THE JOURNEY TO CARBON NEUTRALITY
– Time to Score
The vision of calculating the carbon footprint of individual fabrics came to life at the PERFORMANCE DAYS and Functional Fabric Fair by PERFORMANCE DAYS exhibitions in Munich, Portland and New York fairs earlier this year; this is the second stage, with an objective that by next year (2023) the products featured in the PERFORMANCE FORUM will have a quantified number attributed to them. Hence these comments should be read in conjunction with the previous Focus Topics.
PERFORMANCE FORUM November 2022
In the PERFORMANCE FORUM "Focus Topic" category, the green light to participate was exclusively given to fabric innovations that could certify initial values in CO2 reduction for the submitted fiber innovations. In combination with standards like the Higg Index the aim is to make it possible in the future to achieve a better assessment of the CO2 balance in the production and development of new materials and fibers for the industry itself. Nonetheless, as in spring of this year, the new PERFORMANCE DAYS Focus Topic caused quite a stir:
After all, how can the values of natural fibers such as wool or Tencel™ be compared with those of recycled polyester, bio-based nylon or recycled wool?
How do you deal with the various qualities on the one hand and with different strengths on the other?
How important are such factors as the production site and production processes within this context?
Still a long way to go towards achieving CO2 neutrality.
The additional performance codes such as "CO2 neutral" and "CO2 reduced" are intended to make the approaches to CO2 reduction visible also for the winter edition.
Lower CO2 emissions
Focus Topic defines even further four categories
In general, as mentioned previously, four separated categories should be distinguished to have a differentiated view on the CO2 emissions to be able to increase transparency and comparability: First, synthetic fibers with variants made of recycled polyester, recycled polyamide and polypropylene, saving up to 30-40% CO2 emissions. Second, the use of biobased synthetic fibers such as those made from castor oil is exciting as we see significant CO2 reductions. Work is also currently underway to produce biopolymers from plant waste (biomass) in the future. The third group are natural cellulosic based fibers such as Tencel™, hemp, organic cotton, Naia spun fiber or their recycled versions. In the fourth group we evaluated wool and recycled wool within one category.
The effect of carbon is the most well-known side of the Climate Crisis, something that has been highlighted by Cop 26 (in 2021) and COP 27 (November 2022). It is part of the overall picture of changing climatic conditions which includes detail of: EcoToxicity, BioDiversity Loss, Poverty, Eutrophication, Water Crisis, Health, Education, Resource Scarcity, Inequality, Affordable Goods & Services, Air Pollution & Overconsumption.
Carbon is an element; it does not disappear from the planet but can combine to form other compounds. It easily forms Greenhouse Gases like carbon dioxide & methane given suitable opportunity, thus the principle of photosynthesis is a key aspect to its storage away from GHGs. When carbon dioxide enters this natural process the carbon is separated so that oxygen can be returned to the atmosphere, whilst the carbon is sequestered. In terms of vegetation this is within the foliage and roots of the plants. When the process is applied though a chemical process the carbon is solidified. For this latter application there is now research and development towards using this as the skeleton of a polymer.
There is renewed focus towards using the natural photosynthesis method as part of the ReGenerative Agricultural process as this method also safeguards other aspects of the farming system. ReGenAg is a style of farming that was common before the introduction of chemical fertilisers & growth restrictors that became popular from the 1950s onwards. It is essentially livestock & arable mixed farming with crop rotation used, although it is most frequently identified by the use of cover crops that hide the soil from the elements. ReGenAg prioritises soil health, restoring biodiversity (which is the focus of COP 15, December 2022), creating better irrigation systems, supporting local farming cooperatives, as well as sequestering carbon. To understand the natural system is to recognise that in nature there is no waste created: everything is reused. ReGenAg uses livestock to eat down the crop after the fruit of it has been gathered, with the resulting mature being deposited directly onto the soil for the health boost of the next crop. The key to ReGenAg is to have more mature plants with much growth above the soil as this is directly counterbalanced with longer roots (which facilitate more carbon storage); thus the need is not to graze down the grasses too much. It is estimated that the rebalance is to have just 25 % of the current livestock population as this will ensure that there are enough local food-stuffs available without the requirement to grow extra feedstock elsewhere.
One of the incoming subjects for debate is whether more land should be focused on growing fibers for materials whilst the planet has around 1 billion people living below the nutritional poverty line; there are enough calories grown to meet the needs the population, but the foodstuffs are poorly & disproportionately distributed. As with the whole of nature, there is a balanced eco-system & care must be taken not to disturb the equilibrium. The planet is able to cope with some readjustment of resources, but the Earth Overshoot Day chart reveals that humankind is using up resources at a greater rate than can be replaced.
Thus carbon is the focus that is easiest to quantify, but The Journey to Carbon Neutrality is the start of a wider effort to work within the planetary boundaries described by the principle of Doughnut Economics as set out by Kate Raworth.
Controversy around the Higg Index
2022 has marked attention from challenges to the Higg Index, which is one part of the portfolio of the five main Higg tools. The use of Consumer facing data was challenged in Europe & the US on the principle that averaged data is not specific enough to be claimed to accurately represent the material type used in a particular garment. It is key to look beyond the headlines to identify what challenge was made to the system.
Higg tools are offered by Higg, but the data that scales these tools is moderated by the Sustainable Apparel Coalition. The SAC uses a range of sources for the data but prefers third party published data – normally information pulled from LifeCycle Assessments. LCAs were conceived as a tool for assessing future construction options but have demonstrated themselves to provide the best system of calculating the impacts associated to the textile industry. As with all scales they are based on historical data, so that future insight can be drawn from them. The idea of a Higg tool is that it provides another avenue of consideration to the knowledge base. There are gaps within the scope of what a Higg tool can provide; thus there is a need to use the tools as intended as opposed to them being the definitive answer. LCAs in textiles are not yet set up to consider newer factors like fiber-fragmentation, or the length of use of the garment. An LCA will have core information regarding the carbon, water, and waste factors, but could have a much larger range of measurements in the report; thus it is important to have moderation of the data so that multiple LCAs can add to the knowledge base.
Higg tools cover five areas, but the one that is most used in the research and development departments is the Material Sustainability Index. For years this has provided an insight to be able to compare options between the most productive way to reduce the environmental impacts: whether using a recycled fiber would have a more powerful effect than changing the dyestuffs or finishing processes. This year has seen the first trial of consumer facing data – it is this part of the tool that has been challenged. Using aggregated data on specific material choices has been ruled to not be accurate enough.
The other tools are still in operation as they cover areas like the Brand & Retail Module, the Facility Environmental Module, the Facility Social & Labour Module, & the Product Module. The challenges to drop the entire portfolio of Higg tools would be more acceptable if there was a better system to use instead, as to not have any tools whilst the Climate Crisis is ongoing would be irresponsible.
The incoming EU Green Deal uses Product Environmental Footprints, whilst the French system (Environmental Impact Assessment) is more established. All three measurement systems have their critics.
A decade ago there were qualms around Audit Fatigue (where the difference between the detail of different systems could be missed), but Audit Confusion is recognised as a more serious challenge nowadays. This is the public perception that all the standards measure the same metrics.
We recognise that there is not a perfect solution, so emphasis should be placed on using audit systems as source of information for further consideration. We welcome the announcement by the SAC & Higg that their system needs to be examined again to see whether the set-up can be improved. Already the data used by the Higg Index is updated at least twice a year.
Making sustainable products the norm
Communication COM(2022) 140 – 30.03.2022
The definition of Greenwashing is always uppermost in the mind of the management, but it must also be based in real world capabilities. The definition used is that:
»The act or practice of making a product, policy, activity, et cetera, appear more environmentally friendly or less environmentally damaging than it really is.«
Why the textile industry ?
The recommendations below focus attention to the Circular Economy which is an overall theme of the incoming EU Green Deal / New York Fashion Sustainability and Social Accountability Act. Whereas a lot of the apparel industry has focused on the recycling of fibers the principle of the Circular Economy is the keep the original product going for as long as possible, as options further down the CE chain involved bigger footprints.
- Wash it or reproof it
- Repair or resize it
- Consider ways to reduce consumption (like renting in the first place)
- Reappropriate product to others when it is no longer your option of choice
- Relegate worn out product to other roles
- Investigate textile-to-textile recycling (made easier by having a mono-material garment)
- Consider having a compostable product if it is likely to be littered
- Landfill – is this really an option that is considered? Even the most worn out textiles can be transformed into cleaning rags/ substrates for insulation or soundproofing uses
Infographic redrawn from herewear.eu
– remember that CSR is more than just Environmental Impacts!
What is key is not just the better practice being offered, but the amount of adoption of that better practice. Getting the majority on board is key to change the bigger metrics of the Climate Crisis. Sometimes the most effective role of apparel is as a channel to communicate behaviour change around bigger issues like carbon used in transport & heating choices, or to open up the conversation around other forms of protein intake from non-meat versions (plant based) to artificial meat (the Impossible Burger), to new meat (like bugs).
Transport – slow travel should be the choice. Moving goods halfway around the world by sea has only twice the carbon footprint of moving it 250 miles by truck; flying goods around is carbon suicide. The incident of the Ever Given upset the worldwide shipping balance. Is it time to re-visit the option of the 4th Industrial Revolution (moving production close to the market): this would cut down on over-supply from over-long supply chains and allow for better stop-gap manufacturing in an industry whose sales are highly influenced by local weather conditions. The 4th IR also enables easier product customisation – which increases the emotional durability of garments as they separate themselves from the homogenised world appeal.
Product specifics are important, but it is so much more than just using the best yarn. Most important are the balance between the performance of the garment, its aesthetic appeal, and the likelihood of it being churned. There is a lot more than just the yarn type (a recycled fiber is generally reduced impact, but this can be outshone by dyeing or fabric finishes), or the packaging used. The debate around carbon even encompasses the source of source of power used to create the garment: whether fossil-fuelled, renewable, or nuclear originated. There is a current debate around whether some natural yarns should be reclassified as synthetic due to the number of petro-chemical additives that can be used in the material creation. This has been prompted by the observation from the subject of fiber-fragmentation which has seen such fibers remain not biodegraded for decades.
As already mentioned – perhaps the most effective role of apparel is to communicate better practice that can be applied to behaviour change in areas of our lives than have poorer environmental impacts. What is known is that best practice is still not agreed upon, so apparel can be the medium that extends the education to better choices as knowledge develops as our product has interesting stories associated.
EU strategy for Sustainable and Circular Textiles – Fact Sheet
As demand for greater sustainability grows, so too does the importance of certifications in counteracting greenwashing and ambiguous claims.
At the same time, the need to help consumers, business and legislators recognize these false or unvalidated sustainability claims has seen an explosion in the number of providers seeking to create clarity in the form of certificates and standards.
Chemical management, organic, fair trade, recycled and more – which are the most important labels to know for functional wear?
PERFORMANCE DAYS & Suston Magazine help guide you through the jungle of certifications.
The aim of the "bluesign® PRODUCT" seal is to reduce the environmental impact of the textile industry. It also stands for the safe production and processing of synthetic and natural fibers. Products that have been processed to at least 90 % in certified factories may bear the "bluesign® PRODUCT" seal.
ClimatePartner help calculate and reduce carbon emissions and offset residual emissions. This renders products and companies carbon neutral, confirmed by the ClimatePartner label. The integrated ID tracking provides transparent information on system boundaries, the amount of calculated emissions and the supported carbon offset projects as well as the emission reduction strategy.
CRADLE TO CRADLE
The Cradle to Cradle Certified™ Product Standard focuses on the circularity of products. It looks at a product through five categories: material health, material reutilization, renewable energy and carbon management, water stewardship, and
social fairness. A product receives an achievement level (Basic, Bronze, Silver, Gold, or Platinum) in each category. Its overall product label is whichever category has the lowest level
EU ECO LABEL
Established in 1992, the EU Ecolabel is a third party certified Type I ISO 14024 aimed to promote products and services which have a reduced environmental impact thus helping European consumers distinguish more environmentally friendly products.
Recognised across Europe, the EU Ecolabel is a label of environmental excellence that is awarded to products and services meeting high environmental standards throughout their life-cycle: from raw material extraction, to production, distribution and disposal.
FAIR WEAR FOUNDATION
This concentrates on the Social side of CSR, endorsing the conditions for the workers within the system. It is independent and especially focused on labour conditions in garment factories.
FOREST STEWARDSHIP COUNCIL (FSC)
FSC is a global not-for-profit organization that ensures that companies using timber from an FSC-certified forest meet their standards along the entire supply chain. The FSC has three different labels: FSC 100 % (completely from FSC-certified well-managed forests), FSC Recycled (everything comes from recycled material), and FSC Mix (the product is from FSC-certified forests, recycled material, or controlled wood).
GLOBAL ORGANIC TEXTILE STANDARD (GOTS)
Focuses on tracing certified organic fibres (mainly cotton, but also certified wool and silk). It is one of the most trusted and holistic certifications. It covers the processing, manufacturing, packaging, labeling, trading and distribution of all textiles made from at least 70 % certified organic natural fibers. The textiles must meet certain environmental standards (toxicity, wastewater, etc.) as well as social criteria in accordance with the International Labor Organization.
GLOBAL RECYCLE STANDARD (GRS)
The Global Recycle Standard has been developed to meet demands, in the textile industry and beyond, for verification of the amount of recycled parts or ingredients in a given product. The GRS provides a track and trace certification system that ensures that the claims made about a product are appropriately supported with documented evidence.
GLOBAL TRACEABLE DOWN STANDARD*
The Global Traceable Down Standard (GTDS) certifies down if its entire supply chain passes a third-party audit that ensures a holistic respect for animal welfare has been maintained from hatching to slaughter – including no live-plucking or forced feeding. It additionally has a strict approach to down’s “Parent Farm.” Here, the GTDS requires certification of farms that produce the eggs, whether down is produced here or not.
The Higg Index is a suite of tools for the standardized measurement of value chain sustainability, and it is central to the SAC’s mission to transform businesses for exponential impact. One of them is the Higg Materials Sustainability Index (MSI) is a standard to evaluate and manage carbon emissions as well as other critical factors that identify the impact of material production used in the textile industry on the environment.
INTERNATIONAL WOOL TRADE ORGANISATION*
The International Wool Textile Organisation (IWTO) is the global authority for standards in the wool textile industry. Since 1930, IWTO has represented the collected interests of the global wool trade. IWTO’s 33 members are based in 22 countries around the world, and represent all stages of the wool textile pipeline, from farm to retail. Through scientific research, wool textile education and knowledge sharing, IWTO ensures a sustainable future for wool.
LAND TO MARKET
Seen as the highest Regenerative Agriculture standard, Land to Market is the world’s first outcomes-based verified regenerative sourcing solution. The program uses the Environmental Outcome Verification protocol to measure the effectiveness and health of ecosystem processes to verify regenerative outcomes on the land.
OEKOTEX MADE IN GREEN
The International Oeko-Tex Association has been testing for harmful substances since 1992. It is another trustworthy label that focuses on chemicals. It actually has a number of different certifications they offer, but the MADE IN GREEN label gives you the certainty that the textile product is made from materials tested for harmful substances is produced in environmentally friendly factories and in safe and socially responsible workplaces.
OEKOTEX STANDARD 100
The International Oeko-Tex Association has been testing for harmful substances since 1992. It is another trustworthy label that focuses on chemicals. It actually has a number of different certifications they offer, but the Standard 100 is the most common one you’re most likely to come across as a consumer. This certification tests for substances like toxic chemicals that are harmful to humans.
The International Oeko-Tex Association has been testing for harmful substances since 1992. It is another trustworthy label that focuses on chemicals. It actually has a number of different certifications they offer, but the STeP certification concentrates on the supply-chain. The aim of STeP certification is the permanent implementation of environmentally friendly production processes, social working conditions and optimum occupational safety.
ORGANIC CONTENT STANDARD*
The Organic Content Standard (OCS) is a chain of custody standard developed by the non-profit Textile Exchange. Essentially, the OCS works at the farm level with approved national certification authorities to verify that a final product contains mostly organically grown and harvested plants.
RECYCLED CLAIM STANDARD*
The Recycled Claim Standard (RCS) is an international and voluntary chain of custody standard developed by Textile
Exchange. It verifies the recycled input material and tracks it all the way through the supply chain to the final product.
RESPONSIBLE DOWN STANDARD*
The Responsible Down Standard (RDS) is an independent global standard that was developed with the input of animal welfare groups and industry actors. Down is only RDS certified if its entire supply chain passes a third-party audit that ensures a holistic respect for animal welfare has been maintained from hatching to slaughter – including no live-plucking or forced feeding.
RESPONSIBLE WOOL STANDARD (RWS)
The Responsible Wool Standard is a voluntary standard that addresses the welfare of sheep and the land they graze on. The goals of the Responsible Wool Standard are to provide the industry with a tool to recognize the best practices of farmers; ensuring that wool comes from farms that have a progressive approach to managing their land, practice holistic respect for animal welfare of the sheep and respect the Five Freedoms of animal welfare. The RWS requires all sites to be certified, beginning with the wool farmers and through to the seller in the final business to business transaction. Usually the last stage to be certified is the garment manufacturer or brand.
Vegan fabrics means choosing fabrics that do not use any animals in the process. Meaning no silk, wool, cashmere, leather, or any other fabric made from an animal. In doing so, you are not promoting the use of any animal as materials in creating fabrics or garments.
Regarded as the widest encompassing traceability for wool system; centred on European wool production (as RWS has very little take up in the Northern Hemisphere). It accommodates entry level information, through organic, & up to ReGenerative Agriculture status
As one of the world's leading ethical wool standards, ZQ is a wool certification standard that stresses five key values: Animal welfare and health; environmental sustainability; social responsibility; quality fiber; and traceability.
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© 2022 Charles Ross
© 2022 Astrid Schlüchter
PERFORMANCE DAYS® functional fabric fair
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