Climate change in the Apparel industry – is it simply down to design change?

The term “carbon offsetting” has been around for a while, but what is it? Simply put, it’s a way for companies to offset their carbon emissions by buying carbon credits that cancels out the carbon they effectively create in order to help them achieve their target of net-zero emissions. With the support of the Science Based Targets alignment to the Paris Agreement, companies can set targets to reduce greenhouse emissions through their supply chains and operations. 

Currently there are challenges here, especially within the apparel industry whose operations and supply chain cross many geographical locations and where tiered suppliers are not always known. There are also challenges around acquiring the correct data, from the sourced material through to transportation and then to the end user. Without this clarity, it is hard to justify what needs to be reduced in the value chain. In the case of the apparel industry, a restructure of the system will need to be addressed to allow for a more circular approach to be adopted.

Financing will be key to this change, as currently most circular models involve the process of recycling. But this cost cannot be at the expense of ‘style’. Furthermore, policies need to be clear to support the changes that are required within the industry to support the reduction of emissions. In the meantime, the fastest way is still to buy offsets mainly to achieve carbon neutrality goals, which companies like Gucci do annually. These offsets normally support investments in renewable energies. Despite the positive effects of reducing impacts on climate change, it does not necessarily reduce greenhouse gas from the atmosphere, which can only be achieved by changing internal operations and the supply chain. 

Ultimately this is a win-win scenario as the aim would be to reduce what is spent on offsets and instead create internal efficiencies. How can this be achieved? An overhaul of design at both the macro and micro level would be required. From the systems and processes right down to the garment design.  to keep it at its highest value for the longest time. Shifting the focus away from marketing and back to designers will create a higher valued garment lasting longer, thus moving away from the disposable model that we have had for so long.