The fight against climate change

Sustainability performances: introduction to the Milano Unica classification

This is the first of a series of 5 articles illustrating the classification of the sustainability performances of the samples of fabrics and accessories that will be exhibited in the Sostenibilità Creativa. Sustainability performances are defined starting from 5 value areas: 1) Climate Action, 2) Chemical Safety, 3) Biodiversity Conservation, 4) Circular Economy, 5) Social Justice.


With the signing of the Paris Agreement in 2015, 195 countries pledged to limit the increase in global temperature to below 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. The goal is to contain the harmful effects of climate change. This level of ambition calls for a drastic reduction in Green House Gas (GHG) emissions believed to be the main culprits of climate change. Many fashion brands have already committed to reducing GHG emissions, the so-called "carbon footprint", including the over 200 brands that have signed up to the Fashion Pact.


The actions that a company can carry out in the field of energy concern three areas:

  • The reduction of emissions generated by the company's direct activities (the so-called "scope 1"). They include emissions from boilers and furnaces used in production processes, emissions from internally made chemical processes, transport, and logistics.
  • The reduction of indirect emissions deriving from the production of energy - such as electricity or heat from district heating - which the company purchases from external suppliers and consumes. An example is electricity purchased to run machinery or for lighting ("scope 2").
  • The reduction of emissions generated along the entire production and consumption chain of products ("scope 3"). This area is complex and requires a significant company commitment. These are emissions deriving from companies and processes over which the company has little or no direct control, from the production of raw materials, including fibers, and semi-finished products, to the dyeing and finishing processes of suppliers, from transport along the fair, up to the emissions generated by the downstream waste treatment.


In line with these principles, in the Milano Unica classification system, the Climate Action label is attributed to a sample if one or more of the following elements are identified from the exhibitor's declarations: 1) the company uses energy from renewable sources for at least 50% of its needs; 2) the company is engaged in a program to reduce and/or offset GHG emissions; 3) the fiber composition of the sample significantly includes materials with low climate impact.


Textile Exchange defines a "low climate impact" material as "a fiber or material that generates a lower level of greenhouse gas emissions, measured in CO2 equivalent, than the conventional production method". This definition, which was adopted in the Milano Unica classification method, has the advantage of not pitting the fibers, wool, cotton, or chemical fibers but of evaluating for each fiber whether it has been grown, produced, or harvested with less climate impact compared to the standard, this category includes, for example, recycled fibers, biobased if synthetic, made from organic farming if of vegetable origin.


In the current release of the Milano Unica classification system, the composition by fiber is the only element considered for the fight against climate change, which relates to the so-called "scope 3". Gathering the information necessary for an overall assessment of "Scope 3" would have been, to date, challenging and demanding for exhibitors. Finally, we remind you that the evaluation is based on the exhibitors' declarations, for which a consistency check is envisaged and a verification of the correct attribution of the certification labels.