Achieving net zero fashion: 3 takeaways from our latest Apparel Roundtable

Achieving net zero fashion: 3 takeaways from our latest Apparel Roundtable

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The apparel sector is large and rapidly growing. Estimates show it is responsible for 1.025 gigatons CO2 emissions per year – those numbers are expected to at least double by 2030 – with the lion’s share coming from upstream activities such as materials production and processing. Action to reduce the industry’s GHG emissions is urgently needed, but in a sector with dynamic and fragmented value chains, this proves to be a real challenge.

Action is taking off though. A 142 apparel companies have already established science-based targets (SBTi Progress Report, 2021) and the urgent question they are now trying to answer is: How can we credibly measure and claim Scope 3 emission reductions to show progress towards science-based targets?

On December 1st, more than 26 entities representing both apparel brands and sector organisations joined the Value Change Initiative’s Apparel & Footwear Roundtable to discuss this question. Here are three key takeaways.

1. Accounting is a constant headache across the value chain - pragmatic solutions are the need of the hour

This is not news: Apparel companies have a hard time finding an accounting methodology that supports the reality of their sector’s value chains. The truth is, accounting for interventions in the apparel sector is still very much uncharted territory, and clear guidance as well as definitions for Scope 3 interventions and insetting is needed. To ensure sector specific challenges are solved for in a pragmatic way, and credibility safeguarded, efforts to further develop such guidance must be driven by companies in a pre-competitive setting and include relevant sector organizations. By combining insights from the field with relevant expertise, existing tools and methods can be further adapted for the apparel sector. LCA tools, for example, could be leveraged to enhance conservativeness and representativeness in available data sets, providing alternatives for practitioners and enabling a pragmatic yet credible approach to report and claim Scope 3 impacts.

“To reach a net zero sector, we need to find the proven solutions that are scalable, using science and data to drive measurable results. Now, more than ever, the sector needs guidance to enable credible and reliable data to report on progress to achieve our targets,” Kurt Kipka, Apparel Impact Institute

2. The sector needs a clear vision for success - and how to get there.

It is difficult for companies and other players in the value chain to envision what a functioning system for credible Scope 3 impact looks like. And without a clear – and shared – understanding of what success means and what the pathway to it looks like, coordinating efforts becomes futile. A holistic approach to the trajectory, from intervention design to (co-)claiming Scope 3 emission reductions and removals is needed. Supporting companies with a functioning Scope 3 impact market across the value chain could be key to enabling true net zero value chains. To get there, the apparel sector first needs:

  • Credible and verified emission reductions from supply chain interventions
  • Clear agreements and rules on claiming emission reductions and removals amongst companies
  • Market-based approaches that enable scalable and credible accounting and traceability across the value chain

This will not only provide the right incentives to the right players, it will also create more transparency, and with that, increased credibility.

3. Moving forward means taking a step in the dark – and you don’t have to do it alone.

The scale and speed at which the apparel sector needs to decarbonize, together with the complexity of its value chains create unprecedented challenges. But so are opportunities to catalyse action. The apparel sector is already working towards more circularity – use of regenerative and recycled materials, phasing-out of non-renewables and polluting chemicals or maximizing product life cycles through new consumption behaviours – and that transition brings new opportunities for value chain interventions. To successfully reach their science-based targets, companies must step into uncharted territories. Solutions will only emerge if they can collectively work with their peers to propose a way forward and test it against the realities of their sector.

The ‘23 VCI Apparel & Footwear Working Group

Developing sector-specific solutions is no walk in the park, but it is possible. This is why the Value Change Initiative has launched the 2023 Apparel & Footwear Working Group. By bringing together Scope 3 experts, leading apparel sector organisations and brands, the Apparel & Footwear Working Group will provide the precompetitive space we believe is necessary to co-develop actionable and sector-specific guidance that solve for some of the most pressing Scope 3 challenges.

Interested in joining this pioneering effort? Please contact us via: