- Although the fashion industry needs to make drastic changes to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, a handful of major brands actually saw their climate footprint increase in 2022, according to a new report assessing the progress of the United Nations’ Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action.
- Ninety-nine signatories — including 68 brands and retailers — have joined the charter, which means they’ve pledged to slash their emissions by 50% by 2030 and reach net zero emissions by 2050.
- Out of 55 members who’ve consistently provided emissions data, 38% saw these figures increase in 2022. That’s compared to 60% of signatories who saw their emissions decrease and 2% who saw no change from the prior year.
The charter’s signatories span fast fashion companies like H&M Group and Zara parent company Inditex to luxury powerhouses, like Kering, which owns Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent and Bottega Veneta.
The members have shifted over the years, as new players have signed onto the pledge and others have opted to leave or been removed for failing to meet the charter’s reporting requirements. For instance, Esprit and Skunkfunk, two founding signatories, are no longer listed as members.
The charter’s goals are meant to help limit global warming to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius, or 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit, a ceiling scientists believe could stave off some of the worst effects of climate change. The fashion industry is a major contributor to global warming, with some reports estimating that it accounts for up to 10% of the world’s annual greenhouse gas emissions.
This year’s emissions data is much worse than what was seen in 2021, when 85% of signatories saw their emissions decrease, compared to 13% of signatories who saw the opposite. However, the charter’s report argued that yearly fluctuations are normal, especially given changes brought about by the coronavirus pandemic and economic turbulence.
More than one-third of signatories saw emissions increase in 2022
“The accumulative long-term data provided by signatories will play a critical role in understanding and evaluating climate trends in the industry,” the report said. It’s important to note that the charter’s report does not capture all of the fashion industry’s emissions, as signatories represent only a small sliver of the sector.
To combat climate change, the fashion industry will have to make major changes to reduce its Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions. Scope 1 emissions refers to fossil fuels a company directly burns due to its operations, while Scope 2 refers to energy it uses from utility providers.
In 2022, 27 signatories reduced their Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions by more than 30%, while 18 reduced these emissions by over 50%.
However, the report notes that the bulk of the fashion industry’s emissions come from Scope 3 emissions, which refers to fossil fuels a company indirectly burns throughout its supply chain. Researchers say these account for most of the fashion industry’s climate footprint, with the fossil fuels needed to produce fibers like polyester and cotton or keep textile factories running much greater than those needed for activities like running retail stores. Yet these emissions are much more difficult to track, the charter’s report said.
Still, 13 signatories said they had reduced their Scope 3 emissions in 2022 by at least 30%, while another six said they had slashed these emissions by 50% or more.