Fashion House Gucci Declared Carbon-Neutral

Luxury fashion house Gucci announced that its entire production process will now be offset. Carbon neutrality is not that simple, experts say.
For example, The Guardian reported last week that Gucci had declared itself carbon neutral. Italy’s most valuable fashion brand says it has zeroed in on emissions by reducing, eliminating and offsetting its environmental footprint.

Emission offset and carbon neutrality mean that an operator removes as much carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as it does.

The carbon footprint of the clothing industry is estimated to be slightly higher than that of global aviation and shipping. The manufacture and distribution of clothing causes over one billion tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions each year, about one-tenth of the world’s emissions.

Can a company pay for itself to be carbon neutral?
Gucci says it has extended carbon neutrality throughout its production chain and operations. It is known to be the world’s first clothing manufacturer to claim to offset all the carbon dioxide it produces. Gucci says it will compensate for its emissions by taking part, for example, in forest protection. It announced that it would have reduced its own emissions by 16 percent from 2015 onwards.

But can a company buy itself clean?

“Minimizing environmental damage is a great principle, but offsetting emissions is not a straightforward matter,” says Ernesto Hartikainen, Sitra’s senior expert on the Carbon Neutral Circular Economy.

There is currently only a limited number of ways and projects in the world to capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

– Questions arise, for example, about how these alleged offsets can be verified. Openness and transparency are really important in these cases.

According to Hartikainen, companies should reduce and eliminate emissions primarily in their own operations.

– It is only then that it is time for compensation. The challenge with offsetting emissions is that there is currently only a limited number of ways and projects in the world to capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere or proven to prevent future emissions.

If the firm’s job is to sell as much clothing as possible, its business is not on a sustainable footing.

Carbon dioxide can be stored, for example, in the soil or bound to trees, for example by afforestation. A company can also offset its emissions by, for example, buying savings elsewhere.

Emission compensation does not solve the instant fashion problem
Satumaija Mäki, an expert in responsibility and circular economy at Suomen Tekstiili & Muoti ry, says that climate compensation for the fashion brand is currently a quick response.

– Declaring carbon-neutral is not enough on its own. Climate compensation is the transition from a straightforward easy option.

– Our own actions should cause as little climate load as possible. The challenges of a disposable clothing culture are not solved by compensating only for emissions and continuing the same pattern.

If consumers were to wear the clothes they bought twice as long as they used to, the emissions from the clothing industry would be reduced by more than 40%.

According to Mäki, many of the major players in the fashion industry committed themselves last year to a joint climate agreement that promises to cut their emissions by 30 percent by 2030. By 2050, they should be carbon neutral. According to Gucci, it is committed to reducing its emissions by 50% by 2025.

Stop the whole fashion industry?
Gucci is aware of criticism. Brand CEO Marco Bizzarri tells the Guardian that while the industry expects more effective ways to reduce and eliminate its own emissions, offsetting is a better option.

– Waiting for perfect solutions is an excuse not to do anything. We must act. We are not perfect, we just want to show that this is possible and we hope that others will follow.

Stopping buying doesn’t solve all the problems.

At the same time, Bizzarri says that the best solution for eliminating emissions would be to stop all business – though it would mean thousands of jobs.

Fairy-tale Mäki recognizes the dilemma of balance and the clothing industry.

– We must continue to dress. It is also good to note that consumption has a social impact. Stopping buying doesn’t solve all the problems. I’d rather think about who to buy from and what are the reasons for buying it. Whether you buy for pleasure or for genuine need, and what to buy.

Better ways to make clothes
Both Hartikainen and Mäki list the same ways in which companies in the clothing industry and consumers buying and using clothing can make their operations more sustainable and low-emission.

What are the material choices? How are the materials produced? How long and durable are the clothes designed? Can I rent or transfer my used clothes for further use? Do I repair or discard the garment? How do I recycle my old clothing?

Declaring carbon neutral is not enough on its own. Climate compensation is the transition from a straightforward easy option.

– The textile and clothing industry is undergoing a major transformation. New ecological materials, manufacturing methods and recycling possibilities are constantly being developed, says Satumaija Mäki.

These solutions should take priority over emissions compensation, says Ernesto Hartikainen.

– If the firm’s job is to sell as much clothing as possible, its business is not on a sustainable footing, as it is based on continual buying. If, on the other hand, high-quality long-life clothing is sold, the company also sells an intangible service, that is, a long service life.

This is the role the consumer plays
Satumaija Mäki points out that it has been calculated that consumers alone could have the power to reduce emissions from the clothing industry by a whopping 40%.

– It is estimated that if consumers used the clothes they bought twice as long as today, the emissions from the clothing industry would be reduced by more than 40%. It is already a big leap towards emissions targets.

The average garment stays in the wardrobe for about three years, of which it is only active for two months.
Read more: One kilo of clothes consumes 3 kilos of chemicals – 70% of clothes for landfill and incineration

Half of the clothing’s emissions come from home
According to Mäki, most of the climatic emissions of an individual garment are unexpectedly caused only after production and sale during the use phase. Up to half of the emissions in a garment’s life cycle are generated at home.

Less frequent washing will reduce the climate impact of your dress.

– The most emissions caused by a garment are actually generated when it is washed, ironed and dried at home. Less frequent washing and longer life of the garment will reduce the climate impact of the dress.
Read more: Do you belong to people who wash their clothes too much? “Many Washes About Clean Laundry”
– It also affects whether you sleep in unused clothes in your wardrobe or whether you prefer to sell them immediately. Fast fashion trendy clothing is bad for time and will be thrown away worthless after a couple of years because it is no longer suitable for anyone.

Ordering clothes, especially online returns, also has a big impact.

– Everything is related to the big emissions debate, though it may seem foreign to the effect of your own clothing on the climate.

Reviewer overview

Gucci Declared Carbon-Neutral - /10

Summary

Luxury fashion house Gucci announced that its entire production process will now be offset. Carbon neutrality is not that simple, experts say.

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