Insight

How Fashion and Retail Can Use Technology to Reduce Carbon Footprint

Here's how technology can aid decarbonization in the fashion and retail sector, featuring insights from Missoma, Wunderman Thompson Commerce and Drapers.

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AI & Technology
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How Fashion and Retail Can Use Technology to Reduce Carbon Footprint

In what is arguably the most important issue of our century, climate change is quite rightly on the radar of the majority of retail businesses. While the world around us is reaching critical climate tipping points, we are left with a short timeline to reduce climate change impact.

Carbon emissions in the fashion and retail industry are rife. It’s now estimated that retail is responsible for 25% of emissions worldwide — a huge percentage that requires attention and, more importantly, action. “The retail industry emits significantly more emissions than even road transport,” said Ruth Zohrer, Global Chief Client Success Officer at Wunderman Thompson Commerce, global eCommerce consultancy and Vaayu partner.

Carbon management is key to addressing this onslaught of released carbon emissions in the fashion and retail industry because CO2 accounts for about 76% of the total greenhouse gas emissions that cause the greenhouse effect. But how can modern advances in technology be used to reduce carbon emissions?

To address just how much impact the industry has in future, retailers require specialist tools to manage their carbon and empower action. Technology innovation is central to reducing the level of carbon emissions in the fashion and retail industry — retailers can use technology to actively reduce carbon emissions.

Before: Offsetting Carbon Emissions in Fashion and Retail

As it stands, the default approach to addressing carbon emissions in the fashion and retail industry is to offset — or compensate for — those emissions. But is offsetting alone enough?

To aid decarbonization across the sector, truly reducing the carbon emissions in the fashion and retail industry, the focus will need to shift from compensation to reduction. Offsetting alone simply cannot outweigh meaningful cuts to reduce the amount of carbon emissions actually released by the fashion and retail industry.

Technology is proving crucial to reduce carbon emissions in the sector. As brands and businesses are looking for better and more innovative ways to reduce their impact on the planet, technology is leading the charge to help reduce carbon emissions on a granular level.

Future: Strategies to Lower Carbon Emissions

This is how technology can be used to reduce carbon emissions: instead of simply offsetting, real carbon reduction processes can be implemented. Retailers and fashion brands can use strategies to reduce carbon emissions by optimizing operations, packaging and products, for example, to have less impact on the climate due to fewer emissions being released in the first instance. 

The positive outlook of strategies to reduce carbon emissions relies on practical strategies, actionable insights, and short- and long-term science-based target setting. Only by removing the mystery around impact can reduction be achieved as part of the carbon reduction process, thus lowering fashion and retail’s climate change impact by using technology to reduce carbon emissions. 

The simplified version of the carbon reduction process might look something like:

  • Uncover where emissions are coming from
  • Understand what to prioritize
  • Set actionable carbon-cutting strategies across supply and value chains
  • Implement them within the business accordingly
  • Review the impact of the changes and repeat

By accurately and credibly measuring data points, such as shipment routes, the packaging used and product carbon footprints, fashion brands and retailers can understand precisely the proportion of carbon emissions released within their current processes as part of the carbon reduction process. From there, they can use strategies to reduce carbon emissions to actually reduce and cut impact by diverting their operations onto less carbon-intensive routes.

“It’s really great that so many people have become aware [of their impact],” said Marisa Hordern, the British-based demi-fine jewelry brand MISSOMA. The brand has become more sustainable by using strategies to reduce carbon emissions by significantly reducing its packaging, removing a plastic hinge from its boxes and using only materials that are both recycled and recyclable. The brand is also exploring recycled metals for its jewelry products and is auditing its factories on criteria like recycled water and solar energy as part of its carbon reduction process. MISSOMA is indeed using technology to reduce carbon emissions.

Technology as the Catalyst to Reduce Carbon Emissions

Technological developments can help to reduce carbon emissions. When it comes to actionable insights and strategies on how to cut carbon emissions across the fashion and retail industry, carbon reduction via technology is now at the core of the industry’s conversation. Using technology to reduce retail's carbon emissions and footprint has become crucial.

Leaders must understand the impact of decisions while actually making them, largely relying on accurate data and more visibility. Real-time technology means retailers can make these critical changes during or, in many cases, even before making decisions, powering lower-carbon choices as they happen. These technological developments are helping retailers to reduce carbon emissions by design, using technology to reduce their carbon footprint and emissions.

“We’re now able to access information with Vaayu — we’re able to provide [retail] clients with the opportunities to prioritize their sustainability initiatives, communicate those programmes much more accurately to consumers and to very accurately understand the impact of their actions on carbon reduction measures,” said Ruth.


It's crucial for the industry to understand how technological developments can help to reduce carbon emissions, using technology to reduce the sector's carbon emissions and footprint. Prioritization ultimately fuels decarbonization, and the quality data provided by technological innovation is the catalyst to help drive real, sustainable change for retail. 

To raise awareness of carbon reduction in retail, our CEO and Co-Founder Namrata Sandhu joined a panel of experts in 2022 to explore how retailers and fashion brands can calculate emissions and ultimately decarbonize the industry. Alongside Nam were Vaayu partners Ruth Zohrer, Global Chief Client Success Officer at Wunderman Thompson Commerce, and Marisa Hordern, CEO of Missoma. For more insights on how to actively cut and reduce carbon in the retail sector, watch the Drapers webinar: Counting and Cutting Carbon with Missoma, Wunderman Thompson Commerce and Vaayu.

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