Net zero is all the rage, but apparel giants are fighting to cut emissions | Popgen Tech
Global fashion giants have pledged to reduce their carbon footprint, but that target remains elusive as ‘fast fashion’ is the focus of a UN climate summit.
With an opportunity to outline their climate commitments at the COP27 talks, clothing brands and manufacturers discussed global warming, but some admitted their pledge to halve emissions by 2030 and reach net zero by mid-century may be a stretch.
“Are we there yet? Of course not. Are we on our way? I would say … maybe,” said Stephan Seidel, senior head of sustainability at Puma, at a panel discussion at COP27 in the Egyptian seaside resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.
Greenpeace and other groups have called on the sector, which is already under fire for often exploitative labor practices, to slow or stop the wasteful trend of mass-producing low-cost clothes that are quickly thrown away.
Fast fashion, they claim, uses vast amounts of water, produces dangerous chemicals and clogs landfills in poor countries with textile waste, and creates greenhouse gases during production, transportation and disposal.
According to consulting firm McKinsey, the fashion sector accounted for four percent of global emissions in 2018 — roughly the same as Britain, France and Germany combined.
Around 30 firms – from retail giants H&M and Zara owner Inditex to sportswear rivals Adidas and Nike – signed the Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action at the COP24 summit in Poland in 2018.
At the time, they pledged to cut emissions by 30 percent by 2030 and reach zero emissions by mid-century.
A year ago, they set a new, more ambitious goal to reduce their CO2 emissions to double by the end of the decade, and now more than 100 companies have signed the pledge.
But meeting the target is a major challenge for an industry with long and complex supply chains that span the globe, industry insiders admit.
“Hard and expensive”
Industry companies at COP27 barely mentioned the “fast fashion” business model that critics say is at the heart of the problem, focusing instead on ideas for renewable energy in factories and regulation.
But greening the entire supply chain and implementing climate standards among raw material suppliers and factories is a monumental task.
Leila Ertur, H&M’s head of sustainability, said the Swedish firm has more than 800 suppliers.
And Marie-Claire Dave, head of sustainability at Kering Group, which owns luxury brands Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent, said: “Even we are not big enough to change the entire supply chain. That’s why collaboration is key.”
Ali Nouira, an Egyptian manufacturer, told another COP27 panel that certification bodies in the region do not even exist.
“When we produce, we have to have all the right certifications and carbon footprints and all that, and for a small brand coming out of Egypt, it’s very difficult and also expensive,” Nuira said.
“We also produce for other brands, in Europe and elsewhere,” he said. “And we’re being forced to have the certifications and also to lower our prices so they can continue to make the profits they’re making.”
“Leap of Faith”
Nicolas Mazzi, head of environmental sustainability at online retailer Zalando, said there has been a culture change in developed countries, with banks offering lower interest rates to companies that commit to net zero.
“If you do a transformation like this, you can end up paying nothing because the loans are so low that the costs are basically free,” Mazei said.
But suppliers face high costs, as sewing clothes in factories requires more energy than that used by retail stores at the end of the supply chain.
“We need more renewable energy than brands,” said Kathryn Chiu, vice president of corporate quality and sustainability at Kong Kong Crystal International Group.
“Even if we install solar panels in all our 20 factories, it will only account for 17 percent of the group’s energy consumption,” she said.
Delman Lee, vice chairman of sustainability at TAL Apparel, another Hong Kong-based apparel maker, said the company would decarbonize its operations over a decade.
But with subsidiaries in countries including Vietnam and Ethiopia, it’s difficult to navigate the different regulations, Lee said.
Aiming to become a net-zero business “is a leap of faith,” Lee said. “You’re committing to something you don’t know how to achieve.”
© 2022 AFP
Citation: Net-zero in fashion, but fashion giants struggle to cut emissions (2022, November 14) Retrieved December 9, 2022, from https://phys.org/news/2022-11-net-zero-fashion-giants -struggle-emissions .html
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