What is the fashion industry doing?
Ethical brands have long been producing organic cotton, upcycled or other types of clothing that have a lower environmental impact. See our guide to ethical clothes shops for more about this.
Lots of more mainstream companies are now also talking about new techniques that reduce the environmental impact of their processes, but a lack of hard data about the extent of their actual use is common. Wider industry commitments are also clearly required.
In the UK, over 80 organisations have signed up to the SCAP 2020 commitments. In 2018, the UN convened stakeholders in the fashion industry to establish the ‘Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action’. You can see which fashion companies have signed up to these commitments below.
||Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action
|15% reduction in GHG emissions by 2020
||30% reduction in GHG emissions by 2030
|15% reduction in water use by 2020
||analyse and set a decarbonisation pathway for the fashion industry
|15% reduction in waste to landfill by 2020 publicly report on GHG emissions
||publicly report on GHG emissions
|3.5% reduction in waste arising over the whole product lifecycle by 2020
||support the movement towards circular business models
|Signatories in our guides
|Arcadia, ASOS, F&F (Tesco), M&S, Next, Oxfam, Primark, Sainsbury's.
||Gap, Guess?, H&M Group, Inditex, Levi Strauss & Co.
Although this looks like great news, the targets on emissions for both initiatives fall short of what is needed to stay within 1.5 degrees of global heating. (In 2018, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change called for 45% emission reductions by 2030 to stay within the necessary 1.5-degree limit worldwide.)
The SCAP targets are also per tonne of clothing so crucially do not address growth. Although the fashion industry is making changes, these are nowhere near drastic enough to address the problem at hand.
Yes, buying from ethical, lower-impact producers will make a difference. But it won’t be enough to meet the 1.5 or even 2-degree goal.
Fashion cannot afford to stay linear: it is imperative that we move away from the model of produce, use, dispose towards a circular economy for clothing.