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Supply Chain
2 New Reports Zero in on Materials’ Biggest Impacts in Fashion Supply Chains

The publicly available reports, commissioned by the Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action, are part of a roadmap toward industry decarbonization.

Two new, comprehensive reports aim to help the fashion and textile industry get to the heart of some of its most material issues contributing to climate change.

The reports were commissioned by the Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Actionlaunched in 2018 by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) — as it develops a roadmap to help the industry reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from raw material extraction, production and processing; which together can be the most carbon-intensive part of the fashion value chain. The reports will help the Charter’s over 100 signatories work toward their commitment to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.

Completed by SCS Global Services — a global leader in third-party environmental and sustainability certification, auditing, and life cycle assessment — the new reports expand on the Charter’s 2021 report, Identifying Low-Carbon Sources of Cotton and Polyester, to provide guidance to textile and apparel producers for lowering their carbon footprint when sourcing two equally ubiquitous material categories: animal-based fibers (in this case, sheep wool, hair, alpaca fiber and silk fiber) and man-made cellulosic fibers (MMCF, such as rayon and viscose).

Development of these gap analysis reports was led by Textile Exchange — leader of the Charter’s Raw Material Working Group — with significant input from Charter signatories including Canopy, Fabrikology, Lenzing, NewEnzymes, Primark, Reformation, Sateri, Schneider Group and VF Corp.

“These reports are a key resource for any company or organization wanting to understand and improve upon the current state of play of impact data in the fashion and apparel industry,” said Lindita Xhaferi-Salihu, Sector Engagement Lead with UN Climate Change. “We thank the signatories of the Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action for their inputs and supporting the creation of these important reports.”

After cotton, MMCF are the second-biggest cellulosic fiber group in use — for everything from apparel to seat covers to wet wipes. Responsibly produced, they can be a major contributor to realizing circular fashion — by helping to regenerate ecosystems, providing vital carbon sinks, and increasing community resilience and prosperity.

The MMCF report, which examined 14 separate LCA studies, concluded that the GHG profile of MMCF is heavily influenced by the type and location of the feedstock and summarized the current best conclusions for low-carbon sources of MMCF. The sources with the lowest greenhouse gas emissions were, in order: 1) Lyocell from low-carbon wood pulp or optimized, recycled pulp; 2) Viscose from low-carbon wood pulp or optimized recycled pulp; and 3) Modal from low-carbon wood pulp or optimized recycled pulp.

The report on animal fibers showed that, for virgin wool and hair, methane from enteric fermentation is the most significant contributor to climate impact. For silk production, the highest impact was the production of the leaves to feed the silkworms. For recycled wool, the results showed high variability in impact levels — based on factors such as raw material sourcing, transportation requirements, and energy and material demand from shredding and fiber production.

While the animal fiber report did not examine leather, the apparel industry is already working to reduce its impacts — particularly, when it comes to the rampant deforestation it causes around the world: In June, a coalition of 16 global brands and luxury fashion houses — led by Textile Exchange and Leather Working Group — called on the fashion industry and retailers to commit to sourcing all of their bovine leather from deforestation-free supply chains by 2030 or earlier.

“This important work being undertaken by Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action and Textile Exchange is bringing needed transparency and clarity to the goal of decarbonizing the fashion industry supply chain,” said Keith Killpack, Technical Director in SCS’s Environmental Claims division and project lead. “The reports highlight key considerations for current fiber sourcing and recommendations for continuing textile LCAs, and helped illuminate data gaps to be addressed in continuing studies.”