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LONDON – CEOs of the 20 biggest fashion brands in the world have been contacted by Changing Markets and Stand Earth with demands slash their use of synthetic fibres in order to halve the amount of fossil fuel they use in materials by 2030.

Nike, Primark, Patagonia and ASOS are among those called out by the Changing Markets Foundation, which is asking for complete transparency on their use of fossil fuels in the next 12 months – with oil and gas most commonly being used by brands to create synthetic materials such as polyester.

Changing Markets’ research found synthetic fibres represent over two-thirds (69 percent) of all materials used in textiles, requiring more oil than the annual consumption of Spain.

This amount is expected to reach nearly three-quarters by 2030, accounting for double the annual emissions of Australia.

According to Changing Markets, brands such as Nike and Inditex, the parent group of Zara and Massimo Dutti, both use 10 million gallons of oil each year to produce their garments, while other brands “fail to transparently disclose their reliance on synthetics.”

As part of its Synthetics Anonymous report, Changing Markets surveyed 46 of the top fashion houses on their use of synthetic materials. The research found some brands have reported almost 90 per cent of their collection as being produced from fossil fuels.

Of the companies surveyed, only one company has made clear commitments to phase out the use of synthetic fibres from their collections: VF Corp brand, Icebreaker, has committed to phasing out all synthetics, including recycled synthetics, by 2023.

George Harding-Rolls, campaigns adviser at the Changing Markets Foundation said: “The fashion industry uses a significant amount of oil and gas to produce cheap fast fashion garments, yet its addiction to fossil fuels flies under the radar.

“Each year, the production of synthetic fibres, such as polyester, produces the same amount of greenhouse gas emissions as 180 coal power plants and this is set to nearly double by 2030. These same brands will be at COP26 profiling how committed they are to stopping climate change – today we are calling out their hypocrisy.”

As COP26 starts, Changing Markets and Stand Earth are increasing the pressure on brands to commit to cutting absolute emissions by at least 55 per cent by 2030, and to cut the use of synthetic materials from fossil fuels by 50 per cent by 2030, warning that without significant reduction of reliance on petrochemicals, we will fail climate targets.

Changing Markets is also calling for brands to provide full, publicly accessible, and transparent information on suppliers, and the amount of fossil fuel derived fibres they use by 2022 and to develop plans to phase out both virgin synthetics, and recycled versions where no technology exists to recycle the material further, such as recycled polyester.


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