Fashion industry urgently tackles pollution in the sea

Unfortunately, many retail companies around the world have processes that involve polluting activities on a smaller or larger scale. A recent report by climate advocacy organizations Pacific Environment and Stand.earth indicates that many of the retail giants are responsible for polluting gas emissions by transporting their goods around the world via fossil fuel-powered container ships.

Recently, however, a small Swiss outdoor clothing company called Mammut is making a difference by becoming a leader in addressing this problem. In August, the company published a document containing its strategy and plans to achieve net zero carbon emissions across its operations by 2030. The document hides a commitment to transport its products on zero-emission ships by the end of the decade.

Although Mammut is the first retailer to commit to this sustainable initiative, it is yet to be seen how the goal will be realized, as many of the merchant ships on the high seas use fossil fuels. However, the company reaffirms that it will do what it can to make part of its supply chain achieve zero emissions, and hopes to be the model for other retailers to follow suit.

The sea, the most vulnerable space

Today, the shipping industry is a major climate risk that is not widely recognized and should be brought to everyone’s attention because tens of thousands of merchant ships carrying various types of goods burn heavy fuel oil that releases more than one billion metric tons of carbon dioxide, an alarming figure that represents 3% of global emissions.

The information available on the actions of the shipping industry is discouraging because it is known that it does not have a plan to reduce its emissions. Although researchers have already proposed possible zero-emission alternatives to shipping, such as ships running on hydrogen or renewably generated ammonia, the fact is that commercializing or deploying battery-electric or wind-powered ships would require billions of dollars of investment.

Due to the strong impact on the environment, some advocates are accelerating investment in solutions and pressuring shipping industry customers, such as retailers, to make climate commitments. In addition, large companies must take action to phase out their dependence on polluting ships. One industry that can start by making corporate climate commitments is fashion.

A model for the fashion industry

Mammut’s initiative to be among the first retailers to take sustainable action has prompted the brand to conduct a comprehensive “Scope 3” emissions inventory, which includes its supply chain and product usage, accounting for 95% of Mammut’s carbon footprint. Of this percentage, a large part is due to emissions from transporting its goods on carbon-intensive flights, hence the Cleaner Transport initiative.

Mammut also plans to purchase carbon offsets to reduce its emissions in its value chain to zero, and has also committed to moving goods on zero-emission vessels by 2030 and using those that run on “slow steam”. Some activists welcome this proposal, such as Mads Peter Zacho of the Maersk Mc-Kinney Moller Centre for Zero Carbon who told Grist that Mammut is going a step further with its ambitious timetable.

It is still a challenge for Mammut to transport its goods on zero-emission vessels, but they are confident they will succeed and the company even says they are starting talks with logistics providers about zero-emission shipments. Researchers on the subject, meanwhile, estimate that if zero-emission fuels account for just 5% of the fuel mix by 2030, the industry would be on track to decarbonize completely by 2050.

For Maersk, the world’s largest shipping company, the interest that its customers are committed to climate-friendly solutions and are willing to pay for it, allows it to start taking actions that satisfy its customers. It is already known to be investing $1.4 billion in eight new vessels that will run on methanol from 2024 due to the growing demand for transportation on less net-zero emissions. More companies are expected to follow soon to address this environmental urgency at sea.

It is encouraging to know that small and large industries are beginning to show interest in undertaking sustainable actions for the good of the environment. At eSmart Recycling we join these efforts with our work as a social enterprise focused on recycling and donating computers to underprivileged children.

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