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‘If Climate Action Is a Catwalk, These Brands Are Still Looking for the Dressing Room’

Are fashion brands on track to meet the 1.5-degree Celsius emissions reduction pathway? No, not really. Despite a Covid dip, emissions from fashion brands are rising again, pushing the sector even further off track.

Stand.earth’s 2022 Fashion Supply Chain Emissions Report revealed how the fashion industry, responsible for 5 to 8 percent of annual climate emissions, has increased its output since committing itself to carbon reductions the previous year.

Of the 10 companies assessed, including American Eagle Outfitters, Fast Retailing, Gap Inc., H&M, Inditex, Kering, Lululemon, Levi Strauss & Co., Nike, and VF Corp., only Levi’s is projected to reduce its supply chain emissions by 55 percent compared with 2018 levels, in line with keeping warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius. The denim giant recently invested in wind energy as part of its climate targets.

“If climate action is a catwalk, most of these brands are still looking for the dressing room. The data is clear, the leading fashion brands need to step up and do more to lower their carbon emissions. At COP26, all of these brands increased their commitment under the UN Fashion Charter, promising to halve their emissions by 2030. Yet despite some small signs of progress, most aren’t just failing, they’re actually getting worse,” Rachel Kitchin, corporate climate campaigner for Stand.earth, said. “These findings make it worryingly clear that those brands aren’t acting to decarbonize their supply chains, where the vast majority of climate-harming emissions come from.”

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The report found that brands are not only still off track to meet the 1.5-degree emissions pathway, but more are careering in the wrong direction. Nike and Inditex, the parent company of Zara, reported manufacturing emissions of close to 10 million tons of CO2e—the equivalent of more than two million gas-powered cars on the road per company. And while brands showed emissions slowed in 2020 thanks to Covid, eight of the 10 brands’ supply chain emissions climbed up again last year, putting their goals farther out of reach. Lululemon saw the steepest increase in its supply chain emissions, at over 60 percent growth in just one year. American Eagle and Kering also saw double-digit growth, with 14.61 percent and 13.66 percent, respectively. In September, nearly 100 yoga practitioners protested outside of Lululemon’s Vancouver headquarters, demanding the company publicly commit to quitting coal and going renewable by 2030.

But there is some progress.

While all 10 brands assessed have set or met 100 percent renewable energy goals for their stores and warehouses, only Kering and H&M have shown the leadership needed to extend this commitment to their supply chains. Cutting out fossil fuels is essential to decarbonize brands’ supply chains and reduce the biggest source of their emissions, the report stated.

Since COP26, H&M has committed to phasing out onsite coal by 2025 and transitioning its supply chain to 100 percent renewable electricity by 2030. However, even those with industry-leading commitments still fail to provide transparency on their progress. To ensure accountability, H&M and others need to provide updates on their progress in phasing out coal and fossil fuels, according to the report. In July, H&M was under fire after being accused of deceiving customers regarding the accuracy of its sustainability claims through greenwashing advertising, according to a class-action lawsuit filed in the Southern District of New York.

“Fossil fuels have no place in a rapidly warming world and certainly no place in our closets,” Gary Cook, corporate campaign director for Stand.earth, said. “Fashion brands [must] move to rapidly decarbonize their manufacturing by committing to 100 percent renewable energy for their supply chains, and phasing out fossil fuels as a source of energy, fabric and fuel.”

This report comes just five months after H&M and Lululemon were among brands backing a $250 million grantmaking vehicle, the Fashion Climate Fund. The Apparel Impact Institute launched the fund during Copenhagen Fashion Week to identify, fund and scale verified solutions to decarbonize the fashion supply chain.