A report released by Wrap has revealed that brands have reduced the environmental impact of their products – but this achievement has been wiped out by “spiralling” production.

The Textiles 2030 Annual Progress Report from the climate action charity reveals that brands signed up to the environmental voluntary agreement reduced the carbon impact of their textiles by 12% and water by 4% on a per tonne basis between 2019 and 2022.

“These impressive reductions were possible through actions taken to improve sustainability in design and manufacturing, and by increasing the amount of clothes reused and recycled,” explained Wrap.

“However, as production is spiralling upwards, Wrap warns that these positive steps are being cancelled out owing to a 13% increase in the volume of textiles produced and sold.”

The steps taken by the brands and retailers signed up to Textiles 2030 includes a rising year-on-year use of recycled polyester and polyamide, along with improvements in durability and design for recycling. In addition, 71% of the cotton used by the signatories now comes from “improved” sources, such as the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) and Cotton Connect’s Reel Cotton Programme. 

Production is a key issue

The organisation notes that in the UK, we buy more clothes than any other nation in Europe, and warns that production must “urgently be addressed”.

Catherine David, director of Behaviour Change and Business Programmes at Wrap, explained: “Textiles and fashion are responsible for up to 10% of global carbon emissions. We can see from the impact of Textiles 2030 that it’s possible to change this. But as fast as positive improvements happen, they’re cancelled out by rising production. If we hope to get anywhere near achieving the critical goals of the Paris Agreement, we must get serious about textiles and everyone has a role to play.

“We need sustainable design, sustainable business models, and more sustainable ways of buying and using clothes from more businesses. But production is clearly the key issue, and the onus is on businesses to make preloved part of their portfolio, so it’s accessible, easy and fun. 

“Through Textiles 2030, many brands and retailers are already taking action, but there is a long way to go, and many more businesses who need to join us on this journey.”