According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation , at 1.2 billion tonnes, the production of textiles causes around 10 percent of global CO₂ emissions per year - more than all international flights and all shipping combined. Large quantities of climate-damaging gases are caused by the cultivation and extraction of resources, their processing and transport within the complex and often globally interconnected supply chain.
The OECD Sector Guidance for the garment sector states that "Measuring GHG emissions is a critical first step to reducing the carbon footprint of an enterprise’s activities. It helps an enterprise to assess its impact on the climate and to design cost-effective emission reduction plans.” Companies can measure their greenhouse gas emissions at different levels: In their own immediate operations, in the supply chain and at the product level.
Enterprises are encouraged to work towards measuring the GHG emissions that are a result of their own activities – these may include activities owned or controlled by the enterprise that release emissions straight into the atmosphere (i.e. direct emissions), or the enterprise’s consumption of purchased electricity, heat, steam and cooling (i.e. energy indirect emissions).
Enterprises can measure their full supply chain emissions impact in order to focus their efforts on the greatest GHG reduction opportunities, leading to more sustainable decisions about the enterprise’s activities and the products they buy, sell and produce.
Enterprises can measure the GHG emissions and removals associated with a specific product. GHG product life cycle analysis enables an enterprise to make informed choices to reduce GHG emissions from the products they design, manufacture, sell, purchase or use.
Companies should choose one method of data collection and use it continuously to be able to analyse data over time. If tools are changed, data can be lost and comparability limited.
Choosing fibres and designing products for longevity can significantly reduce emissions. Companies can also reduce emissions by optimising textile finishing, transport and packaging processes.
Greenhouse gas emissions are one of the eleven sector risks that the Partnership companies are looking at in the review process. The Partnership companies are required to take account of their greenhouse gas emissions, set themselves ambitious targets with concrete milestones and a fixed timetable, and implement appropriate climate protection measures.
The Partnership for Sustainable Textiles has been a Supporting Organisation of the Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action since 2018. Since 2021, the Charter serves as a reference framework for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in the Textiles Partnership. It is part of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The aim is to gradually reduce CO₂ emissions along the entire textile value chain. In this way, climate neutrality is to be achieved by 2050 in order to limit climate change to a maximum of 1.5°C. Companies, suppliers and other actors in the textile and fashion industry are to implement measures to achieve this goal. They can be guided by the Climate Action Playbook .
In addition, the textiles partnership member Federal Environment Agency (FEA) published the study "CLOTHES with HOOKS" in October 2021. In the study, the UBA examines the global environmental impact of our consumption of clothing. On 42 pages, the study shows the emissions of greenhouse gases and air pollutants that result from the production of our clothing.
One focus is on water consumption in arid regions for raw materials and the production of textiles. In addition, the use of chemicals in processing is illustrated, as is the life cycle of textiles after use.
Since October 2020, an Expert Group (EG) is working on the topic of climate protection in the Textiles Partnership. It aims to further develop and provide best practices for minimising climate risks in all parts of the supply chain. The about 20 members of the EG also discuss solutions for better measuring and accounting for climate impacts. In addition, the EG is developing information and support materials to help members deal with individual climate risks. Moreover, joint activities are to be launched.
Since greenhouse gas emissions (not only, but also from the textile industry) continue to drive climate change, among other things, its impacts are already tangible and require adaptation measures. Risks due to climate change affect global supply chains differently depending on the region. These include, for example, heavy storms or floods. Such extreme climate events sometimes directly endanger workers. However, they can also destroy production goods and lead to supply chains being temporarily interrupted. This has corresponding consequences for the local people and for the purchasing companies.
A good analysis of potential climate risks along the supply chain is therefore becoming increasingly important for textile companies. Even if climate change mitigation through lower greenhouse gas emissions remains the primary goal, it is necessary to respond to threats that are already occurring. For companies, the Climate Check Guide and the corresponding Climate Check Tool of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action or the Climate Expert Tools (developed by GIZ) offer an introduction. For a more detailed look, organisations and companies are invited to use the guides of the TCFD (Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures).
Further information and tools:
UN Fashion Charter – Handbook for Climate Action
The Playbook for Climate Action (eng.)/Handbuch zum Klimaschutz produced in cooperation with the UN Fashion Charter translates the goals and requirements of the Fashion Charter into practical examples and courses of action. It helps small and medium-sized companies in particular to balance their CO2 emissions and to plan appropriate measures to reduce emissions.
The Milestone Document is a representation of known decarbonisation targets, implementation initiatives and report analysis, compiled to support the Fashion industry’s transition to net zero carbon emissions. The purpose of the document is to generate alignment on short, medium and long-term actions and milestones, to provide a holistic overview of decarbonisation action and milestone tracking and to facilitate collaboration and solutioning between actors towards addressing gaps.
Greenhouse Gas Protocol
The GHG Protocol is a recognised global standard for better measuring and managing greenhouse gas emissions. It offers various tools and online courses on GHG accounting, particularly in Scope 3. It also promotes GHG accounting and reporting as well as implementation, and provides a foundation for other initiatives.
Science Based Targets
The NGO Science Based Targets supports companies in reducing their greenhouse gas emissions. The Paris Climate Agreement on limiting climate change to below 2°C is the guiding principle. The Apparel and Footwear Sector Guide provides guidance to companies in the textile and leather sector on how to set emission reduction targets along the supply chain in Scopes 1-3. The criteria are based on the GHG Protocol.
UBA-Studie „KLEIDER mit HAKEN“
The study "CLOTHES with HOOKS" was part of Federal Environment Agency (FEA)which was published in October 2021, examines the global environmental impact of our consumption of clothing. The study shows the emissions of greenhouse gases and air pollutants, as well as the usage of chemicals and water consumption that result from the production of our clothing.
Assessment of available tools for measuring GHG emissions
To help companies find the right tool for accounting their greenhouse gas emissions, the Expert Group on Climate Action developed an overview document in cooperation with the Öko-Institut: Assessment of available tools for measuring GHG emissions.
Webinar series: Textile Industry and Climate Change
Climate change poses major challenges for the textile industry, while at the same time (legal) requirements are increasing. Four webinars provide a quick yet in-depth overview of key topics such as regulations, risks, adaptation to climate change and how GHG emissions can be captured and reduced. The Partnership for Sustainable Textiles and the Business Scouts for Development are organising the webinar series in cooperation with the Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action.
Guideline for the introduction of climate management from the German Global Compact Network
The guideline "Introduction to Climate Management. Step by step to an effective climate management in companies" serves as a basis and orientation aid for the development of a holistic climate management and is divided into four essential steps:
- Establishment of the greenhouse gas balance,
- Development of climate targets,
- Measures to achieve the objectives, and
- Reporting and communication.
The guideline is particularly relevant for employees of small and medium-sized enterprises who are new to the topic and work independently and without advice on their climate targets. But even larger or more advanced companies will find helpful tips and guidance.
Climate Action Training for the Fashion Industry
The Climate Action Training richtet sich an Zulieferer im Textilsektor, insbesondere in Tier 1 und Tier 2. GIZ FABRIC und der Fashion Industrie Charter for Climate Action haben das Training konzipiert. In fünf Modulen werden Grundlagen zu den Arten von Treibhausgas (THG)-Emissionen, der THG-Bilanzierung, Reporting und Zielsetzung sowie Maßnahmen zur Steigerung der Energieeffizienz und der Nutzung erneuerbarer Energien vermittelt.