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YKK Eyes Climate Neutrality by 2050

The world’s largest zipper manufacturer has an action plan for a more sustainable future. YKK unveiled Monday the YKK Sustainability Vision 2050, a five-prong strategy that addresses climate change, material resources, water resources, chemical management and human rights as well as 10 of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

YKK announced the goals during the digital Copenhagen Fashion Summit. The new sustainability goals build on the trims supplier’s prior environmental commitments and product collections like water-less dyeing processes and zippers made from plant-based polyester, plastic bottles, recycled ocean waste and organic cotton.

The fashion industry’s contribution to climate is sizable. According to a 2020 McKinsey report, the apparel sector was responsible for approximately 2.1 billion metric tons of greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions in 2018, or about 4 percent of the global total. Industry players large and small, however, are making inroads to reduce their overall imprint.

YKK Sustainability Vision 2050 serves as a roadmap for how the company will achieve net-zero emissions by 2050—benefits that it will pass onto the thousands of apparel manufacturers that use the company’s fasteners.

The journey begins by tackling greenhouse gas emissions and increasing its use of renewable energy.

YKK aims to reduce energy consumption through streamlining operations and processes, and using more efficient manufacturing and auxiliary equipment. The company will also abolish all coal use in YKK facilities by 2030. Instead, it plans to install renewable power sources at its owned facilities for power generation where feasible.

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By 2030, YKK commits to a 50 percent reduction of Scope 1 (direct emissions) and Scope 2 (indirection emissions). It also commits to a 30 percent reduction in Scope 3 emissions—or all indirect emissions not included in Scope 3 that occur in the value chain—by pivoting to sustainable textile materials such as recycled materials or those that are naturally derived by 2030.

This commitment to more responsible materials contributes to YKK’s circular mission to eliminate production and plastic waste.

Along with switching to sustainable materials, which will allow YKK to develop product designs for circularity, YKK commits to replacing all vinyl and plastic packaging materials with recyclable or reusable alternatives by 2030. The company aims to increase its waste recycling rate to 90 percent by 2030—a target that will help reduce the amount of waste landfilled or incinerated.

Water and chemical management is part of YKK’s vision as well. For this, the company turns to industry standards for guidance.

To combat water resource depletion and degradation, the company is taking action to reduce water intake through efficient usage, new water-saving production methods and increased recycling of wastewater. It will manage wastewater at all manufacturing sites in accordance with government regulations and YKK in-house standards established on standards like Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals (ZDHC).

The company’s own YKK Restricted Substance List, which was based on ZDHC Manufacturing Restricted Substances List (ZDHC MRSL), continues to direct YKK’s chemical management. To ensure a healthy environment for future generations, the company stated that it will invest in the development of new production methods to reduce and eliminate the use of toxic chemicals.

Additionally, all finished products must meet standards like Standard 100 by OEKO-TEX, to guarantee they are free of harmful substances.

Along with the environment, YKK’s vision for 2050 prioritizes people. The company has committed to being an “inclusive and improving” work environment, conducting periodic evaluations by third party auditors to assure transparency and improvement of sustainable practices.

The strategy was made with YKK founder Tadao Yoshida’s philosophy “Cycle of Goodness” in mind, which charges that “no one prospers without rendering benefit to others.” Hiroaki Otani, YKK Corporation president, said the philosophy expresses the YKK Group’s “corporate spirit of continuing to prosper together with society and related industries.”

Sustainability, Otani noted, is part of that concept, too. “Under the ‘Cycle of Goodness,’ YKK will address the essence of sustainability through our businesses and products and will continue to take on challenges in order to remain a socially good company,” he stated.