery by highly polluting cargo ships prior to the COVID-19 outbreak. 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,” said Gary Cook, Global Climate Campaigns Director at Stand.earth.

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.

“Rather than trying to make a pre-pandemic business model marginally more sustainable, the COVID-19 crisis offers a critical opportunity for the fashion industry to rethink key aspects of how it operates. 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,” said Liz McDowell, Director of Campaign Strategies at Stand.earth.

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.

For fashion brands looking to eliminate fossil fuels from the supply chain and get a handle on their rapidly growing climate pollution, the report gives several recommendations:

  • 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. 

The report also addresses several “wrong turns” the fashion industry should avoid, including:

  • 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.

ABOUT STAND.EARTH

In October 2019, Stand.earth released the Filthy Fashion Climate Scorecard ranking the sustainability commitments of 45 top fashion companies. The report revealed that only two companies — Levi’s and American Eagle — have climate commitments that meet the UN Paris Agreement’s pathway to 1.5°C degrees of warming to avert the worst consequences of climate change, and that many top companies lack key commitments despite their participation in the UN Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action or the G7 Fashion Pact.

From 2017-2018, Stand.earth ran its “Too Dirty to Wear” campaign calling on denim giant Levi’s to clean up the climate pollution in its supply chain. This included the release of the “Too Deadly to Wear” report detailing the fashion industry’s outsized role in the deadly impacts of climate change and air pollution across the globe. In July 2018, Levi’s made a groundbreaking climate commitment to slash emissions in its global supply chain by 2025, meeting Stand.earth’s demands.

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Media contact: Virginia Cleaveland, Communications Manager, Stand.earth, media@stand.earth, +1 510 858 9902 (PDT, GMT-7)