Shaping the Climate Action trajectory within the Fashion Industry : a case study of a Small Medium Sized Enterprise

University essay from Uppsala universitet/Naturresurser och hållbar utveckling

Abstract: The apparel and footwear industry’s contribution to global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is one of the fifth largest per industry, equal to that of livestock, after electricity and heat, oil and gas, agriculture, and transportation (Ellen MacArthur Foundation, 2017). For industry-wide emissions reduction, investing in renewable energy and energy efficiency programs across highest impacting life cycle phases offer the most effective solution. However, identifying the highest impacting life cycles phases shows varied results depending on the particular type of business model under examination. This paper responds to the lack of existing data and empirical research on how to accurately measure, report and reduce carbon emissions across the highly complex and globally interconnected apparel value chain. This is done through a single case study investigation of an Icelandic fashion brand. A hybrid approach of a standard Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) and the Sustainable Global Value Chain (SGVC) functions to produce a Hotspot Identification Tool (HIT) to establish a holistic portrayal of business operations in relation to emission impacts and level of controllability across Scopes. The conceptual analysis and qualitative results identify the most relevant emission hotspots to lie within the company’s privately owned manufacturing facilities, as well as the procurement phase, due to its direct connection with and influence on material production, user phase, and end-of-life. The main obstacle in this pursuit is identified as restriction of resources in terms of time, capital and expertise. It is suggested that this be overcome by joining a Multi-Stakeholder Initiative where resources and expertise is pooled in a pre-competitive manner to reach common objectives. The investigation further suggests a need for global fashion brands to leverage their influential position on down- and upstream activities across the value chain, i.e. with their supply chain partners and consumers. I argue that fashion brands play an integral role in supporting local efforts to build a decarbonisation pathway towards climate neutral economies on a global scale.

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