Wrangler and Lee owner Kontoor Brands and two of its key suppliers are working to fill the data gap in sustainable denim production.
The Greensboro, N.C.-based company announced Wednesday a new denim supply chain coalition with Arvind Limited and Cone Denim to improve critical data incorporated into the Higg Material Sustainability Index (Higg MSI), a widely used apparel industry tool that measures and assesses the impact of products on the environment. As part of these efforts, Arvind and Cone will share data from the denim dyeing process that is currently not factored into the Higg MSI.
The goal is to further standardize measurements of value chain sustainability and provide greater transparency to apparel companies during product design and development. The companies plan to roll out the updated Higg MSI tool for all apparel brands by summer 2022.
The Higg MSI launched a decade ago to help designers and product developers make more sustainable choices during materials selection and compare the impacts of various materials, trims, and packaging. The tool is built on science-based data and metrics and is intended to quantify environmental impact throughout the production cycle. The Higg MSI measures environmental impact across five areas: global warming potential, pollution in water, chemistry, water scarcity, and fossil fuel depletion.
Though the denim category leads in sustainable innovation, leaders have been outspoken about the gaps of information that exist and warn companies about comparing their results to outdated information or data from unknown sources. Having a baseline to measure the impact of production, however, is the first step in bettering practices.
“Data driven decisions produce the best outcomes,” said Dhruv Agarwal, Kontoor Brands senior director of global innovation, sustainability, and product development. “We believe the Higg MSI is an invaluable tool for assessing the environmental impact of processes and materials utilized in our products. Through this work, our industry will be able to have a more complete picture of denim’s impact, and our product development teams will have better insight into the environmental footprint of our products, empowering us to make more sustainable design choices.”
The partnership builds on companies’ various sustainability projects.
In 2021, Kontoor established the Indigood Facility Certification to promote water conservation. Textile manufacturing facilities consuming 90 percent less freshwater versus conventional fabric production, using 2018 data as a baseline, may qualify. Arvind’s facility Naroda became the first to achieve the certification.
Arvind also entered a partnership with blockchain-enabled digital transparency platform TextileGenesis, which enables digitization and traceability of any textile asset such as fiber, yarn, fabric or garment.
Cone Denim president Steve Maggard said the mill has made “considerable capital investments” in manufacturing focused on creating responsible and sustainable products. In 2021, it became the first denim mill to develop custom materials in the MSI tool for its full Spring/Summer 2022 fabric collection. The step allows customers to access the Life Cycle Assessment of fabrics and comparison data for details on specific materials used in Cone’s fabrics. It also completed its first verification of origin audit through Oritain, a product and supply-chain traceability specialist.
“We are excited to explore and advance tools and resources, like the Higg MSI, that align with our customers’ goals to design and produce sustainable apparel,” Maggard added. “We welcome the opportunity to collaborate with likeminded companies, such as Kontoor, to bring transparency to the supply chain.”