Partnering with Apparel Impact Institute to drive carbon reduction in the apparel sector

Over the past three years, RESET Carbon and Apparel Impact Institute have been working in partnership to co-develop and deliver the Carbon Leadership Program. With an ambitious vision for the years ahead, in this article, we share details of the partnership and the plans for 2023 and beyond.

The Carbon Leadership Program (CLP) is an innovative and impactful initiative developed by RESET Carbon and Apparel Impact Institute (Aii) to support apparel brands and their suppliers across Asia to set actionable supply chain carbon reduction targets. Designed to drive action within manufacturing carbon hotspots, the program enables brands to prioritise and engage with carbon-intensive suppliers to accelerate manufacturing decarbonization.

With over 25 brands already engaged, 126 action plans developed and 90 action plans in development, we have ambitious goals for the program. By 2025, the CLP aims to have engaged 500 facilities and set them on a trajectory to significantly reduce emissions by 40-60% by 2030.

The global apparel industry is a significant contributor to the climate crisis, and requires universal, collaborative action. Apparel supply chains are complex, with hundreds of suppliers across multiple tiers. From our analysis, we know that around 20% of these suppliers are responsible for 80% of total factory carbon emissions. It is these ‘hotspot suppliers’ – the most energy-intensive and highest carbon-emitting facilities – that the CLP seeks to address. Through the CLP, members are supported to strategically prioritise hotspot suppliers in achieving deep carbon reductions through a standardized approach, allowing them to meet their carbon commitments.

An impactful collaboration  

RESET recognized that Aii’s interest in developing practical, scalable approaches to reduce carbon emissions made the CLP partnership an ideal one. With its data-driven philosophy, Aii is well-positioned to drive the best practice approaches that we develop together to achieve scale through standardization and to facilitate corporate collaboration.

The CLP partnership blends Aii’s capabilities as a corporate convenor with RESET’s complementary technical skills and on-the-ground presence in major manufacturing markets across Asia.

Through the CLP, RESET builds the methodologies for Aii to review and endorse, and then combines forces with Aii to engage brands and manufacturers to drive solutions to scale.

This structured collaboration is particularly important with respect to carbon, where the speed of emissions reductions is critical. We need to move very quickly from a situation where businesses are merely reporting carbon emissions to one where they are driving year-on-year improvements against an ambitious roadmap and target.

“With carbon, speed matters,” says Liam Salter, CEO, RESET Carbon. “Without rapid scaling of practical carbon reduction solutions, in particular with wet processing suppliers, leading brands are guaranteed to miss their corporate carbon reduction goals. The CLP demonstrates that solutions exist and can be deployed in time. But to deliver, buyer brands need to prioritise carbon performance with their strategic supplier base.”

To achieve this, rapid deployment of standardised carbon management approaches and carbon reduction technology is required simultaneously across several geographies. 

In the apparel sector, collaboration between buyers is also critical given the significant overlap of manufacturing suppliers between brands.

By the end of 2023, the CLP will have onboarded over 300 major manufacturing facilities around the world – arguably the largest program in the sector, particularly given the CLP’s focus on high-emitting carbon-intensive sites.

Ambitions for 2023 and beyond

Looking ahead, there are two key areas of focus for the CLP in 2023. Salter shares that “RESET and Aii need to find a way to engage ‘super-hotspot’ manufacturers to move the emissions needle at the sector level”. Extensive analysis of these manufacturers has already been undertaken as part of the CLP, with significant findings to be released in the coming months.

The second challenge is to ensure that the target and roadmaps we have already developed with manufacturers are being implemented. This involves extending the best practice approaches into implementation.

Salter notes that “We need to roll up our sleeves and provide implementation solutions around issues like coal, energy efficiency and renewables, and make them available at the factory level in major markets. It is also important to encourage brands to recognise suppliers that are taking action and to engage in deeper business relationships.”

With this, a new wave of service providers will be needed to support and deliver this work. Aii and RESET’s standardised technical approaches create business opportunities for engineering and environmental service providers in key markets such as China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Indonesia, India and Turkey. Increased local services support will reduce costs and increase options available to suppliers seeking to implement their CLP emissions goals.

At RESET Carbon we are really looking forward to continuing to evolve the CLP and have great confidence that, together with Aii, we can tackle some significant milestones over the next five years that really move the dial at the sector level.

To learn more about how you can be involved in the Carbon Leadership Program, contact us here.