Fashion industry unbundled

Diego Horcajada, July 2018

In a previous post from the World Economic Forum we were presented with the big picture of environmental impacts of the fashion industry (toxic and hazardous chemicals, plastic micro fibres, fresh water intensity and waste of natural resources).

Last February Quantis performed a study looking at the entire value chain of apparel and footwear industries. With this ground-breaking work Quantis aims to provide metrics-based guidance and insights to brands and businesses committed to making resilient and effective changes to reduce their impacts. Download the full report.

Quanrtis on fashion 1

The report unbundled the industry in 7 different stages in the life of garments:

  1. Fibre production: raw material extraction and processing of synthetic, cellulosic, cotton, and natural fibres
  2. Yarn preparation: spinning of yarn from filament and stable fibres
  3. Fabric preparation: knitting and weaving of yarn into fabric
  4. Dyeing & finishing: bleaching and dyeing of fabric as well as fabric finishing.
  5. Assembly: cutting and sewing fabric into apparel products
  6. Distribution: transportation from assembly location to retail stores.
  7. End fo life: collection and management of apparel products at the end of their useful life (incineration and landfilling)

Each step has a different contribution to the environmental impact of the industry. If we consider two major indicators (climate change and freshwater withdrawal) we observe a very different split across the 7 stages in the life cycle:

Quanrtis on fashion 2Climate change:

  • Key stages: dyeing & finishing (3), and yarn preparation (2)
  • Impact drivers: global manufacturing concentrated in Asia where hard coal is still a predominately source of energy

Freshwater withdrawal 

  • Key stages: fibre production (1) and dyeing & finishing (3)
  • Impact drivers: production  of fibres (special cotton), then dyeing and wet spinning


The report provide 3 levers for the industry to drive meaningful actions.

  • Rethink energy: sift to renewables and improve machinery efficiency in the key stages – dyeing & finishing (3), and yarn preparation (2)
  • Disrupt to reduce: leverage digitalisation trends to come out with new business/consumption models in line with circular economy concepts
  • Design for the future: transition to natural fibers with lower environmental footprint, and recycled fibres

Interested in the topic? Stay tuned, I will be posting more about inspiring solutions currently being implemented by responsible business and brands.


3 thoughts on “Fashion industry unbundled

  1. Dear Diego,
    I just discovered your excellent blog. It contains plenty of interesting information and I love the way you write and summarise the key facts. Congratulations!


Leave a Reply to Enea Rezzonico Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s