The Sustainable Apparel Coalition released its annual list of “Best Practices in Sustainable Apparel Production.” The list highlights companies committed to sustainability in the apparel industry. The report also highlights some of the biggest challenges facing sustainable fashion. According to the report, manufacturing sustainability is about creating a circular, closed-loop system where companies take responsibility for all stages of a garment’s life cycle: from product design and development through the manufacturing process, and then through disposal and recycling at its end stage.
In the apparel and footwear industries, this means that a brand or manufacturer takes ownership of a product at every stage of its life cycle. The report singles out two major challenges for this industry: transparency and sustainability reporting, as well as the need for more collaboration on development and implementation of product design attributes. The entire industry is also challenged by the lack of clarity in existing sustainability standards and methods; therefore creating confusion amongst brands and consumers.
Entries were carefully judged by a panel comprised of representatives from leading apparel companies. The companies on this year’s list have demonstrated a commitment to sustainability principles and sustained efforts in sustainable apparel production. The Sustainable Apparel Coalition judges entries based on criteria including: commitment, innovation, transparency/transparency reporting, results and partnerships.
1. Burton Snowboards
Burton is the first snowboard company to develop a closed loop recycling process for its garments. The snowboard maker is 100% wind powered and committed to environmental improvements, including water management, energy efficient lighting and recycling.
2. H&M Group
With products distributed in 53 markets worldwide, H&M has shown a commitment to sustainable fashion by implementing eco-design principles in its collections. The Swedish fashion giant also recently joined the Marine Stewardship Council to identify and eliminate any unsustainable fishing practices from its supply chain.
3. Interface Inc.
For 10 years, Interface has worked to close the loop on its factories, creating sustainable business practices that have dramatically reduced waste going to landfills and led to a 15% reduction in greenhouse gases. In addition, Interface has built a “closed-loop” economy on its own staff by educating them on sustainability and encouraging them to live green. Interface’s sustainable business practices also include having eco-friendly facilities that generate their own solar energy and using water-based coatings instead of solvent coatings.
4. LVMH Group
LVMH is a leader in sustainable fashion, incorporating the principles of eco-design and eco-friendly fabrics into its collections. The company has a circular process for design and manufacturing, and continually seeks ways to improve its environmental sustainability. LVMH’s brands include Louis Vuitton, Marc Jacobs, Stella McCartney, Christian Dior and Céline.
5. Nike Inc.
Nike was the first apparel brand to launch an environmental reporting program in 2003. Nike has been working to reduce the environmental impact of products from its footwear and apparel supply chain, including by reducing waste and water use. Nike’s Sustainability Strategy is focused on reducing the environmental impact of Nike’s products, and the company has set a goal to become 100% sustainable by 2025.
For over 25 years, Puma has worked to protect biodiversity and ecosystems through a range of initiatives including establishing the Puma Ecological Foundation in 1992. Puma has also reduced its overall environmental impact by reducing waste and water use in manufacturing. The company relies on renewable energy in 70% of its facilities and has set a goal to become carbon neutral by 2018.
Timberland has committed to becoming 100% sustainable by 2020, working with partners including the Algalita Marine Research Foundation, Waste Management, Seneca Center for Sustainable Development and the U.S. Department of Energy to reduce their environmental impact. Timberland has also recently partnered with the Clinton Climate Initiative to help lead the effort to manufacture eco-friendly product lines. Timberland’s goal is to help stop climate change and reduce carbon emissions through energy efficient factories and new technology.
8. VF Corporation
VF Corporation has been at the forefront of sustainable fashion for over 10 years, incorporating policies in its supply chain like its “Green by Design” approach and “Make it Good” sustainability principles. VF is also committed to improving the supply chain by encouraging companies to use safer chemicals. The company is also committed to reducing greenhouse gases in its factories, and has recently earned a Carbon Gold Rating by the Carbon Trust of Australia for its factory operations.
9. Wal-Mart Stores Inc.
Wal-Mart has developed a comprehensive sustainability plan that includes working with suppliers to create sustainable product lines as well as encouraging consumers to reduce pollution through recycling and conservation programs. Wal-Mart has also helped lead the development of several new sustainability reports including the Global Environmental Management Initiative (GEMI) and Responsible Apparel Production (RAP).
10. Zara Sustainability Group
Zara was first fashion brand to publish a corporate responsibility annual report in 2010, and is working with its suppliers to create sustainable product lines. In addition, Zara has set a goal to become 100% sustainable by 2020.