On Tuesday, November 9, the British Fashion Council and several of the country’s best known fashion houses hosted an event in Glasgow, Scotland. The venue and the timing were not coincidental, for their whole intention was to piggyback on COP 26, the two-week-long United Nations Climate Change Conference taking place in the city, which was scheduled to conclude at end of the week.
With a set of leading brand names in attendance, including Burberry, Phoebe English and Stella McCartney, the organization endorsed the Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action, which declares that all electricity used by the industry by 2030 will be from renewable sources, and purchasing will be limited to environmentally friendly raw materials.
The fashion industry in general, but especially where textiles are concerned, is a very substantial source of greenhouse gases. It currently accounts for about 8 percent to 10 percent of global carbon emissions, and nearly 20 percent of wastewater. In fact, it uses more energy per annum than both aviation and shipping combined.
To make just one pair of denim jeans, for example, 10,000 liters of water is required, to grow the one kilogram of the cotton needed. In comparison, one person would take 10 years to drink 10,000 liters of water.
Cumulatively, the fashion industry produces about 20 percent of global wastewater, and 85 percent of textiles end up in landfills or being incinerated, even though most of the materials could be reused or recycled.
The diamond industry, although tangentially connected to fashion, is a minor offender in comparison. While its product is mined and is actually comprised of carbon, the process by which diamonds are extracted and processed have a relatively small environmental footprint. But small as it may be, it is not non-existent, meaning that it, too, is contributing to global warming and climate change.
In the wake of COP 26, the diamond industry will be expected to play it part in substantially reducing its reducing carbon footprint by 2030, and becoming carbon neutral between 2040 and 2050.
Source: De Beers Insight Report 2021
CARBON OFFSETTING PROGRAMS
In terms of renewable energies, most in the industry are reliant on the service providers in the countries in which they operate, since in the diamond business the amount of energy required precludes the need to develop independent sources of electrical power. What this means is that if your power companies are efficiently developing alternative sources of renewable energy, which are not dependent on fossil fuels, then you reasonably can state that you are moving towards the objective of not being carbon dependent.
This may appear that you are passing the buck, claiming that you can only can do what your local energy provider makes possible. That is true, but it may not impress younger consumers, who research indicates most definitely base purchasing decision on whether they perceive a company to be environmentally responsible or not. In other words, you may not be able to decide whether your energy provider is doing the right thing, but your consumer may choose to buy products only from those vendors whose energy providers are behaving more responsibly.
But there are basic things that even a small company can do, and one of them is to be certified as carbon neutral. This does not necessarily require eliminating your carbon footprint, even though it almost certainly is possible to reduce it.
What can be done is to measure your carbon footprint, which is generally done by employing an expert who will calculate how much carbon your business expends over the course of a calendar year. You then offset that amount by buying carbon credits, which essentially means investing in companies developing alternative energy sources, like wind power, hydroelectricity or solar power, or in enterprises that actually are removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.
MINING COMPANIES TAKE ACTION
The largest producers of greenhouse gases in the sector are almost certainly the mining companies, but as De Beers reported in its recent Insight 2021 report, it and its largest competitor, the Russian diamond mining company Alrosa, are committed to substantially reducing their carbon footprint.
Source: De Beers Insight Report 2021
The company is also developing a roadmap to address the remaining indirect emissions that occur in its value chain, and embrace new innovations and technologies to reduce energy intensity, replace fossil fuels and fossil electricity, and recover the last remaining carbon emissions through nature-based solutions.
One of the projects is called CarbonVault, which is an initiative focused on accelerating the way in which kimberlite, the ore in which diamonds are found, captures carbon from the atmosphere and locks it away.
The company is investigating in low-carbon options, such as alternative green fuels to replace the diesel currently used to power its mines. It is also converting its plants and equipment to run off clean electricity, batteries and hydrogen fuel cells.
At its facilities, Alrosa is expand its share of renewable energy resources by using hydroelectric power, installing solar panels instead of diesel generators, reusing engine oil for heating purposes and replacing non-renewable fuel with local energy resources such as natural gas. Already today, with its mines located in areas that are rich in water resources, unlike De Beers which mainly mines in more arid regions, hydropower and renewable energy sources represent 92 percent of total electricity in use at Alrosa’s operation.
Alrosa recently launched Sustainability Program 2021-2025, which looks to improve on all aspects of energy consumption.