Life Cycle Analysis of the Fashion Industry
Life Cycle Analysis of the Fashion Industry BY caracal Industrial Ecology Practices in the Fashion Industry Introduction The industrial revolution in the sass brought a paradigm shift to the way humans interacted with the environment. The increased capability of producing and manufacturing on a large scale, the rise of multiple industries, growing demand and proliferation of hedonistic consumption patterns, has created a culture of surplus, want and waste. (Fallacy-Companion, 2012) From an environmental point of view, this resource hungry trend is unsustainable and has detrimental ecological impacts, such as pollution and climate change.
These problems have highlighted the consequence of our insatiable demand for resources and the need to rethink current practices and thoughts in order to maintain current living standards and ensure future growth. The ideas of environmental management, industrial ecology and ecological footprint have been proposed to allow for a meticulous look to the products that we manufacture and use, with emphasis on measuring the ecological impacts in hopes of reducing them.
A multitude of tools have since been created to measure efficiency in hopes to highlight areas for improvement, of which the ISO standard and Life cycle assessment are part of. Undoubtedly, many companies have adopted life cycle analysis (LLC) in order to assess and reduce their product’s impact on the environment.
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The fashion industry, at its core, is based on the notion of continual consumption of the ‘new and the discard of the ‘old’, especially with new seasonal lines coming out every 3 months.
The industry celebrates creativity with the continuous turnover of trends, leading to the “premature product replacement and fashion obsolescence”. This constant change has major negative environmental and social impacts, particularly on those at the bottom of the supply chain. Ellwood et al, 2006; Whether and Leastwise, 2008) Moreover, delicates production, often all over the world, is commonly practiced in line with the competitive advantages of different locales (such as low-cost labor, less stringent standards/regulations, strength in technology etc).
Studies of Ellwood et al (2006), Madsen et al (2007) and Fletcher (2008) have highlighted issues of apparel waste as the majority of textile waste are not recycled or reuse but usually ends up in landfills. In this report, Nikkei Inc. And Levi Strauss & Co. Are chosen as case studies of the fashion industry for their efforts o apply LLC to their products. Life Cycle Assessment and IS014040 The International Organization for Standardization (SO) is an organization that aims to promote worldwide standards for proprietary, industrial and commercial purposes. ‘SO, 2013) The ISO 14000 series is a family of standards that related to environmental management, which aims to help organizations measure and minimize operations that will negatively affect the environment and comply with environmental regulations and audits required in the country of operation. For example, the ISO 14001 is integral to the European Union’s CEO-Management and Audit Scheme (AMASS). AMASS, 2011) Before the development of the ISO 14000 series, most organizations had to rely on internal environmental management systems that made comparisons between companies difficult.
The ISO 14040 standard focuses on Life Cycle Assessment. LLC is a technique to assess environment impacts associated with all the stages of a product’s life from its raw material extraction to its processing, manufacture, distribution, use, repair, recycle and disposal. It is believed to encompass a larger scope of environmental concerns as the compiled inventory of relevant energy and material inputs and environmental releases includes the attention impacts associated with the identified inputs and releases, which can then be interpreted to help make informed decisions and build corporate environmental strategies. EPA, 2013) The method is most often used for the pinpointing potential for process improvements by assessing environmental impacts associated with all stages of a product’s life. (Securing & Mueller, 2008) ISO 14040 standards shows how the LLC is to be carried out in four distinct phases as seen in Figure 1 before. Before any LLC can be carried out, an explicit goal and scope of the study, inclusive of technical details, has to be defined. This can then serve as a reference to guide the subsequent work.
The functional unit, system boundaries, assumptions and limitations as well as the impact categories are identified and set in this first phase. The life cycle inventory analysis will then carry on from phase one by creating an inventory of all flows (input and output) between the stages of a product system, inclusive of all activities in the relevant supply chain and gives a clear picture of the system boundaries. Only when this is complete can the life cycle impact assessment be carried out.
This is the most complex stage of the process as it aims to evaluate he significance of potential environmental impacts and calculate the input and output from the inventory. At the end of the assessment, the information gathered is evaluated and the assessment is objectively assessed before the identification of significant issues and problems, its evaluation and limitations are put forth. Figure 1 : The 4 phases of LLC (http://en. Wisped. Org/wick/ File:PhasesOfLifeCycleAnalysis. Eng) Current Context and Trends Environmental Management has progressed significantly over the years with regulations becoming more stringent and accountability expectations higher. Figure taken from Penman’s (1999) report shows a simple evolution of environmental policies and their primary characteristics from the sass to present, whereby attitudes towards the environment have changes from merely managing the problem in the early days to one that is more actively involved in trying to prevent problems.
Figure 2: Evolution of environmental management (Seaman, 1999) Within the industry and companies, Lamming ; Hampton (1996) stresses the need for companies to engage in environmental management as public pressure is and will continue to be a major factor. In their study, 75% of customers state that they would consider a Meany’s environmental reputation when purchasing and 80% of those would be willing to pay a premium for an environmentally friendlier product.
Although there are limitations to their study, in that the sentiment may only be shared by the European community of consumers, there is a trend whereby consumers are becoming more green conscious. Hawked et al (1999) in the book ‘Natural Capitalism’ also calls for companies to embrace a new industrialism that will create profits and jobs while saving the environment, through the creation of a closed-loop supply chain that will generate more value and profit. By aggressive recycling, there is the potential of reducing up to 90% of energy and materials consumption.
Although individual organizations are recognizing the need and their responsibility to address environmental and sustainability issues, there remains a lack of systematic and coordinated effort across the board. At a larger and general scale, there has been an increase of government level interest and engagement to transition sustainability at the firm and facility level, to one that is more holistic and encompasses production sustainability throughout the value chain. Golden et al, 2011) President Obama issued Executive Order 13514 in 2009 that requires “the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, obtain 50% diversion rates of solid waste, pursue opportunities with vendors to reduce greenhouse gas (GOGH) emissions, ensure procurement preferences for energy-efficient products, and reduce consumption of paper with low recycled content”. Likewise the Securities Exchange Commission and the Federal Trade Commission are driving the use of sustainable product design and supply chains by the issuance of directives and interpretive guidance. Golden et al, 2011) Since the fiasco of “sweatshop” labor in the sass, leading to public outcry and clash on the fashion industry, there has been unison of calls for greater accountability. (Whether and Leastwise, 2008; Clownish et al, 2012) Especially in an industry where the consumers are the largest stakeholders; public opinion is crucial and highly influential. This helps the environmental cause when more consumers become green conscious and demand for a smaller ecological footprint. There is a need to cater to these consumers and for companies to set themselves apart from their competitors. Kumar & Amalgamate, 2006) Environmental consciousness has been worked into the corporate social responsibility (CAR) of many companies and increasingly, in the fashion industry, CEO-fashion is trying to capture a larger share of the mainstream market with fashionable and environmental apparel. Regions, 2006) There is also the emergence of industry consortia such as the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC), the Sustainability Consortium (TTS) and the Outdoor Industry Association (IA), all of which are multi-stakeholder organizations that are suited for establishing standardized metrics for regulation.
Nikkei and Levies are both part of the SAC. Case study: LEVI STRAUSS & CO. Company Background The company, Levi Strauss & Co. Was founded by its namesake, Levi Strauss onetime in the mid-sass. It started off as a dry goods wholesaler before collaboration between Levi and Jacob Davis, a tailor, in 1872 saw the filing for its patented rivet pants- the start of the denim company that it is known for today. Over the years, the company have grown tremendously and has expanded its brands carried.
Its current brands include Levi'”, [email protected], Signature by Levi Strauss & Co. And [email protected] The company has a vision to be “the embodiment of the energy and events of our times, inspiring people with a pioneering spirit” (Levi, 2013) and is committed to a variety of issues in its public policy approach that includes read, worker rights, equality and the environment. Since the sass, with the rise of global environmental concerns and problems, Levies have been working on reducing the environmental impact of its products.
This was done by complying with environmental regulations, implementing a Code of Conduct for its suppliers- ensuring a reduction of water consumption and ending the use of harmful chemicals on its Restricted Substances List, switching to organic cotton when possible and increasing the amount of recycled materials in their end product. In 2007, as part of an attempt at a consolidated look at the company’s environmental impact, a LLC was one on 2 products- a pair of Levi'” 5018 stonewashed Sears and the [email protected] original khakis.
This enabled the company to develop strategies that will address the greatest impacts on the environment to ensure longevity in the industry. (Levi, 2013) Levies introduced its water;less Sears in 2011 and its waste;Less Sears in 2013. Waste;Less Sears has a minimum of 20% post-consumer recycled content (from PET bottles) instead of cotton. Ferries, 2013) Levies Life Cycle Assessment Levies product lifestyle assessment focuses on a quantitative method that looks at ass and energy balance using direct and indirect data over the “cradle to grave” lifespan of the product.
A disclaimer on their website states that this LLC does not include social or economic impacts. In the input/output inventory aspect of the LLC, indirect data of mass and energy inputs are taken from extensive industry-average data sets. Together with the system analysis of the lifestyle assessment, in accordance with ISO 14040 requirements, the data is then translated to calculate the environmental impacts of the system. Figure 3 below shows the 6 stage system analysis of the 5018 Sears taken from the Levies website, that starts from the cotton production till the end of life after consumer use.
Figure 3: LLC of a pair of Levies 501 Sears (http://alleviators. Com/sites/default/files/ liberationists/2012/4/ca-summary-2012-update. PDF) Phase 1: Goals and Scope Levies wanted their LLC to be done on a high volume product, produced for the U. S. Market during the 2006 production year. The Levi'” 5018, medium stonewashed Jean was chosen. The data compiled from Levi Strauss and Co. ‘s suppliers is processed via Gab 4 software datasets, following the ISO 14040 series standards. The LLC was conducted by PEP Americas from Boston, MA.
The results were intended for internal use and with the option to share selected data publicly after addition reviews. Phase 2: Inventory Analysis Figure 4 shows the system boundary of the Levies 501 Jean, from the different places where cotton is sources, the different production plants, distribution channels to its end. Figure 4: Levies 501 Jean System Boundary (Levi, 2013) Phase 3: Impact assessment After gathering information and data, Levies was able to measure the climate change, energy and water use of their best-selling Sears, with interesting results.
A pair of original Levies has a global warming potential of 15 keg CA equivalent, consumes MAIM] of energy in its production process and only has 1% of its ingredients that are recycled. (Gaskin, 2012) Figures 5-7 show a breakdown of the weight of different factors and their impacts. Unsurprisingly, the growth of cotton was the most water intensive stage in the LLC, with the usage of the Jean being the next highest. Usage however was by far, the biggest contributor of energy use and climate change.
This is due to the long lifespan of the Jean (denim as a material can be quite hardy) and the instant wash cycles can add up significantly over time. Figure 5: Impacts on energy use (Levi, 2013) Figure 6: Impacts on water use (Levi, 2013) Figure 7: Impacts on climate change (Levi, 2013) Phase 4: Interpretation From the LLC, Levies realized that the majority of environmental impacts occur in the lifestyle phases that are outside their direct control. Reducing the overall environmental impact requires a two-pronged approach of focusing on internal operations whilst engaging consumers.
Internally, Levi started looking at cotton production at the farmer’s level, switching to organic cotton when possible and articulating in projects such as the “Better Cotton Initiative”, as cotton growing is water intensive. They also reduced product packaging and tweaked product design and manufacturing to reduce their water and energy use- the water<less and waste<less Sears. (Levi, 2013) Water<Less Sears cut water use in the finishing process by an average of 25%, with a high of 96% in some ranges of Sears.
This is attributed to the decrease of cotton used in the production and the change in Levies finishing processes, which helped to cut water use by 10%, by doing without a laundering process and creating a different look. These changes did not require a major factory redesign and there were no high capital barriers that prevented Levies from adopting such CEO-friendly measures. Ferries, 2013) As a customer-facing company, Levies aimed to engage and educate their consumers on the environmental impact of their fashion choices and encourage responsible care of their washable garments.
Figure 8 and 9 shows the environmental impacts of different washing methods. Product care labels on its brands have been changed to instruct consumers to wash in cold water, tumble dry medium and wash less often. (Levi, 2013) Figure 8: Comparison of energy use between different wash methods (Levi, 2013) Figure 9: Comparison of water use between different wash methods (Levi, 2013) Case study: NIKKEI Inc. Nikkei was founded in 1971 by Bill Borrower and Phil Knight, whose passions were to increase track and field athlete’s performances on the track by creating lightweight shoes.
Over the years, the company has changed with the times and expanded to cover a wide range of sports other than track and field. Nikkei is involved in the design, development and worldwide marketing of footwear, apparel, equipment and accessory products. With an effective branding and marketing campaign, Nikkei has established itself as a forerunner in the sport-fashion industry with Nikkei being the largest footwear manufacturer in the fiscal year ending May 2011, amassing revenues of about $20. 9 billion.
As of May 2004, Nikkei has 28000 retail accounts in U. S. And through a mix of independent distributors, licensees and subsidiaries in over 170 countries. (Kumar ; Amalgamate, 2006; Nikkei, 2013) With operations that are so dispersed, it is no wonder that Nikkei products have well hidden environmental costs that if were to be considered, would price the item much higher than its retail cost. Nikkei Inc. Currently has seven brands under its portfolio, including Nikkei, Cole Han, Converse, Hurley International LLC, Umbra, Nikkei Golf and Jordan.
Figure 10, taken from Nikkei. Com (2013) shows the corporate overview of the company in 2013. Part of the business strategy of the company for 2013 is to pursue growth that is “sustainable, profitable, capital efficient and brand enhancing”, whereby environmental responsibility is inbuilt into the company’s goals, vision and culture. (Nikkei, 2013) It is important to note that Nikkei was a main target for unfair labor practices in the sass which greatly affected its public image.
Since then, much have been done to manage such risks of which being a pioneer of sustainable practices is seen as integral to its environmental risk. There are no official accounts off published LLC according to the ISO 14040 standards, done on a Nikkei product. However, this is common as most companies may not necessarily want to publicity reveal it’s LLC. Nikkei however, in its sustainability reports, follows similar steps in qualifying its environmental impacts. In this case study, I will attempt to frame their goals and targets in the context of a traditional’ LLC.
Figure 10: Corporate overview of Nikkei Inc (Nikkei, 2013) Shift towards Sustainable Business and Innovation (Phase 1 & 2) To support Nine’s strategic evolution and transition to sustainable business models, the Sustainable Business and Innovation (SUB;l) was set up with its mission to enable Nikkei to thrive in a sustainable economy. A matrix structure was step up to integrate retail, logistics and information technology well so as to foster new platforms and forms of collaboration.
Nine’s value chain has also been re-envisioned to be a closed loop cycle. Figure 11 shows the distilled seven fundamental stages of the new value chain- plan, design, make, move, sell, use and reuse. (Nikkei, 2013) As dated before. Nikkei remains vague on the factors that are considered in their corporation and production processes that contribute to their environmental impact. In their release of public information, Nikkei uses a tool called the Material Assessment Tool (MAT) and analyses the life cycle of raw materials used in production. Henderson et al, 2009) The MAT allows Nikkei to view the impacts from the materials used across four categories: Chemistry, Energy/CA – equivalence, Water/Land use and Waste with a total LLC score given. (See Figure 12) (Nikkei Considered Design, 2010) Products that are more sustainable would score higher on the MAT score. Figure 13 shows a snapshot of the different materials that go into the pr shoe. Figure 1 1: Overview of the Nikkei value chain (Nikkei, 2013) Figure 12: Material Assessment Tool used by Nikkei (Nikkei, 2013) adduction of a Figure 13: Materials in a typical shoe (http://www. Lodestars. Net/bookings/copy-of- Semifinal-Presentation) Charting Progress and Changes in Environmental Impacts (Phase 3, 4 and beyond) Since the drive towards being more accountable started in the late sass, Nikkei has been tracking its progress based on its metrics in their corporate reports. Figure 14 ND 15 shows where the company is at with regard to meeting their 2011 targets set in 2009, where most objectives are largely on track. Figure 16 how implementing energy management strategies in retail stores in North America has allowed Nikkei to save 3. Million Kiss of electricity while giving a 20% return on investment, the partnership of how being environmentally conscious can help with operational savings. Nikkei has started a code of conduct for its suppliers to meet, to reduce their environmental impact, according to their MAT scheme. Suppliers are ranked and encouraged to improve on their operations, while their research and development am have been constantly looking into the development of lighter shoes and apparel in their new product design that utilizes less raw materials and more recycled materials.
Nikkei also tried to reduce its waste by redesigning its packaging to use less material in its shoebox experiment (Figure 17). Although the results were not very successful, Nikkei continues to revamp and work on developing a sturdy prototype while reducing waste. Nikkei have also started several consumer-targeted initiative such as “reuse-a-shoe” campaign whereby old shoes are collected and dissembled to e reused in the manufacturing process, increasing recycling and lessening the dependency on raw materials. (Nikkei, 2013) Nikkei promises to commit to their environmental goals and work towards have a truly closed loop supply chain.
However, Figure 18 shows that there is still much unaccounted areas in Nine’s internal assessment and much of their initiatives are focused on the American market. With a company who has great global presence, there is still much to be done, environmentally, in other markets. Figure 14: Progress in sustainable business models (http://www. Nikkei. Com/ creator/content/PDF/documents/en-useful-report. UDF) Figure 1 5: Progress in climate change targets (http://www. Nikkei. Com/creator/ content/PDF/documents/en-useful-report. UDF) Figure 16: Results of energy management systems on retail stores (Nikkei, 2013) Figure 17: Nikkei shoebox experiment (Nikkei, 2013) Figure 18: Nikkei Climate and Energy reporting landscape and roadman (http:// www. Incompressibility. Com/report/uploads/files/ NIKKEI_Len_ClimateEnergyLandscapeRoadmap. PDF) Evaluation of Levies and Nikkei Nikkei and Levies both belong to the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC) whose aim is to create an apparel and footwear index for the industry, to 1 . Understand and quantify sustainability impacts of apparel and footwear products, 2.
Reduce redundancy in measuring sustainability for the industry, 3. Drive business value through reducing risk and uncovering inefficiency and 4. Create a common meaner to communicate sustainability to stakeholders. (SAC, 2013) The SAC was formally launched in 2011 and its sustainable apparel index allows apparel retailers and brands to compare the performance of their upstream supply chain through a unified method and metrics. Their LLC is based on the AI_EGO CEO-index, Nine’s environmental design tool and SAC’s social and labor indicators for the manufacturing phase.
There have been several criticisms of this tool as being too qualitative and the version that is being developed now is current designed to be more quantitative, life-cycle oriented. (Golden et al, 2011) The original intent of choosing these two companies was to highlight how environmental tools can be useful in such a wasteful industry such as fashion. In releasing that they both were part of the same industry consortium, whose aim was to provide a basis of comparison, I had assumed that there would be the possibility to have a clear comparison after evaluating both companies.
However, further research did not yield any significant or comparable set of data or reports. In fact, the SAC website would redirect the user back to the sustainability pages of the individual companies. The fact that these two companies belong to the same industry consortium and yet cannot be compared, show the great limitation of LLC and current environmental management strategies. There are too many requirements and considerations in engaging in a holistic LLC and companies tend not to divulge too much information on their supply chains.
As such, it is difficult to ensure that hey did not overlook particular flows in their operational process. On the other hand, it is heartening to see both companies engaging in similar trends to engage their customers to be part of the recycling and green process of returning Sears/ shoes back to the retailers so that they can be reused and/or recycled. Moreover, there seems to be a great sense of commitment by both companies towards corporate social responsibility and environmental accountability whereby active steps are being taken to reduce the environmental impact of the company, their facilities and their products.