Fashion majors urged to set science-based climate targets

Given that the global fashion sector’s emissions are set to grow significantly this decade, at a time when climate science proves they need to be cut, a new initiative has been launched to help fashion businesses set credible climate targets.

Fashion majors urged to set science-based climate targets

Joyce Tsoi, Director of Collective Action Programs, SAC and Dedy Mahardika, SBT Engagement Manager, Southeast Asia and Oceania at CDP at the SAC Annual Meeting 2022 in Singapore

Non-profit the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC), which has members that represent around half of the global apparel and footwear industry, has this week launched a new decarbonisation programme. Fashion is believed to be a larger contributor to global emissions than aviation, generating up to 8% of global annual emissions through its value chain.

The launch of the SAC programme means that all large businesses with Coalition membership will be required to formally commit to setting emissions targets verified by the Science-Based Targets Initiative (SBTi) from 2023. From the point of committing to set SBTi-approved targets, businesses have 24 months to get them approved. The SBTi is notably in the process of phasing out 2C-aligned targets, meaning that the decarbonisation programme should push large fashion firms to deliver 1.5C-aligned targets.

In a useful move for fashion firms sourcing natural raw materials like cotton, the SBTi is also firming up its guidance on how land-based emissions reductions and removals can be accounted for by businesses.

Step-by-step guidance for setting science-based targets will be published by the SAC in the coming months.

Once all SAC corporate members have committed to setting SBTi-approved targets, the SAC has stated that it will provide any support that these businesses require for delivery. It will also support smaller businesses in its membership in developing and delivering credible emissions goals. According to the coalition, the sector should aim to cut its absolute emissions by 45% this decade in a 1.5C-aligned scenario.

The SAC has listed six priority actions for all fashion firms to take, noting the potential of significant emissions reductions based on prior lifecycle research by bodies including the World Resources Institute (WRI) and Apparel Impact Institute (AII).

These are maximising material efficiency; increasing the use of sustainable materials; accelerating the development of next-gen materials and recycling technologies; prioritising energy efficiency; eliminating coal-fired energy in manufacturing and transitioning to 100% renewable electricity.

The SAC has already piloted webinars relating to these topics, plus peer-to-peer learning sessions through which fashion firms were able to share knowledge. We can expect more similar events focused on collaboration in the future.

“Right now, the fashion industry is not on track to hit net zero by 2050, but change is happening,” said the SAC’s head of collective action Joyce Tsoi.

“We need to be accelerating the actions now…. Through [this new programme], we are building important collective action solutions to drive the large-scale systematic change required in our global supply chains which no single company can do alone. Members are listening and learning from each other to address the most pressing and difficult issues we are all facing in different geographical regions, driving shared solutions to shared problems and making sure our targets become a reality. It’s the only way we can ensure our industry has a future.”

Going forward, the SAC will develop systems for businesses to disclose where they are on their target-setting journey and to report emissions reductions. This will be important to ensuring accountability, making it more challenging for businesses to set targets then miss them without scrutiny.

Joyce Tosi recently penned an exclusive blog for edie as part of our Net-Zero November 2022 editorial campaign. It explains the business case for science-based target setting by fashion firms and you can read it in full here.

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