As Climate Week begins in New York, six top apparel companies announced that they are joining the Science Based Targets initiative. Gap Inc., Nike, Levi Strauss & Co., GUESS, EILEEN FISHER Inc. and VF Corporation committed to set emission reduction targets consistent with global efforts to limit warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius. The new companies join other fashion brands that that have already committed to set science-based targets, including H&M, ASICS, Kering, PUMA, Walmart, Inditex, Woolworths Holdings Ltd, Marks and Spencer, and One Jeanswear Company.
More than 300 companies, including 15 from the apparel sector, have committed to set ambitious emissions reduction targets through Science Based Targets initiative, a partnership between CDP, WRI, WWF and the UN Global Compact. Businesses who commit have two years to develop science-based targets, which are then reviewed by the initiative’s team of experts. So far, 71 science-based targets meeting the initiative’s strict criteria have been approved. The initiative is also one of the We Mean Business coalition commitments.
“By joining the Science Based Targets initiative, these companies are positioning themselves as leaders in the apparel sector,” said Cynthia Cummis, WRI’s director of private sector climate mitigation and member of the Science Based Targets initiative steering committee. “The fashion industry is known for innovation and these companies are using that spirit to tackle climate change. For apparel brands, up to 90 percent of emissions come from the value chain, and companies share many of the same suppliers, so setting ambitious value chain targets will open up a great deal of opportunity for collaboration, innovation and efficiency across the industry.”
“We believe that the private sector has a critical role to play in the transition to a low-carbon economy. By joining the Science Based Target initiative, we’re strengthening our commitment to tackling climate change and working collaboratively, building on the progress we’ve made in our owned and operated facilities,” said Melissa Fifield, senior director of sustainable innovation at Gap Inc. “We look forward to working with the SBTi to align our future emissions reduction targets with sound climate science.”
"Levi Strauss & Co. knows that transitioning to a low-carbon future is vital to the health and well-being of the people who make and wear our iconic products,” said Anna Walker, senior director, global policy and advocacy, Levi Strauss & Co. “That’s why we are committing to set science-based targets in reducing our own emissions as well as emissions throughout our value chain. By doing so, LS&Co. and our communities will continue to thrive for the next 160 years and beyond.”
In addition to reducing emissions from their operations, companies that join the Science Based Targets initiative are required to set ambitious “scope 3” value chain targets when these emissions are significant. This is important because to date, most apparel companies have not been measuring and managing emissions upstream and downstream of their operations, where most of their emissions lie.
Quantis, a company that specializes in environmental sustainability services and solutions, is working with ClimateWorks to develop a more comprehensive view of the apparel industry's footprint. A preliminary estimate, based on apparel production volumes and calculated with emission factors from Quantis’ World Apparel and Footwear Lifecycle Database, shows that the greenhouse gas emissions of the global apparel sector may amount to a significant 5 percent percent of total emissions. This is comparable in impact to the total emissions of the aviation sector or to the total GHG emissions of Russia.
So far, two fashion companies have approved targets:
- Kering, French luxury goods company and owner of Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent, Balenciaga and other lines, commits to reduce emissions from upstream transportation and distribution, business air travel, and fuel and energy use by 50 percent per unit of value added by 2025, from a 2015 base year. In addition, the company commits to curb emissions from purchased goods and services by 40 percent per unit of value added within the same timeframe.
- Marks & Spencer, the British multinational retailer, commits to reduce absolute emissions from operations 80 percent by 2030, and has a longer term vision to achieve 90 percent absolute emissions reductions by 2035, from a 2007 base-year. In addition, the company commits to reduce value chain emissions by 13.3 megatonnes of CO2 between 2017 and 2030.
Setting science-based targets is an opportunity for apparel sector companies to ensure they are doing their part to protect consumers and supply chains from the consequences of climate change. For example, scientists fear climate change could cut the global cotton supply by 30 percent to 45 percent by the end of the century.
The Science Based Targets initiative is currently working with the apparel sector to develop sector-specific guidance for setting science-based targets. The guidance aims to create clarity and consistency for the sector and reduce barriers for apparel companies seeking to set science-based targets.
“Many of us don’t want to face the impacts of a warmer and wetter world," said Shona Quinn, sustainability leader with EILEEN FISHER, Inc. "Yet it is a necessity for businesses with a long-term vision. EILEEN FISHER joined the Science Based Targets initiative to understand the best ways to align our business goals with climate science — with the ultimate hope of helping the apparel sector contribute to a stable climate.”
“VF Corporation has started the process of setting Science Based Targets as a way to guide our carbon reduction efforts and demonstrate leadership on the very real issue of global warming,” said Letitia Webster, vice president of global corporate sustainability for VF. “Our relentless focus on innovation extends from product development to our environmental stewardship initiatives, and we know that setting ambitious goals aligned with current climate science will push our company to the forefront of innovative solutions that have lasting benefits.”
“As a large business with a unique scale and reach, we have a responsibility to go beyond simply cutting our emissions,” said Anna Gedda, H&M’s head of sustainability. “We have to work to meet the needs of the planet which means setting an example in our own operations, driving change along our whole value chain, and leading the transformation of the whole industry. We work with Science Based Targets so that we know we live up to our commitment: a climate positive value chain by 2040.”
"In 2015, prior to the 2015 Paris Climate Conference (COP21), ASICS committed to set targets for CO2 emissions reduction based on the Science Based Targets (SBT) initiative,” said Joji Yoshimoto, general manager of CSR sustainability department at ASICS. “Our long-term targets will be in line with what scientific evidence has proved is necessary to prevent the worst impacts of climate change and we want to take our responsibility to minimize climate change impact to our business, our customers and society as a whole."
“We’ve cut emissions in our own operations by 70 percent in the past 10 years,” said Carmel McQuaid, head of sustainable business at Marks & Spencer. “We’re proud of the achievement but still have much more to do, for example working with the thousands of farms and factories that supply us to help them tackle climate impacts. Setting a Science Based Target gives us the confidence that we’re on the right path and helps us verify our performance against stretch goals.”