Fashion giants not on track to meet key 2030 water and climate goals

Two years ago, dozens of big-name fashion brands including ASOS, New Look and Primark signed an industry-wide commitment to halve emissions between 2019 and 2030. But carbon reductions of just 2% have been achieved so far.

Fashion giants not on track to meet key 2030 water and climate goals

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NGO WRAP has this week released the second annual progress report for its Textiles 2030 initiative, which launched in spring 2021 to foster accelerated and coordinated action on climate, water and waste across the textiles value chain.

The report confirms that the initiative now has more than 120 signatories, collectively representing almost two-thirds of the textiles placed on the British market. This is up from 60 initial signatories at launch.

Participating firms include Boohoo, Dunelm, Frasers Group, Habitat, Matalan, New Look, River Island, Next and Urban Outfitters. Textiles 2030 also has the backing of most major British supermarkets.

Unfortunately, the report reveals slow progress towards the initiative’s 10-year targets on water and carbon.

Businesses had committed to reduce the overall water footprint of their products by 30% by 2030, against a 2019 baseline. But the collective yearly water use of participants has increased by 8% to 3.1 billion cubic metres.

On climate, the report confirms that member companies collectively generated 2% less carbon dioxide than in 2019. They remain off track to a 2030 target to halve emissions.

WRAP confirmed that the increased use of cotton fibres was a key driver of increased water use.

Signatories collectively placed 13% more textiles, by volume, on the market this past year than in 2019. WRAP has stated that while the average item produced by a Textiles 2030 member company was less carbon-intensive or water-intensive than it would have been in 2019, these achievements have mainly been cancelled out due to rising production volumes.

This revalation comes as The Or Foundation is pushing fashion brands to disclose their 2022 production volumes before Black Friday 2023 (24 November).

Circular economy solutions

With progress off track, WRAP is now calling on all signatories to urgently develop, pilot and scale circular business models to the point that they can grow financially without expanding the use of virgin materials and natural resources.

There has been some progress, but not enough. Signatories reported used item sales equivalent to 9% of their new product sales. WRAP estimates that one in ten clothing items sold in the UK is now secondhand or vintage.

The NGO has re-shared its Circularity Roadmap to help inform businesses and will also reach out to provide 1-1 support.

Repair, rental, reuse and resale models will be most effective, WRAP has stated, if products are more durable in the first instance. Designing products for a longer lifespan could also cut water consumption by 7.5% this decade and slash carbon emissions by 7% per WRAP’s calculations.

WRAP is notably working with the Leeds Institute of Textiles and Colour to develop the textiles industry’s first durability and utilization benchmarks. This will take three years to produce. In the meantime, 28% of Textiles 2030 signatories have already implemented a product durability strategy and a further 50% are developing one.

VF Corporation 

In related news, VF Corporation – the parent company of brands including Timberland and the North Face – has published its latest annual environmental and social responsibility report this week.

The report confirms that the business has cut its Scope 1 (direct) and 2 (power-related) emissions by 42% since 2017. This puts it on track to achieve a 1.5C-aligned target for these scopes, verified by the Science-Based Targets Initiative.

Further accelerated progress on reducing Scope 2 emissions is likely in the near future as the company brings online four utility-scale solar projects in South Carolina. These could meet around one-third of the company’s global annual electricity demands.

Yet VF Corporation has also documented a 19% increase in its Scope 3 (indirect) emissions since 2017. It has attributed this partly to an increased reliance on high-carbon logistic options due to pandemic-related disruption, and partly due to making and selling more products.

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