Decarbonising the Fashion Industry

Learn more about the urgency of decarbonisation in the fashion industry.

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With less than six years remaining to meet the deadline to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, conforming with the Paris Agreement, it is imperative that the fashion industry accelerates its efforts to prevent further damaging impacts of climate change and restore our planet. The climate crisis is upon us now – 2023 was announced as the hottest year on record, and extreme weather was identified as the top risk to trigger crisis in 2024 in the Global Risks Report presented by the World Economic Forum.

It is estimated that the fashion industry’s annual contribution to global greenhouse gas emissions ranges between 1.8% and 4%, with an estimated 70%stemming from scope 3 upstream activities that rely primarily on non-renewable energy sources including petroleum, gas, oil, and coal. Resource stewardship is therefore an urgent priority in fashion’s transition to a net positive industry.

Commitments to Progress

With brands, retailers, and producers increasingly setting emission reduction goals, the will to progress is evident. The majority of respondents to the Fashion Industry Target Consultation reported that they have set targets to halve emissions by 2030 and reach net zero by 2050, with 93% of brands and 89% of producers already measuring progress. Over 400 apparel companies have commitments or approved science-based targets through SBTi14. All Sustainable Apparel Coalition members, representing approximately 50% of the apparel and footwear sector, were expected to adopt SBTs in 2023. Moreover, all signatories of the UN Fashion Charter are expected to publicly report annual GHG emissions and other climate-related information as a core compliance requirement to enhance transparency and accountability.

Despite the demonstrated commitment, compliance is an ongoing challenge, and emissions continue to rise. To date, less than half of active Fashion Charter signatories are compliant with setting climate targets needed to limit global warming to 1.5°C. Accelerated progress is required at manufacturing level (scope 3), where the majority of emissions are generated, with many manufacturing processes still disproportionately relying on coal and other fossil fuels. However, many production countries face systemic, political, and infrastructural challenges in transitioning to renewables from lacking infrastructure.

Moving from Ambition to Action

A multitude of solutions are needed to decarbonise the fashion industry’s value chain fully, from adopting renewable resources to, specifically, the transition away from the use of coal in textile mills and manufacturing facilities. Changing the industry power supply to 100% renewable energy across all processing stages would make the biggest single contribution to CO2 reduction and require infrastructure solutions at scale. Brands cannot affect this change alone, proactive industry participation in collective financing and implementation will be critical to facilitating rapid decarbonisation at scale.

To address this challenge, Global Fashion Agenda, Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners (CIP) and international fashion companies BESTSELLER and H&M Group intend to develop the first offshore wind project in Bangladesh, a project with the potential to significantly increase the availability of renewable energy in one of the fashion industry’s most important manufacturing countries.

The offshore wind project is currently in early-stage development by CIP in collaboration with a local partner Summit Power. If development is successful, operations are expected to commence in 2028. The wind park will have an approximate capacity of 500MW, making it the first utility-scale offshore wind farm in Bangladesh and will help the country reach its goal of supplying 40% of the nation’s power from renewable sources by 2041. The project is expected to create job opportunities, stabilise energy supply, and reduce emissions by approximately 725,000 tonnes annually.

Initiated by GFA during a roundtable meeting at Global Fashion Summit: Copenhagen Edition 2022, this initiative is one example of how the industry can collaborate to address barriers and implement solutions that can unlock the next level for the industry.

GFA is calling for stakeholders in the fashion industry and beyond to come together and engage in facilitating renewable energy solutions. Get in touch at impact@globalfashionagenda.org to find out more.

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