The fashion sector is a significant contributor to climate change, which impacts directly on nature and biodiversity.
What’s going on?
Climate change and biodiversity loss are challenges so closely integrated they are impossible to separate.
Positively impact on one and both benefit; negatively impact on one and both lose out.
When it comes to climate change, the global fashion industry was responsible for 4% of the world’s total greenhouse gases emissions in 2018 – equivalent to the combined annual greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of France, Germany, and the UK. [source]
Raw material production accounts for a considerable proportion of the fashion industry’s collective emissions, particularly when non-renewable energy sources are relied upon.
An estimated 70% of the industry’s emissions come from upstream activities, such as energy-intensive raw material production and fabric and yarn preparation.
Between 2000 and 2015, global clothing production approximately doubled while the average number of times a garment is worn before it is disposed of decreased by almost 40%.
If fashion continues on its current path, it could use more than 26% of the global carbon budget associated with a 2°C pathway by 2050, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation predicts.
- The global fashion industry emitted around 2.1 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases in 2018. 
- 52% of fashion’s greenhouse gases come from raw material production and fabric and yarn preparation. 
- Producing a single pair of jeans emits as much greenhouse gas as driving a car for more than 80 miles – with dyeing and finishing processes a large contributor. 
- CO2 emissions for polyester clothing are nearly three times higher than for cotton. 
- A polyester shirt has more than double the carbon footprint of a cotton shirt – 5.5 kg vs 2.1 kg CO2e. 
- Around 70 million barrels of oil a year are used to make polyester fibres in our clothes. 
Getting nature positive
Reducing the fashion industry’s contribution to climate change – and, in turn, lessening its negative impact on nature and biodiversity – is a major challenge.
Yet there is a host of nature positive actions – some simple – that fashion companies can take.
Simply doubling the number of times a garment is worn, for example, could lower greenhouse gases emissions by 44%.[source]
A nature positive approach to agriculture that aims to rehabilitate and enhance natural ecosystems, meanwhile, can help reduce the negative impact fashion has on land.
Farmers producing fibres used by Patagonia, Eileen Fisher, Burberry, and Kering Group (owner of Gucci, Saint Laurent, and other major brands) are now starting to adopt new approaches within their farming to capture carbon – helping to lower CO2 levels – and improve biodiversity.
Such nature positive tactics are now being used to produce raw materials used for fashion such as hemp, flax, bamboo, and cotton and to raise cattle, goats, and sheep.
An important longer-term shift will be for fashion companies to switch from using fossil fuels to renewable energy in their supply chain.
This and other steps fashion brands must take to reduce their emissions rapidly – including setting ambitious and transparent climate commitments, sourcing lower carbon and longer lasting materials, and reducing the climate impacts of shipping – are detailed in a recent report by Stand.earth.[source]
Inspired by steps fashion companies are already taking, we’ve compiled suggested actions to help you on your journey to getting nature positive.