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  • Claire Kalikman



Last week McKinsey put out its latest report in collaboration with Global Fashion Agenda exploring the fashion industry’s impacts on climate change, specifically greenhouse-gas emissions. Here’s what we learned:

  1. FASHION EMITS A LOT. The fashion industry was responsible for 2.1 billion metric tons of greenhouse-gas emissions in 2018. That’s significant: about 4 % of the global total. 

  2. IT’S GETTING WORSE. The industry is projected to overshoot its carbon abatement efforts by 50%. According to the report, fashion needs to bring its carbon emissions down to 1.1 billion metric tons per year in order to keep climate change within the 1.5 degrees Celsius change discussed at the Paris Climate agreement. 

  3. IT’S UP TO YOU TOO. Yes, manufacturers and brands need to change. But consumers play a major role as well. To bring carbon emissions down, the McKinsey analysts wrote that 21% of the decarbonization is down to consumer behavior. 

  4. IT’S NOT EVEN THAT EXPENSIVE TO CHANGE. The report states that, “almost 90 % of the measures we identified would cost less than USD $50 per metric ton of GHG emissions abated.” And here’s the really crazy part: 50% of the carbon abatement measures (that is, reducing carbon emissions) would actually save companies money.

So how are we going to change?

  1. COLLABORATE. Banding together will help brands share knowledge as well as supply chain costs and reduce overall waste.

  2. SET AGGRESSIVE GOALS. 61% of carbon abatement could come from the manufacturers. This would come from decarbonizing material production, minimizing waste, and decarbonizing garment manufacturing. Additionally, switching from fossil fuels to renewable energy and improvements in energy efficiency would make a huge difference. 

  3. SWITCH MATERIALS. Brands can reduce their carbon emissions by using more sustainable materials, including recycled fibers, minimizing returns, and cutting off overproduction. If these measures were put in place, McKinsey estimates that 308 million metric tons of carbon, or roughly the carbon emissions of France last year, could be saved by 2030. 

  4. RETHINK THE GROWTH MODEL. With each passing year, there are more people and more people who consume more. We’ve started to treat fashion as disposable. Consumers need to buy less, wear more, upcycle, buy second-hand, and all that good stuff. 

The good news is that a lot of these carbon abatement efforts are possible. You might be interested in reading more about innovative materials, brands that are committed to doing their part, and creating the circular economy. 

You can also listen to our episode with Eva Kruse, CEO of the Global Fashion Agenda.

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