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SAN FRANCISCO – New research suggests the net zero commitments of fashion brands are not aligned with guidelines laid down by the UN at COP27. The UN secretary general recently charged an expert group to define what a net-zero commitment should look like. The UN’s High Level Expert Group (HLEG) on Net Zero Emissions Commitment released guidance at COP27.

Analysis was carried out on the climate commitments of brands including American Eagle, UNIQLO, Gap, H&M, Zara, Kering, Levi’s, lululemon, Nike and VF Corporation. Stand.earth compared their current commitments against the HLEG guidance in three key areas: climate ambition, phasing out fossil fuels-transitioning to renewable energy, and transparency and accountability.

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It found net zero work is is not stretching into brands’ value chains, where the vast majority of their GHG emissions are buried.

“While brands are embracing renewable energy in their own operations, there’s a large implementation gap when it comes to supply chain fossil fuel phase-out,” the report claims. “Brands are failing to provide supply chain transparency essential for accountability to their targets.”

“If companies want to prove they’re not just greenwashing they need to follow the net zero guidelines set out by the HLEG and be the carbon reduction leaders they pretend to be,” Gary Cook, Corporate Campaigns Director at Stand.earth said. “We’re seeing a lot of greenwashing from the fashion industry because they know consumers want sustainable and ethical products, but they need to show how they are moving off fossil fuels, and prove they’re not just all talk.”

The NGO found just two out of ten brands (H&M, Kering) have set emissions reduction targets of at least 50 per cent that cover their supply chains

Of the brands that have set supply chain emissions targets, none are including all areas of their upstream emissions without exclusions.

Despite having agreed to a net zero target by signing onto the UN Fashion Charter, only half of the brands analysed (H&M, Zara, Kering, American Eagle, VF Corp) have released their own public net-zero pledge that has been validated by a third party, the Science Based Target Initiative (SBTi).

The HLEG also identified interim targets as key to a consistent and urgent approach to cutting emissions, but only four brands (H&M, Nike, Levi and Kering) have set emissions targets before 2030.

The study also found that only Kering and H&M have committed to 100 per cent renewable energy across their supply chain by 2030, despite energy decarbonization being key to cutting their emissions.

Notes the report: “None of the brands analyzed have set a target to remove fossil fuel-derived materials such as polyester or nylon from their product lines by 2030. Fabrics made from crude oil and fossil gas account for roughly 60 per cent of the material inputs in today’s apparel, and represent between 15-20 per cent of the fashion industry’s emissions, with climate and human health implications at every stage of production. Recent research by Changing Markets, Stand, and Zero Waste Alliance has linked polyester fabric used by many global brands including Zara and H&M to shipments of oil imported from Russia, indirectly funding Russia’s illegal war in Ukraine.

“Despite their Fashion Charter pledges to phase out coal in factories by 2030, only half of the brands assessed (H&M, Zara, lululemon, VF Corp, American Eagle) have set independent thermal coal phase-out targets, with H&M setting a 2025 target.”

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