A spatially explicit life cycle inventory of the global textile chain

  • Julia K. SteinbergerEmail author
  • Damien Friot
  • Olivier Jolliet
  • Suren Erkman


Background, aim, and scope

Life cycle analyses (LCA) approaches require adaptation to reflect the increasing delocalization of production to emerging countries. This work addresses this challenge by establishing a country-level, spatially explicit life cycle inventory (LCI). This study comprises three separate dimensions. The first dimension is spatial: processes and emissions are allocated to the country in which they take place and modeled to take into account local factors. Emerging economies China and India are the location of production, the consumption occurs in Germany, an Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development country. The second dimension is the product level: we consider two distinct textile garments, a cotton T-shirt and a polyester jacket, in order to highlight potential differences in the production and use phases. The third dimension is the inventory composition: we track CO2, SO2, NO x , and particulates, four major atmospheric pollutants, as well as energy use. This third dimension enriches the analysis of the spatial differentiation (first dimension) and distinct products (second dimension).

Materials and methods

We describe the textile production and use processes and define a functional unit for a garment. We then model important processes using a hierarchy of preferential data sources. We place special emphasis on the modeling of the principal local energy processes: electricity and transport in emerging countries.


The spatially explicit inventory is disaggregated by country of location of the emissions and analyzed according to the dimensions of the study: location, product, and pollutant. The inventory shows striking differences between the two products considered as well as between the different pollutants considered. For the T-shirt, over 70% of the energy use and CO2 emissions occur in the consuming country, whereas for the jacket, more than 70% occur in the producing country. This reversal of proportions is due to differences in the use phase of the garments. For SO2, in contrast, over two thirds of the emissions occur in the country of production for both T-shirt and jacket. The difference in emission patterns between CO2 and SO2 is due to local electricity processes, justifying our emphasis on local energy infrastructure.


The complexity of considering differences in location, product, and pollutant is rewarded by a much richer understanding of a global production–consumption chain. The inclusion of two different products in the LCI highlights the importance of the definition of a product's functional unit in the analysis and implications of results. Several use-phase scenarios demonstrate the importance of consumer behavior over equipment efficiency. The spatial emission patterns of the different pollutants allow us to understand the role of various energy infrastructure elements. The emission patterns furthermore inform the debate on the Environmental Kuznets Curve, which applies only to pollutants which can be easily filtered and does not take into account the effects of production displacement. We also discuss the appropriateness and limitations of applying the LCA methodology in a global context, especially in developing countries.


Our spatial LCI method yields important insights in the quantity and pattern of emissions due to different product life cycle stages, dependent on the local technology, emphasizing the importance of consumer behavior. From a life cycle perspective, consumer education promoting air-drying and cool washing is more important than efficient appliances.

Recommendations and perspectives

Spatial LCI with country-specific data is a promising method, necessary for the challenges of globalized production–consumption chains. We recommend inventory reporting of final energy forms, such as electricity, and modular LCA databases, which would allow the easy modification of underlying energy infrastructure.


Atmospheric emissions Carbon dioxide China Electricity Energy Environmental Kuznets Curve India Infrastructure Nitrogen oxides Particulates Spatial LCI Sulfur dioxide Textile Transport 



This work is part of the TREI-C project, partly funded by a grant from the Geneva International Academic Network (GIAN). The Swiss apparel company Switcher was a participant; we thank them for their collaboration. It benefited from student projects by César Lador and Priti Nigam and the masters thesis of Ana Rita Carvalho of the EPFL (Switzerland). We also thank Dr. Isabelle Blanc (Armines), Dr. Manuele Margni (École Polytechnique de Montréal), Shanna Shaked (University of Michigan), and Vincent Rossi (Ecointesys - Life Cycle Systems) for helpful discussions. The manuscript was significantly improved by the comments of anonymous reviewers. Any remaining errors are the responsibility of the authors. Ramesh Ramaswamy (Resource Optimization Initiative), who recently passed away, was always ready with cheerful advice and criticism. He is sorely missed.

Supplementary material

11367_2009_78_MOESM1_ESM.doc (205 kb)
ESM 1 (DOC 205 kb)


  1. Aizenshtein EM (2006) World production and consumption of polyester fibres and thread. Fibre Chem 38:3Google Scholar
  2. Baffes J (2004) Cotton: market setting, trade policies, and issues. World Bank Policy Research Working Paper 3218Google Scholar
  3. Beck A, Scheringer M, Hungerbühler K (2000) Fate modelling within LCA: the case of textile chemicals. Int J LCA 5(6):335–344CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Berrah N, Feng F, Priddle R (2007) Sustainable energy in China: the closing window of opportunity. The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development/The World BankGoogle Scholar
  5. Bhalli JA, Khan QM, Nasim A (2006) DNA damage in Pakistani pesticide-manufacturing workers assayed using the Comet assay. Environ Mol Mutagen 47(8):587–593CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bilharz M, Lorek S, Schmitt K (2008) “Key points” of sustainable consumption. Geer Ken, Theo, Tukker, Arnold, Vezzoli, Carlo, and Ceschin, Fabrizio. Proceedings of Sessions I-II of the 2nd Conference of the Sustainable Consumption Research Exchange (SCORE!) Network, March 10-11, Brussels, Belgium, pp 287–306Google Scholar
  7. Boustead I (1997) Ecoprofiles of selected manmade fibers. CIRFSGoogle Scholar
  8. Browne M, Rizet C, Anderson S, Allen J, Basile K (2005) Life cycle assessment in the supply chain: a review and case study. Transp Rev 25(6):761–782CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. CEA (2007) CO2 baseline database for the Indian power sector, user guide, version 3.0. New Dehli, Government of India, Ministry of Power, Central Electricity AuthorityGoogle Scholar
  10. Chapagain AK, Hoekstra AY, Savenije HHG,Gautam R (2005) The water footprint of cotton consumption. Value of Water Research Report Series No.18. Delft, The Netherlands, UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water EducationGoogle Scholar
  11. CSA, MARI (2005) Killing and poisoning pests or human beings? Acute poisoning of pesticide users through pesticide exposure/inhalation. Centre for Sustainable Agriculture & MARI, Secunderabad, IndiaGoogle Scholar
  12. Curran MA, Notten P, Chayer JA,Cicas G (2006) Summary of global life cycle inventory data resources. SETAC/UNEP Life Cycle Initiative, pp 1–34Google Scholar
  13. Dahllöf L (2004) LCA methodology issues for textile products. Göteborg, Sweden, Chalmers University of Technology, Licentiate of engineering thesis, Environmental Systems AnalysisGoogle Scholar
  14. Dahllöf L, Steen B (2005) A statistical approach for estimation of process flow data from production of chemicals of fossil origin. International Journal of LCA online-first, 1-6Google Scholar
  15. Dasgupta S, Laplante B, Wang H, Wheeler D (2002) Confronting the Environmental Kuznets Curve. J Econ Perspect 16(1):147–168CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. De Bruyn SM, van den Bergh JCJM, Opschoor JB (1998) Economic growth and emissions: reconsidering the empirical basis of Environmental Kuznets Curves. Ecol Econ 25(2):161–176CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Dinda S (2004) Environmental Kuznets Curve hypothesis: a survey. Ecol Econ 49:431–455CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Doka G (2007) Email: post waste-water treatment emissionsGoogle Scholar
  19. EPA (1997) Profile of the textile industry (EPA/310-R-97–009). Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  20. Erkman S, Ramaswamy R (2003) Case study of the textile industry in tirupur (chapter 5) applied industrial ecology - a new platform for planning sustainable societies (focus on developing countries with case studies from India). Aicra Publishers, Bengalore, India, pp 44–70Google Scholar
  21. European Parliament, EC (2002) DIRECTIVE 2002/61/EC OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 19 July 2002 amending for the nineteenth time Council Directive 76/769/EEC relating to restrictions on the marketing and use of certain dangerous substances and preparations (azocolourants)Google Scholar
  22. Exiopol (2008) Exiopol: a new environmental accounting framework using externality data and input-output tools for policy analysis.
  23. FAO (2007) AQUASTAT: India country profile Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
  24. Franklin (1993) Resource and environmental profile analysis of a manufactured apparel product life cycle analysis (LCA): Woman's Knit Polyester Blouse. Franklin AssociatesGoogle Scholar
  25. Friot D, Antille Gaillard G (2007) Tracking environmental impacts of consumption: an economic-ecological model linking OECD and developing countries. 16th International Input-Output Conference, 2–7 July 2007, Istanbul, TurkeyGoogle Scholar
  26. Frischknecht R, Rebitzer G (2005) The ecoinvent database system: a comprehensive web-based LCA database. J Clean Prod 13:1337–1343CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Fritsche UR, Schmidt K (2007) Global emission model for integrated systems (GEMIS) version 4.4 Manual. 1-166, Oeko-InstitutGoogle Scholar
  28. GaBi (2008) GaBi - life cycle assessment software system
  29. Geisler G, Hofstetter TB, Hungerbühler K (2004) LCA methodology with case study production of fine and speciality chemicals: procedure for the estimation of LCIs. Int J LCA 9(2):101–113CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Govindarajalu K (2003) Industrial effluent and health status - a case study of Noyyal river basin. In: Bunch MJ, Suresh VM, Kumaran TV (eds) Proceedings of the Third International Conference on Environment and Health, Chennai, India, 15-17 December, 2003, 150-157 Department of Geography, University of Madras and Faculty of Environmental Studies, York UniversityGoogle Scholar
  31. Herring H, Roy R (2007) Technological innovation, energy efficient design and the rebound effect. Technovation 27:194–203CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Hertwich EG (2005) Consumption and the rebound effect: an industrial ecology perspective. J Ind Ecol 9:1–2 Special Issue on Consumption and Industrial Ecology, 85–98CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Humbert S, Margni M, Charles R, Torres Salazar OM, Quiros AL, Jolliet O (2007) Toxicity assessment of the main pesticides used in Costa Rica. Agric Ecosyst Environ 118:183–190CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. IEA (2004) International Energy Agency online country statistics
  35. IEA (2007) Energy balances of non-OECD Countries, 2004-2005 -- 2007 Edition. CD-ROM, International Energy Agency (IEA), Organisation of Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD)Google Scholar
  36. IFA, IFDC, IPI, PPI, FAO (2002) Fertilizer use by crop, 5th edn. IFA - International Fertilizer Industry AssociationGoogle Scholar
  37. Jödicke A (2001) Moeglickeiten und Grenzen der Oekobilanz bei Chemikalienintensiven Prozessen: Veredlung und Grebrauch eines Baumwoll-T-Shirts. Eidgenoessischen Technischen Hochschule Zuerich (ETHZ), Zuerich, SwitzerlandGoogle Scholar
  38. Kaenzig J, Jolliet O (2006) Consommation respectueuse de l'environnement. Federal Office of the Environment, Bern, Switzerland, pp 1–113Google Scholar
  39. Kurian J (2005) A cleaner production approach for minimisation of total dissolved solids in reactive dyeing effluents. UNIDO UNEP. UNIDO UNEP Guidance and Training Manuals on CPCs - Sectors – Textiles, pp 1–10Google Scholar
  40. Laraqui CH, Rahhali A, Laraqui O, Tripodi D, Curtes JP, Verger C, Caubet A (2002) Byssinosis and occupational asthma among cotton dust-exposed workers. Rev Fr Allergol Immunol Clin 42(2):133–141Google Scholar
  41. Laursen ES, Hansen J, Bagh J, Jensen OK,Werther I (1997) Environmental assessment of textiles: life cycle screening of textiles containing cotton, wool, viscose, polyester or acrylic fibres. Project no. 369. Copenhagen, Denmark, Danish Environmental Protection AgencyGoogle Scholar
  42. Lehmann Pollheimer D (2006) Switcher climate project: CO2-neutral T-shirt (Report preliminary study, draft version). Basel, ecosGoogle Scholar
  43. Mancini F, Van Bruggen AHC, Jiggins JLS, Ambatipudi AC, Murphy H (2005) Acute pesticide poisoning among female and male cotton growers in India. Int J Occup Environ Health 11(3):221–232Google Scholar
  44. Marland G, Boden TA, Andres RJ (2007) Global, regional, and national CO2 emissions trends: a compendium of data on global change. Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center (CDIAC), Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Department of Energy, Oak Ridge, Tenn., USAGoogle Scholar
  45. Michaels D (1988) Waiting for the body count: corporate decision making and bladder cancer in the U.S. Dye Industry. Medical Anthropology Quarterly, New Series, 2, 3 (Health and Industry), 215–232Google Scholar
  46. Mishra AK, Rotti SB, Sahai A, Madanmohan NKA (2003) Byssinosis among male textile workers in Pondicherry: a case-control study. Natl Med J India 16(2):70–73Google Scholar
  47. Mittal ML (2006) Anthropogenic emissions from energy activities in India: generation and source characterization Ohio Supercomputer Center (OSC), Program for Computational Reactive Mechanics (PCRM)
  48. Mittal ML, Sharma C (2004) Anthropogenic emissions from energy activities in India: generation and source characterization—part I emissions from thermal power generation in India. Ohio Supercomputer Center (OSC), Columbus, Ohio, USAGoogle Scholar
  49. Morand C (2005) Inde: bilan catastrophique pour les OGM. Le TempsGoogle Scholar
  50. Mueller O (2006) Cotton production in US life-cycle inventory database at
  51. NEF (2007) Calculating the benefit of energy efficient washing machines. National Energy Foundation, UKGoogle Scholar
  52. Nemecek T, Heil A, Huguenin O, Meier S, Erzinger S, Blaser S, Dux D, Zimmermann A (2004) Life cycle inventories of agricultural production systems. Final report ecoinvent 2000 No. 15. Duebendorf, Switzerland, Swiss Centre for Life Cycle InventoriesGoogle Scholar
  53. Parashar DC, Kulshrestha UC, Sharma C (1998) Anthropogenic emissions of NOX, NH3 and N2O in India. Nutr Cycl Agroecosyst 52(2–3):255–259CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. PMFAI (2006) Statistics - spraying schedule Pesticides Manufacturers & Formulators Association of India
  55. Prithiviraj R M (2002): Dirty Shirts a study of health, safety and environmental concerns in the context of the garment industry in Tirupur region, India. The Netherlands, Goede Waar & Co.Google Scholar
  56. Pulli R (1997) Ökobilanz eines Baumwoll-T-Shirts mit Schwerpunkt auf den verwendeten Chemikalien. Diplomarbeit an der ETH Zürich, Abteilung für UmweltnaturwissenschaftenGoogle Scholar
  57. Ramanathan R (2000) A holistic approach to compare energy effiencies of different transport modes. Energy Policy 28:743–747CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Ramaswamy R, Naik G, Gouda P, Patil J, Gowda L (2006) Industrial ecology & agro-industrial policy: study of agro-industrial systems, Karnataka, India. Resource Optimization Initiative (ROI), Bengalore, India, pp 1–107Google Scholar
  59. Reddy AKN, Anand YP, D'Sa A (2000) Energy for a sustainable road/rail transport system in India. Energy Sustain Dev IV(1):29CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Robins N, Humphrey L (2000) Sustaining the rag trade. International Institute for Environment and Development (iied)Google Scholar
  61. Saouter E, van Hoof G (2002) A database for the life-cycle assessment of procter & gamble laundry detergents. Int J LCA 7(2):103–114CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Schor JB (2005) Prices and quantities: unsustainable consumption and the global economy. Ecol Econ 55(3):309–320CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. SFOE (2006) L'étiquetteEnergie pour les sèche-linge (tumbler). Swiss Federal Office of Energy, SwitzerlandGoogle Scholar
  64. Shah T, Giordano M, Wang J (2004) Irrigation institutions in a dynamic economy—what is China doing differently from India? Econ Polit Wkly 39:3452–3461Google Scholar
  65. Sidler O, Waide P,Lebot B (2000) An experimental investigation of cooking, refrigeration and drying end-uses in 100 households. Presented at the summer study on energy efficiency in buildings for the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) meetingGoogle Scholar
  66. Singh S, Singh S, Pannu CJS, Singh J (2000) Optimization of energy input for raising cotton crop in Punjab. Energy Convers Manag 41:1851–1861CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Singh H, Mishra D, Nahar NM, Ranjan M (2003) Energy use pattern in production agriculture of a typical village in arid zone, India: part II. Energy Convers Manag 44:1053–1067CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Sinton J, Fridley D, Jieming L, Lewis J, Nan Z,Yanxia C (2004) China energy databook version 6.0, LBNL-55349 Berkeley, USA, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
  69. Spielmann M, Kägi T, Tietje O (2004) Life cycle inventories of agricultural production systems. Final report ecoinvent 2000 No. 14. Duebendorf, Switzerland, Swiss Centre for Life Cycle InventoriesGoogle Scholar
  70. Statistisches Bundesamt (2003) Umweltökonomische Gesamtrechnungen: Material- und Energieflußrechnungen: Teil 3 Kohlendioxid; Teil 5 Schwefeldioxid, Stickoxide, Versauerungsgase. D-Statis: Fachserie 19, Reihe 5Google Scholar
  71. Statistisches Bundesamt (2004) Volkswirtschafliche Gesamtrechnungen: Input-Output-Rechnung nach 71 Gütergruppen/Produktionsbereichen 2000. D-StatisGoogle Scholar
  72. Stern DI (2004) The rise and fall of the Environmental Kuznets Curve. World Dev 32(8):1419–1439CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Suh S (2003) SimaPro 7 Database Manual The USA Input Output 98 library. Pré ConsultantsGoogle Scholar
  74. TERI (2006) TEDDY 2004/05: TERI energy data directory & yearbook. The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), IndiaGoogle Scholar
  75. Tobler MI, Schaerer S (2002) Environmental impacts of different cotton growing regimes. International Cotton Conference. BremenGoogle Scholar
  76. van Hoof G, Schowanek D, Feijtel TCJ (2003) Comparative life cycle assessment of laundry detergent formulations in the UK - part I: environmental fingerprint of five detergent formulations in 2001. Tenside Surfactants Deterg 40(5):266–275Google Scholar
  77. Weidema B, Nielsen AM, Christiansen K, Norris G, Notten P, Suh S, Madsen J (2005) SimaPro 7 Database Manual Danish Input Output 99 library. Pré ConsultantsGoogle Scholar
  78. Wiegmann K (2002) Anbau und Verarbeitung von Baumwolle - Dokumentation der GEMIS-Daten. Oeko-Institut, Freiburg, Germany, pp 1–25Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Julia K. Steinberger
    • 1
    • 4
    Email author
  • Damien Friot
    • 2
  • Olivier Jolliet
    • 3
  • Suren Erkman
    • 1
  1. 1.IPTEH, Faculty of Geosciences and EnvironmentUniversity of LausanneLausanneSwitzerland
  2. 2.Laboratory of Applied EconomicsUniversity of GenevaGeneva 4Switzerland
  3. 3.Environmental Health Sciences, School of Public HealthUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA
  4. 4.Institute of Social Ecology, Faculty for Interdisciplinary StudiesUniversity of KlagenfurtViennaAustria

Personalised recommendations