The footprint of the fashion industry: every step counts.

Lesley Krijan

It is no longer a secret that the fashion industry is one of the most damaging to the environment. Nevertheless, the figures are shocking every time you read them: in 2018, a study by McKinsey & Company found that fashion was responsible for almost 2.1 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions (McKinsey, 2021). But what can we do to reduce the environmental footprint of the apparel sector?

Fortunately, there has been a rethink in our society in recent years. More and more fashion companies are striving for climate neutrality and trying to switch to sustainable solutions. Whether it's new materials or gentler production processes, innovation is the first step towards becoming more environmentally friendly. But what exactly makes the production of fashion so environmentally harmful in the first place?


The textile industry is not only responsible for immense water consumption but also damaging water pollution. Due to the use of chemicals and environmentally harmful dyes, toxins such as mercury or arsenic enter the groundwater during production. Especially in Asia or India, discoloured rivers and lakes are no longer a rarity. This, of course, not only has enormous disadvantages for the local ecosystem but also for the locals.

CO2 emissions

The release of harmful greenhouse gases also has a major, negative impact on our environment. High emissions are produced not only in production but also in the shipping of raw materials and finished garments. Every year, the fashion industry causes almost 1.2 billion tons of CO2. That is more than international air and cruise ship traffic combined.

Working conditions

Sustainability is not only about the environment. The treatment of employees also plays a significant role and has been under discussion for many years. In the fast fashion industry, many companies try to cut corners. The ones who suffer are often the seamstresses. From underpayment, to inadequate working conditions and little job security. As evidence, take the frightening pictures of the collapse of the Rana Plaza textile factory in Bangladesh in 2013, in which more than 1000 workers lost their lives. Something has to change.

What now?

Enough negativity. What can we do now to make the fashion industry better? How can fashion companies become more climate neutral? And how can consumers be sure that a product advertised as climate neutral really leaves no trace?

At SANVT, we promised from the beginning to produce fashion that does not harm people or the environment. That's why we have been working with experts from the industry for years. Together with the company ClimatePartner, we are able to precisely calculate the CO2 emissions of our essentials and then offset them. But the path to a climate-neutral product is not a short one...

The basis for calculating the CO2 emissions of our products is the internationally known GHG Protocol - also known as the Greenhouse Gas Protocol. With this protocol, the World Resources Institute (WRI) and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) have defined standards that enable the balancing of greenhouse gases.

ClimatePartner bases its calculations precisely on these standards. Furthermore, the "cradle-to-customer" and the "end-of-life" approach are used. In this way, all emissions along every phase of a product's life cycle can be considered. From the extraction and pre-processing of raw materials to production, storage and disposal - with the help of transparent data sets, ClimatePartner is able to calculate the total CO2 emissions of a product.

But that is not all! Emissions that cannot be directly attributed to the product, such as business trips or the daily journey to the office by our employees, are also included in the calculation on a pro rata basis.

How much CO2 is needed for our essentials?

In fact, the calculation of the ecological footprint is very individual. You can find the exact values of our essentials on each product page. For this article, we would like to introduce you to our latest product as an example: the Roll Neck Sweater from our knitwear collection.

The phase in which the most CO2 is emitted is that of material procurement and pre-processing: almost 90% of all total emissions occur in this step. It is therefore important that fashion brands look at the origin of their raw materials. At SANVT, for example, we make sure that we only buy from certified traders. It is also important for us to use only premium materials.

Back to our example: The Roll Neck Sweater consumes a total of 12.4 kilograms of CO2. You can see an exact breakdown of how many emissions are produced in which life cycle phase here:

Of course, the calculation of emissions is not the end of the story. The task now is to further optimize the production process, reduce emissions and compensate for unavoidable ones. This is the only way to make a product 100% climate-neutral.

At SANVT, we compensate for all emissions that cannot be avoided by financially supporting climate-neutral projects, such as the Bergwaldprojekt e.V., a local initiative that promotes forest restoration in the Allgäu Alps. Through their work, the initiative ensures that an intact ecosystem is preserved. Among other things, important habitats for animals can be secured. And trees are also vital for us humans. They purify our oxygen and the air we breathe.

As we can see, transparency is one of the most important things when it comes to sustainability. That's why we always recommend you to take a look at independent platforms, such as Renoon. This way you can be sure that a brand's sustainable approach is not greenwashing, but the truth.

We have summarized our graphics in a document for you to give you a visual overview of the topic.

Click here for the PDF.

Photo by Arnd (@lepetitarnd).