Addressing Fashion’s Waste Crisis: Sustainability Commitment and Industry Challenges

The fashion industry, driven by fast-paced consumerism, significantly contributes to environmental degradation through waste and excessive production processes. The rise of fast fashion promotes a throwaway culture, leading to mountains of discarded clothing in landfills that release harmful greenhouse gases (GHG). In fact, its estimated to be responsible for 8-10 percent of global carbon emissions. The industry’s resource-intensive production, reliance on synthetic fibers, and complex global supply chains further exacerbate its carbon footprint.

Despite some strides toward sustainability, recycling rates for textiles remain low, and many garments are designed without durability or recyclability in mind. Overproduction and unsold stock contribute to significant waste and emissions, with manufacturers and retailers discarding millions of tons of clothing annually, becoming the second leading contributorto plastic and water pollution.

Amidst this correlation, companies like Abercrombie & Fitch (A&F) are proactively addressing climate change. Data from OWL’s Deep Research Application reveals the clothing brand has been a participant in the United Nations Global Company (UNGC) since 2019, aligning their goals in parallel with UNGC’s recommendations surrounding the limit of global temperature rise to 1.5°C.

A&F is also committed to reducing landfill waste by identifying and improving waste management practices via waste reduction programs to customers that can be implemented at the company’s global home office, distribution centers, and stores. 

In Fiscal 2020, A&F set new sustainability objectives through 2030, including securing a 13-year renewable energy contract for their global home office and two Ohio distribution centers, which was slated to commence last year. In Fiscal 2021, the company set additional targets like: 

  • Reducing global store Scope 1 and 2 GHG emissions by 35 percent and total emissions by 47 percent by 2030.
  • Implementing the Carbon Leadership Program (CLP) by the Apparel Impact Institute (AII) to reduce carbon footprint in the supply chain.
  • Advancing water conservation efforts by employing eco washing techniques in denim washing.
  • Continued waste reduction initiatives at the New Albany, Ohio home office, including kitchen composting.

To mitigate these impacts, the fashion industry needs to adopt globally recognized certification standards, promote eco-friendly practices, and combat greenwashing. Consumers must embrace sustainable methods and reduce overconsumption to address the environmental justice concerns posed by the fashion industry’s waste problem.