The apparel and fashion industries are responsible for 8% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, almost as much as the total carbon impact of the EU, reveals Measuring Fashion – a study on the global environmental impact of apparel and footwear, which also identifies the levers of change

Measuring Fashion is the first in-depth, scientific study investigating the environmental impact of the apparel and footwear sectors.

It was released in March by ClimateWorks Foundation, a team of researchers and strategists committed to climate action, and sustainability consulting group Quantis, and looks at the industries’ value chains across seven stages, from fibre production to end-of-life, and includes five environmental indicators: climate change, resources, freshwater withdrawal, ecosystem quality and human health.

It notes that, in a business-as-usual scenario, apparel’s climate impact is expected to increase by 49% by 2030 – equal to today’s total annual greenhouse gas emissions in the US. Three levers of change were identified: rethinking energy, disruptive reduction, and design for the future.

Rethinking energy was identified as a major factor in the report: “The study revealed the major climate impacts in the fashion life cycle are driven by power generated by coal and natural gas (to supply electricity and heat, particularly in Asia). To significantly lower emissions and achieve an industry wide, science-based target, fossil fuel dependency needs to be massively reduced while boosting energy efficiency throughout the value chain. In fact, the scenario analysis showed an 80% overall greenhouse gas emission reduction in the apparel industry alone may be achieved by shifting to 60% renewable energy and setting a 60% energy efficiency target by 2030.”

“There is increasing pressure on fashion brands to demonstrate their sustainability,” explained Annabelle Stamm, senior sustainability consultant at Quantis. “We have seen many assumptions being made about the actual environmental performance of the industry and its value chain, where the hotspots lie, and what the potential solutions may be. We knew fashion’s impact was major, but we didn’t have the science-based metric view of what this really meant. This study enables us to answer some of these questions, bust some of our collective assumptions, and provide guidance to those committed to act.”

La Rhea Pepper, managing director of global non-profit Textile Exchange, which works to reduce the textile industry’s impact, commented: “You have to have good information to make sound decisions. This report provides a great perspective on ways that we, as a textile community, can take action. We can’t allow ourselves to be overwhelmed to paralysis; every small decision and individual action adds up. This will require new business thinking and engagement. Let’s make the wisest choices!”

The report can be accessed at