The clothing industry has been warned to take more action to tackle climate change after a global report has indicated that its carbon footprint has been increasing.

Wrap – the Waste and Resources Action Programme for a circular economy – revealed that progress was being made but more collaboration and action was needed by companies to achieve the level of change required and to keep climate goals within reach.

The warning came in its annual update on its voluntary agreement for the clothing and textile sector. After agreements on plastics and food, it set up Textiles 2030 a year ago involving more than 110 leading businesses and organisations for accurately measuring and addressing the impact of the UK’s clothing and home textiles.

The new report is the first time that the Textiles 2030 baseline measurements have been published, detailing signatories’ combined carbon and water footprints for 2019. The report also showed results from signatories’ first year of reporting in 2021, which will help determine priority areas for action in the clothing sector and track progress over the next eight years.

In the report, Wrap has warned that the environmental footprint for the textiles and clothing industry is currently moving in the wrong direction, fuelled by “enormous” consumption rates that see between 4% and 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions arising from apparel and textiles.

Compared to its baseline year, data from Textiles 2030’s first year reveals that in 2021 brands and retailers’ carbon footprint rose by 4.4% from 11.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MtCO2e) to 12.1MtCO2e, and water rose by 1% to 2.7 billion cubic metres.

The report also shows a significant rise in the number of improvement actions being taken by the brand and retailer signatories to reduce their footprints – 106 actions in 2021 compared to 64 in the baseline year.

If signatories had not made these improvements, their footprints would have increased even further. For carbon it would have been a 6.4% rise instead of 4.4% and for water it would have been 15% rise rather than 1%. The improvement actions helped reduce 2% carbon emissions and 14% of the water footprint.

Catherine David, director of collaboration and change at Wrap, said: “COP27 made it clear that we are not on track to mitigate the worst impacts of the climate crisis. Accelerating action by businesses is paramount.

“The businesses signed up to our agreements are leading the way in transforming the food, textiles and plastic packaging sectors, demonstrating what is possible, and helping inform government’s thinking on needed regulatory levers.

“Today’s reports show the mountain we need to climb, and we call on all businesses to join us on this journey and be part of changing our consumption systems in line with a sustainable future.”

Wrap’s voluntary agreements bring together governments, businesses, local authorities, academics, NGOs, industry groups and citizens to take collaborative action. It addresses how clothes are produced, decorated and sold through to their reuse, remanufacture and recycling.

Click here for the full report.