CO2 Emissions, Climate and Fashion

Continuing on the same path, with the same business models, structures, policies, behaviour and levels of efforts the 2030 emissions reduction targets set out by the Paris Agreement will be achieved only partially – by half. *




Greenhouse gas emission and fashion industry

According to the recently published report ‘Fashion on Climate’ (2020), by the Global Fashion Agenda and McKinsey & Company, the fashion industry produced 2.1 billion tonnes of CO2 eq. This emission share is larger than combined emissions of the UK, Germany and France. In fact, it totals to 4% of the global CO2 emissions.


The GFA/McKinsey report looks in depth at individual parts of the fashion value cycle and provides an insight into the greenhouse gas emissions that the industry produces. To give you a little bit of context: of the total 2 bn tonnes of CO2 emissions the material production’s share is 38%, yarn preparation 8%, fabric preparation 6%, wet processes 15%, cut make trim 4%, transport and retail 3% each, product use 20%, and end-of-use 3%.


Most importantly, the document, and a useful accompanying microsite, outlines a range of responses the industry can take (who and how) to control the emissions and progress towards the Paris Agreement targets.


Possible solutions to curb emissions

Every single part and actor in the fashion value cycle has room for an improvement and can take action. Below are some examples of possible solutions:


  • Upstream production – minimise production and manufacturing waste, decarbonise operations.


  • Brand operations – improve materials, use sustainable forms of transport and packaging; decarbonise retail operations; minimise returns and reduce overproduction.


  • Usage and end-of-use actors – consume less; change behaviour when using and reusing items supported by an adoption circular business models such as rental, resale, repair and refurnish by fashion brands; wash and drying clothes less; increase in recycling and collection;  and move to closed loop recycling.


Collaboration, defragmentation, joint share of upfront costs

In addition, the report emphasises that policy makers and investors must continue to play a key role in encouraging change and driving the acceleration in emission reduction. Be it a wide ranging, cross-border implementation of the UNFCCC Communique or the EC’s Green Deal as well as policy-makers’ further engagement with the fashion industry. Investors are also encouraged to make a link between the financial performance and environmental, social and governance performance.  The report underlines that it is critical for the companies to adopt standardised sustainability assessment whilst also ensuring promotion of business models that cut overproduction and allocate innovation budgets for decarbonisation solutions and materials research.


Yes, upfront investment costs and changes in behaviour are part of the change paradigm, however in the long-term majority of the carbon emission reduction actions will save money for the industry if supported by effective regulation and at pace implementation of change programmes. This requires an effective dialogue with policy makers, collaboration within the entire industry, including defragmentation of the value chain, and joint financing for upfront investments.





Images: McKinsey and Fashion on Climate

*figures: Fashion on Climate report