The Angry Clean Energy Guy names and shames top fashion brands and describes why the fashion and garments industry is a horror show from a climate change and environmental perspective. Villain of the week: Shell Oil, who think they are smarter than everyone else, now greenwashing by pretending to sell “responsible” dirty gas cargoes, as if that could even be a thing. Hero of the week: America’s leading medical groups who have declared a public health emergency over climate change.
Fashion revolution and transparency
Fashion climate emergency crisis
Fashion second biggest polluter
Fashion second most polluter globally
Fashion environmental audit
Five ways fashion damages the planet
Fast fashion is on the rampage
Missguided one pound bikini
Style that is sustainable
Tokyo gas and gs energy
Things you don’t know about plastic and recycling
Americas leading medical groups
Hi, I am The Angry Clean Energy Guy, Assaad Razzouk. Welcome to episode 14 of my podcast. I am so happy you’re here. Thank you. A couple of admin points. First, I am very happy that the proper podcast website has now been launched. You can find it at https://theangrycleanenergyguy.com/. I’ve started adding transcripts to all the podcasts. You’ll find the transcripts all the way up to episode four there already today, and all of them should be there by the end of the week. A typical transcript will be on the website about a week after the podcast is aired, so I would encourage you to visit the website where you’ll also find under each episode some sources and resources that you can use if you want to dig into anything I’ve said in more detail. This week, I am going to rant about the fashion industry, a huge global industry with an incredible environmental footprint, unregulated and totally wild, before revealing later my hero and my villain of the week.
THE FASHION INDUSTRY
The fashion industry is a horror show from a climate change and from an environmental perspective. And that’s what I would like to talk about today, including what we’re going to do about it.
About two weeks ago, there is an online fast fashion brand called Misguided – and boy have they earned their brand name – released a bikini that you can buy for one pound. So they released the Bikini priced at one pound, or a dollar and 30 cents. So that’s a dollar 30 cents for an entire Bikini set. The Bikini is made 85% from polyester. Polyester is not bio degradable and it takes, I don’t know, 200 years to decompose and some scientists think it will never decompose. Now think about that. So you, so people go out and buy this £1 bikini, they wear it this summer on pristine beaches, the Bikini inevitably falls apart because of its quality, they throw it away and guess what? All these bikinis then go back and destroy that beach the person wearing the bikini was enjoying, because of the polyester in them. Now, if that’s not a sick circle, I don’t know what is. You have to remember that less than 1% of the materials in the fashion industry are put back into the system. Less than 1%. The rest ends up in landfills or it’s burned.
The fashion industry produces 100 billion pieces of new clothing each year, 100 billion pieces of new clothing a year. These are made from virgin resources, increasingly plastic, and they are made with pretty much zero thought as to where they will end up. As a result, the fashion industry not only contributes to 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions, so it’s a major driver of climate change because it’s got a long supply chain and it’s got energy intensive production and 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions is more than aviation and shipping combined; So not only is it a major contributor to climate change, but it also produces 20% of global waste water. So that’s dirty water full of chemical compounds dumped into rivers and the ocean in many countries, unregulated.
We live in the plastic era and this era has to end. This textile then decomposes into microplastics, which all of us are now eating, breathing and drinking.
Clothing production doubled in the last 15 years and the number of garments purchased each year by the average consumer is up 60% so we’re producing a lot more clothes because we’re buying a lot more clothes and we’re throwing a lot more clothes as well. You would think that all these fashion brands that otherwise pay enormous attention to how they look to us, the consumers, are thinking about their material, are adopting a circular economy model, are embracing recycling, but no, none of them are doing much about it at all.
You would think that a brand would ensure that the materials going into the clothes are safe. You would think that the brand would want its energy to come from renewable sources and you would think that the brand would pay attention to how it constructs its garments so that we have a chance of deconstructing them, enabling a circular economy approach. But no, that would be too correct, too ethical. That would be too moral. Why should the fashion industry do any of these things?
There is a Fashion Transparency Index which makes for a very interesting read. So the Fashion Transparency Index selected 150 major brands, each of which sells more than $500 million a year and then scored them on their transparency and sustainability.
What they found, which is frankly shocking, is that there are zero brands that score above 60% transparency. Zero, which means all the brands are under 60% transparency, which means they don’t disclose that much and you don’t know what they’re doing and they’re not paying attention to what they’re doing and they don’t have much in terms of policies about their hiring practices, local community engagement activities, they don’t assess their suppliers, they don’t have remediation processes, they don’t have social and environmental goals, they don’t care how they build their garments, they don’t care what happens to their garment after you wear it and you throw it away.
And that is the overwhelming majority of brands. So according to the Fashion Transparency Index, the best brands are Adidas, Reebok, Puma, H&M, Esprit, Banana Republic, Gap, Old Navy, C&A and Marks and Spencer. All of them score between 51% and 60% on transparency, which means they’re trying, but they can do so much better.
Some of the worst brands you can buy textile or fashion from in the world because their transparency score is between zero and 10% are Valentino, Armani, Michael Kors, Sainsbury’s, Lacoste, Urban Outfitters, Neiman Marcus and I could go on and on. There is a long list in that report that you can find on my website in a few days. Versace, Diesel, Marc Jacobs, Chanel, LL Bean, all of these are zeros. Zeros in terms of what they disclose, their transparency, their commitment to fighting environmental damage, their commitment to fighting climate change, their commitment for safe hiring practices, their commitment to pay fair wages for example.
It’s not a pretty sight.
Now in the good news category, some companies are forming coalitions to try and deal with the environmental and social challenges. For example, 22 brands belong to a coalition called Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals. There is another initiative called the Better Cotton Initiative that’s got 50 retailers and brands trying to do something. Puma and Burberry’s recently joined the Science Based Targets Initiative, in order to make commitments that some of their energy will come from renewable resources, but the good examples are few and far between and the bad examples are just everywhere.
Now the solution is not that complicated. We need all fashion brands to be more transparent. We need fashion brands to pay very close attention to their human rights and social issues associated with what they do. We clearly need industry-wide legislation. We need standards for designing garments that can be easily reused or recycled. We need to stop burning unwanted clothes. That’s what fast fashion does to protect their reputation. Instead, we should be recycling these clothes because we’ve made them in a way that can be recycled.
At the moment, you can’t even recycle them because of how they mix the plastic inside them. We need to stop microplastics and plastic polluting rivers and seas, and you have to stop them at the source.
Most importantly, plastic must not be so cheap. All plastic is made from oil, gas, and coal. Why is plastic so cheap? It’s because the raw materials like polythene that constitute plastic are waste products from the petroleum industry, so Big Oil and Gas are selling us their trash. They are dumping their waste product on us as plastic because they don’t get penalised for that waste product. Their waste product is mispriced. The environmental and social and climate impact of their waste product is not taken into account into its price.
If it was priced properly, it would go away. We would do away with it. We would replace it with something that makes more sense, with something that doesn’t destroy oceans and that doesn’t end up in the fish that we eat and in the air that we breathe and in the water that we drink. In short, what we need to do is we need to change the business model of the fashion industry through both positive and negative incentives because we need to increase the use of clothing, not having people throw away their clothes all the time and we need to keep it in use much longer. To do that, we need to ensure that the materials going into the clothes are safe and come from renewable sources. That’s what we need to do and we the consumers and the citizens need to make purchasing choices that are intelligent when we pick our brands.
Thank you so much for listening to me, The Angry Clean Energy Guy, this far.
My villain of the week is Shell Oil. Yes. Again. Because they think they can outsmart the rest of the world. They released a statement a few days ago that says that they’ve sold the world’s first carbon neutral LNG cargoes to Japanese utilities, GS Energy and Tokyo Gas and they claim that their cargoes are carbon neutral because nature based carbon credits would be used to compensate the full carbon dioxide emissions generated from exploring for and producing the natural gas used by the final consumer.
Now on the face of it, you would think that what they’ve done is good. So they sold dirty gas to Japanese utilities and they attached some carbon credits to that gas to offset the carbon emissions from extracting the gas and transporting it and shipping it and processing it. But let me explain what they did and let’s take back a step.
Today we have two functioning carbon credit markets in the world, one in California and one in the European Union. And the one in the European Union is functioning despite people like Shell who have fought it for over 15 years. Today, prices at which carbon credits are trading in Europe and in California are such that fossil fuel emitters, so people using coal, gas and oil, are paying more attention to how they can clean up their act. But the carbon credit market outside of these two places is basically non-existent. And so what Shell Oil does is it generates very cheap carbon credits for 20 cents per ton of CO2 (from places other than the EU and California of course), instead of their market value, which should be 40 euros or dollars per ton of CO2. And then Shell Oil uses these very cheap carbon credits to pat itself on the back, greenwashing its LNG cargoes. So greenwashing dirty gas, which we don’t need and we cannot have more of, and then trying to look good so that public opinion and NGOs think that it’s making an effort on the environment.
But there is nothing that could be further from the truth. They are using transparent devices to look good when in fact what they’re doing is they are greenwashing by taking advantage of cheap credits that are way, way cheaper than they should be, partly because of Shell Oil lobbying for 15 years to destroy that market. And then they are attaching them to LNG cargoes to try and look good. And mind you that’s just one LNG cargo from hundreds a year.
And what they’re also doing, which is even worse, is at the fuel pump when you’re trying to put gas into your car, they’re now offering you in the Netherlands for example, the opportunity for you to buy, you the consumer, to buy carbon credits to offset the emissions from your car. So they want to sell you dirty oil and they also want to sell you carbon credits to clean the dirty oil. I mean these people’s greed has no limits. And I honestly don’t understand it. The people at Shell Oil are nice, hardworking people. How can a collective of nice, good, hardworking people be evil? I don’t understand it.
My winner of the week are 70 organizations including the American Lung Association and the American Heart Association and other organizations representing physicians, nurses, health and public health professionals, health workers, hospitals, health care systems and health education institutions in the United States, in other words America’s leading medical groups, who have declared a public health emergency over climate change and issued a declaration accordingly. And what they said, and I’m quoting, “climate change is one of the greatest threats to health America has ever faced”. And they are my winner of the week because they have dared to speak truth to power and to tell it like it is. Thank you.
Thank you for listening. Don’t hesitate to send my way questions you have about clean energy, climate change or whatever you like. My website https://theangrycleanenergyguy.com/ has a form that you can fill as well as transcripts of my older podcasts.
Have a great week.
There is so much to be angry about, if you are a clean energy guy.
Every day, so many things that happen around the world make me angry when I look at them with lenses colored by the climate change chaos unfolding everywhere around us. And I am especially angry because I know we can solve the climate change crisis if we were only trying.
Each week, I will share with you a few topics that struck me and that I was very angry about – and this will generally have to do with climate change, solar or wind power, plastic pollution, environmental degradation, wildlife, the oceans and other related topics.