The clothing and textile industry has an “ecological footprint which is far from sustainable” due to the 1.7 billion tones of carbon dioxide it emits annually, states a new report from WWF Switzerland.
In the ‘Changing fashion: The clothing and textile industry at the brink of radical transformation’ report, the WWF says that the fashion industry produces “an environmental impact which is far from sustainable”, from carbon dioxide to extensive water use and pollution, as well as the 2.1 billion tonnes of waste it produces annually.
Global consumption of clothes has doubled between 2000 and 2014, and today, on a global average, every person buys 5 kilograms of clothes per year, but in Europe and the USA this figure is as high as 16 kilograms. With overall apparel consumption projected to rise even further, from 62 million tonnes in 2015 to 102 million tonnes in 2030, the WWF is highlighting that environmental impact should be at the forefront of fashion brands and retailers.
The WWF adds: “Doing ‘business as usual’ will not be an option for the industry nor for the planet in the long run. To stay financially successful, companies will find it necessary to reduce their environmental impact and to respect the ecological boundaries of our planet.”
To highlight its concerns it gave an environmental rating to 12 major brands, based on data provided by Oekom research AG, with regards to environmental topics such as climate change, water use and pollution, raw materials and stakeholder engagement and then classified the companies into visionary, ambitious, upper midfield, lower midfield, latecomers/intransparent categories.
WWF ranks top fashion brands on environmental impact
The results showed that none of the surveyed companies was ranked in the highest classification of ‘visionary’, however, Swedish fashion chain H&M was classified as ‘ambitious’.
Nike, Adidas and Mammut were ranked in the ‘upper midfield’, while Hugo Boss, Odlo, Calida and VF Corporation, which includes Timberland and The North Face, ended up in the ‘lower midfield’, and Triumph, Chicorée, PKZ and Tally Weijl were classified into ‘latecomers/intransparent' group, which means that they take very limited action regarding environmental issues, or do not disclose any information.
The report reveals that more than half of the companies have not taken any steps at all to counter climate change, while the WWF added that there were are also “significant gaps” regarding the use of sustainable raw materials, the use of water, and the prevention of water pollution and hazardous substances.
In response the WWF is calling upon the fashion companies to make the following improvements: to apply a strategy to operate within the planet’s ecological boundaries with regards climate change, water management and stewardship, raw materials, joint environmental management in the supply chain, chemicals management, investment, stakeholder engagement and responsibility for public policy, and new business models to decouple consumption from resource use.
The WWF has also stated that consumers can contribute to reducing the industry’s environmental impact by: buying less clothes; simplifying their style and wardrobe; wash, care for and repair their clothes; buy second-hand clothes, swap or rent their outfits, or bring them to a recycling facility; and buy organic, green and high quality items.
In addition, the WWF is calling on consumers to “use their voice” to inform friends, to provide feedback to their preferred brands, to vote on relevant public policy, and to support non-governmental organisations.
Images: courtesy of H&M