TOKYO – Japan’s fashion industry is undergoing a makeover, with labels like Asics, Muji and Uniqlo pledging to go green to free themselves from the scourge of trade-associated pollution.
Fashion is said to be the second most polluting industry globally, after the oil industry, with huge amounts of carbon dioxide emitted and water drawn up through the supply chain, not to mention the tons of clothes that are thrown away and incinerated. every year.
Data from the Japanese Ministry of the Environment last year shows that the production of a garment involves, on average, the release of 25.5 kg of carbon dioxide into the air and the use of about 2,300 liters of water.
For clothes sold in Japan, approximately 95 million tons of carbon dioxide are emitted each year – or 4.5 percent of the total emissions of the world fashion trade – with approximately 8.4 billion cubic meters of water consumed – or 9 percent of the trade.
Still, an average of 480,000 tons of clothing are incinerated or buried in landfills each year, with only 34 percent reused or recycled, the ministry noted.
“Given the interconnected supply chain, many resources are being used around the world to make each piece of clothing, and the environmental burden is growing with the production of more clothes,” the ministry said.
Japan’s official commitment in 2020 to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 and reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by at least 46% from 2013 levels by 2030 has prompted companies to act.
The Japan Sustainable Fashion Alliance, an initiative backed by the Ministry of the Environment with 28 companies on board so far, held its first meeting in November.
The industrial group is led by outdoor clothing brand Goldwin, trading company Itochu and recycling start-up Japan Environment Planning (Jeplan), with companies like Asics and Muji Ryohin Keikaku’s parent company on board.
Also part of the alliance is textile manufacturer Toray Industries, whose materials are widely used in Uniqlo apparel such as its Heattech and Airism labels.
Masaki Takao, CEO of Jeplan, said: “Due to the complex and long supply chain of the fashion industry, sustainability cannot be achieved if the company does not work together as a whole. consumer behavior “.
This could be a challenge, especially as buyer demand for sustainably produced clothing remains tepid. Furthermore, many consumers are unaware – if not disinterested – of how their clothes are made and the consequent impact on the environment.
A study by the Ministry of the Environment showed that only 4% of shoppers actively buy sustainable fashion. Another 51 per cent “have an interest” in sustainability issues but this does not translate into action, while 41 per cent said they do not care.
This means that it is up to companies to drive change, including creating bins for the collection of old clothes that are then laundered into brand new clothes or donated to refugees or the homeless.
While not part of the industry group, retail giants Aeon and Takashimaya launched new products made entirely from recycled clothing last year.