The fashion industry is trying to reduce its environmental impact, but its efforts are being cancelled out by the increasing demand for new clothes. According to a report by Wrap, a climate action NGO, the average Briton buys 28 items of clothing every year, which contributes to the high carbon and water footprint of the sector.
Wrap’s Textiles 2030 pact is a voluntary agreement that aims to make the UK fashion and textile industry more sustainable. It involves 130 brands and retailers, including Asos and Primark, who have committed to reduce their carbon emissions and water use by 50% by 2030. The pact also encourages the use of recycled and organic materials, as well as the collection and reuse of unwanted clothes.
According to Wrap’s annual progress report, the signatories have made some improvements in their production processes. They have reduced the carbon intensity and water use per tonne of textiles by 12% and 4%, respectively, between 2019 and 2022. They have also increased the use of recycled polyester and polyamide, and sourced nearly three-quarters of their cotton from better sources, such as the Better Cotton Initiative. Moreover, they have doubled the volume of used textiles collected and sold for reuse or recycling in the same period.
The Challenge of Rising Consumption
However, these achievements are being offset by the rising consumption of new clothes, which is driven by the fast fashion trend and the online shopping boom. The report reveals that the volume of textiles produced and sold increased by 13% between 2019 and 2022, which means that the overall water use rose by 8%, while the carbon reduction was only 2%. The report warns that the industry must urgently accelerate its efforts to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 45% by 2030, in order to align with the Paris Agreement and avoid the worst impacts of climate change.
Wrap’s director of behaviour change and business programmes, Catherine David, said that consumers have a part to play in this challenge. She said that Britons buy more clothes than any other nation in Europe, and that a quarter of their wardrobes go unworn in a year. She urged people to wear what they have, and to donate, sell or give away clothes that they no longer need. She said that this would help reduce the amount of clothes produced, and extend their lifespan in the economy.
The Future of Sustainable Fashion
The fashion industry is facing a critical moment, as it needs to balance its economic growth with its environmental responsibility. Wrap’s Textiles 2030 pact is one of the initiatives that aims to transform the sector into a circular and low-carbon one, by promoting collaboration and innovation among its stakeholders. However, the pact alone is not enough to achieve this goal, as it also requires the support and participation of the consumers, who have the power to influence the demand and supply of clothes. By choosing to buy less, buy better, and make clothes last longer, consumers can help the fashion industry go green, and contribute to the global fight against climate change.