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The fashion footprint on the environment

We talk about: Sustainable fashion
12 February 2024

The fashion industry has an enormous negative impact on the environment, both in terms of resource consumption and in terms of waste production and harmful emissions. But what do we mean by enormous? Is it possible to measure the fashion industry’s environmental footprint and determine whether a company, a process, or a product is more sustainable than another?

There are numerous institutions and organisations that collect and process data. These include, for example, the Global Fashion Agenda and McKinsey & Company. However, it must be said that the same concept of sustainability is fleeting and ambiguous. Unlike the term “organic”, for example, there is no legal and commonly shared definition of the term “sustainable”, which is therefore subject to various interpretations. In any case, we can try to extract some figures to get a rough idea of the impact of fashion on the environment.

Fashion and the environment: several figures

  • The fashion industry is responsible for around 10% of global CO2 emissions each year, equivalent to between 4 and 5 million tonnes.
  • Production consumes more than 20% of the water used for industrial purposes, making the fashion industry second in the ranking, behind agriculture.
  • The dyeing and finishing processes of garments and accessories are responsible for 20% of the global pollution of drinking water.
  • 35% of microplastics found in the seas come from washing synthetic clothing.
  • 70% of textiles are made from oil derivatives, mostly from polyester: about 80 million tonnes each year.
  • In comparison with twenty years ago, in the wake of fast fashion, every consumer buys 60% more clothes but keeps them for half the time.
  • In Europe alone, 5.8 million tonnes of textile waste are produced each year.

People consume almost 80 billion clothing garments every year and the growth rate of the fashion industry suggests that production volume will increase by more than 80 per cent by 2030.

Curbing fashion’s impact on the environment

While environmental sustainability still has no unambiguous legal definition, these figures make it clear that a change in the fashion world is needed more than ever. Even consumers have realised this and are starting to make different choices: from second hand, to hiring, to turning away from fast fashion and synthetics in order to buy better quality and ethically sourced garments. This is also the case with our outlet and retail customers, who are choosing to offer end-of-series and previous collections.

There are many good practices that the industry can adopt to work towards greater sustainability. From our privileged position that acts as a bridge between manufacturer brands and end retailers, we strive to implement the logic of circular economy in the fashion industry.

If you are a brand that on the one hand needs to solve the problem of unsold stock, and on the other, needs to comply with increasingly stringent regulations in terms of environmental impact, contact us.