The fashion industry was responsible for at least 4 percent of global greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions in 2018 -- more than the carbon output of the economies of France, Germany, and the United Kingdom combined, according to research from McKinsey & Company, a global management consulting firm committed to helping organizations create Change that Matters.
Even taking into account the reduction demand effected by COVID-19, new McKinsey research shows that, without substantial carbon-abatement measures, the current trajectory will lead to an industrywide emissions level that is still twice the size of that required to meet the Paris Agreement’s target for 2030.
Many brands are joining in the commitment towards a more sustainable future to combat these issues, and SML Group, an item-level RFID and brand identification provider, recently released its annual Sustainability Report for 2021.
“Our 2021 Annual Sustainability Report summarizes the five-year sustainability goals we put in place and performance in 2020 compared to 2018, the baseline year,” says Ignatius K.C. Lau, vice chairman and CEO of the SML Group. “We introduced it as part of our ongoing efforts to improve sustainability throughout manufacturing processes and the supply chain, and to ensure that we remain transparent and accountable in our execution.”
The report shows the company’s progress in helping big name brands transform and infuse sustainability into their products and garments, and the overall outlook for the industry. It specifically documents the company’s sustainability goals and summarizes key environmental and social impact milestones achieved over the last three years. These include:
- Energy – Reduced overall energy consumption by 30% and CO2 greenhouse gas emissions by 20% in 2020
- Material Use – 180% increase in recycled yarn and 180% increase in recycled tape use
- Paper – 150% increase in Forest Stewardship Council -certified paper use, the equivalent to saving 52,000 mature trees, 57,000 m3 of water, and 9,000 MWh of electricity
- Waste Management – Achieved and maintained 91.9% of landfill-free waste as well as 91.6% of recycled waste for use
- Chemicals – 92.6% of chemicals procured conform to SML’s environmental and social values
- Water Resource Management – 16% reduction in global water consumption
“In truth, one of the most significant achievements was the fact that -- in spite of 2020 posing as one of the most challenging and unprecedented years to date and the global disruption that came from COVID-19 -- our team remained steadfast in our commitment to and execution of more sustainable operations. Our unwavering focus and dedication are exemplary and I’m personally proud of during this time,” says Lau. “I’m also proud of the various areas in which we completely surpassed our initial goals.”
According to the SML 2021 Annual Sustainability Report, in 2020, the company carried out its first-ever product carbon footprint verification project to quantify the carbon footprint of its EcoInspire RFID Labels vs. conventional PET RFID labels and verified a 10–16% decrease in overall product carbon footprints.
“One of the most surprising findings was how, in just three years, we were able to exceed our expectations of an 80% increase across each recycled yarn, recycled tape, and FSC certified paper category – two years before our 2022 goal,” says Lau.
Compared to conventional Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) RFID labels, the SML Group’s EcoInspire RFID labels drove a 10–16% decrease in product carbon footprint. In addition, SML’s item-level RFID solution, Clarity, empowers retailers with greater inventory visibility and stock accuracies of up to 98% that enable them to make more informed decisions around manufacturing.
“We realize RFID source-level tagging is an important aspect to help brands deploy RFID items, so we continue to expand our global footprint across many countries to ensure we deliver tags in the right place at the right time,” says Lau. “And we don’t stop there. We continuously invest in innovation that helps ensure we successfully assist our customers in transforming their business through these technologies and within the new era of retailing.”
By understanding appropriate and accurate inventory levels, retailers and manufacturers can therefore significantly reduce levels of unnecessary material resources, transport emissions, and landfill waste. In fact, an RFID customer minimized its annual garment volume by more than 20 million items, equating to approximately 400 shipping containers full of garments that did not have to be manufactured, shipped or distributed.
“We do also recognize that we’re by no means near the finish line, and there is much more that we, as an industry, can do to take longer strides in establishing a clear, eco-forward world – and we’re intent on continuing to challenge ourselves and our customers to get there,” says Lau.