Like climate change, the holiday shopping season is upon us.
It’s a time of gifts and goodies for grannies, tech and toys for tykes, and fashion finds for family and friends. Unfortunately, in this era of dire climate news and the recent report from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that we have just over a decade to limit climate change catastrophe, we simply can’t approach this holiday shopping season the way we have in the past.
This Black Friday and beyond, it’s time for shoppers to flex their economic power with climate-conscious fashion purchases. If you’re looking for a great place to start, I’ll let you in on a (not so dirty) little secret: Levi, Strauss & Co is the climate-friendly fashion company of the season. The denim icon just made a groundbreaking climate commitment that puts it at the front of the fashion pack.
As you gear up to shop for the latest holiday fashions, here are the three things to consider as a climate-conscious shopper:
- How transparent is a company in its social and environmental impact?
This report by Fashion Revolution ranks 250 companies and tells you which brands are disclosing the most about their impact on the lives of their workers, and their effects on climate change.
- Does a company conserve water and limit toxics in its manufacturing process?
Greenpeace’s website Detox the Catwalk details the companies that are on a path to toxic-free fashion and what they are doing to achieve their commitments.
- What is a company doing to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions?
Several fashion brands recently joined the Science Based Targets Initiative and committed to cutting their greenhouse gas emissions. But sadly, only three companies have actually set concrete goals — and only one brand has truly raised the bar: Levi’s.
In late July, Levi’s announced it would seek to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions in its entire supply chain by 40% by 2025. That means Levi’s is working to reduce emissions not only in its stores and headquarters, but in its overseas factories as well. This is truly a groundbreaking climate announcement. Up to 90% of a company’s climate pollution is typically located in its supply chain — and this is where climate action is desperately needed.
As the holiday season ramps up, other major brands revealed they would announce a fashion industry charter of their own during the UN climate change conference, COP24, in December. If you want to know how to stay wary of announcements that look good on paper but don’t quite add up to the climate action the world needs, here are a few examples of what a fashion brand might say if it joins the false climate solution bandwagon:
“We’re switching to renewable energy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions in our owned and operated stores.”
A climate commitment for “owned and operated stores” focuses only on emissions in a company’s stores and headquarters, and fails to address emissions in the company’s full supply chain, including its overseas factories (where much of the fashion industry’s pollution is hiding).
“We’re reducing our emissions intensity per unit of clothing we produce.”
Emissions reductions are tricky. Companies who pledge “intensity reductions” often just mean that even though they continue to produce more and more articles of clothing, they can claim their emissions per item are going down — despite the fact that their overall emissions are going up. Only pledges for “absolute reductions” will guarantee less climate pollution overall.
“We’re using recycled materials and investing in a circular economy.”
Using recycled materials and participating in the circular economy is a great vision for the future, but it doesn’t get the job done now. And with the dire news we have just over a decade to avoid climate change catastrophe, this type of pledge just doesn’t provide the greenhouse gas emissions reductions the world desperately needs right now.
“We’re going carbon neutral and investing in energy credits.”
Going “carbon neutral” by investing in energy credits is a bit of a sham. Investing in energy credits does nothing to alleviate environmental and health impacts locally in the places where a company’s factories are located. Investing in energy credits also all-but-ensures a company has no intention of actually supporting local renewable energy solutions in the places that need it most — near the factories.
“We encouraging our customers to recycle their clothing and wash them less.”
I mean…come on…a fashion brand that shifts the burden to its consumers while taking no responsibility for its own actions? That’s just low. If the fashion industry were a country, it would be the fourth largest polluter on earth. The industry just can’t ignore its climate pollution impacts any longer.
Skip the nonsense this holiday season and look for fashion brands making these types of groundbreaking climate commitments that are in line with the UN Paris Agreement on Climate Change:
- A 90% reduction in greenhouse gas emission by 2025 in all owned and operated facilities.
- A 40% or higher absolute reduction in total greenhouse gas emissions by 2025 in the full supply chain.
- A transition to renewable energy, with a minimum of 50% of energy sourced through renewables by 2035.
- A long-term carbon emission reduction of at least 66% by 2050 for the entire supply chain.
Levi’s is the closest thing we’ve got to a climate-friendly fashion brand, but here’s the bad news. So far, Levi’s has only committed to half of this list. The denim icon still needs to make the transition to renewable energy and commit to long-term greenhouse gas reductions.
So as we wait for the global fashion industry to take meaningful action on climate change, don’t let go just yet of that age-old REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE mantra. If you’re truly looking for ways to have a climate-friendly holiday season, you can always avoid new purchases altogether with these fun ideas:
- REDUCE by hand making hand gifts from things you already have.
- REUSE by purchasing from local thrift stores and secondhand shops.
- RECYCLE by purchasing from online marketplaces where your neighbors and community members post used stuff for sale.
For more information on the fashion industry’s climate impacts, check out the Too Deadly to Wear report.
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