A new report reveals more to Guess’ sustainability plans than eco denim.
The Los Angeles-based company recently shared its progress on environmental, social and governance topics since its first sustainability plan was announced in 2016. In “Vison Guess,” written in accordance with the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) and Sustainable Accounting Standard Board (SASB) standards, the heritage brand highlights its standards and strategy for the future.
“We have entered a critical decade of action to regenerate environmental resources and address climate change. Vision Guess provides the roadmap for us to do our part in helping to solve some of the world’s most pressing issues,” Carlos Alberini, Guess Inc. CEO and director, stated in the report.
The company is taking a hard look at its most used fibers. From fiscal year (FY) 2020-2021, Guess increased its environmentally preferred materials by more than 10 percent and exceeded its goal by reaching 12.25 percent environmentally preferred materials.
The Guess Responsible Sourcing Policy on cotton, which accounts for 60 percent of its product range, aims to increase procurement of preferred cotton sources like the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) while working to improve traceability and keep prohibited cotton sources from entering the supply chain. The company, however, fell short of reaching its goal to source 20 percent of its cotton with BCI, instead sourcing 12.74 percent.
Denim continues to be a major focus in Guess’ sustainability efforts. In FY 2021, 21 percent of the brand’s denim followed the Smart Guess guidelines, which requires jeans to contain at least 20 percent certified sustainable materials and use production methods with reduced environmental impact. The company plans to increase that number to 75 percent by 2025, while continuing to raise the sustainability requirements.
In the meantime, the brand says it will release its first product made in accordance with Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s Jeans Redesign guidelines for circularity. In its second year, the common guidelines have resulted over half a million circular jeans in the market.
The collection will complement other circular initiatives Guess has in place, including its growing take-back program called Resourced. The program calls for consumers to donate unwanted clothing and footwear, which will be sorted by the recycling solutions provider I:Collect. The pandemic delayed Resourced’s rollout in Europe, but it is currently available in all the brand’s U.S. stores. The company also plans to expand Guess Vintage online to European shoppers, which takes the guesswork out of mining for authentic vintage Guess items.
Though Guess reduced its greenhouse gas emissions from its direct operations 15 percent in FY 2020-2021, it plans to address climate change in a bigger way soon. The company is working to reduce corporate greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent through a combination of store energy efficiency changes and renewable energy agreements by 2030. It aims to reduce its supply chain emissions by 30 percent as well by making “smarter” raw material choices, increasing the durability of its garments, and taking a sustainable-first approach to design. Guess says it anticipates working with key vendors “to make sure they have energy efficiency or renewable energy plans in place.”
The greenhouse gas targets have been approved by the Science Based Targets Initiative, an industry group of more than 1,000 businesses leading the way to a zero-carbon economy.
To diversify its sourcing map, and because of “changing economic conditions and purchasing strategy,” volume shifts occurred within Guess’ supply chain affecting the company’s top three sourcing regions between FY2020 and FY2021.
Most dramatically, the number of units of apparel, jewelry and accessories purchased from China dropped to 26.8 percent in FY 2021 compared to 42.34 percent in FY 2020. During the same period, units from Bangladesh increased 8.75 percent and units from India increased 3.2 percent.
Diversity and inclusion
The report put numbers to Guess’ commitment to foster diverse and inclusive work environments.
“At Guess, we believe in justice, equality, and community. Last year, as a result of the increased calls for social and racial justice in the U.S., we directed our Council on Diversity & Inclusion to conduct a business review of how we can better serve our associates and our communities that come from historically marginalized groups,” Alberini stated.
Adding specificity to its ethnicity tracking at the start of FY 2020 has allowed the company to “prioritize actions, assign accountability, and measure the impact of various initiatives,” according to the report.
In FY 2021, individuals who identify as white account for 40 percent of its corporate workforce, followed by Hispanic or Latinx (26 percent), Asian (20 percent) and Black or African American (9 percent). The numbers shift at the retail level with Hispanic or Latinx individuals making up 56 percent of retail associates, followed by white (18 percent), Black or African American (15 percent) and Asian (4 percent).
Guess Inc.’s Board of Directors is predominately white (89 percent), though the company points out that it has increased representation of women on the Board to 33 percent in the last two years. Overall, more than 50 percent of its corporate, retail, and manager workforce identifies as female. It achieved gender parity for its U.S. corporate and retail locations in FY 2021.
The company has engaged in several ways to promote diversity during the fiscal year, including the launch of the Guess Europe Diversity & Inclusion Council which has completed a set of planning and research exercises to develop its overall strategy and goals in preparation for launching specific initiatives. Key areas of focus, according to the report, will include potential updates to policies and marketing, as well as associate interviewing and onboarding, performance appraisals and benefits, growth opportunities, and satisfaction.
In general, Guess is reviewing its HR protocols. During FY 2020-2021, the company update the language in recruiting job descriptions to ensure they are inclusive of everyone and clarified its benefits plans to better describe coverage of gender transition services.
“Our aim is for all Guess associates to feel comfortable and safe bringing their whole selves to work and contributing fully to our shared success,” the company stated in the report.