Carbon Labeling: Promoting Transparency in the Fashion Industry

While many industries contribute to global carbon emissions, the fashion industry stands out for its substantial carbon footprint, driven by complex supply chains, resource-intensive manufacturing processes, and fast-paced consumer trends. As fashion-forward consumers begin to care more about making eco-friendly purchases, carbon labeling has emerged as a vital tool in fighting climate change. Carbon labeling measures and discloses the carbon emissions associated with a product or service throughout its entire lifecycle to promote transparency.  

In this article, we’ll discuss how carbon labeling promotes transparency within the fashion industry and how it can help both manufacturers and consumers tackle the industry’s ecological footprint. 

What Is Carbon Labeling and How Does It Promote Transparency in the Fashion Industry?

Carbon labeling quantifies and discloses the carbon emissions associated with a product or service, empowering consumers to make informed choices. The practice of carbon labeling sheds light on the hidden environmental consequences of manufacturing and consumption patterns, allowing stakeholders, including consumers and industry players, to make better decisions. When provided with clear and accessible information about the amount of carbon emissions a product creates, consumers can assess the environmental impact of their purchases and may be encouraged to choose more sustainable options. Transparency also encourages accountability and motivates fashion companies to adopt greener practices, as the public attention connected with carbon labeling pushes them to prioritize sustainability. 

Here’s how carbon labeling works in the fashion industry. The first step is to identify and calculate the carbon emissions associated with various stages of a garment’s lifecycle. This includes the production of raw materials, manufacturing processes, transportation, and even end-of-life disposal. To achieve this, companies conduct comprehensive assessments of their supply chains, gathering data on energy usage, water consumption, and other factors contributing to carbon emissions. These calculations are then translated into a standardized carbon label tagged on every product, providing consumers with a clear indication of a garment’s environmental impact.

Examples of Carbon Labeling and Transparency Initiatives

Several fashion brands and industry organizations are already taking proactive initiatives to promote transparency in their products through carbon labeling. Here are some notable examples of initiatives to introduce carbon labeling and other transparency measures in apparel products to promote environmental consciousness and informed decision-making.

  1. Patagonia’s Footprint Chronicles: Outdoor clothing company Patagonia launched Footprint Chronicles, an online platform that provides visibility into its supply chain and environmental impact. Through this initiative, Patagonia shares information about the carbon emissions, water usage, and social responsibility aspects associated with its products. The Footprint Chronicles fosters transparency, empowering customers to make well-informed decisions and encouraging other brands to follow suit.
  2. Allbirds Footprint Calculator and Carbon Label: Sustainable shoe company Allbirds’ Footprint Calculator is available on their website, allowing their consumers to calculate their product’s carbon footprint. The data included in the calculator is specific to Allbirds’’s supply chain, increasing its accuracy. Additionally, Allbirds ensures transparency by featuring a carbon label on their products, clearly displaying the total carbon emissions associated with each pair of shoes. By providing both the carbon calculator and carbon label, Allbirds empowers consumers to make informed choices, creating a culture of sustainability within the fashion industry.
  3. Sustainable Apparel Coalition’s Higg Index: The Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC), a collaborative effort between brands, retailers, and manufacturers, developed the Higg Index. This comprehensive tool measures and assesses the environmental impact of apparel and footwear products. The Higg Index encompasses various metrics, including carbon emissions, to promote transparency and guide companies in making sustainable choices throughout their supply chains. In particular, the Higg Product Module, one of the Index’s five tools, helps companies calculate the carbon emissions of their products at scale using an assessment framework that takes the product’s entire lifecycle into account.


While carbon labeling is currently implemented by only a few fashion companies, its benefits are very clear. It empowers consumers to make eco-friendly choices, holds companies accountable, and encourages the adoption of low-emission practices. Initiatives such as the Sustainable Apparel Coalition’s Higg Index, Patagonia’s Footprint Chronicles, and Allbirds’ Footprint Calculator and Carbon Label are great examples of how some brands are actively embracing and promoting this kind of transparency. As the fashion industry continues its journey towards reducing its ecological footprint, carbon labeling remains a crucial driver of change, fostering transparency and environmental responsibility. As the importance of transparency in addressing climate change becomes more apparent, governments in several regions are already implementing regulations requiring carbon labels on products and services. This intersection between private initiatives and governmental regulations highlights the growing importance of carbon labeling as a tool to foster transparency and environmental responsibility in various sectors, including the fashion industry.

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