How big clothing companies could speed up reaching net-zero emissions

4 min readNov 12, 2021
Apparel 100 gives a snapshot of efforts by the apparel industry’s largest companies to disclose information about their suppliers and Environmental, Social and Governance performance.

When and how each country will reach net-zero carbon emissions remains a hotly debated topic, despite progress at COP 26. However, one thing is clear: identifying the sources and monitoring quantities of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and pollution is critical to setting and achieving targets.

The apparel sector has a crucial role in helping reach net-zero emissions. It is estimated that the “fashion industry is responsible for around 2.1 billion tonnes of GHG emissions in 2018, equating to 4% of the global total”. Likewise, the apparel sector is the second most polluting industry after aviation. Identifying apparel companies’ GHG emissions and environmental impacts would likely speed up the process of reaching net-zero by highlighting action areas and necessary improvements.

Our recent Apparel 100 report reveals the disclosure rates of the most prominent fashion companies, including their GHG emissions and environmental impacts. Their combined market cap is $1.38 Trillion, which is more than half of the global fashion industry. They have considerable potential to improve practices in the fashion landscape to reduce negative environmental impacts and help achieve net-zero as quickly as possible.

We’ve created three infographics that reveal where the apparel sector needs to increase transparency regarding its environmental impacts. These include:

  • Greenhouse gas emissions
  • Water consumption
  • Toxic air pollutants

Greenhouse gas emissions

Today, half of the biggest apparel companies report their scope 1 & 2 emissions, but only a third report scope 3. Which emissions are included in scopes 1, 2, and 3, and why is scope 3 particularly important?

  • Scope 1 emissions include direct emissions from company-owned or controlled resources, for example, their offices, owned warehouses, and company vehicles.
  • Scope 2 emissions include indirect emissions from energy used in the production process, including steam or heating and cooling.
  • Scope 3 emissions include indirect emissions upstream and downstream of the production process, such as waste from operations or business travel and distribution or end-of-life product treatment.

Scope 3 is significant because it often represents the biggest greenhouse gas impacts. This blog even calls emissions scope 3 “the holy grail of emissions,” and with good reason. With so many company activities falling under scope 3, it is a crucial measure. Knowing the total emissions of apparel companies is a critical step on the road to carbon neutrality.

Water usage

Fresh water is a limited and scarce resource. Knowing where every drop goes is an important part of the climate change puzzle. The Apparel 100 study revealed, only a third of the largest apparel companies disclose their water usage.

Infographic showing how many of the largest 100 apparel companies report their water usage.

Toxic air pollutants

Pollutants like nitrogen oxides (NOX) and sulfur oxides (SOX) are reported by only 3 of the 100 largest apparel companies. These pollutants harm ecosystems, air quality, habitats, agriculture, and human and animal health.

Infographic showing how many of the largest 100 apparel companies disclose their nitrogen and sulfur oxides emissions.


These infographics provide an outline of the most influential apparel companies’ collective transparency efforts. It’s clear from the data above and warnings about global heating and biodiversity loss that the largest apparel companies can and must improve their transparency (and subsequently, practices) if we want to achieve climate and environmental goals. Increasing the amount of data available will help policy-makers identify areas to tackle and show consumers when progress is being made.

Apparel 100 is a series of interactive data visualizations combining new and existing information on the largest 100 Apparel companies’ supply chain transparency and ESG data. It highlights what we do know and what we don’t know. Based on over 30,000 data points, it’s worth a look.




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