Two years after prominent fashion brands, such as ASOS, New Look, and Primark, committed to halving emissions by 2030, a recent report by the NGO WRAP indicates a mere 2% reduction in carbon emissions. Despite the Textiles 2030 initiative garnering over 120 signatories and encompassing nearly two-thirds of the UK textiles market, progress on water and carbon targets remains slow.
Launched in spring 2021, the Textiles 2030 initiative aims to drive collective action on climate, water, and waste across the textile value chain. With over 120 signatories, including major players like Boohoo, Dunelm, and River Island, the initiative has gained significant traction, but challenges persist.
The annual progress report highlights a concerning 8% increase in the collective yearly water use of participants, reaching 3.1 billion cubic meters. This is contrary to the commitment to reduce the overall water footprint by 30% by 2030. On the climate front, member companies managed to collectively reduce carbon dioxide generation by only 2%, falling short of the 2030 target to halve emissions.
Cotton Fibers and Production Volumes
The report attributes the rise in water use to the increased use of cotton fibers. Despite individual products being less carbon and water-intensive, the overall impact is undermined by a 13% increase in textiles placed on the market compared to 2019. The businesses included in the initiative released enough products this past year to provide every British resident with 28 new items.
Recognizing the urgency, WRAP is calling on signatories to embrace circular business models that grow financially without relying on virgin materials and natural resources. While there has been progress with 9% of used item sales reported, WRAP emphasizes the need for repair, rental, reuse, and resale models. Designing products for durability could reduce water consumption by 7.5% and cut carbon emissions by 7%.
In an effort to establish durability and utilization benchmarks, WRAP is collaborating with the Leeds Institute of Textiles and Colour, a three-year initiative. Meanwhile, 28% of Textiles 2030 signatories have already implemented product durability strategies, with an additional 50% in the development phase.
VF Corporation's Progress
In contrast, VF Corporation, the parent company of brands like Timberland and the North Face, reported a 42% reduction in Scope 1 and 2 emissions since 2017, aligning with a 1.5C target. However, a 19% increase in Scope 3 emissions is attributed to pandemic-related logistic challenges and increased product manufacturing.
As the fashion industry grapples with the gap in meeting critical 2030 targets, urgent action is needed to embrace circular economy solutions and design products for longevity. Collaboration, innovation, and transparency are key to mitigating the environmental impact and fostering a more sustainable future for the fashion industry.