My first Camera was a Canon Rebel T6. It was a workhorse, utilitarian and strong, and the first awkward photos I took with that machine ignited something inside me. Some deep primal desire blinked to life inside me when I opened those photos on a big screen and saw the color and bokeh in the captured folds of light. It was the first step on my journey as a photographer.

Another milestone on my journey occurred on September 9th, 2020, in San Francisco CA. The dry summer had culminated in a series of Megafires up the west coast. 9,917 fires burned in 8 different states, ultimately causing 12 billion dollars worth of damage—the largest recorded wildfire in California’s history. On the 6th, I got a few frantic texts from my family in Washington state that fires were starting to encroach on my Father’s land, and on the 7th I received a call from my sister telling me that her house in Malden, WA had burned down in a separate fire. Malden lost 80% of its houses in the fire, and my sister, her boyfriend, and their two children were homeless. Two days later, on the 9th, the skies turned orange in San Francisco from the combined smoke from those fires.

A view of San Francisco from Corona Heights. The sky is completely orange due to the wild bushfires.

Corona Heights, September 9th, 2020, by Patrick Perkins

It was as dark as dusk when I took this photo at noon from Corona Heights in the Castro District. I remember the numb feeling of sinking claustrophobia as I thought about my sister, now a climate refugee. My immediate family was poor, but between the 5 of us we had some orchard land in Washington, and my sister’s house. Now, one house down, one to go. It felt like a matter of time before my father’s land burned up like my sister’s.

Burnt ruins from what used to be a house.

The remnants of my sister’s house, September 16th, 2020, by Madeleine Perkins

If you’re here reading this article, I have to assume you already know that Canon lags behind other camera manufacturers in climate goals. You probably also know that Canon is supporting climate denial propaganda, through the “Canon Institute for Global Studies.” On CIGS’s website you can find multiple articles by Research Director Taishi Sugiyama that push climate denialist propaganda. Mr Sugiyama has prolifically published books and articles on the topic, making bold statements such as “Gradual global warming may continue, but there are no signs of a catastrophe” and “The climate crisis is liberal propaganda.”

A view of San Francisco with hazy, cloudy orange skies due to the bushfires.

Sutro Tower, September 9th, 2020, by Patrick Perkins

After the Camera’s Don’t Lie photography competition published the winning photograph in Times Square, Canon got a chance to respond to the allegations that they were pushing a harmful narrative in this article in Petapixel. I strongly encourage you to read it yourself and see if you can wrap your mind around the outlandish logic they employ when measuring their meager climate goals (they currently have no goal set for reaching net zero carbon emissions, standing at odds to Nikon, Sony, Panasonic, Ricoh, and Fujifilm). You can also read Canon’s bizarre statements distancing themselves from the “Canon Institute for Global Studies,” the think-tank that Canon established and that bears their name.

A view of downtown San Francisco with hazy orange skies, due to the bushfires.

Downtown San Francisco, September 9th, 2020, by Patrick Perkins

I have to wonder how long Canon thinks it can get away with this unscientific harmful propaganda. Does Canon worry about being directly associated with an ideology as unpopular as climate change denial? Is Canon so disconnected from their customers that they think this disregard towards the environment won’t ever affect their bottom line? You might remember that sky turned orange again, this time in NYC and this time on June 7th, 2023—did that shift their ideology at all? How many photographs is it going to take, of drying lakes and bushfires and floods and dead fish and orange skies, before they say enough is enough? Or will they have to choke on the ashes of their burning houses, like my sister did, before they change their mind?

Patrick Perkins is a designer, photographer, and artist living in San Francisco, CA. See his work, Stay In Touch Studio, here

What can we actually do, as individuals, to fight climate change? And will any of it make a difference?

The conversation around the climate crisis has never been louder. This is a good thing, but it’s also making it increasingly difficult for us to get a feeling for what’s greenwashing and what is actually effective in addressing the crisis. 

To help cut through the noise, here’s a few things that you can do to help fight climate change:

1. Do the small stuff, it adds up. 

From riding your bike to work instead of driving, to reducing the amount of meat you eat per week, to recycling your waste at home — every little thing you do does matter. 

Lund University ranked the personal lifestyle changes with the biggest impact on climate change. They found that if you want to make a difference, the best things you can do are: eat a plant-based diet, avoid air travel, and live car-free. 

These aren’t strict rules, but rather recommendations that you can adopt based on what makes sense and is feasible for you. The world works in a certain way — and while we are trying to change it, we are also living in it, after all. 

2. Don’t carry the weight of the world on your shoulders. 

The truth is the climate crisis is a result of the actions of big corporations, as well as governments. While we, as individuals, can take steps and play our part in fighting climate change, it is important to remember this. 

It suits polluting corporations to try to pin the blame on individuals, ultimately because it helps downplay their own role and takes the spotlight off their inaction. 

You probably know about the concept of measuring and reducing your carbon footprint. But did you know it’s a term coined by fossil fuel company BP in 2005?

So whilst you have a duty to do what you can, remember to also take care of yourself. It’s the only way we can truly fight the crisis.

3. Ask questions.

It’s so easy to get caught up in greenwashing. Nowadays, most brands and companies are very vocal about their climate efforts. These efforts, however, will often include things like: 

  • Clothing lines made out of recycled polyester from plastic bottles
  • Net zero claims due to carbon offsetting schemes
  • Companies doing beach clean up initiatives while relying on fossil fuels for their supply chains
  • Fashion brands creating resale programmes while not reducing the volume of clothing they are producing
  • Brands using recycled packaging while using mixed plastic materials for their products — which are not recyclable

And so many more. 

As a consumer, you have a great deal of power. When a brand or company makes sustainability claims, you may not be able to control whether they are greenwashing or being truthful — but you can ask questions. Hop on TikTok, Instagram or Twitter and ask the company to explain itself. Generally, companies (like most of us) tend to behave better when they are being watched. Even if you’re not an expert, you can use your consumer power and scrutinise. 

Better still: if you have the time, read up. Greenwashing can be complex and the methods companies use today to persuade us that they are taking climate action are getting increasingly sophisticated. A good place to start is by reading the NewClimate Institute’s Corporate Climate Responsibility Monitor, which assesses the transparency and integrity of 24 major companies across different industries. 

4. Engage. And if you’re able to, vote. 

Politics may well get on your nerves, but voting for politicians with the strongest environmental policies — and those who reject polluter lobbying — is one of the best ways to ensure we’re on the right track. As citizens we should ask questions, turn up the pressure, and engage.

But it’s not just about voting. If you can, write to your local politician. Pay them a visit in their office. Speak with them when they’re visiting the local school for a photo shoot. 

Big companies knock on their doors every day — let’s make sure we do the same.

5. Create some change from within. 

Your school, workplace and community are places where you can have a meaningful impact. Engage in conversations with your family, friends and peers – and, if you’re in a position where you feel comfortable and safe doing so, your employer. 

As we keep saying, changing the way corporations and institutions behave is the key to tackling climate change. And as an employee you have the power to potentially influence the way your company behaves. 

How? Work For Climate has some great resources on this topic. But, as any big or meaningful task, it starts with asking questions. Ask your boss about your company’s climate policy. Ask if they have Net Zero targets. Ask about their energy suppliers, and whether they use renewable energy. If your company manufactures products, ask about their supply chain — is it powered by fossil fuels? How do they regulate and measure its impact on the environment? 

6. Join an organisation that can create change. 

Nobody can change the world alone. That’s why Action Speaks Louder exists: to use our collective power to create systemic change. And we have already done so. 

We sent nearly 9,000 emails to Hyundai to stop them from building a new Liquified Natural Gas plant in South Korea — and they did. We sent over 14,000 emails to Samsung executives to persuade them to switch over to renewable energy in their supply chain — and they did.

The power of the collective does work. Which is why the last effective way to fight climate change is to join a climate organisation by signing petitions, contacting company executives, and taking action on campaigns. 

Action Speaks Louder’s plan is to create public and regulatory pressure to push companies to live up to their own climate change promises – specifically in taking solid steps such as committing to 100% renewable energy. And in so doing, use these companies’ influence to unlock clean energy policies in some of the world’s most polluting countries. 

You can check out some of our campaigns here. 

So — ask questions, scrutinise, put pressure on governments, regulators and corporations. Vote. Read. And in the meantime, do the small everyday things that add up.

We already have the tools to fight this. Let’s get on it.

The clothing and textiles that we make, buy, wear, care for and dispose of are contributors to a wide variety of environmental issues that impact climate change, many of which intersect with one another. 

To name a few: both natural and synthetic fabrics cause microfibre pollution in the ocean. The production of leather and viscose lead to deforestation. Dyeing and processing materials release toxic chemical pollution into rivers. Waste from the export of used clothing clogs landfills around the world. The list could go on.

Against this backdrop, fashion brands are making more noise than ever about contributing to the solutions of these problems. In 2022, 46% of major brands published a sustainable materials strategy and one in five brands invested in circular solutions like resale, repair and rental. Meanwhile, 101 brands, retailers and suppliers have signed the UNFCCC Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action, which commits them to reach net zero emissions by 2050.

Behind these efforts towards ‘sustainability’ and ‘circularity’, however, is a bleak fact: we need to limit global warming to just 1.5ºC if we want to avoid the most devastating effects of climate change. And an even bleaker fact: the fashion industry needs to reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by at least 45% in order to make real progress towards this goal — and it’s currently well behind schedule. 

So why is the fashion industry struggling to reduce its emissions? And what can brands do to help drive meaningful change forward? 

The problem

The majority of fashion’s emissions are produced in its supply chain by fossil fuel-powered factories

The fashion supply chain is complex, messy and opaque. In order to reduce emissions across the whole supply chain at the scale that we need in order to combat the climate crisis, we need to transform the entire energy system behind our clothing and textiles. 

This will be a huge challenge. Here’s why. 

The fashion supply chain is opaque and fragmented

Almost no piece of clothing or footwear is ever made at a single facility or even a single country. The fashion supply chain is truly global, and it’s extremely fragmented. Production is broken down into different stages, called ‘tiers’, with each tier being carried out at a different facility, in a different country around the world. A single dress will have travelled the world, stopping at different factories, farms, mills, laundries and warehouses long before you buy and wear it.

The 4 tiers of the fashion supply chain are:


The 4 Tiers of the Fashion Supply Chain

  • Tier 4: Raw material cultivation and extraction. Eg. cotton farming. 
  • Tier 3: Material processing. Eg. spinning and weaving yarn into fabric.
  • Tier 2: Material production. Eg. dyeing and finishing fabric.
  • Tier 1: Product assembly. Eg. cutting and sewing clothing.

Most fashion brands do not own and operate factories, but instead source from international and local suppliers which specialise in a specific tier of manufacturing. A significant proportion of fashion and textile manufacturing is based in China, South Asia and Eastern and Southern Europe

Brands work with many different facilities to meet their demands for mass production. For example, H&M alone sources from over 2,800 suppliers.

Fossil fuels rule fashion manufacturing

The majority of emissions in the fashion industry come from the supply chain, with an estimated 52% just from Tier 2: material production. 

Percentage of Greenhouse Gas Emissions Per Tier

Sometimes, machinery at these facilities is powered by electricity rather than direct combustion of coal. However, in countries that have unreliable access to renewable energy, production will still need to rely on fossil fuels which power the electricity grid. 

Brands’ climate commitments contain loopholes

Although brands do not directly control their suppliers, the emissions produced in the factories, farms and mills they source from are still measured by brands. These are called ‘scope 3’ emissions, which refer to ‘indirect’ emissions that do not come from their owned and operated facilities, or from electricity that they have purchased. Major fashion brands hold an outsized economic influence over their suppliers, and therefore it is their responsibility to provide support for those suppliers to decarbonise.

And yet, meaningfully reducing GHG emissions across their entire supply chain tends to be low on brands’ list of climate targets. Although more brands than ever are engaged in various initiatives to reduce their impact on the environment, and some of them do include commitments to reduce their GHG emissions, such commitments often feature loopholes that brands use to avoid facing the transformational change needed to make significant reductions. These loopholes include:

  • Creative accounting
    Brands often claim emissions reductions through carbon offsetting schemes, which do not represent genuine climate action in the supply chain. They are also increasingly switching from burning coal to burning biomass. This relies on the combustion of raw materials such as wood pellets, which is highly polluting and can enable deforestation.
  • Renewable energy credits
    Brands often purchase unreliable Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) rather than directly procuring their own renewable electricity, for example with onsite solar panels or power purchase agreements (PPAs). Research suggests that RECs do not necessarily drive demand for additional renewable electricity, and therefore do not accurately reflect emissions reductions in the brand’s own supply chain.
  • Ignoring scope 3
    Brands promise to reduce emissions in scopes 1 and 2 only, which refer to owned and operated facilities such as offices and retail stores, rather than the supply chain where most emissions are produced. Unless their climate targets cover scope 3, brands are not taking action where it really counts.
  • Growing volumes
    Brands set intensity-based, rather than absolute, emissions reduction targets, such as ‘50% emissions reduction per unit of product sold’. This means that emissions can actually increase as the company grows in size, profit and production volumes.
  • Avoiding transparency
    Most brands do not invest in full supply chain traceability, which would enable the brand to measure and mitigate emissions at each tier and therefore assess the most effective strategies for decarbonisation.
  • Certified greenwashing
    Many brands participate in voluntary certifications and multi-stakeholder platforms that arguably undermine and distract from the major policy shifts needed to slash emissions. 

The solution

Brands must ramp up renewable energy 

Ultimately, to address the emissions problem at source, we need to see fashion brands implementing deep decarbonisation across their supply chain, particularly in tier 2, the material production process. 

According to the UN, renewable energy supply must be doubled globally in order to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees. Much of this will be driven by the actions of big corporations.

So how can brands decarbonise their supply chain?

According to’s Fossil-free Fashion Scorecard, in order to make meaningful change, fashion brands need to be fully transparent on GHG emissions across their entire supply chain. Then, they must commit to reducing these emissions by investing in renewable energy and energy efficiency measures. Because decarbonisation also depends on the sourcing countries’ energy mix, they also need to advocate for climate action at a policy level, including strengthening the renewable energy supply in these countries.’s 2023 scorecard reviewed 43 major fashion brands in their climate efforts, and found only five brands have committed to deploying renewable energy across their supply chain, while the majority of brands have yet to show any signs of meaningfully engaging with suppliers to support them to decarbonise.

Fortunately, the technologies already exist for brands to start taking action today. One promising example is the growth of zero-water dyeing and processing systems, which would enable suppliers to eliminate the need for polluting coal-fired boilers. The D(r)ye Factory of the Future project from Fashion For Good provides insight into the significant emissions savings that could be achieved by scaling up these technologies

Of course, implementing new technologies will require brands to invest significantly in their suppliers. According to Fashion for Good, there is a $133billion USD funding gap for transitioning from coal combustion to dry processing, but many of these solutions offer an attractive financial return on investment while helping brands to meet their climate targets.

The bottom line: for a truly sustainable fashion industry, we need to accelerate ambition

Beyond individual process improvements from individual brands, the missing piece in a truly sustainable fashion system is the rapid acceleration of renewable energy, which will require the energy landscape of sourcing countries to shift in order to provide reliable, fossil-free electricity to a large number of facilities. Major brands which source from shared regions and even shared facilities are well placed to become powerful advocates for increasing renewable energy supply —but it will require genuine collaboration between fierce competitors.

The challenges involved in decarbonising the fashion supply chain should not be underestimated, but we can no longer wait for weak commitments from brands that fail to meet the urgent action required to limit the most catastrophic impacts of the climate crisis. 

Fashion brands and retailers must commit to a significant absolute reduction of scope 3 carbon emissions by powering their supply chain from 100% renewable energy. If they do, it could eliminate 27% of all GHG emissions associated with the fashion industry. The good news is, momentum for decarbonisation is growing from suppliers, policymakers and customers alike. It’s time for the fashion industry to listen up and take action.

Join our movement to hold fashion accountable for its climate impacts.

The environmental impact of the fashion industry often flies under the radar. However, a closer look reveals that the net-zero commitments of the global fashion industry are lagging behind those of other sectors. The lack of decarbonisation progress in the industry threatens to slow down the world’s net-zero journey. Furthermore, greenwashing is becoming more and more common among many famous brands, while others are trying to convince the public that business growth and environmental friendliness are mutually exclusive. The few shining examples in the niche are not enough to change the status quo. The keys to change are regulatory and public pressure.

The Fashion Industry’s Environmental Impact

The fashion industry is responsible for 2.1 gigatonnes in humanity’s carbon emissions in 2018. This is close to 4% of all global emissions, and it makes up about 10% of the world’s CO2 emissions. To put that into perspective, it is equivalent to the carbon emissions of some of the biggest economies globally, including the UK, France, and Germany combined.

Environmental Cost of Fashion Production

While the environmental cost of fashion production is already massive, fashion sector emissions will continue to grow. If this is allowed to continue, these emissions will possibly rise to 1.588 gigatonnes by 2030.

Projected GHG Emissions for the Apparel Sector, 2019–2030, Source: World Resource Institute

The environmental impact of the fashion industry affects more than just the climate. Studies have found that synthetic fibres account for 35% of marine microplastic pollution. However, they also take a toll on terrestrial pollution, with 176,500 metric tonnes of polyester and nylon being released annually onto land. Currently, synthetic fibres produced from crude oil and natural gas account for 69% of the material input for clothing production worldwide. Furthermore, the annual CO2 emissions from polyester production today equal the yearly emissions of 180 coal-fired power plants.

The Fashion Industry’s Environmental Impact in Asia

It is no secret that most fashion brands produce their products in emerging Asian economies. The latest data shows that the top five apparel exporters by value are China, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Germany and India.

China is responsible for producing 65% of the world’s clothes. Furthermore, apparel accounts for over 80% of Bangladesh’s total exports, while Southeast Asia is the fastest-growing apparel hub globally. The result is massive textile waste and the use of fertilizers for cotton production.

However, out of the 57 Asian companies from the textiles, apparel, footwear and luxury goods industries with near-term science-based climate commitments, the targets of just eight of them align with a 1.5°C pathway.

Why Does the Problem Exist?

First, the current net-zero pledges of the global industry and fast fashion brands are insufficient and incomplete. There are a limited number of targets covering Scope 3 emissions, which hold the highest share in companies’ emissions. Furthermore, many brands do not even bother to disclose this information in their environmental reports.

Scope 3 Emissions Dominate the Breakdown of Emissions for a Selection of Companies with Approved SBTs.
Source: World Resource Institute

Even though over 70% of the industry’s emissions originate from raw material production and processing, just 47% of brands disclose their manufacturing facilities. Only 27% disclose their processing plants, and just 11% list their raw materials suppliers.

The Fashion Transparency Index 2021 ranks 250 of the world’s largest fashion brands and retailers. Only 26% have science-based targets, and only 17% disclose Scope 3 emissions from raw materials.

Meanwhile, the most troubling observation is that as much as 59% of green commitments by fashion industry companies are merely greenwashing.

Prada, Hugo Boss and Mammut Sports – The Good and the Bad Examples

Stand Earth’s Fossil-free Fashion Scorecard evaluates brands’ climate commitments, reliance on renewable energy, low-carbon materials, shipping practices and advocacy. It states that the best-performing company globally is Mammut Sports. Its sector-leading commitments include halving its emissions, switching to renewable energy across its supply chain and transitioning to zero-emission shipping vessels by 2030. n the other end of the spectrum are companies like Primark and Under Armour and luxury brands like PradaLVMHHugo Boss, and Armani.

The Fashion Transparency Index 2021 has singled out brands like OVS, H&M, The North Face and Timberland as the best-performing ones. Apparel producers like Mexx, Pepe Jeans, Tom Ford, Max Mara and Quicksilver are at the bottom. Companies like Adidas, Reebok, Bershka and Zara have taken a significant hit to their rankings in 2021.

Fashion Transparency Index 2021 Quick Findings. Source: Fashion Revolution

Nike and Adidas are not Transparent

When it comes to brand transparency, fossil-fuel synthetics use and commitments to phase them out, the Changing Markets report has found no clear front-runners. At the bottom of the chart are companies like Nike, Reebok, Adidas, the North Face, Timberland, Primark and more.

What Can the Fashion Industry Do to Reduce Its Environmental Impact?

The spotlight for decarbonisation often falls on heavy industry and hard-to-abate sectors, while the fashion industry’s environmental impact is undervalued. Sustainable fashion is the need of the hour.

Changing Markets concludes that the fashion brands are knee-deep in fossil fuels.For a change to happen, greenwashing practices must end. In the era of the conscious consumer and growing competition, greenwashing can result in massive reputational and financial risks as well as the loss of consumer confidence.

In terms of concrete steps, the World Resource Institute recommends six measures that collectively can ensure that the industry remains in line with a 45% reduction pathway by 2030.

Key Interventions for Reducing Emissions towards Net Zero, Source: World Resource Institute

Furthermore, the industry as a whole should be looking to abandon the unsustainable fast-fashion model and move towards circular business processes, enabling higher durability of garments, extended warranties and the promotion of reuse. Patagonia is a great example of this. Companies should also commit to ambitious and comprehensive climate targets, reduce their dependence on fossil fuels and focus on cutting Scope 3 emissions. In order to decarbonise, the fashion industry needs USD 1 trillion by 2050.

Financing Mix Across Solution Categories. Source: Fashion for Good

Understandably, relying on the industry’s inner motivation to embrace such a significant restructure is too idealistic. Regulators should introduce laws that will make it mandatory for companies to identify, prevent and account for ESG risks. Oversight authorities and industry bodies should also hold fashion brands accountable for their green claims.

If these measures fail, the best weapon is to tackle the sector’s price sensitivity. Any additional carbon tax for high-emissions products will significantly affect profits, urging companies to act. Furthermore, any form of industry support should also be conditional and based upon companies’ climate-related performance.

What’s Next For the Fashion Industry?

The sector is highly fragmented. There are no companies that we can point fingers at and put the blame on. As a result, change can only result from a collective effort. Collaboration and collective action are critical for creating effective and meaningful solutions. Fortunately, if there is any sector where public pressure can make the biggest difference, it is the fashion industry.  

This post was originally published on Energy Tracker Asia