How to decarbonise your organisation
How to Decarbonise your organisation
Hosted by Fashion Declares’ Founder Safia Minney and with a brilliant panel of experts in the field. Fashion Declares is a bottom-up movement that helps to campaign for a more regenerative fashion system.
- Nishanth Chopra of Oshadi
- Alicia Thew of Green Element
- Debbie Luffman of ThinkCircular
- Beba Greer of Reformation
- Tony Burns of ACS Clothing
Safia kicked off by contextualising the need to reduce GHG emissions to avert climate and social collapse. The global fashion industry is responsible for over 2 billion tonnes of GHG emissions, between 2-4% of global GHG emissions (The State of Fashion 2018 – McKinsey & Company)
Shockingly, on our current trajectory that is likely to grow to 25% of total GHG emissions by 2050. Safia continued to emphasise the importance of cutting emissions, across all sectors, and how this webinar will help participants understand where to start.
Despite the global COP conferences, C02 levels are growing at an alarming rate. We are heading for 2 degrees or more of global heating, largely fuelled by the world’s largest banks who have invested over three trillion dollars in the fossil fuel industry since the Paris Agreement in 2015.
As global temperatures continue to climb, we are experiencing more frequent extreme weather events, more land rendered uninhabitable, ecosystem and biodiversity collapse, seriously impacting food and water security worldwide. The IPCC report states that this will result in over 3.5 billion people being forced to migrate by 2040 due to lack of food and livelihoods (IPCC Report).
Safia went on, to emphasise the injustice of the climate crisis. Those primarily responsible in the global north are being least affected whilst the global south bears the brunt of this crisis.
The UK government has been asked by their own advisors to prepare for a 4 degree warming, which is simply not tenable with human life as it is today. “Business and citizens are absolutely key for pushing for government regulations and action” Safia asserted, “to avert these disasters that are being predicted by the science.”
Thirty months is the time we have left to rapidly reduce these carbon emissions (The Guardian), Safia reminded the audience. Although we often discuss 2030 as a deadline, just over two years is more likely all the time we have.
Nishanth Chopra, Oshadi
As fashion companies’ emissions are generally in scope 3, their supply chains and how their materials are produced are key. Safia welcomed Nishanth Chopra to explain how low impact fabrics and regenerative farming can be part of the solution.
Nishanth Chopra showed us around his organic farm in South India. Walking us through the processes of nurturing the soil through no till farming techniques and compost production with no synthetic chemicals. Composting methods include the process of collecting the manure and urine from the cows which graze their farm. He walked us through the companion crops growing alongside each other, hydrated through a drip irrigation system which saves 60-70% of the water.
Nature-based solutions like these are crucial to decarbonisation. Carbon drawdown and regenerative agriculture is key to building healthy soil and sequestering carbon.
Nishanth introduced Oshadi, which started as a contemporary womenswear brand, and “out of curiosity” started finding the solutions. Oshadi began to look at how to weave in a better way to use less energy, use hand-weaving – which is carbon neutral, compared with using power looms – and relying on solar energy for their spinning.
“We wanted to somehow restore the ancient Indian farming and textiles systems,” Nishanth continued. Not knowing a lot about carbon sequestration when they began, he returned to a simpler system of farming and textiles. However, as they moved into these practices, they began to realise this was regenerative farming, and became aware of the benefits it has to the land, people and the climate.
One acre of each of Oshadi’s farms sequesters up to five tonnes of carbon. Nishanth emphasised the difficulty in gathering these results through testing, but noted that you can also see changes in other ways – “are the birds coming back? Are the bees coming back? How porous is the soil?”
“We learnt so much from old communities and ancient practices, and through trial and error we created a seed-to-sew supply chain.”
Oshadi worked backwards, starting as a brand, and then realising they wanted to make a new system and supply chain. Oshadi works with other brands that share the same values, to create a community to catalyse change at scale.
Nishanth spoke again on the importance of community in that “there can be a single-mindedness and individuality in business, which can be good in creative ways, but when you work as a collective you are part of the same thing. You can’t think just as individuals when you’re working with nature; that goes against nature.”
“Regenerative practices aren’t just about agriculture, they’re about your mindset. How do you treat others, how do you treat the farmers…how do you interact with nature, plants, cotton?” Nishanth spoke on the relationship between nature and farming needing to be “not an extraction but an exchange”.
The key, Nishanth concluded, is “starting somewhere. Everyone has their role to play in this…as a consumer, as a buyer, and as a brand.”
Alicia Thew, Green Element
Alicia, started with laying the groundwork for understanding scopes 1, 2 and 3 and how fashion companies can start to map and reduce their carbon emissions.
Alicia explained how a carbon footprint is measured in tonnes of GHG emissions and converted into a carbon dioxide equivalent, which is a single unit which expresses the carbon footprint as a single number of all the GHG combined.
Emissions are categorised into 3 scopes:
Scope 1: All direct emissions, eg gas, on-sight heating from gas/fuel, vehicle fuel, etc.
Scope 2: Indirect emissions, electricity, heat, steam, etc.
Scope 3: Accounts for all other indirect emissions that occur in the value chain.
Alicia explained how to get started measuring your baseline carbon footprint. “Consider your own operations” – this is how you can achieve most impact. For example, in a fashion company for scope 1 and 2, this could be energy use in offices, warehouses or shops as well as fuel used in delivery vehicles. “Scope 3 can be more complicated” Alicia explained, “because this incorporates your whole supply chain.”
Look carefully at raw materials and processing, garment manufacturing, transport and distribution, packaging, digital footprint, waste, and water. Additionally, to consider the impact of the garments themselves after purchase – their lifespan, impacts, and disposal.
Green Element calculation example.
“Once you have identified your carbon footprint, you can start thinking about setting science-based targets, to align with 1.5 degrees global warming”, Alicia continued. These targets are “robust” Alicia emphasised, and key to “future proofing your business.”
Alicia flagged the Apparel and Footwear – Science Based Targets , which includes two main ways to reduce carbon emissions:
- Aggressively deploy energy efficiency and renewable energy across the value chain.
- Substitute to materials with a lower environmental impact such as low carbon, organic textiles (depending on how they are sourced).
Alicia also discussed consumer behaviour as a key factor to consider, trialling rental, re-sale and repair is a really good way to use clothing in a more sustainable way.
Debbie Luffman, ThinkCircular
Debbie introduced her role at ThinKCircular, a change agency for companies wanting to become more sustainable, but with a focus for this webinar on her previous role as Product Director at Finisterre. Finisterre worked with Green Element on their own carbon footprint project.
In mapping out Finisterre’s carbon footprint, Debbie highlighted how the realm of decarbonisation is “a very noisey space.” With terms being thrown around like, “carbon negative, climate positive, climate neutral, net zero, real zero, true zero” there was an element of confusion in the fashion industry, on what is meant by decarbonisation. Therefore, “tip number one, would be to try and understand the science, and harness your own data”.
Whilst at Finisterre, Debbie reached out to Green Element, explaining the complexity of their fashion supply chain, and asked for their help in mapping their carbon emissions. Through this, Finisterre began effectively tracking all their emissions, across all three scopes. This was a case of collecting data from their suppliers, sharing this data with Green Element, who proceeded to calculate the total carbon footprint of the company.
What they learnt:
The results suggested that the emissions largely came from the supply chain, which is typical of a fashion brand. Debbie emphasised the importance of considering scope 3 when measuring your emissions, not just scopes 1 and 2 which is such a small proportion of what you can change. For Finisterre, this was about considering their supply chain of 24 factories across 8 different countries.
“What did we do next? In order to make this really tangible and practical, we worked again with Green Element on a full lifecycle assessment of our key volume products.” Through this, they gained valuable carbon insights on specific clothing items. With this information, Finisterre recognised its product range and next actions “What are our tools, not only at a material level but also at a customer level – re-sale, repair, washing less, and the broad holistic 360 lifecycle of a product.”
Debbie highlighted the importance of looking for external guidance on decarbonisation, “there was only so much Finisterre could do as a brand, it is about pulling together with the value chain, supporting one another to make those overall, exponential impacts.”
Beba Greer, Reformation
Beba introduced Reformation as a lifestyle brand that combines vintage inspired designs with sustainable practices, committed to minimising their environmental impact and achieving fair, safe and healthy working conditions throughout their supply chain.
Reformation has an ambitious goal to be climate positive by 2025, despite there being no agreed upon definition of what that means yet. “We are defining this as meeting our science-based reduction targets and removing more emissions than they produce.”
In order to reach these goals, just as Finisterre are and through the steps that Alicia explained, they needed to first calculate their carbon footprint. And similarly to most companies, they found that 98% of their emissions fall into scope 3.
Here are the “hotspots”they identified to work on:
- Better Materials – almost two thirds of Reformation carbon footprint came from materials sourcing, taking into account water usage, energy input, land use, eco toxicity, GHG emissions, human toxicity, availability and price. It can be hard to name what is the most sustainable fibre, considering all the different variables Reformation are measuring.
- Circular Practices – regenerating natural systems, eliminating waste, keep materials in use (re-use, repair, recycling)
- Transportation – fuel to get raw materials to their factories, and to ship finished goods to warehouses and customers. For example shipping via air is 30 times more carbon intensive than by cargo ship. To reach their targets they need to at least reach a 70% ocean, 30% air split.
- Energy Management – Mills, dye houses, producers, and working closely with supply chain partners to map renewable energy opportunities, educating customers on how to care for clothing
To learn more about Reformation’s decarbonisation report, check out the resources on their website.
Tony Burns, ACS Clothing
ACS enable circular fashion, facilitating circular business models of clothing rental, resale, and repair. They also work with companies on cleaning and resale of designer fashion. “These models are not only more sustainable than linear business models, but they are also more profitable” Tony began.
ACS work with ASOS, Next, Moss Bros, Reflaunt, Rotaro Resale, L.K. Bennett, My Wardrobe HQ, Hirestreet, Bundlee, Hobbs and Nudie Jeans, helping with the logistics of several rental brands. “Rental in the UK is very much behind the US and Asia, because we have a culture of ownership…but it is changing” Tony said.
Sustainability underpins everything ACS do. They have started conversations with the United Nations and several politicians about removing VAT from rental clothing. Many fast fashion brands do not take care of the clothing they create, or of the workers in their supply chains. ACS take immense care, but are competing with these brands, which is why legislation is crucial to creating a level playing field.
ACS are working on reducing their carbon emissions to net zero, transitioned to renewable energy, and ozone technology (cleaning garments without wasting water and using toxic chemicals). This is important for changing the assumption from some consumers that second hand or rental is dirty, which is not the case!
Similarly to Finisterre and Reformation, ACS use an external body to calculate and verify their carbon emissions, in order to gain trust that they are not simply greenwashing. Again, they found most of their emissions to be scope 3, which includes things such as driving to work, and all partners delivering parcels on their behalf. They have dug deeply into each area and come up with schemes to tackle each of them e.g., bike to work, switching to renewables and changing packaging, labels, and cleaning methods.
ACS’s overall emissions by scope and category.
The panel shifted to questions from the audience. A popular one was the concern of the cost of using an external body to help you track your emissions and product lifecycle analysis data.
Debbie stated that her initial search suggested anything from £4,000 to £60,000. “You need to find the right partner and explain exactly what you need,” she stated. Crucially, what better is there to invest in than this issue? This is the future and therefore an extremely good case stands for making this economic investment. “It’s not that expensive, is my short answer,” concluded Debbie.
There are many different components to cutting emissions. The need to transition away from fossil fuels, synthetic fibres, and towards low impact materials, looking towards regenerative agriculture and the circular economy. There is an important intersection here with the transition to net zero and to a just transition.
“As we start to reduce carbon emissions, we have to be mindful of the 60 million workers within our fashion supply chains. How do we do that in such a way whilst still providing meaningful, dignified work?” Safia questioned.
Safia closed the webinar by reminding the audience that these are starting points. We’re seeing forthcoming legislation being brought in, for example increasing the global price of carbon from $3 per tonne, to between $75-100. Being a first mover by starting to cut your carbon emissions now can help keep you competitive and forge a future for both your business, all your stakeholders, and the planet.
Safia recommended Fashion Declares’ upcoming webinars. Social Justice and Equality on May 4th at 4-5pm BST to learn more about the social justice intersection, and Low Impact Materials – Biodiversity and Regenerative Farming on June 8th, 4-5pm BST to hear more about low impact materials, and the biodiversity intersection.
Safia also reminded the audience to visit the Fashion Declares new PATREON
Fashion Declares Patreon
To bring the webinar to a close, Safia turned to the panellists for one final word of guidance or advice.
Nishanth “Start somewhere, the solutions are there.”
Alicia “Don’t be afraid to get your hands on the real data, get stuck in, collect it and there are people like us [Green Element] who can help you to work out what to do with it.”
Beba “This has been really energising, to hear everyone speak. A lot of these topics can be really heavy, so it’s lovely to feel the support of everyone interested in wanting to do better.”
Tony “We all need to go further and faster, but it is a journey of continuous improvement, it doesn’t happen overnight. We all need to start somewhere, don’t delay.”
Debbie “Don’t be afraid to ask for help, don’t pretend you’ve got it all worked out, nobody has! We all need to join hands around this thing together – positive change is possible.
If you missed the live event, catch the recording below: