Sports brands fare better than fast fashion ones on climate commitments as well as switch to low-carbon materials in manufacturing
The clean-up act of fashion brands — including big, household names that have committed to climate commitments on paper — is quite bad. Most of them have failed at making their businesses more environmentally sustainable, and got a beating for the same in an annual fashion scorecard released August 24, 2021. The grades are depressing.
Environmental campaign group Stand.Earth released its first ‘Fossil Free Fashion Scorecard’ report, which assessed 47 brands on their efforts to combat climate change. Several big brands — from Zara to H&M to Nike to Puma — largely failed to eliminate fossil fuels from their manufacturing, material and shipping processes.
Sports brands, however, fared better than fast fashion ones on climate commitments and supply chain transparency as well as making a switch to low-carbon materials in manufacturing.
The findings, however, may not be entirely surprising either: The fashion industry is responsible for 10 per cent of annual global carbon emissions, more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined.
At this pace, the industry’s greenhouse gas emissions would surge more than 50 per cent by 2030, a similar report card from 2020 had flagged.
Sports brands fare better than fast fashion ones
The scorecard measured the performance of global fashion companies across five areas:
On climate commitments and supply change energy, Mammut, a sportswear brand, scored the highest: B+.
According to the report: “Mammut has committed to setting Science Based Targets of 70-80 per cent absolute reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in its operations by 2030. The company has also set commitments to switch to renewable electricity in its own operations…”
Other sports wear brands and companies fared better than luxury wear ones on this end: Nike got a C+, followed by Levi’s, Puma and VF Corp (C). Zara got a D; Uniqlo and Prada got an F. H&M got a C-.
Only a few brands reportedly slashed use of coal in their manufacturing process. Most of these were also sports brands; Mammut, Nike, Asics, Levi’s, Adidas, Esprit and PUMA were ranked high for setting renewable energy targets in supply chain.
Adidas, Mammut, Nike and PUMA were also among the brands that included shipping in their supply chain emissions reduction targets. The fashion industry is one of the largest customers of ocean and air shipping, which contributes to significant air pollution worldwide.
Fast fashion brands have work to do
Zara, one of the world’s biggest fashion brands, got a D in decarbonising its manufacturing: It continued to rely heavily on cheap fossil fuel fabrics such as polyester, the report said. Prada, Uniqlo and Marks and Spencer got the lowest grade on this end: F.
On phasing out fossil-fuel based material in manufacturing, Zara and Uniqlo have a lot of work to do. According to the report:
Uniqlo has not committed to switching to organic cotton or cotton (or other materials) sourced from regenerative agriculture or reported progress in increasing the proportion of such cotton in its material mix. The company has not demonstrated any progress in eliminating deadstock, phasing out materials sourced from practices contributing to deforestation or increasing the repairability or resale of its products.
Fossil fuel-derived fabrics like polyester make up a large proportion of their materials mix for these brands.
H&M, a popular fast fashion brand—which scored in Ds for its efforts in using low-carbon materials, greener shipping and slashing greenhouse gas emissions in supply chain — scored an A+ in advocacy.
It signed several letters urging policy makers to increase renewable energy supply and strong emissions reduction targets including as well as a letter to the government of Cambodia raising concerns about the country’s continued investment in and expansion of coal power, among other initiatives.
The runway is getting shorter for companies to move from commitments to actions, warned Muhannad Malas, senior climate campaigner at Stand.earth. He added that if fashion companies truly cared about solving the climate crisis, they need to phase out coal power from their supply chains and bid goodbye to fossil fuel fabrics like polyester.
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