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SAN FRANCISCO – A new study shows supply chain emissions for most of the world’s leading fashion brands are going in the wrong direction to meet climate targets. Researchers tracked major signatories to the UN Fashion Industry Charter. Of the ten companies assessed only one, Levi’s, is projected to reduce its supply chain emissions by 55 per cent compared with 2018 levels, in line with keeping warming below 1.5C.

Other companies assessed were American Eagle Outfitters, Fast Retailing, Gap Inc., H&M, Inditex, Kering, Lululemon, Nike and VF Corp.

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The report is timely, coming close to COP27. It also illustrates the huge challenge brands and retailers face in decoupling growth from CO2 emissions.

The report claims two of the brands assessed – Nike and Inditex (Zara) – reported manufacturing emissions of close to 10 million tons CO2e. This, the report claims, is “the equivalent of more than 2 million gas-powered cars on the road per company.”

“While many brands showed a ‘COVID dip’ in emissions in 2020, eight out of ten brands’ supply chain emissions climbed again in 2021, putting them further off-track to meet their emissions goals,” the report states.

Lululemon saw the steepest increase in its supply chain emissions, at over 60 per cent growth in just one year.

Last year, Stand.earth released a similar analysis of nine of the biggest signatory brands of the UN Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action, comparing their supply chain emissions trajectory with a 1.5 degree pathway. The analysis found that unless they make significant changes, all nine would fail to reduce emissions by 55 per cent by 2030. The new report holds the companies accountable to any progress they’ve made in the last year. 

“If climate action is a catwalk, most of these brands are still looking for the dressing room. The data is clear, the leading fashion brands need to step up and do more to lower their carbon emissions. At COP26 all of these brands increased their commitment under the UN Fashion Charter, promising to halve their emissions by 2030. Yet despite some small signs of progress, most aren’t just failing, they’re actually getting worse,” Rachel Kitchin, corporate climate campaigner for Stand.earth said. “These findings make it worryingly clear that those brands aren’t acting to decarbonize their supply chains, where the vast majority of climate-harming emissions come from.”

“Fossil fuels have no place in a rapidly warming world, and certainly no place in our closets,” Gary Cook, corporate campaign director for Stand.earth said. “Fashion brands must move to rapidly decarbonize their manufacturing by committing to 100 per cent renewable energy for their supply chains, and phasing out fossil fuels as a source of energy, fabric and fuel.”

The report states that the past year has seen some signs of progress. Two of the brands assessed, Levi’s and VF Corp, are showing a consistent downward emissions trajectory, while Kering and H&M have both recently made commitments to phase out fossil fuels. Since COP26, H&M has committed to phase out onsite coal by 2025 and to transition their supply chain to 100 per cent renewable electricity by 2030. The report adds: “However, even those with industry-leading commitments are still failing to provide transparency on their progress. To ensure accountability, H&M and others need to provide updates on their progress phasing out coal and fossil fuels.”

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