Press Release: Friction Points in Fashion & Textiles

New study from The Climate Board and Textile Exchange reveals friction points and sustainability solutions for Fashion & Textile companies

Washington, DC:
The Climate Board, in partnership with Textile Exchange, announces the release of its climate change study Friction Points in Fashion and Textiles: Removing Barriers and Accelerating Climate Action. Working with 40 leading, global retailers, brands, and suppliers, the new study highlights critical industry findings and successful practices in the fashion industry to address climate change.

“The study is filled with timely recommendations for Fashion and Textile companies worldwide to accelerate their journey to net-zero. Taking us beyond ‘analysis paralysis,’ it gives context and best practices to create clear actions. This is really powerful,” says La Rhea Pepper, CEO at Textile Exchange.

Friction Points dives into the climate reduction activities of some of the world’s most advanced fashion retailers and suppliers.

Friction Points pinpoints the barriers retailers, brands, and suppliers face and highlights sustainability practices that move the needle,” says Ken Bruder, Co-founder and Head of Research at The Climate Board. “The industry is still nascent, and most companies are just beginning to look at the more difficult reductions in Scope 3.”

Findings include:

  • More than 90% of emissions from Fashion & Textiles comes from indirect (Scope 3) sources. Fiber and materials offer the biggest lever to reduce Scope 3 emissions.
  • The industry is not on track to achieve Scope 3 emissions goals. Early evidence indicates as many as 2/3 of brands and retailers that have announced Scope 3 targets are not on track to achieve absolute Scope 3 emission reductions.
  • Announcing bold climate goals does not correlate with actual carbon reductions. While companies are under pressure from stakeholders to commit publicly to aggressive climate goals, the data does not demonstrate a strong correlation to GHG reductions.
  • Nuanced fiber strategies do correlate with improved carbon reductions. Those that incorporate a more sophisticated definition of sustainability linked to GHG emissions achieve better results.
  • Companies are experimenting with a wide range of methods to reduce fiber- and material-related emissions, acting as a broad, multi-faceted climate solutions laboratory. The study explores 12 of these practices.

Download the Executive Summary at

About The Climate Board:

The Climate Board accelerates business action on climate change by empowering corporate executives with practical, cost-effective solutions to climate and sustainability challenges. The organization leverages the experience and insights of industry practitioners, then adds research and analytical expertise to provide implementable best practices, decision-support tools, and actionable data. This work helps leaders absorb and synthesize the torrent of climate information and act swiftly and decisively. The result is authoritative and timely guidance that produces superior climate outcomes.

About Textile Exchange:

Textile Exchange is a global nonprofit that creates leaders in the sustainable fiber and materials industry. The organization develops, manages, and promotes a suite of leading industry standards as well as collects and publishes vital industry data and insights that enable brands and retailers to measure, manage, and track their use of preferred fiber and materials.

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Friction Points in Fashion & Textiles: Transform the Supply Chain

Reducing Scope 3 GHG emissions requires fundamentally transforming existing supply chain relationships and potentially developing new ones. The nascent sustainability ecosystem requires working hand in hand with suppliers in all tiers to drive toward carbon footprint reduction. The Climate Board observes the following friction points that slow progress in reducing GHG emissions in the supply chain.

Supplier goals, practices, and constraints are opaque to their purchasers. Often brands and retailers work with thousands of suppliers, many of whom are too small to disclose publicly or routinely report on their carbon-related activities, targets, and challenges. At the same time, there is an increasing desire to impose carbon-reduction mandates upstream in the supply chain as companies seek to tackle the Scope 3 challenge. For larger purchasing organizations, mandates often come with the hope that their outsized influence is enough to make change happen. What can be missing is an effort to understand the specific practices and barriers that need to be addressed in the supplier’s organization. These might affect the levels, sequencing, and prioritization of goals and create opportunities for purchasing organizations to help address the barriers to broader transitions.

Supplier relationships have traditionally focused on cost and quality rather than sustainability. Sustainability is a relative newcomer among vendor assessment criteria. Often sustainability teams report to the sourcing/procurement function. This placement in the organization can help introduce sustainability criteria into supply chain management and vendor selection processes, but ecological concerns can continue to be drowned out by cost and quality imperatives. Low-carbon fibers usually cost more to produce, and less sustainable virgin fibers often have an edge in quality and performance. There is no easy solution here – easing the friction requires processes and tools to make holistic evaluations and balance the competing imperatives of price, quality, and sustainability.

Large-scale, transformational transitions require large-scale investments. These types of investments are often beyond the ability of individual companies to finance and execute. While government infrastructure, subsidy, and transitional programs can support some, those programs remain in short supply versus the demand. In response, we see the seeds of more collective action among organizations to address transformational needs upstream and accelerate industry-wide progress to net-zero.

Have these friction points affected your organization? The Climate Board provides best practices and practical insights to address challenges like these. Contact us for more information about joining, and subscribe to our mailing list to be alerted when we release new content.

Friction Points in Fashion & Textiles: Mobilize Internally

Once a business has established climate goals based on GHG reduction outcomes, leaders must mobilize their organizations and scale up activity to meet their ambitions. Unexpected reactions and inadequate change management can get in the way of the best-laid plans.

In Friction Points in Fashion & Textiles: Removing Barriers and Accelerating Climate Action, The Climate Board uncovered several challenges in mobilizing organizations to achieve carbon reduction goals.

People lack sufficient knowledge to make the right changes. Transforming an organization for sustainability requires understanding the challenges, risks, costs, and solutions at all levels, from functional roles to the Board of Directors. Of particular concern can be a relatively rigid middle layer of decision-makers with well-established ways of doing things – dislodging entrenched behaviors that have led to success in the past is often the most difficult part of the challenge. Companies that have succeeded in ingraining a sustainability mindset and changing behavior have invested substantial effort in identifying knowledge needs for each level and function, and educating people in every part of their business. They build a common understanding of the state of the industry, the organization’s sustainability strategy, and each individual’s role in contributing to the company’s objectives.

The drive for measurement has resulted in “analysis paralysis. ”There is a constant lament in sustainability circles over the scarcity of industry data, the lack of common measurement standards and systems, and the inadequate frequency of measurement to drive decisions. Each of these is a very real challenge to effecting the fundamental changes required to meet ambitious climate objectives. However, we’ve still seen companies drive significant progress toward their GHG reduction goals. Addressing the measurement challenge requires balancing two directly contradictory imperatives – the need to define, measure, and track progress against objective quantitative targets and the need to move now, even in the face of inadequate measurement. The companies that are excelling have recognized that measurement can be the enemy of the good if it stymies action.

Organizational efforts are fragmented because of operational and information silos. There is a wide variety of excellent practices, innovations, and initiatives in happening in a broad swath of companies. There is also a fragmentation of effort, particularly in multi-brand organizations – innovative approaches are often slow to be shared across brands for more significant impact. This points to an opportunity to build better and faster internal sharing mechanisms for best practices, techniques, and technologies to promulgate and adopt these practices more quickly.

Carbon impact is not integrated into decision analysis. The tools used to make business decisions – primarily financial analysis and budgeting – often do not reflect the costs of carbon emissions. As long as carbon impacts remain an externality, decisions are likely to serve explicit cost and quality objectives best, while giving insufficient attention to environmental considerations. There are various approaches to incorporating the concept of environmental cost in decision-making analyses. These help decision-makers understand the true costs of their activities and begin to explicitly illustrate how their choices impact their contribution to overall emissions reduction goals.

Has your organization encountered these friction points? The Climate Board provides best practices and practical insights to address challenges like these. Contact us for more information about joining, and subscribe to our mailing list to be alerted when we release new content.

Friction Points in Fashion & Textiles: Defining GHG Reduction Success

In 2021, corporate sustainability goals abound. Nearly all of the world’s largest 200 companies now publicly set and report on goals for environmental sustainability. As the number of companies with goals has grown, so too have the types of goals, with targets and commitments on carbon emissions; circularity; land, water, energy use; chemical use; biodiversity…the list of target areas goes on, with each item undeniably contributing to true sustainability. The Climate Board investigated how organizations are developing and using goals to drive behavioral and operational change. Along the way, we uncovered several friction points in goal-setting that slow progress toward GHG reduction.

Internal goals are not demonstrably linked to carbon reductions. While many publicly-announced corporate goals align with a broad carbon reduction objective, the behaviors targeted with internal, operational goals often don’t move that lever. For example, a goal of shifting to “all-natural” fibers might actually be more carbon-intensive than alternatives. The misalignment is often the result of competing goals and a lack of internal clarity on how to prioritize. For example, migrating to “all-natural” fibers may reduce chemical use and generation of micro-bead pollution but negatively impact overall GHG emissions.

Carbon reduction is a long-term endeavor supported by short-term processes. Many organizations conduct budgeting processes for sustainability initiatives on an annual cycle, either within business units, in a centralized sustainability team, or both. Few establish longer-term budget commitments that enable substantial transitions to meet longer-term goals. This mismatch creates situations where there is a will but not a way to undertake the larger-scale, longer-term transition initiatives required to achieve net-zero or better.

Goals are too generic to keep pace with long-term objectives. We observe cases where goals are not structured to drive sustained, long-term changes in behavior and management decision-making. They may be too lofty for people to understand what is expected of them, become stale, or be applied universally in the organization without regard to the specific drivers of behavior and decisions that vary by activity, brand, or function. For example, an organization may be striving for a 5% one-year GHG reduction goal. Applying it equally to all apparel classes, regardless of fibers and materials used, may under-challenge high potential areas and over-challenge areas with less potential. For initiatives to impact behavior meaningfully, goals have to adapt over time and by brand, unit, or function.

Do these friction points sound familiar? The Climate Board provides best practices and practical insights to address challenges like these. Contact us for more information about joining, and subscribe to our mailing list to be alerted when we release new content.

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