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What Lee’s New Sustainability Platform Means for Sourcing and CSR

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.

Lee jeans has introduced “For A World That Works,” its first global sustainability platform uniting the brand’s legacy of innovation and purpose with a responsibility to build a stronger, more sustainable world.

In conjunction with the new sustainability platform, the Kontoor Brands-owned label also debuted Indigood Denim, a signature denim collection that eliminates water from the denim dyeing process.

“As one of the most iconic denim brands in the world, the Lee brand understands its responsibility to help lead our industry toward a better future,” Chris Waldeck, executive vice president and global brand president for Lee, said. “Our new sustainability platform is the roadmap that will guide our actions and help drive meaningful progress toward more positive environmental and social impacts.”

The Lee brand’s new platform is guided by three key focus areas. The first, “All People,” commits Lee to bringing more people together to transform the communities where the brand operates. Lee will continue to take action to prioritize worker well-being to ensure the health and safety of workers that contribute to its products globally, while encouraging and supporting employees to volunteer at organizations and for causes that will make a positive impact on the world.

Second, “Our Planet” devotes Lee to pursuing more sustainable solutions in the development and production of its products. This includes a focus on cleaner energy, further reducing waste and conserving the water used to manufacture Lee products.

“Everything We Do,” Lee’s third area of focus, commits the brand to finding more innovative design solutions to create better products that deliver on consumers’ growing demand for high-quality apparel that looks good and fits better and upholds the brand’s social and environmental values. This will be achieved through technology-enabled eco-conscious design and manufacturing.

With the launch of Indigood Denim, Lee is replacing the traditional water vats and chemical baths of conventional indigo dyeing with a foam dye applicator, reducing the required water by 100 percent, energy by 60 percent and chemicals by 89 percent.

Kontoor’s Wrangler brand introduced foam-dyed Indigood denim last year. An additional sustainably produced product offering available in select markets this spring includes Back to Nature, a compostable jean.

In 2019, Lee partnered with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s Jeans Redesign to form guidelines that reduce waste associated with denim production, establishing requirements for jean durability and recyclability and ensuring positive impacts on the environment. The guidelines are being integrated into an internal assessment tool used to measure the sustainability performance of Lee products.

“We all know the urgency, we all feel the responsibility, which is why we passionately challenge ourselves and bring together people to create a more sustainable future,” Roian Atwood, senior director for sustainable business at Kontoor Brands, said.

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