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Kontoor Brands Launches Global Design Standards

Kontoor Brands announced Wednesday the launch of its Global Design Standards, a three-part guide to take the guesswork out of how to lower the environmental and social impacts of its heritage denim brands, Lee and Wrangler

Serving as a guide for its designers and product developers, the standards are Kontoor’s way of addressing the largest value chain factors to improve greenhouse gas emissions, water, and chemical use. The standards focus on three areas: preferred materials, low-impact fabrics and low-impact finishing.

To make Kontoor’s Preferred Materials List, the material must be backed by data validating its environmental and social impact. Kontoor’s responsible materials policies apply to all vendors and material supplies to ensure “transparent and robust materials claims.” This includes policies on restricted substances, cotton fiber sourcing, conflict minerals, animal- and forest-derived materials.

To meet the Global Design Standards for preferred materials, 70 percent of the fabric materials used in a product must be sourced from Kontoor’s Preferred Materials List.

Low-impact fabric is determined by how much freshwater is used to make it. A fabric must come from a denim mill that has achieved at least a 90 percent reduction in freshwater use from a 2018-2019 baseline to meet the Global Design Standards. The savings must be verified by an independent third party through Kontoor’s Indigood Program, a certification program the company launched in 2021.

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To determine low-impact finishing, Kontoor will use Jeanologia’s Environmental Impact Measure (EIM) tool that assesses water, energy, chemistry and worker health areas. Scores designated as “low impact” within the EIM tool satisfy for Kontoor’s low-impact finishing standard.

As a company that produces millions of products each year, Jeff Frye, Kontoor Brands VP, sustainability, innovation, product development and procurement, said Kontoor has “the potential to guide the industry toward meaningful change.”

The standards will be a company-wide effort. Kontoor’s design and product development departments will use the standards to carefully select the materials and processes being used to build garments. The company’s procurement and sourcing departments will ensure collaboration with supply chain partners to execute the standards established by Kontoor.

There’s a consumer-facing element to the standards, as well. Launching first on, products that meet the Global Design Standards will be identified with a “WeCare Wrangler” badge. To earn the badge, products must meet one of Kontoor’s three Global Design Standards. 

A similar program will launch for the Lee brand under the “For A World That Works” global sustainability platform later this year.

“Our Global Design Standards allow us to tackle the product stages that have impact on people and our planet,” Frye said. “While we initially aim to have each of our products meet one of the three standards, we are actively striving to reach new levels of innovation and sustainability that will continually improve the sustainable performance of our products.”