Fashion is chasing carbon neutrality. Carbon positive is better #175


Brands including Reformation and Allbirds are working with the nonprofit Climate Neutral to track their carbon footprint. It’s a good first step, environmental advocates say. But climate positivity should be the goal.

Fifty-two fashion brands including Reformation, Nicholas Kirkwood and Allbirds are certified carbon neutral today, after a rigorous process by nonprofit Climate Neutral, which tracks carbon and footprints, sets reduction targets and helps offset carbon usage.

Allbirds, which tags the carbon count of its shoes on the label, is announcing an opening sourced version of it’s own carbon footprint calculator for the wider fashion industry.

Carbon neutrality has become a common checkpoint for fashion brands wanting to be more sustainable, largely from offsets or funding reforestation. Brands including Burberry and Gabriela Hearst have hosted carbon neutral fashion shows, Ganni imposes a “carbon tax” on itself and Gucci claimed its whole supply chain was carbon neutral in 2019. There are two main players in the climate impact scoring space: Climate Neutral, which offers certifications, and CDP, which uses a scoring system to measures impact across climate change, deforestation and water scarcity. CDP counts LVMH, Estée Lauder and L’Oréal among its 9,600 committed conglomerates and parent companies, and does not encourage offsetting.

Critics say impact scoring is a good first step towards the industry’s awareness of its own carbon footprint, but relying on offsetting is insufficient without reducing emissions and the industry should be aiming for positive impact.

“Most companies don’t understand their climate contributions, but that should be as normalised as understanding your revenues or expenses,” says Climate Neutral’s CEO Austin Whitman. Making it more accessible will accelerate progress. “Those companies have seen their competitors get certified or make carbon neutral announcements, so there is a norm shift happening.”

Climate Neutral’s Brand Emissions Estimator (BEE) tool, which completes the process in three months for a large brand and less than three hours for a small brand, is open-sourced to brands going through the certification process and available to others for a small fee. Today, Climate Neutral has certified 275 brands across 12 industries, doubling its company count to include 52 fashion brands. They will collectively offset one million tonnes of carbon, a 300 per cent increase on last year.

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