This year has drawn attention to many problems to be solved in human life. Fashion, as an industry, must work together to face the most pressing problems, such as overproduction, waste, and social issues. McKinsey’s latest report addresses the issue of climate change and what immediate action is needed to reduce one of the most serious problems, greenhouse gas emissions.
“Two-thirds of consumers say it has to become even more important to limit climate change following covid-19”:
The coronavirus has also had a significant impact on the fashion industry and the way consumers think, more and more people are interested in sustainability and the future of our planet, and many are willing to rethink their consumer habits. Leaders of big fashion brands say the issue of sustainability has become a regular item on the agenda since the virus erupted.
According to one study, about 2.1 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions can be attributed to the activities of the global fashion industry in 2018 alone. Shocking data, especially when we consider that the industry is growing at an amazing rate, more and more collections of brands are coming to market day by day.
The fashion industry is responsible for nearly 4% of global emissions, equivalent to the total annual emissions of France, Germany and England.
What can the future bring?
Researchers have considered two possible options: If the industry continues its current initiatives at the same pace, gas emissions will be at the same level by 2030, nearly double the targets set in the Paris Climate Agreement.
If measures to reduce emissions are stepped up and all participants agree, the value of current emissions could be halved by 2030, on the path set out in the climate agreement. However, this should focus mainly on the production phases of raw materials (clothing, textiles), as these processes could save almost 60% of gas emissions.
According to the research, the introduction of decarbonized production processes could reduce emissions by 205 million tons per year. To this end, surprisingly, reducing fertilizers and insecticides by nearly 40% is the first step, as they make an extraordinary contribution to emissions during cotton cultivation (which is the most natural material used worldwide). Furthermore, the use of renewable resources during processing, dry technology instead of water production, minimized overproduction and recycling of the resulting residues.
After that, according to the research, the next level is the brands ’own operating model, where 20% of emissions could be saved. This requires more sustainable transportation and logistics solutions, recycled, degradable packaging, and decarbonized commercial operations. The latter means reduced energy consumption (heating, air conditioning, lighting) and the use of renewable energy in commercial units.
“By 2030, we need to live in a world in which 1 in 5 garments are traded through a circular business model”
The last step is to make customer habits more sustainable, which would save the remaining 20% in gas emissions. Here, the habits of the already innervated modern society should be changed, which is also a significant social issue. Repairing rentable clothes, accessories, and faulty, worn-out pieces would all help societies in a circular fashion. Reduced use of a washer and dryer (instead of spreading in the open air) could reduce emissions by 186 million tonnes if people skipped every sixth washing machine wash, for example. Recycling and the introduction of a circular model in fashion will also be essential in the future.
If the accelerated pace of measures can halve emissions, the fashion industry will not be left alone, as it will continue to do so. The remaining approximately 659 million tonnes of emissions will come from raw material production, so all brands need to place particular emphasis on fully organic, sustainable materials. Furthermore, in order to reduce excessive consumer habits, traders and companies could turn to custom-made products, instead of the prefabricated clothes, which are often towered in warehouses.
It will take a long way this far, but it will fly away ten years soon and action is needed now.