We know about the fashion industry’s impacts in relation to climate change, with the abundance of pollution, resource usage, and wasteful creation/disposal tactics. On a more specific note, apparel production plays a huge role in biodiversity disruption, from habitat loss to direct field sports. According to an article by McKinsey, “Apparel supply chains are directly linked to soil degradation, conversion of natural ecosystems, and waterway pollution” (Biodiversity: The next frontier in sustainable fashion); meaning the sustainability of general ecosystems are threatened by the ever-growing fashion industry.
It is clear that biodiversity loss and climate change have a reciprocal relationship. For example, deforestation leads to increased climate change (due to an abundance of CO2 emissions), and in turn, rising temperatures lead to habitat destruction and biodiversity decline.
An analysis by McKinsey and Company determined that most of the negative impact comes from three stages in the value chain: raw-material production, material preparation and processing, and end of life. This is primarily determined by land use, water use, and energy consumption.
Based on their findings, they pinpointed the top five sectors that contribute to biodiversity loss: cotton agriculture, wood-based natural fibers/man-made cellulose fibers (MMCFs), Textile dyeing and treatment, and Microplastics and waste.
With these sectors being incredibly important in the manufacturing industry, they have recognized that there is no viable solution that includes getting rid of said-sectors completely. Solutions overall include scaling up the company’s sustainability-focused quarters.
To improve the sustainability of cotton, MMCFs, and synthetics, multiple technologies have already been established. Precision agriculture, integrated pest management (IPM), and micro-irrigation reduce water and chemical intensity to a certain extent. With efficient technology, there are always trade–offs, whether it be cost or guaranteed quality- however a mix of different variables can concoct more feasible solutions.
Additionally, investing in innovative fabrics can pave the way for organic, biodegradable and renewable materials to be turned into clothing. Reusability goes hand-in-hand with renewing. Not only do recycled fibers repurpose trash, but they also have a reduced biodiversity footprint than virgin fibers.
By maintaining a strong stance on land and water pollution, on the barest level, companies will be able to protect ecosystems from further harm- consequently protecting their biodiversity.
Take a look at McKinsey and Company’s comprehensive analysis of the fashion industry’s role in the circle of biodiversity!