Well in 2023 as we are, reports with data gathered from 2022 are continuing their slow and steady rollout. And, as they do, a picture of where we’re at – and a comparable image of where we want to be – are starting to take shape. Thus far, we’ve heard from various brands and bodies, including the likes of Nike and the Material Innovation Initiative, about their full-year metrics and more qualitative findings.
Now it’s the turn of the non-profit Apparel Impact Institute (Aii) to deliver its findings on CO2 and wastage reduction, cost-effectiveness and the potential scalability of its various programs.
An organization established in 2017 with a vision to create a “transformed apparel, footwear, and textile industry that has a positive impact on people and planet,” the Aii works to “identify, fund and scale proven quality solutions to accelerate positive impact in the industry” – essentially, providing infrastructure and funds where they’re most needed and where they can have the most powerful results.
Created by the coming-together of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC), the Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH), Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC) and Target Corporation, the Aii is an effective amalgam of industry leaders from the overlapping worlds of environmental protect and industrial sustainability.
With this in mind, it’s fitting that the report itself opens not with self-congratulation but with a warning – or, at least, a reminder that the global clothing industry is worth $1,300,000,000,000 USD, that 14 items of clothing are producer per person every year, and that 92,000,000 tons of clothings ends up in landfill annually, leaving less than 15% to be recycled.
The report also provides a stark statement in terms of what’s required to set things right.
Noting that, “Using data from the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, Higg, and Textile Exchange, WRI and Aii estimated apparel sector emissions to be 1.025 Gt of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2019, or roughly 2 percent of annual global greenhouse gas emissions,” the Aii report follows this by telling us that, “To limit global warming to 1.5 degree Celsius, in alignment with the Paris Agreement and science-based targets, the apparel sector’s emissions should at least reduce to 0.565 Gt CO2 emissions by 2030, representing a 45% reduction and achieving net zero emissions by 2050.” That’s a huge reduction for an industry still in thrall to overproduction and outdated practices.
That Aii report, though, is not an overall State of the Industry missive – it’s a document of the change affected by the Institute, its programs and its partners. To this end, Aii notes the full-year 2022 saw an total green house gas emissions saving equal to 12,127 cars removed from the roads, energy savings equal to 3,504 washing machines not used, and water savings equal to almost 714 olympic sized swimming pools. All of which was delivered across a cohort of 380 factories, 29 brands and 1 manufacturer involved in Aii programs.
Pushing forward with its aims, Aii was also able to increase the number of regions served by its Target Setting programs to 28 – a move which will increase availability of Aii programs and funding to new locations, helping to distribute both funds and environmental benefits more equally. The Institute also launched the “groundbreaking $250M Fashion Climate Fund which has the potential to unlock $2B of blended capital,” once again improving Aii’s capability to bring change to the industry at a systemic and grass-roots level.
According to data from the report, “Aii programs cost $17 per ton of CO2e reduced compared to an average of $67 per ton for alternative decarbonization strategies (i.e. solar thermal, offshore wind, etc.) – attributable to the strength and effectiveness of Clean By Design programs.” These kinds of numbers may not seem attention-grabbing in the same way as the billions of dollars mentioned above or the actual environmental impact metrics, but they are essential. Proving the financial efficacy and stability of decarbonization is a huge barrier to industry-wide adoption, and the more data points to success in that area the harder it becomes for corporations to deny or use as a shield to protect their status quo.
This report is just a small snapshot of industry-wide impact, in both the positive and negative aspects; a single piece of a much larger image which, nonetheless, shows us what is possible, what is actively being pursued, and what has yet to be achieved.
You can read the full thing and find out more about the Aii’s work over on the non-profit’s official website. And, if you’re interested in hearing more on the fashion industry’s global impact, consider subscribing to the FUTUREVVORLD newsletter via the form at the bottom of the page.