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Greenwashing, ultra fast fashion slowing down progress on eliminating fossil fuels from textiles, finds new report

By Simone Preuss


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Many brands are still relying on synthetic fabrics like polyester, derived from petroleum, despite better alternatives being available. Credits: FashionUnited

The good news is that fashion companies are making progress when it comes to reducing emissions, phasing out coal and transitioning to renewable energy. The bad news is that greenwashing and ultra fast fashion are undermining these efforts. These are the findings of the “2024 Clean Energy Close Up” report by environmental advocacy group Stand.earth. At the end of last year, the organisation had highlighted the continued reliance of biomass by the fashion industry and the inherent risks and harms associated with using non-fossilised, biodegradable material.

In the new report, Stand.earth provides an in-depth analysis of the tangible progress of eleven of the most influential global fashion brands, specifically their progress in reducing emissions, phasing out coal and transitioning to renewable energy. The organisation measured their performance against the runway to an equitable fossil fuel phase-out by 2030, drawing on data shared publicly by manufacturers in their supply chains.

Among the eleven brands analysed in the report (Adidas, Fast Retailing, Gap, H&M, Inditex, Levi Strauss, Lululemon, Nike, Puma, Shein and VF Corporation), the majority scored less than 25 of 100 total possible points, “demonstrating an alarming lack of progress and action toward decarbonisation“ according to Stand.earth. 

Best score is a fail - only 59 out of 100 points

While H&M, Puma and Nike earned the highest scores with 59, 51 and 46.5, respectively, only Levi’s, Puma and H&M are currently on track to reduce manufacturing emissions by at least 55 percent by 2030 compared to 2018 levels, despite that target being only six years away (2030).

Shein, Fast Retailing, Lululemon and Inditex scored the lowest with 2.5, 14, 16 and 16, respectively. “Among the most concerning findings in the report is that fast-fashion giant Shein, which earned a 2.5/100 score, increased its absolute emissions by nearly 50 percent in just one year – now emitting more pollution annually than the nation of Paraguay. The e-retailer’s staggering growth alone threatens to undermine decarbonisation progress made by more traditional brands,“ warns the report.

In the mid-range are Levi Strauss, Adidas, Gap and VF Corp with a score of 37.5, 33.5, 20.5 and 20, respectively. While Puma and Nike scored highest on transparency among the eleven brands, Shein scored “0” and Inditex very low.

Performance of the 11 companies analysed by Stand.earth in its "2024 Clean Energy Close Up" Credits: Stand.earth

Greenwashing is further complicating the clean energy transition with some brands using marketing tactics to disguise pollution or distracting consumers away from their climate action accountability. Just a few week ago, the Canadian Competition Bureau announced that it officially opened an inquiry into Lululemon, following a complaint filed by Stand.earth criticising that the brand uses their ‘Be Planet’ campaign to market themselves environmentally concerned while having doubled carbon pollution.

“The good news is that progress is happening. The bad news is that that progress is being undermined by dangerous pollution from ultra-fast fashion, and the growing threat of greenwashing. Simply put, most brands are not yet on track to decarbonise and many are heading in the wrong direction, and no matter the price printed on the tag, people and the planet are left to pay the true costs. These big players in the fashion industry must show leadership by rapidly phasing out fossil fuels and investing in tangible, renewable energy solutions,” commented Rachel Kitchin, senior corporate climate campaigner at Stand.earth and the report’s lead author, in a press release.

The “Clean Energy Close Up” builds on the foundation of Stand.earth’s Fossil Free Fashion Scorecard, which for the past several years has provided a detailed evaluation of fashion brands’ sustainability initiatives on energy, materials, circularity and shipping.

Fossil Fuel Fashion Campaign
Sustainable Fashion
ultra fast fashion