We urge the fashion industry to end its relationship with fossil fuels and clean up its act. We are in the midst of a climate, ecological, and social emergency. Mass species extinction is already happening and human extinction is a real risk. If we are to survive, fashion must stop all extractivism and oil use.
The fossil fuel industry is not only contributing heavily to the climate and ecological emergency, it's also deeply exploitative. It comes as no surprise that the fashion industry has become inextricably linked with dirty oil. The fashion industry is also built on a long history of environmental and social exploitation throughout its supply chains, particularly of those in the Global South by those in the Global North.
We are calling for fashion to stop putting profit over people and the planet.
Extinction Rebellion Fashion Action 23 August 2021
Dear Fashion Industry,
From fast-fashion to high-end luxury, you, the fashion industry and your prevailing model rely heavily on the use of cheap synthetic fibres, which are produced from oil and gas. Since the early 2000s, fashion production has doubled - as has the use of polyester, which is now found in over half of textiles (1).
Synthetic textiles, like polyester or nylon, are cheap and have enabled you to overproduce even more clothing, which are worn just a few times and end up in landfills or incinerators.
In their recent report 'Synthetics Anonymous: Fashion Brands' Addiction to Fossil Fuels, Changing Markets look at nearly 50 brands from high street to high end marking them for 'transparency, use of synthetic fibres and commitments to phase them out'. These include brands such as Primark, Boohoo, Nike, Puma, Burberry and Calvin Klein.
Global consumption of clothing and footwear is expected to increase by 63% by 2030, from 62 million tonnes in 2015 to 102 million in 2030.2 Synthetic fibres represent over two-thirds (69%) of all materials used by the apparel industry; that percentage is expected to reach nearly three-quarters by 2030. Due to their cheap costs, fossil fuel-derived fibres are a key enabler of the fast-fashion business model, and their production already requires more oil than the annual consumption of Spain (1).
The recent IPCC report tells us that the climate crisis is 'unequivocally' being caused by human activity. You, the fashion industry, are responsible for up to 10% of annual global carbon emissions (2). If you do not accelerate your response to the climate crisis, you will produce around twice the volume of emissions required to stay within the limits set by the Paris Agreement global warming pathways by 2030 (3).
Changing Markets state that BP’s energy scenario presumes plastic production will account for 95% of future growth in demand for oil demand, while the International Energy Agency (IEA) predicts petrochemicals will represent up to 50% of growth in oil demand by 2050 and 4% in the projected growth of gas demand (1).
In order to reach the Paris Agreement targets (1.5-2 degrees of warming) we need a deep reduction in Green House Gas emissions however Changing Markets reveals that, out of the 48 companies who feature in their report, none of you has a clear commitment to phase out the use of synthetic fibres from your collections (4).
Your relationship with Big Oil is toxic. Not only the fossil fuel industry contributing heavily to the climate and ecological emergency, but also deeply exploitative. Here are some of their crimes:
Since the 1970s, ExxonMobil engaged in climate research and later began lobbying, advertising, and grant-making with the purpose of delaying widespread acceptance and action on global warming.
In Ecuador, Texaco (now owned by Chevron) deliberately discharged 72bn litres of toxic water into the environment, which ended up in the water supply, and gouged 1,000 unlined waste pits out of the jungle floor. Indigenous peoples who lived on that land were severely impacted with reports of cancer-induced deaths, miscarriages and severe health problems.
In the 1990s protests broke out in Nigeria against the pollution caused by Shell in the Ogoniland region. The Nigerian government who were best mates with Shell carried out a horrific crackdown on protesters executing 9 men, known collectively as the Ogoni Nine. Witnesses were paid by Shell to testify against the men.
Please join us and stop the harm. The ramped growth of fossil fuel fashion undermines climate action and continues to exploit people around the world. We need to repair our damaged climate but first, we need to and stop making it worse. It's time to transform the industry, let's start by keeping the oil in the ground!
(1) Synthetics Anonymous - Fashion Industry's Addiction to Fossil Fuels page: https://changingmarkets.org/portfolio/fossil-fashion/
(2) Fixing fashion: clothing consumption and sustainability: https://publications.parliamet.uk/pa/cm201719/cmselect/cmenvaud/1952/full-report.html
(3) Fashion will produce around twice the volume of emissions required to align with the Paris Agreement: https://globalfashionagenda.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/Press-release-Fashion-on-Climate_GFA_McK_Embargo_270820_FINAL.pdf
(4) IPCC report on climate change: https://www.ipcc.ch/reports/