The 50th anniversary of Earth Day is a major milestone for jeans maker Kontoor Brands, too.
The company’s Wrangler brand announced Wednesday that its manufacturing has saved over 7 billion liters of water in the production of denim products, or equivalent to the daily drinking water needs of almost 4 billion people.
The savings surpasses the brand’s 2020 global year-end goal to save 5.5 billion liters and as a result, Wrangler plans to announce a new, more ambitious water conservation goal later this year.
“We were able to surpass our water conservation goal due to the dedication and ingenuity of the teams that power our manufacturing facilities,” said Roian Atwood, Kontoor Brands senior director of global sustainable business.
Achieving this savings has been a work in progress for more than a decade. Wrangler surpassed its goal by increasing both water efficiency and water recycling in the denim finishing process.
The brand’s Mexican manufacturing facility in the city of Torreon regularly recycles up to 85 percent of the water through sequential batch reactors, micro-filtration and reverse osmosis. At the brand’s other manufacturing campuses, efficiencies such as merging or removing finishing steps and enhanced enzyme technologies were able to reduce water use without compromising quality.
Wrangler was also the first brand to offer jeans dyed with foam—which uses 100 percent less water than conventionally dyed denim—to market. The technology is now being adopted by other brands.
As Wrangler looks to the future of water conservation, Atwood said the company’s approach will expand beyond internal manufacturing and will focus on swaying its production partners to further prioritize water savings and treatment.
“We encourage others to join us to continue to propel the apparel industry toward a more sustainable and responsible future,” he said.
Meanwhile, with Wrangler as a catalyst, sister brand Lee is putting plans in motion to reduce its environmental footprint, establishing its first-ever global sustainability goals.
Under Lee’s recently launched global sustainability platform, For a World That Works, these goals focus on pursuing more sustainable solutions for apparel development and production by 2025.
In five years, the brand aims power 100 percent of all owned and operated facilities with renewable energy, utilize more than 50 percent sustainable synthetics in its collections, source 100 percent sustainably grown or recycled cotton, and increase the number of products dyed with indigo foam.
The goals, Lee stated, build on its ongoing projects, including the launch of biodegradable “Back to Nature” jeans and its commitment to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s Jeans Redesign guidelines, which are being integrated into an internal assessment tool used to measure the brand’s sustainability performance.
“With these targets, we are raising the bar on what consumers can expect from Lee in terms of environmental sustainability,” Atwood said. “As we look ahead, we must continually challenge ourselves to redefine how we operate, so that we can help create a brighter future for our planet and our industry.”