Next Steps: Taking Fashion to Net-Zero Carbon

Avery Dennison is leading the industry

Avery Dennison is leading the industry in its progress with a Science Based Targets initiative, or SBTI, strategy. MYZONEFOTO

Research shows the need to address climate change is only growing and the need to act faster and more aggressively to mitigate any negative impacts on people and the planet is here.

Industry leader Avery Dennison has acted quickly to make an impact and aims to achieve zero emissions by 2050. Last fall the company’s emissions reduction targets were approved by the Science Based Targets Initiative, or SBTI, as consistent with the levels required to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement.

Leading into Earth Month, Michael Colarossi, vice president of innovation, product line management and sustainability at Avery Dennison, and Debbie Shakespeare, senior director, sustainability, compliance and core product line management at Avery Dennison, joined WWD executive editor Arthur Zaczkiewicz for a Fairchild Media Group-produced webinar to discuss leading the charge toward net-zero emissions and the steps Avery Dennison has taken to take carbon out of its products and how data and digital technology are helping in the process. They also shared insights into what it takes to develop a strategy and plan of action.

Reflecting on the journey that Avery Dennison has had with carbon, Shakespeare said it was really the Paris Convention that made the world realize that a commitment had to be made.

“The Paris commitment made countries, NGOs, industries, businesses, really kind of take a step back and think what it takes to decarbonize a supply chain or a value chain, and then really collaborate and cooperate together,” said Shakespeare. “Talking about the apparel industry, and what we need to think about from the apparel side of things, the world’s really woken up to how when we think about where we are with what we’re doing with the apparel supply chain, and the data shows that on its current path by 2030 we’re going to be making twice the emissions, we need to be able to meet the Paris Convention.”

Rising carbon has an impact on temperatures and water levels and by looking at where most of the manufacturing facilities are in the apparel, manufacturing supply chain, they are in areas that are going to be impacted by water. The importance then from a fashion industry apparel supply chain is to recognize what role carbon has to play in a supply chain and the overall environment.

Part of being responsible for innovation product management and sustainability for the apparel division at Avery Dennison, Colarossi said, is ensuring that the company is looking at future trends and having the products and solutions to meet those trends in the market, ultimately creating value to consumers. Sustainability is one of those key trends and a key driver of the company’s innovation.

Over the last three years, Shakespeare explained the amount of customers who have committed to science-based targets has doubled and with that they are asking how they can be a part of decarbonizing the supply chain. “What’s really interesting is that you see the industry evolving and people are really starting to take the steps to think about what can happen and also that intrinsic link between circularity, digital and decarbonization — it’s a linked solution.”



Moreover, the reason science-based targets are so important, Shakespeare said, is that companies can see a clearly defined path to reach emission goals. Put simply, it’s a way of putting all organizations on a level playing field to be able to measure progress and hold companies accountable for making that progress.

“When it comes to science-based targets, if you’re not on the journey already, take a look at your customers,” said Shakespeare. “Take a look at the supply chain, take a look at the industry. It’s so important that people take that step and make the commitment and look at what needs to happen.”

Once on that journey, she said, “you’ve got the responsibility to really think about how you’re buying materials and what the impact is end of life. This is why digital technologies can have such a crucial impact and really help tell your story to consumers, which adds value, but can also help enable the targets. It’s a twofold story around committing, [and] being able to communicate that progress.”

“This isn’t marketing,” said Colarossi. “And those organizations that attempt to go down the path of sustainability as a marketing tool, currently are at significant risk, because consumers, industry groups, investors are watching they have that data available. The days of greenwashing are quickly coming to an end. If you’re making commitments, you need to make certain that you have the processes, the tools and the plan to execute because organizations will increasingly become accountable to delivering for all of their stakeholders.”

In discussing how other companies can get started, Shakespeare and Colarossi said it is important to note that while Avery Dennison has undoubtably made great strides in achieving its goals, the journey of getting started was a long one and started with many discussions.

At the same time, Colarossi said creating a strategy in this takes alignment with every department in the company, not just a sustainability member or team. For Avery Dennison, the company sees driving a sustainable future as imperative and part of its core values, but also recognizes the business opportunity as the progress creates value.



As it relates to the digitization of the industry, Colarossi added, many parts of the supply chain are not necessarily figured out, but “it is a space to actively watch and participate in where possible as we look to unlock the value of digital technologies to simplify the supply chain improve its efficiency, reduce its carbon intensity and engage better with consumers and their role that they played in circular economy.”

And with the pressure for brands and retailers to start the zero carbon journey only increasing, Colarossi encouraged all companies to start those conversations within an organization now and recognize that it will take time to drive toward an action plan.

Ultimately, Colarossi and Shakespeare said the journey begins with a single step: just take it.