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Fruit of the Loom Lays Out Science-Based Emissions-Slashing Plan

Fruit of the Loom unveiled a new roadmap to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and combat global warming.

Last week, the apparel company released details about its Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi)-approved emission reduction targets. The organization, which brings together expertise from the Carbon Disclosure Project, the United Nations Global Compact, World Resources Institute and the World Wide Fund for Nature, defines best practices in science-based target setting and helps companies develop effective strategies to reach their goals.

In a 2020 sustainability report, Fruit of the Loom laid out plan to limit Scope 1 and Scope 2 carbon emissions—which result from direct energy use at its facilities and the use of company vehicles, as well as purchased energy like electricity and steam—in keeping with the Paris Climate Agreement‘s goals to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius. Ultimately, the company aims to reduce those outputs by 50 percent by 2030 from a 2018 base year.

The Kentucky-based basics and innerwear maker has also worked with SBTi to develop a roadmap to address Scope 3 emissions stemming from upstream and downstream supply chain activities. The company must reduce the impact of those purchased goods and services by 30 percent to achieve zero impact.

“The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report makes it clear that more needs to be done—and faster,” Melissa Burgess Taylor, chairman and CEO of Fruit of the Loom, said in a statement. “We are pleased to be recognized by the SBTi for our commitment to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions in line with what the latest science has told us is needed to prevent the most damaging effects of climate change.”

The Jerzees, Vanity Fair, Spalding and Russel Athletic brands owner has already made strides in promoting greater energy efficiency across its operations, with the goal of using 100-percent renewable electricity by 2030, Burgess Taylor said. Fruit of the Loom reported that in 2020, 60 percent of its energy output was renewable, up from 33 percent in 2019. Its overall GHG emissions fell by more than 34 percent last year—15 percent of which was attributed to the switch to renewable electricity, with 1 percent due to energy efficiency gains.

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“The majority of our renewable electricity in 2020 was through the purchase of Renewable Energy Credits (REC),” or carbon offsets, the company said. However, 18 percent of renewable electricity was generated through on-site solar energy systems at Fruit of the Loom facilities in El Salvador and Honduras, where most of the company’s production is based. Products are also made in owned facilities in Australia, Haiti, Mexico, Morocco and Vietnam, as well as the U.S., and by third-party manufacturers and licensees based globally. Fruit of the Loom plans to adopt renewable energy across its supply chain and promote greater energy efficiency by optimizing production processes for speed and effectiveness.

The company estimated that 89 percent of its overall GHG output comes from this supply chain. An internal Sustainability Steering Committee led by Burgess has been tasked with assessing environmental risks and opportunities and incorporating its findings into long-term and annual plans.

More companies are setting similar goals

Emissions-based targets are becoming increasingly common in the industry.

“Corporate commitments to net zero emissions have increased rapidly in recent years,” Accenture wrote in a recent report detailing corporate efforts to reduce GHG emissions. As of August, 30 percent of more than 1,000 of the largest listed European companies had outlined plans to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.

The push can’t come too soon, as the same companies vowing to cut carbon—which operate across industries like automotive, construction, manufacturing, oil and gas, real estate, information and communication and more—are responsible for more than 66 percent of the greenhouse gases emitted by the more than 1,000 largest companies on the European stock exchanges.

The snowballing interest in cutting carbon was spurred by 2015’s Paris Climate Agreement, which pushed corporations to accelerate their efforts and underscored the catastrophic climate implications of maintaining an operational status quo. “Action has rapidly accelerated in the past two years,” Accenture wrote, adding that regulation plays an important role, too. Governments of countries spanning two-thirds of the global economy have pledged to reach net zero emissions by 2050, creating policies, regulatory measures and even incentives to push companies toward ecological awareness.

For many organizations, investors may cast the determining vote. “They are increasingly looking for companies to set a timeline and strategy for the transition,” Accenture wrote, adding that the topic of GHG emissions is discussed in half of the earnings calls related to European G2000 companies.

Companies may have the will to cut carbon, but they still have to find a way. Achieving net-zero emissions by 2050 is no small feat, and just 9 percent of the European companies studied are on track to reach their goals, having slashed emissions in half over the past decade. For most, the pace of reductions must accelerate. Only 5 percent of the report’s companies are on the path to success should they continue their current strategies.

Underscoring the sense of urgency, Accenture wrote that even if all sampled companies were to double their emissions reductions by 2030—and double them again by 2040—only 42 percent would reach their stated targets, and 83 percent would hit their goals before 2050.

Certain industries should shoulder a heavier burden based on their significant environmental impact, it added, and will need to significantly up the ante in order to meet their mid-century goals. Five sectors, including automotive, construction, manufacturing, oil, gas and chemicals and transportation and storage, accounted for 42 percent of emissions from all companies analyzed in the report. Apparel and footwear manufacturers, burning fossil fuels to facilitate factory operations, will need to adopt energy-efficient measures and invest in renewables in order to mitigate their impact.

Despite the research findings, Accenture said that net-zero targets are within reach if companies begin to execute at speed and collaborate with purpose. What’s more, targets have been proven to work. Companies that set goals reduced their emissions between 2010-2019, while those that didn’t actually increased their carbon output.