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Rivet 50 Radio: Roian Atwood

Now more than ever, the denim industry needs large companies to adopt sustainable practices and lessen the environmental impact at scale. Wrangler, which has been around for 116 years, is helping to lead the charge with several initiatives to reduce water, chemical and energy usage throughout its supply chain.

Kontoor Brands senior director of global sustainable business Roian Atwood explained that it’s in the best interest of both the brand and the Wrangler consumer, who is actually more environmentally-focused than what some may expect.

“[Wrangler consumers] might not think about sustainable attributes the way that a marketer or someone in the product engine considers it,” he told Rivet. “It’s more this aspect of wanting to do the right thing, whether it’s supporting National Future Farmers of America (FFA) or simply making quality, affordable products that last. There is this connection to durability—connection to land—that transcends the word and concept of sustainability.”

The brand works with U.S. cotton farmers to promote soil health and communicate that story in a creative way by using the cotton they grow for special collections. It launched with five different states and now it’s expanding the program to more locales and products.

Wrangler also established aggressive sustainability goals, including a commitment to source 100 percent sustainable cotton by 2025. It also set out to save 5.5 billion liters of water by the end of 2020—a goal it ended up achieving nine months ahead of schedule.

Atwood also discussed the brand’s work with Texas Tech University and Mill Designs to develop a foam-dyeing process—which significantly reduces water and chemical usage in the denim dyeing stage—that it plans to roll out globally.

“When technology has this much profound impact to influence in our environmental impact in the totality of our industry, then it is something to be shared; something to be celebrated,” he said. “And it’s ultimately something that, when other brands start using it and announcing it, we rejoice. It’s fantastic to see the positivity and the uptake around it because it’s got such a positive impact on the world.”

Click here to listen to the full conversation with Atwood.

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This podcast episode is made possible by Cotton Incorporated, a not-for-profit company funded by U.S. cotton producers and importers, and whose mission is to increase the demand and profitability of cotton. Discover What Cotton Can Do.