Outdoor clothing brands including Gore and Patagonia have released a report to support the move away from manufacturers’ reliance on fossil fuels.

The study looked into the feasibility of switching to decarbonised heating processes for textile and apparel production to save companies money and reduce supply chain emissions.

The project was carried out by the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) with Patagonia and four other members of the OIA’s Action Corps — Burton, New Balance, REI and the fabrics division of Gore, the company behind Gore-Tex.

Kim Drenner, head of supply chain environmental impact at Patagonia, said: “This research is a step forward because it provides tangible, cost-effective ways for suppliers and brands to end their reliance on fossil fuels. We look forward to helping implement these improvements.

“Our global supply chain is the source of most of our carbon emissions so we must work with factory partners to transform how we make products and reduce the harm done in our name.”

The study explored the potential savings in energy, CO2 emissions and costs for electrification technology pathways for suppliers in China, Japan and Taiwan — all major hubs of global textile and apparel production. However, the report added that it was applicable to other countries too.

The findings demonstrated that shifting to industrial heat pumps can lead to substantial savings, compared to conventional systems. The report provides key recommendations for the textile industry and policymakers to scale up electrification to accelerate financial and environmental benefits. These are contingent on the feasibility of greatly expanding renewable energy generation in the three countries studied.

Sarah Rykal, senior manager of OIA’s Climate Action Corps, explained: “One of the biggest issues in reducing greenhouse gas emissions in our apparel and textile supply chains is thermal energy — steam and hot water for heating processes in factories. Can we use something other than coal, natural gas or other fossil fuels?

“Our study demonstrates how there is an opportunity to decarbonise thermal heating processes in apparel and textile factories in a way that reduces emissions, energy and cost over time.

“This is the first research of its kind, and we are thrilled to now be sharing these findings with suppliers in China, Japan and Taiwan to help increase sustainability on a broader scale. These results impact the entire fashion industry, not just the outdoor industry.”

Ali Hasanbeigi, research director at Global Efficiency Intelligence which carried out the work, added: “Electrification of process heating will play a vital role in the deep decarbonisation of the textile industry and apparel supply chain when tied to renewable electricity.

“However, it seems like not many managers and engineers in the textile and apparel companies are aware of this huge opportunity. There is certainly a need for more work in this area.”

Click here to read the full report.