As the movement for sustainability gains the attention of the fashion industry, luxury brands have hopped on the bandwagon of promising efforts toward carbon neutrality. Brands like Gucci and Burberry have established operations to offset greenhouse emissions that are produced as a result of their runway shows. But, are purchasing offsets for carbon neutrality as beneficial as these brands are making it out to be?
The high energy consumption of the fashion industry leads to a contribution of about 10% of global greenhouse emissions. However, purchasing offsets will not actually eliminate or reduce their emissions, but rather maintain the status quo. To see a reduction in global greenhouse emissions, luxury brands would need to implement other sustainability strategies in which they aim to achieve a deficit, rather than aiming to break even. While carbon neutrality, on the surface level, satisfies the rising consumer demand that brands meet high standards of sustainability, there is still an unmet goal of reducing the carbon footprint.
While brands are applauded for announcing headline-worthy sustainability targets like emission offsets, they often fail to put in the work to meet the set targets. By purchasing offsets, luxury brands are largely sidestepping a much larger issue, while satisfying the need for a fix with a temporary solution. There is an urgency for a reduction of emissions, not just an offset of carbon production.
Perhaps one of the most viable options is the reduction of actual production by these companies and a step toward consumer sustainability by recycling and upcycling clothes. Luxury brands may achieve the consumer demand for sustainable practices by considering purchasing offsets as an extra measure while focusing primarily on sustainability plans on the effort to reduce their carbon footprint.