Measuring Fashion report delivers results from the first study on the global environmental impacts of the apparel and footwear industries

The first in-depth, science-based study investigating the environmental impacts of the apparel and footwear sector reveals the industries’ hotspots and identifies levers of change to guide companies committed to making effective shifts to reduce their impacts.

Boston, US, May 4, 2018 – Environmental consulting group Quantis announces the release of the report, Measuring Fashion: Insights from the Environmental Impact of the Global Apparel and Footwear Industries study. The underlying study is the first of its kind to assess the environmental impacts of the global apparel and footwear industries. It considers the industries’ value chains across 7 stages – from fiber production/material extraction to end-of-life, and includes 5 different environmental indicators: Climate Change, Resources, Freshwater Withdrawal, Ecosystem Quality, Human Health.

“There is increasing pressure on fashion brands to demonstrate their sustainability. 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,” Quantis senior sustainability consultant Annabelle Stamm explains. “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,” she adds.

This groundbreaking study and the insights gained are critical to guide fashion brands and businesses that are committed to setting truly sustainable goals, to make science-driven decisions, helping implement effective and meaningful actions. Understanding environmental impacts, particularly on climate, is also necessary for fashion brands committing to the Science-Based Targets initiative to get their business aligned with the global objective to limit warming to 2°C.

The Measuring Fashion study is the first-of-its-kind for three reasons: 1/ Based on industry specific impact data from the World Apparel and Footwear Lifecycle Database, which makes it comprehensive, robust, and up-to-date; 2/ Uses a multi-indicator approach to assess different impact areas such as water use and ecosystem impacts alongside greenhouse gas emissions to ensure a balanced assessment on multiple fronts; and, 3/ Provides an outlook of the evolution of impacts across time (both past and future) and connects this with specific levers for change across the value chain.  

Fast facts from the Measuring Fashion report:

  • Combined, the global apparel and footwear industries account for 8% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, almost as much as the total carbon impact of the EU.
  • The apparel industry alone accounts for 6.7% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, with more than 50% coming from 3 phases: fiber production (15%), yarn preparation (28%), and the highest impact phase – dyeing & finishing (36%).
  • In a business-as-usual scenario, apparel’s climate impact is expected to increase by 49% – equal to today’s total annual greenhouse gas emissions in the United States.
  • 3 levers of change were identified – rethinking energy, disruptive reduction, and design for the future – and the report asks, “Is shifting to a circular economy enough?”

For more in-depth look at the study, access the Measuring Fashion: Environmental Impact of the Global Apparel and Footwear Industries study here: high-level report and full study with methodological considerations.

Steering Committe

A Steering Committee of industry leaders and experts contributed to the Environmental Impact of the Global Apparel and Footwear Industries study by providing their valuable feedback and input. Members included: Jason Kibbey, CEO, Sustainable Apparel Coalition; Debera Johnson, Executive Director, Brooklyn Fashion + Design Accelerator, Pratt Center for Sustainable Design Strategies; Megan McGill, Program Manager, C&A Foundation; La Rhea Pepper, Managing Director, Textile Exchange; Linda Greer, Senior Scientist, NRDC. 

Support for the report

Debera Johnson, Executive Director, Brooklyn Fashion + Design accelerator, Pratt Center for Sustainable Design Strategies:

“What we know is only valuable when it rubs up against what other people know. This report is an invaluable resource for making change.”

La Rhea Pepper, Managing Director, Textile Exchange:  

“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!”

Support from ClimateWorks Foundation:

“ClimateWorks Foundation mobilizes philanthropy to solve the climate crisis and ensure prosperity. Understanding and catalyzing solutions to climate change is essential to this mission. With that objective, ClimateWorks funded and partnered with Quantis to quantify how the global apparel and footwear industries contribute to climate change and explore opportunities to reduce the sector’s environmental impacts.

ClimateWorks is proud to have supported this research. While the results were aligned with the original project scope and based on life cycle assessment science and methodology, they are not commensurate with the data sources used by ClimateWorks.

ClimateWorks has therefore decided not to co-brand ‘Measuring Fashion’ report, but values the work that Quantis has done to produce this study.”

Originally published on February 27, 2018, this press release was modified on May 4, 2018, to include updates on the report launch and a statement from ClimateWorks.


About Quantis

Quantis guides top organizations to define, shape and implement intelligent environmental sustainability solutions. In a nutshell, our creative geeks take the latest science and make it actionable. Our team of talents delivers resilient strategies, robust metrics, useful tools, and credible communications for a more sustainable future.

A sustainability consulting group known for our metrics-based approach to sustainability, Quantis has offices in the US, France, Switzerland, Germany and Italy and has a diverse client portfolio that spans the globe.

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For media inquiries, contact:

Lori Gustavus
Quantis, Global Director of Communications & Marketing

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