By Constance Beswick

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Today, we see consumer industries continue to exploit Earth’s natural resources threatening biodiversity, while planetary resources, such as water and land, are limited. Optimising resource efficiency and minimising the use of natural resources are crucial steps for the industry to operate within planetary boundaries, bearing in mind that there are only 9 years remaining to avert the effects of climate change that behold unprecedented challenges for our planet and its inhabitants.

Looking at the fashion value cycle, the activities with the largest impact on climate, water and chemical pollution can be found in the processing stage, which includes the preparation of fabrics, such as spinning, weaving or dying. Thus, this stage represents a high priority for immediate action.

Recent years have seen industry players coming together to invest in scaling efficiency programmes in processing stages to accelerate carbon reduction efforts, however, there is still significant potential for improvement for many companies.1According to the Fashion On Climate report, the good news for the industry is that around 55% of the levers required to achieve the accelerated abatement of 1.7 billion tonnes of GHG emissions in 2030 generate savings on an industrywide basis.2



Apparel Impact Institute (Aii) currently heads supply chain efficiency efforts within the apparel industry, scaling improvement programmes across key areas of known impact in textile production: Energy, Water, Chemistry & Wastewater and Materials in partnership with leading brands and wider stakeholder groups. Apparel Impact Institute’s principal programme  Clean by Design, originally created by the Natural Resources Defense Council and first initiated in 2011, works to identify, fund, scale and measure stepwise solutions for reducing the environmental impacts of textile manufacturing.



Through its Clean by Design approach, Aii      works with more than      30 multinational apparel retailers and fashion brands to implement and scale efficiency programmes in factories. This is a critical step on the 9-year pathway to reach science-based targets and to reduce carbon by 45% by 2030. By adopting the Clean by Design 10-best practices methodology, a manufacturer has the potential to reduce energy usage by 10% and water usage by 20% — saving roughly $400K each year after payback and therefore presenting a solid financial and environmental business case for the industry. Since 2011, the programme has led to a GHG emission reduction of 380,000 tonnes and water reduction of 12,000,000 cubic metres, with Aii programmes now set to expand to renewables and coal elimination. Examples of best-practice activities include improving insulation, maintaining heat traps      and cooling-water reuse.



Since piloting Clean by Design’s first programme in 2011, U.S retailer      Target Corp. has implemented four Clean by Design programmes running across 27 of its mill facilities and focused on energy and water efficiency for its Tier 2 operations. As many different brands work with the same facilities and services throughout the fashion supply chain, Target recognises the need to continue scaling Clean by Design through a collective approach with its peers. As a result, when one company invests in supply chain efficiency, other stakeholders in the industry can benefit, providing a unique opportunity to create greater positive impact.

The Clean by Design framework can be implemented by facilities of all sizes, types and locations, providing a continuous improvement framework to meet company-specific goals within production efficiency.

To learn more about Clean by Design contact:



Maximising energy efficiency is a critical step on the pathway to science-based targets. As stated by the Fashion On Climate report, if the industry continues to embrace current decarbonization initiatives at the current pace, emissions will be capped at around 2.1 billion tonnes a year by 2030, around the same as they are now, leaving levels at nearly double the maximum required to meet the Paris Agreement.3 To reach the necessary levels, the industry must align on strategy and collective commitments focusing on projects that universally scale improvements to meet these ambitious goals.4 It must also be remembered that energy efficiency is not the only step to reaching climate targets. In addition to energy efficiency, the apparel industry must also eliminate coal, shift to renewable energy, maximise material efficiency, scale preferred materials, increase adoption of next-generation materials and increase circularity.5

To understand more about how you can drive efficiency in your supply chain for greatest impact visit the Fashion CEO Agenda – Efficient Use Of Resources.



1 Global Fashion Agenda. (2021). Fashion CEO Agenda 2021.

2 Global Fashion Agenda. (2020). Fashion On Climate.

3 Global Fashion Agenda. (2020). Fashion On Climate.

4 Global Fashion Agenda. (2021). Fashion CEO Agenda 2021.

5 Apparel Impact Institute. (2021).

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