• Jason Partridge

A consumer-led perspective on carbon emission labeling in fashion.




Anyone who follows fashion knows that there has been an increase in scrutiny when it comes to our wardrobe’s carbon impact on the environment. Recent reports have revealed that the apparel and footwear industries together account for more than 8% of global climate impact, greater than all international airline flights and maritime shipping trips combined.


As a result a number of brands have emerged touting a carbon neutral approach to fashion.


Take Sheep Inc.. They are a New Zealand-based fashion brand that has decided carbon neutrality is simply not enough anymore. Launched in October 2019, the label began selling high-quality wool sweaters that were the world’s first carbon-negative fashion product.


Or consider Allbirds. As of April 2020, everything the brand has produced includes a carbon emission label. Traditionally, a carbon emission label describes the carbon dioxide emissions created as a by-product of manufacturing, transporting, or disposing of a consumer product. In the case of Allbirds, the products feature a number representing the CO2 emitted to create it–7.6 kg CO2e.


The thinking is that this information is important to consumers wishing to minimize their ecological footprint and contribution to global warming made by their purchases.


But which consumers are most likely to engage with this type of initiative or consider it cultural relevant?


To better understand this, we leveraged our MotivBase Trends platform to examine the consumer-led culture of carbon emission labeling.



First the good news. This is a culture that is relevant to 26.4 million Americans, and we are seeing consistent growth. Our predictive engine anticipates that this culture will grow by 60% in the next 12 to 24 months.


How do we get this prediction? The MotivBase Trends model analyzes the topic universe surrounding a search term and examines changes within the topic universe over the course of time.


Specifically, the algorithm determines if:


  • There are new topics entering the topic universe surrounding a search term (this is nothing but the culture of a topic).

  • These new topics are more mature than the ones currently making up the topic universe — i.e. are they relevant to a much broader portion of the population?

  • If these new topics are making the topic universe less diverse. That is, the more mature a topic, the less diverse set of meanings it carries.

  • These more mature topics are increasing in both volume and strength of connection to the search term.

Based on the results of this four-stage analysis, using four years of data on that topic, the algorithm is able to run a prediction, and also provide a time frame for the prediction.


So this is a growing trend in the marketplace.


But… when we look closely at the dominant meaning that consumers are linking to this culture, something interesting presents itself. Namely, consumers who are engaging in the culture of carbon emission labeling are also evaluating this with Veganism in mind.


As we can see in the MotivBase Cultural Analysis above, consumers are not just looking for ethically sourced products. The topic “live vegan” and “supporting peta” are very closely related to the culture of carbon emission labeling. For vegan-friendly products that are looking to reinforce their commitment to reducing their carbon emissions, this is great news.


But this does reveal a schism for brands that are still leveraging animal products in the manufacturing of their products. In fact, when we zoom in on the culture of "live vegan" in this culture, concerns around “wool clothing” naturally emerge.



What this reveals is that as fashion companies are looking to use labelling to reinforce the good they are trying to do in regards to reducing carbon emissions, they will have to consider their vegan strategy if they want to satisfy consumers who care about this issue.


The challenge is that animal products like wool are not considered cruelty-free by this group. So, if a semi-vegan brand is expecting carbon emission labeling to propel short-term growth, they need to prove their approach to using animal products is both ethical and cruelty-free.


Which, given how idealogical this group of consumers is, is no easy task.

In the long-term semi-vegan companies need to reinforce their dedication to animal welfare while simultaneously helping larger portions of the population understand the importance of reducing carbon emissions. This is not to win-over the idealogue. But instead to provide a different point of view to their arguments as they will openly suggest that semi-vegan is simply, unethical.


Will carbon emission labeling became a driver? But where the culture sits today, a good carbon footprint simply isn’t good enough.


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