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BOSTON – The global apparel industry is responsible for 6.7 per cent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions according to a landmark study. Researchers crunched key data metrics relating to the impact of different stages of apparel production and found fashion’s environmental footprint is increasing fast. Apparel’s climate change impact rose by 35 per cent from 2005 to 2016 and will increase by another 49 per cent by 2030 if the industry continues down its current path.

NGO ClimateWorks Foundation commissioned environmental sustainability experts Quantis to produce the research, which measures apparel’s environmental impact across seven stages, from fibre production/material extraction to end-of-life. Indicators such as climate change, freshwater withdrawal and human health are all assessed.

The report’s overriding message is that continuing along the current path could spell disaster for the planet. Thus the authors suggest the apparel industry needs to consider such issues as energy use, “disruptive reduction,” and “design for the future.” The report also suggests that a shift to a circular economy model and more recycling will not solve fashion’s environmental woes.

Quantis senior sustainability consultant Annabelle Stamm said: “There is increasing pressure on fashion brands to demonstrate their sustainability. We have seen many assumptions being made about the actual environmental performance of the industry and its value chain, where the hotspots lie, and what the potential solutions may be. We knew fashion’s impact was major, but we didn’t have the science-based metric view of what this really meant. This study enables us to answer some of these questions, bust some of our collective assumptions, and provide guidance to those committed to act.”

“Understanding environmental impacts, particularly on climate, is also necessary for fashion brands committing to the Science-Based Targets initiative to get their business aligned with the global objective to limit warming to 2°C,” states the report.

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