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Lee Returns to Workwear with New AppHarvest Denim Uniform Partnership

Rivet's 2020 Denim Circularity report takes a deep dive into how the global denim industry is plotting its circular future amidst a worldwide pandemic.

“The jeans that built America” are shifting their sights to modern farming.

Lee is returning to its workwear roots in a new partnership with agriculture tech company AppHarvest, which provides sustainable indoor farming services for middle America. As part of the partnership, Lee will be AppHarvest’s exclusive denim partner and supply uniforms for its entire workforce of over 300 employees.

And while on the surface the companies appear to be very different, they’re united in the pursuit of improved sustainability within their sectors—specifically in regard to water savings.

AppHarvest, which just unveiled the world’s largest controlled environment agriculture facility in Kentucky, implements hydroponic growing techniques and circular water distribution to eliminate agricultural runoff. Its indoor farming service can grow up to 30 times more food and use 90 percent less water than traditional open-air farming—and the water it uses is sourced from recycled rainwater.

Lee is similarly focused. For years, the Kontoor Brands-owned company has been dedicated to reducing the amount of new water needed to create a pair of jeans. Recently, it increased its use of Indigood foam dyeing technology to virtually eliminate water from the process, and assigned numbers to its goals for added accountability and transparency. In September, Kontoor Brands published its first-ever sustainability report and committed to saving 10 billion liters of water by 2025 and cutting water usage in half by 2030.

Roian Atwood, Lee’s senior director of sustainable business, says its partnership with AppHarvest can continue its sustainability goals in a more creative way.

“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,” he said. “Partnering with innovators like the minds at AppHarvest broadens our perspectives, which open the way to new and unique ideas around sustainability.”

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