Textiles discarded by households in a recycling facility in Paimio, Southwest Finland, in November 2021. Fashion and textile companies may have woken up to the burden they place on the climate and environment but have yet to take appropriate action to reduce it, indicates a study by Finnwatch. (Roni Lehti – Lehtikuva)


ONLY SIX PER CENT of clothing brands and retailers that have adopted so-called science-based climate targets take into account all their emissions in accordance with the target to limit global warming to 1.5 Celsius, reveals an analysis carried out by Finnwatch.

The Finnish corporate responsibility watchdog reported last month that only 10 of the 182 companies it analysed passed the most rigorous screening, meaning their emissions reduction goal was in line with the 1.5-degree target and encompassed broad-based measures to reduce emissions across the value chain.

“When there are major shortcomings in the pledges of the most progressive companies, it doesn’t seem possible that emissions from the industry could decrease quickly enough,” commented Lasse Leipola, a climate expert at Finnwatch.

“Solving the climate crisis requires that all emissions are reduced rapidly and genuinely,” he stressed.

Among the Finnish clothing producers and retailers included in the study were Marimekko, Reima, Stockmann and Tokmanni.

The fashion and textile industry is estimated to cause 4–10 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Most of the emissions are created in production, a function that has been outsourced by many leading brands. The Science Based Targets (SBT) initiative provides considerable leeway for accounting for the emissions, a fact that is being taken advantage of “regretfully often” by companies, according to Finnwatch.

The criteria can be met by committing to bring some subcontractors within the initiative instead of actually reducing emissions, for example. Companies can also set emission reduction targets as a proportion of certain business metrics, such as revenue or output, meaning the emissions will not decrease at a rapid-enough pace as the business grows.

Reducing emissions from production can be challenging also because it requires co-operation with subcontractors.

While Finnwatch viewed that the initiative is a useful tool for meeting basic-level climate goals, it stressed that companies should adopt the same reduction targets across their value chains despite the liberties afforded by the initiative.

“By setting strict targets that also cover emissions from subcontractors, companies will find it easier to justify to their own partners why also they should reduce emissions,” argued Leipola.

Finnwatch stated that targets that fail to account for partners and a large share of emissions are utterly insufficient in a situation where the carbon budget for the 1.5-degree goal is set to dry up in a couple of years.

“The fashion and textile industry has woken up to its tremendous climate and environmental burden, but actions have been too slow. Decision-makers must therefore take immediate action: the corporate responsibility directive that is being negotiated must obligate companies to change their operational model in line with the 1.5-degree target,” stressed Leipola.

“The careful planning of climate actions in the fashion and textile industry is necessary also to make sure the transition is fair for vulnerable production countries.”

Consumers, in the meantime, should abide by one simple rule, according to the watchdog: buy new clothes significantly less often and repair and recycle old ones as long as possible.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT