The fashion industry accounts for around 5% of global CO2 emissions making it one of the most polluting industries in the world. This has been driven in large part by the rise of fast fashion. Fast fashion is an approach to the production and marketing of clothing which aims to bring cheap, trendy clothing from catwalks to high street shops at breakneck speeds. Companies like Hugo Boss, Tally Weijl, Triumph International, Nike and Adidas can turn an idea conceived in a designer’s mind to the baskets of high streets shoppers within a matter of weeks. All at such low prices as to make them irresistible.
To achieve this, fashion companies rely on economies of scale and relentless cost-cutting measures. The ultimate consequence being huge amounts of waste, pollution and horrendous working conditions for factory employees. In a previous article published on this blog we have outlined, in more detail, many of the drivers of the fashion industry’s enormously damaging environmental impact.
Some of the most reliable estimates put the fashion industry as a 1.7 trillion dollar global industry. This means that the greenhouse gas emissions, chemical dumping, soil exhaustion, water scarcity, release of microplastics and dumping of old clothes that are resulting from the activities of the fashion industry, are all occurring on truly enormous scales. All of this is driven by marketing from fast-fashion retailers and the insatiable consumer demand for cheap, fashionable clothing.
How can EKOenergy help to address some of the environmental problems in fashion? As an environmental label for energy, we seek to encourage companies to buy clean energy – and the fashion industry is a major consumer of energy. Factories producing fabrics need heat for washing, dying and drying clothes and electricity for operating machinery and lighting. Similarly, warehouses and outlet stores need energy for heating and lighting. Anywhere that energy is used, renewable energy ought to be used if the industry wants to reduce its carbon footprint.
We encourage companies to actively begin the transition to renewable energy, starting from any level of their operations. For example, retail stores on high streets can buy renewable energy very easily. This can be done today if a company wants to. Similarly, warehouses and storage depots owned by the same company are easy to transition to renewable energy, it’s just a matter of initiative.
A more ambitious goal is to introduce renewable energy throughout the length of the supply chain. As brands often buy fabrics or services from multiple different companies, cleaning the supply chain is not quite as easy as a simple executive decision. However, as 80% of the energy use in the fashion industry is consumed by the machinery in textile factories used to produce the fabric in clothes, this process is entirely necessary in the long run. We encourage companies to show ambition and make long term renewable energy commitments. Since EKOenergy operates in over 40 countries all around the world, we can help companies make this transition.
Rising trends such as the slow fashion movement provide plenty of case examples of how a sustainable fashion industry can be achieved. Companies like Kotn, Reformation and Howies are demonstrating that it is possible to produce fashionable clothing in a sustainable manner while remaining profitable. A number of sustainable fashion companies already using the EKOenergy label include Ecoalf in Spain, Carrera Jeans in Italy and Globe Hope in Finland.
Though there is no simple solution to the problems of the fashion industry, tackling energy consumption is part of the solution. If you work for a fashion brand and want to join our fashion campaign and reduce your environmental impact, get in touch with us. If you want to reduce your impact on the environment, consider buying slow fashion brands and using EKOenergy labelled electricity at your home and at your work.
Written by Cameron Boggon
Posted on 26 March 2019