Companies making fashion sustainable

6 businesses focused on tackling the climate change issue

Lisa Mckelvey

Lisa Mckelvey

by Lisa Mckelvey

Table of contents

Making Sustainability Fashionable

We all wear clothes… right?! For anyone who doesn’t, kudos to you for doing your utmost to have a very practical impact on global warming! For those of us who do wear clothes on a day-to-day basis… How often do you stop to think about where they come from, what they’re made from or that your favorite cotton cosy tee might have resulted in the emission of 2.1kg of carbon dioxide during production? 

We’re becoming more and more aware of the huge impact the fashion industry has on climate change and more aware of the need to address the issue. Fortunately, some leaders in the fashion industry are too. “Sustainability’ has almost become a marketing buzzword in the industry over the past few years and it’s undeniable that green-washing is a problem to overcome but there are a number of companies who are genuinely working hard towards becoming more environmentally friendly and sustainable. It’s become a mantra and a mission for them and some forward thinking organizations have even set those goals at their inception. Here are some companies who have placed the climate change question at the fore of their operations…

Allbirds

Apparel and shoe company, Allbirds, is vocal and forthcoming about its sustainability goals with its eventual aim being a completely carbon negative business. The company has set a 2025 deadline for its goals and have published a detailed a to-do list. Their aim, as they put it, is to ‘leave the environment cleaner than they found it’. They’re already carbon neutral and are edging towards becoming carbon negative. They’re very conscious about taking detailed inventories of their emissions in order to reduce them and they document it publicly. They use natural and recycled materials in their products wherever possible and offset the emissions they’re responsible for at present.  

Allbirds have already put solid initiatives in place to prove their commitment towards achieving their goals…

1. They became carbon neutral.
2. They’re placing an emphasis on natural and recycled materials and an easing out of the use of manufactured products.
3. They’ve developed a plant-based leather alternative, they’re using a material derived from discarded snow crab shells in their shirts and they use yarns that are made from the eucalyptus tree and merino wool.
4. Allbirds have also introduced carbon footprint labeling – ‘like a nutritional label for your shoes.’
5. They’ve announced partnerships with other sustainably minded companies… they’re currently working with Adidas to create the lowest carbon footprint performance shoe of all time. 

Allbirds ‘nutritional carbon footprint’ label

Patagonia 

Patagonia places a big emphasis on sustainability and is very vocal about it. The company wants to reach carbon neutrality by 2025 across its entire business, including its supply chain. They’ve publicly outlined how they plan to achieve this. 64% of the materials they use are made with recycled materials. They’ve got various initiatives focused on production that donations harm the environment.

1. Their blue sign system… This system works within the supply chain to approve products that are safe for the environment and also for workers and customers.
2. The company focuses on the traceability of the materials, a method they use to minimize the possibility of less sustainable alternatives being swapped out.
3. They use sustainable dye and recycling methods wherever possible.
4. They’re currently testing regenerative organic practices with cotton farmers in India.
5. All of Patagonia’s electricity needs in the US are met with renewable electricity. 

Adidas

When it comes to sustainability, Adidas’ focus is on reducing plastic waste. They’re committed to reducing their overall carbon footprint but have also pledged to use 100% recycled polyester in their products by 2024. They’re sourcing more sustainably produced cotton for use in their products and have released a line of sneakers made from high performance recycled materials. They’re changing their production processes to allow for a circular system whereby products will be purchased, used and then returned and recycled thus reducing the amount of plastic waste being produced from those products. As mentioned above, they’re also partnering with Allbirds to develop a sports performance shoe with the lowest ever carbon footprint. They are making progress in reducing their carbon footprint but their commitment is to reduce Greenhouse Gas emissions by 30% from both its’ own activities and the activities of its suppliers by 2030 and to be carbon neutral by 2050, when compared to 2017. It’s a slower path to carbon neutrality than some but nonetheless it’s a step in the right direction

Levis

Levis are making headway into improving the sustainability of their company. They have set solid goals… some around the reduction of emissions and others around ensuring that their products are more sustainability produced. They’ve committed to reducing their greenhouse gas emissions by 90% in their owned-and-operated facilities and by 40% across their global supply chain by 2025, while shifting to 100% renewable electricity in their owned and operated facilities also by 2025. They have pledged their support for various sustainability initiatives, projects and policies to tackle the impact of the fashion industry on the climate change issue, a list of which can be found here. They’ve also set up an initiative called, ‘Levis SecondHand’ where you can buy used previously bought items of Levis clothing. Recyclable clothing is becoming a trend and we welcome it!  

Gap Inc

(Old Navy, Gap, Banana Republic, Athleta Brands)

Not an outright leader in the sustainable fashion race but a solid competitor nonetheless, in 2019, GAP Inc joined 32 other apparel and textile companies to sign the ‘Fashion Pact’ committing to address three priority areas with significant environmental impacts across oceans, climate and biodiversity placing sustainability as a priority within the brand. As a company it committed to reducing its globally owned and operated GHG emissions by 50% last year and also to use 100% clean energy by 2030. The company has also committed to sourcing and using 100% sustainable cotton by 2025. You can find the company’s climate goals here

H&M

H and M want to halve their carbon emissions by 2030 with a targeted reduction of 20% by 2025. Their focus in terms of sustainability is in becoming what it terms ‘circular and climate positive’. Their aim is to be ‘climate negative’ (moving beyond carbon neutrality) across the groups entire supply chain by 2040. It sees an emissions neutral value chain as extremely important and the company wants to see its products purchased, used and recycled. Again, recyclable fashion is quickly becoming the fashion forward way of thinking. H&M is working openly on achieving their goals. 64.5% of their materials are made from recycled or ‘more sustainable sources’. They’re expanding their ‘circular offerings’ to customers by offering a 15% discount on bags of clothing that are returned to the store for reuse or recycling. They’ve set a goal to use 100% recycled or sustainably sourced material by 2030 and 30% by 2025. They’ve implemented a 14% reduction in packaging overall with a 24% reduction in the use of plastic packaging specifically. 

The fashion industry can be fickle. Trends change seasonally, but with large companies like those mentioned above placing climate change at the forefront of their mission it places an onus of responsibility on others to follow suit. However, the biggest responsibility lies on us, the consumer, to ensure that we support those who want to do good in the world! 

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