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.

Focus on Infrastructure: Tackling Emissions from Concrete

Concrete is estimated to account for about 8% of global carbon emissions, to the tune of 4 billion tons of CO2 released annually. As the infrastructure industry faces increasing pressure to evolve toward higher tech and lower emissions, no area is riper for climate-oriented innovation. By addressing the large carbon footprints of primary inputs like concrete, companies are finding ways to lower costs, decrease waste, and provide crucial emissions reductions all along the value chain. Many of these initiatives also improve on the performance of these materials, creating better, stronger structures with lower climate impact. A quick scan of the industry turns up a number of different approaches to tackling concrete emissions.

Carbon Cure, a Nova Scotia-based company, has developed a technology that injects liquid CO2 into fresh concrete. This results in higher compressive strength of the end product, requiring less cement to achieve strength requirements and lowering materials costs over time. Their equipment can be connected to any ready mix concrete mixer, and can be used for all applications as traditional cement.

Blue Planet is another company with a technology for permanently sequestering carbon in concrete, through combination of waste CO2 and waste calcium to create synthetic limestone aggregate. This waste calcium can come from many sources, including demolished concrete, cement kiln dust, steel slag, sly ash, and more. Blue Planet’s model can pull CO2 from many sources, including cement plants, iron and steel plants, refineries, and direct air capture. It is also able to use unpurified CO2 sources, whereas other carbon concrete technologies require processing for CO2 sources.

Carbicrete, a Montreal-based concrete block producer, has managed to cut cement out of their concrete all together. By replacing cement with steel slag, an industrial waste byproduct of steel production, and then curing their blocks and injecting CO2, they are able to both remove an emissions-intensive input (cement) and permanently sequester additional CO2. While they currently offer concrete blocks as opposed to the more common ready mix concrete, they another alternative for infrastructure companies to lower the emissions of their projects.

Swedish cement producer Norcem is taking a different approach to decreasing their emissions, by designing and building the world’s first zero emissions cement plant. Their plant will include carbon capture technology to decrease the CO2 byproducts from their cement production, and they will also decrease their footprint through partnerships with alternative and renewable energy suppliers. Through these measures as well as developments in heat capture tech and new formulas of lower emissions cement, Norcem is leveraging their position within the concrete supply chain to minimize their environmental impact and maximize their position as a positive force within the industry.

German company CARBOCON has created their own methods for improving the physical and environmental performance of concrete, by reimagining the methods through which it is used for building. While reinforcing concrete with steel rebar has been standard practice for decades, the use of steel in reinforcing concrete structures decreases the lifespan of the product, as steel bars rust and corrode over time. By developing carbon-based reinforcement materials such as carbon-basalt rebar, carbon fiber mats, and other hybrid carbon fabrics, CARBOCON is able to avoid emissions, utilize waste CO2 as an input, and develop new technologies for structural concrete building.

While these examples of developments in lower-emissions materials are only a handful of the technologies currently under development, they showcase the unique approaches some companies are taking to lead the industry forward toward zero emissions and zero waste.

Subscribe to the Climate Action Blog to be updated when we post new content, or contact us at info@theclimateboard.com for more information on joining us to accelerate business action on climate change.

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.

Friction Points in Fashion & Textiles: A Whole of Business Approach for Climate Action

Despite the enormity of the climate challenge, there is much good news in the fashion and textiles industry. Companies are undertaking substantive actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and address the impacts of climate change. Their efforts span internal and external constituencies, address many issues that impact emissions, and build progress toward carbon neutrality.

Friction Points in Fashion & Textiles 2021 breaks the climate journey into four components: defining GHG reduction success, mobilizing internal resources, transforming the supply chain, and extending impact externally. Addressing all of these using a whole-of-business approach is critical to achieving absolute carbon emissions reductions commensurate with the aggressive goals set by corporate leaders and industry bodies. Friction Points focuses primarily on the first three, with a particular emphasis on fibers and materials.

Over the coming weeks, The Climate Board will be sharing the friction points uncovered in each stage of the journey. Join our mailing list to be alerted when we release new content or contact us to learn more.

contact us