The study compares the environmental impact of producing clothing in the UK against manufacturing offshore

The study compares the environmental impact of producing clothing in the UK against manufacturing offshore

A study into the environmental impact of offshore manufacturing has revealed that producing clothes closer to home – such as in the UK – results in 47% fewer emissions.

The report, commissioned by British clothing manufacturer David Nieper, and conducted by the University of Nottingham Energy Innovation and Collaboration team says the practice of offshoring manufacturing essentially amounts to offshoring pollution, with two-thirds of emissions from UK clothing occurring overseas.

It studied the energy and greenhouse gas emissions for the manufacturing operations of David Nieper, which designs and make clothes in the UK and sells online and through catalogues.

The reason for cleaner and more efficient manufacturing in the UK is the lower carbon intensity of the electricity supply network. The UK has significantly lower carbon emissions per unit of electricity compared to overseas production hubs such as China, Bangladesh and Turkey; therefore production in the UK has lower direct carbon emissions – making it a more sustainable manufacturing base.

For example, a manufacturer in China would typically release around 90% more greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions while using the same energy as in the UK; Turkey would release around 70% more GHG emissions than using the same energy as the UK; and Bangladesh uses 24% more – ultimately making UK production more environmentally viable.

In addition, the long-distance transportation of goods and component parts is cited as an environmentally damaging practice and significant contributor to GHG.

The University of Nottingham details shipping distances to the UK high street from the three biggest textiles manufacturing centres, with these ranging from 6,226km from Turkey, 16,123km from Bangladesh and 21,694km from China. Airfreight is the worst polluter in the distribution stage, contributing 90% of greenhouse gas emissions.

"The trend to manufacture overseas has not only decimated the jobs in British fashion but is having a disastrous effect on the planet," says Christopher Nieper, managing director at David Nieper. "We commissioned this report to highlight the environmental benefits of manufacturing closer to home. As an industry we can become more sustainable by removing at least some of these journeys to help make production process gentler on the environment."

The report also reveals the energy used in making garments is dwarfed when compared to the energy used upstream in the textile supply chain – such as making fabrics, printing and dyeing. This accounts for over 70% of the total carbon emissions in garment production emphasising the importance of transparency throughout the entire supply chain.

"It stands to reason that sourcing offshore incurs thousands of air miles per garment and environmental standards are not the same in all countries. British retailers need to consider their entire supply chain and take more responsibility.

"Our report has shown that more than two-thirds of the emissions from UK clothing consumption occurs in other countries. Offshoring manufacturing is offshoring pollution – it's not acceptable to shift the problem overseas, where it's out of sight and out of mind."