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Re-inventing To Fashion Zero | Avoid Climate Disaster

| 4 min read

Two numbers are worth remembering when it comes to climate change. “Fifty” and “Zero”. Fifty is where we are, we add 51 billion tons of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere every year globally and zero is where we want to go. Well said by Bill Gates in his recent book How To Avoid A Climate Disaster. In this edit, we look at how can we re-invent fashion towards Fashion Zero (a state of greenhouse emissions zero in the fashion business). You can check our earlier panel/transcript on sustainability and fashion economics here.

While the global community is working towards carbon zero, as a part of the fashion community, we can look at how we can become Fashion zero.

Anatomy Of Fashion’s Carbon Footprint

The fashion industry produces around 10% of total carbon emissions by human activity and 20% of wastewater (source: bbc).  As per UN Estimate, a single pair of jeans requires a kilogram of cotton. And because cotton tends to be grown in dry environments, producing this kilo requires about 7,500–10,000 liters of water. That’s about 10 years’ worth of drinking water for one person.

Over 70% of the greenhouse gas emissions originate are from upstream production. The infographic below is from Mckinsey’s report on Fashion On Climate.

fashion green house gas emission anatomy
Green House Gas Emissions – Apparel & Footwear 2018, Mckinsey Report

The total emissions from the apparel and footwear industries are estimated at 2.1 billion tonnes per year.

Global CO2 Emissions Per Capita

The richer nations contribute significantly to global emissions. The per capita emissions across the countries look like this. There is a need for all of us to work towards minimizing additions to avoid a global catastrophe.

Source: Wikipedia

Another view of energy consumption vs income per capita across nations.

GDP per capita vs energy consumption

Where Are We Headed?

As per the Mckinsey study,

Despite efforts to reduce emissions, the industry is on a trajectory that will exceed the 1.5-degree pathway to mitigate climate change set out by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and ratified in the 2015 Paris agreement. To reach this pathway, fashion would need to cut its GHG emissions to 1.1 billion metric tons of CO2 equivalent by 2030. But our growth calculations, adjusted to take into account the likely impact of COVID-19, show that the industry is set to overshoot its target by almost twofold, with emissions of 2.1 billion metric tons of CO2 equivalent in 2030, unless it adopts additional abatement actions

path way to 1.5 degrees

An Ignored Dimension To Fashion Emissions | Path to Fashion Zero

As mentioned earlier, most of the emissions are in the upstream chain in fashion. Even before the product hits the warehouse, we have emitted 70% of the gasses into the atmosphere.

A lot of content on the web talks about renewable sources of energy as a means to curtail emissions. This is absolutely relevant and must be done. A fact in the fashion industry that contributes significantly is the sheer wastage we create to meet the demand. Over 50 billion garments are wasted/ produced in surplus over the demand. This in itself is over 1/3rd of the total supply.

If we work towards reducing this supply-demand gap, we will be well on our way to the target pathway in the Mckinsey infographic above. This is all the more critical considering the “production” of products consumes the most energy and generates emissions.

As a brand or retailer, this happens outside your walls and the only way is to create intelligent supply planning.

Intelligent supply planning starts with intelligent demand understanding. This is followed by intelligent product creation, intelligent demand planning and distribution.

One of the reasons demand understanding is challenging is that demand information is private. All the while, the fashion industry is using supply information to forecast. A fundamental shift is needed. Hence we at Stylumia created one of its kind demand sensing engine powering hyper-accurate forecasts. Check out our demand sensing solution here. A published article on how Stylumia is enabling a waste reduction in the industry here.

What Can We Do As Consumers?

This is always a great question for any transformation.

This quote is very powerful

The Most Sustainable Garment Is What Is Already In Our Wardrobe


Just being conscious of what we have and use them more before buying a new one can contribute significantly to emissions. Just extending the life of what we have by 2 times will save 49% of emissions. Also, we can give our old clothes to others in need (ensuring they are used).

Consuming responsibly is a huge driver of a greener planet for the future.

If we do not aim at zero, we won’t move aggressively towards the 1.5-degree target. With advanced technologies and cutting-edge innovation, we can look at a future where we will absorb CO2 from the atmosphere more than what we emit.

Why not Carbon Negative?

It is not going to be easy. We can if we want to put all our hands and heads together.

Let us all leave a greener planet than we got for future generations.

We must act now!

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