What it means and why it is crucial for textile companies

Decarbonization is the process of reducing or eliminating carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, one of the greenhouse gases (GHG). 


The availability of low-cost energy derived from fossil sources such as coal, oil, and gas, deposits formed millions of years ago by the decomposition of plants and other organisms, has been the base of economic growth since the industrial revolution. The use of coal, oil, and gas as fuels – oil is also a  raw material for synthetics - determines the release into the atmosphere of the CO2 they have absorbed during their lives. What plants have absorbed from the atmosphere millions of years ago is discharged into today's atmosphere in practice. The significant problem is that the increase in CO2 is one of the main culprits of rising average temperatures on the planet. 


In 2015, with the Treaty of Paris, 189 countries committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions to contain the increase in global average temperatures to no more than 2 degrees, with the advanced goal of staying below + 1.5 °, compared to levels before industrial development. Later, in 2017, US President Trump announced the US withdrawal from the deal in November 2020. 


Fashion has also moved decisively on this issue; the over 60 major international fashion brands that have joined the Fashion Pact, presented in 2019 at the G7, have set themselves the goal of being "carbon neutral" by 2050. 'carbon neutral' means for a company to have net greenhouse gas emissions equal to zero. 


For a company, the primary way to carbon neutrality is to reduce emissions by choosing renewable energy, optimizing logistics, and reducing absolute emissions from its supply chain. For this reason, the suppliers of brands that adopt carbon neutrality commitments are receiving requests for information on greenhouse gas emissions and adopt energy sources, production processes, and materials that involve lower emissions. 


The notion of net emissions opens a different path towards carbon neutrality, which is a subject of controversy. It is the so-called "compensation" through the financing of emission reduction projects of others. A typical case is the financing of reforestation projects according to the equation: more plants = greater absorption of CO2 from the atmosphere. These projects can translate into "carbon credits" (emission reduction certificates) that can be traded on the market. A company that cannot reduce its absolute emissions can reduce net emissions by purchasing carbon credits according to the formula net emissions = absolute company emissions less  CO2 emissions saved by the organization who sold the "carbon credit". This solution is acceptable for achieving net-zero emissions after every effort has been made to reduce absolute emissions. It is much less so as a primary carbon neutrality tool.