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 .
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.
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.
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.