International nonprofit environmental organization Stand.earth has released its annual Fossil-Free Fashion Scorecard, which shows how companies are failing in their efforts to tackle climate change. According to Stand.earth the scorecard reveals that fashion companies are not doing enough to move from climate commitments to actions at the scale desperately needed.
The scorecard measures the performance of 47 global fashion companies* across five areas: climate commitments and transparency; renewable and energy-efficient manufacturing; renewable energy advocacy; low-carbon materials; and greener shipping. The results show that sportswear brands are leading the race, with companies such as Mammut ranking highest overall, followed by Nike, and a tie between Asics, Puma, Levi’s, and VF Corp.
One of the key findings of the report is that companies are not setting strong enough climate targets, putting the industry on a trajectory far surpassing the 1.5C pathway recommended by the U.N. Paris Agreement. Only three companies assessed — Asics, Mammut, and REI — have committed to slashing absolute emissions across the supply chain by 55% or greater by 2030 (the goal recommended by the U.N.).
The industry continues to rely heavily on coal to power its manufacturing processes, contributing to rising climate emissions and air pollution in countries like Vietnam and Bangladesh. Few companies reported meaningful steps toward financial incentives or direct investments for suppliers to purchase renewable energy, but seven companies assessed — Mammut, Nike, Asics, Levi’s, adidas, Esprit, and PUMA — ranked highly in this section for setting renewable energy targets in their supply chains or working with manufacturing partners to phase out coal-fired boilers, Stand.earth states. A broad range of companies loudly tout efforts to deploy renewable energy in their headquarters and stores, but these decarbonization efforts only account for a small percentage of their climate pollution.
Furthermore, companies are not doing enough to seek better access to renewables from governments in countries where factories are located. Despite this lack of progress, advocacy opposing new investment in coal-fired electricity was an important bright spot, with several companies signing on to letters to Cambodia cautioning against plans to increase coal-fired power and to Vietnam seeking a pilot program for purchasing renewables. Notably, H&M, Levi’s, and VF Corp signed both letters, contributing to their high ranking in this section.
Stand.earth also marks that many companies have recently announced “sustainable material” commitments to phase out virgin polyester or other fossil fuel fabrics such as nylon but are doubling down on fibers recycled from plastic waste, which prevents them from fulfilling any promises of circularity as these fibers are ultimately destined for the landfill. Several sportswear and fast fashion companies assessed — including Lululemon, Under Armour, Zara, and Uniqlo — will face major challenges in transitioning to low-carbon materials since fossil fuel-derived fabrics like polyester make up a large proportion of their materials mix.
When it comes to shipping, the fashion industry is one of the largest customers of ocean and air shipping, which contributes to significant air pollution worldwide. With the industry’s shipping needs expected to increase dramatically in the coming decades, it’s imperative for companies to advocate for zero-emissions vessels and infrastructure. Fewer than half, only 20 companies assessed — including Adidas, Mammut, Nike, and Puma — included shipping in their supply chain emissions reduction targets.
“The runway is getting shorter for companies to move from commitments to actions and take the steps necessary to drastically reduce their greenhouse gas emissions in the next decade. If fashion companies truly care about solving the climate crisis, they need to phase out coal power from their supply chains and say goodbye to fossil fuel fabrics like polyester,” said Muhannad Malas, senior climate campaigner at Stand.earth.
*The 47 companies assessed by Stand.earth in the scorecard were chosen for their participation in various climate and sustainability initiatives. They are: Adidas, Aldo, Allbirds, American Eagle Outfitters, Arc'teryx, Armani, Asics, Boohoo, Burberry, C&A, Capri Holdings, Chanel, Columbia, Eileen Fisher, Esprit, Everlane, Gant, Gap, Guess, H&M, Hugo Boss, Inditex, Kering, Levi’s, Lululemon, LVMH, M&S, Mammut, MEC, New Balance, Nike, On Running, Patagonia, Pentland, Prada, Primark, Puma, PVH, Ralph Lauren, REI, Salomon, Salvatore Ferragamo, SKFK, Under Armour, Uniqlo, Vaude Sports, VF Corp.