Sustainable style: How fashion can afford and accelerate decarbonization

Sustainable Style Fashion Accelerate Decarbonization

Fashion brands, big and small, have made ambitious, public commitments to creating more sustainable apparel by 2030. But keeping pace with their decarbonization commitments has been a challenge across the industry.

About two-thirds of brands, according to a new McKinsey analysis, are behind on their own decarbonization schedules, and 40 percent have seen their emissions output increase since making their sustainability commitments.

Today, the global fashion industry accounts for an estimated 3 to 8 percent of total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and the industry’s emissions are expected to increase by about 30 percent by 2030 if no further action is taken.1 There’s a particular sense of urgency for fashion to abate emissions as quickly as possible, since several countries that are likely to experience the greatest devastation from climate change are central to fashion’s value chain. Intense and frequent weather-related events occur in primary manufacturing countries—such as Bangladesh, China, India, and Vietnam—which export an estimated $65 billion worth of appare.

Accelerating abatement without affecting the industry is achievable. In fact, it could be more affordable than fashion executives might think. Our research shows that most fashion brands could reduce their GHG emissions by more than 60 percent for less than 1 to 2 percent of their revenues. (This excludes levers related to reselling, renting, and repairing fashion, which would reduce a brand’s emissions intensity significantly but also be dependent on consumer behavior shifts.)

In the following article, we have identified six challenges that if overcome would see the fashion industry making more progress in reducing its GHG emissions, as well as six cost-effective actions that can help accelerate decarbonization.

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