Retailers are joining to tackle climate change

science-based-targetThe Science Based Targets initiative champions science-based target setting as a powerful way of boosting companies’ competitive advantage in the transition to the low-carbon economy. The initiative defines and promotes best practice in science-based target setting, offers resources and guidance to reduce barriers to adoption, and independently assesses and approves companies’ targets. Gap Inc., Nike, Levi Strauss & Co., GUESS, EILEEN FISHER Inc. and VF Corp. committed to set emission reduction targets consistent with global efforts to limit warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius. The new companies join other fashion brands that that have already committed to set science-based targets, including H&M, ASICS, Kering, PUMA, Walmart, Inditex, Woolworths Holdings Ltd., Marks and Spencer, and One Jeanswear Co.

More than 300 companies, including 15 from the apparel sector, have committed to set ambitious emissions reduction targets through Science Based Targets initiative, a partnership between CDP, WRI, WWF and the UN Global Compact. Businesses who commit have two years to develop science-based targets, which are then reviewed by the initiative’s team of experts. So far, 71 science-based targets meeting the initiative’s strict criteria have been approved. The initiative is also one of the We Mean Business coalition commitments.

“By joining the Science Based Targets initiative, these companies are positioning themselves as leaders in the apparel sector,” said Cynthia Cummis, WRI’s Director of Private Sector Climate Mitigation and member of the Science Based Targets initiative steering committee. “The fashion industry is known for innovation and these companies are using that spirit to tackle climate change. For apparel brands, up to 90 percent of emissions come from the value chain, and companies share many of the same suppliers, so setting ambitious value chain targets will open up a great deal of opportunity for collaboration, innovation and efficiency across the industry.”

In addition to reducing emissions from their operations, companies that join the Science Based Targets initiative are required to set ambitious “scope 3” value chain targets when these emissions are significant. This is important because to date, most apparel companies have not been measuring and managing emissions upstream and downstream of their operations, where most of their emissions lie.

Setting science-based targets is an opportunity for apparel sector companies to ensure they are doing their part to protect consumers and supply chains from the consequences of climate change. For example, scientists fear climate change could cut the global cotton supply by 30-45 percent by the end of the century. The Science Based Targets initiative is currently working with the apparel sector to develop sector-specific guidance for setting science-based targets. The guidance aims to create clarity and consistency for the sector and reduce barriers for apparel companies seeking to set science-based targets.