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Top fashion labels still not taking climate commitments seriously, report claims

The latest ranking released by environmental organisation suggests that only two big brands are doing enough to fight climate change

Photo Credit: Diana Vucane/Shutterstock

The establishment of the 2016 Paris Agreement is widely regarded by sustainability and environmental advocates as the defining moment in tackling climate change issues related to the global fashion industry.

Under the auspices of the United Nations with an overall vision for the global fashion industry to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, the coalition saw 43 leading fashion brands, retailers, supplier organizations, and others, pledge their allegiances to collectively address the climate impact of the fashion sector across its entire value chain.

Despite promising signs such as the enhanced public awareness and increased media attention on fashion companies and environmental sustainability since, one would be of the conviction that with top fashion labels pledging to the cause, climate control can as a matter of fact be ‘controlled’, no pun intended.

However, a recently published report which ranked 45 top fashion companies based on the extent of their climate commitments suggests otherwise.

Filthy Fashion Climate Scorecard, Stand.Earth

The report, “Filthy Fashion Scorecard: Which brands are leading on climate and which are still wearing last season’s greenwash?”, which was published by international environmental organisation,, revealed that despite numerous pledges, very few brands have actually committed to cutting emissions enough to align with the UN Paris Climate Change Agreement. evaluated and ranked these fashion companies using the following core criteria:

  • Direct emissions from owned and controlled operations and the energy used to power them (also called scope 1 and 2 emissions)

  • Renewable energy in owned and controlled operations

  • Global supply chain emissions including factories and mills, transportation, raw material cultivation and end-of-life disposal

  • Long term global supply chain emissions reductions – a plan for 2050

Only two major fashion brands, namely Levi Strauss and American Eagle Outfitters were identified to have commitment levels that will bring them in line with the Paris Agreement’s goal to limit temperature increases to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

The report outlined that while all companies claimed to care about sustainability, only some were ‘rising to the climate challenge – while others are still wearing last season's greenwash’.

According to the report, the multi-billion-dollar fashion sector is responsible for 8.1% of the world’s carbon emissions and it is only doomed for the worse with the number expected to grow by nearly 60% by 2030.

Smoking chimneys at a factory in northern China’s Jilin province. Many factories around the world are still using environmentally-harmful fossil fuels such as coal to support daily operations. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

Filthy Fashion’s campaign director, Liz McDowell addresses that the lack of key commitments among fashion companies to transition from coal and other fossil fuel onto renewable energy to be one of the key contributors to the ‘climate catastrophe’.

“While the vast majority of the fashion industry’s climate pollution is hiding in their global supply chains, the fact that most of these factories are still powered by coal, one of the dirtiest fuels on earth, definitely points to an adverse impact on the environment and also the health of millions of people being on the receiving end of the toxic smog belched out in these coal-powered factories every year,” she said.

She went on to add that, “Because of their giant energy bills, the world’s leading fashion companies hold significant responsibility for helping to catalyse major shifts to renewable energy across the globe. Not only is this their responsibility – it is an urgent imperative.”

The multi-billion-dollar fashion sector is responsible for 8.1% of the world’s carbon emissions. Credit: Shutterstock

Commending the efforts of top fashion companies such as Levi’s, Burberry, the Gap, H&M and American Eagle who have adopted to renewable energy, Filthy Fashion’s campaign director, Liz McDowell mentioned that only a handful of companies including Levi’s, Burberry, the Gap, H&M and American Eagle are taking meaningful strides to shift their global supply chains off dirty fossil fuels.

“Many other companies are relying on false solutions to meet their climate commitments – easy measures that look good on paper but fail to tackle carbon pollution in the real world,” she said.

“While the industry’s progress is encouraging, signing onto one of these initiatives doesn’t guarantee that a company will take climate action in line with the scale of emissions reductions needed to keep the world below a dangerous level of warming,” McDowell added.

Levi’s vice president of Global Product Innovation, Paul Dillinger, photographed at Levi’s Eureka Innovation Lab in San Francisco. Credit: Chase Pellerin/Gear Patrol.

Sitting at the top of the Filthy Fashion Climate Scorecard was Levi’s Strauss & Co, who scored the highest score of 80 points among the 45 companies who were evaluated.

Highlighting the importance of consistency across seasonal cycles and the brand’s long-term pledge to champion climate commitments, Levi’s vice president of Global Product Innovation, Paul Dillinger, feels that the industry’s entire role in climate change is defined not by one major flaw but by a vast collection of smaller ones.

He goes on to emphasise that there’s no magic bullet for companies to implement that can slash their carbon footprints. “Whatever may show up at the top line of a press release on a given season is a very delicious icing, but on a very substantial cake,” Dillinger says.

“Every season, we reinvent ourselves. We should use that iterative process to expect that every season we do better, that every season we lessen our footprint,” he adds.

The full report can be accessed here.

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