As one of the world’s most popular fabrics, denim has built a legacy of overarching accessibility and universal appeal. Unfortunately, much of that heritage derives from a harmful foundation that our planet can’t endure, and it’s one the industry has become fully aware it must change.
By prioritizing sustainable manufacturing, ADM-Artistic Denim Mills is leading the charge for a cleaner and greener fabric future. The company is committed to making “great products the right way,” via an ultra-streamlined supply chain and end-to-end mindfulness for people and the planet.
It has set its sights high, to be sure, with 100 percent sustainability through the entire supply chain the company’s ultimate goal.
“Sustainability is a commitment to us and we are working very closely with all of our suppliers to make it a reality,” said Faisal Ahmed, ADM CEO. “For us the equation is: sustainable raw material + sustainable processes = sustainable product. Where sustainable processes is also important as much as raw materials.”
By partnering with globally recognized brands and manufacturers, ADM creates sustainable, ethical raw materials and earth-friendly fabrics that meet a wide variety of demands, such as the comfortable and sculpting properties of four-way stretch. An early pioneer of liquid dye technology featuring less sulfide contents than traditional dyes, the company is selective about the chemicals it uses, choosing those deemed to have a minimal impact on the environment, its employees and consumers.
For example, ADM exclusively uses pre-reduced indigo, decreasing its chemical usage by 70 percent when stacked against conventional denim factories. Rather than distressing denim with harmful chemicals and labor-intensive hand sanders, the company employs computerized laser technology to provide those unique fading patterns the fabric is known for. These lasers also have the added benefit of reducing the usage of stones and chlorine during wet processing.
Furthermore, all of the chemicals ADM uses are OEKO-TEX certified and comply with the Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals (ZDHC) Foundation Roadmap set by a coalition of fashion brands, value chain affiliates, and industry, NGO and government associates for safer production processes.
“ADM’s mission is to protect the workers who create denim, the consumers who wear denim and the environment with cleaner waterways,” Ahmed said.
It does this in multiple ways, one of which is making denim that’s aniline-free—a non-toxic way of producing the traditional, iconic indigo blue that consumers associate with denim and jeans. During traditional indigo dyeing process, some aniline stays locked into the indigo pigment and is difficult to wash off the fabric. The remainder of the aniline impurity, around 400 metric tons annually, is discharged during dyeing. This can be an issue as aniline is toxic to aquatic life, and exposure levels to factory workers can be high. As a result of its toxicity, aniline is beginning to appear on the restricted substance lists (RSL) of some major clothing brands and retailers.
To lessen denim’s impact on the planet and to help create a circular economy in textiles, ADM also uses pre-consumer recycled cotton fibers, as well as Refibre fibers made with recycled bottles. Doing so reduce energy and water consumption and emits fewer greenhouse gases.
When it comes to production, ADM’s factory is located near a well-trafficked port, leading the company to heavily consider that water consumption and use. Rather than utilizing traditional wet-finishing techniques with harmful enzymes, ADM employs OZONE finishing equipment that uses less water during laundering, prevents unwanted indigo deposits, and gives denim its signature used look without the steps required in conventional bleaching or tone-down processes. Not only does this save more water, energy and chemicals, but it also carries the added benefits of decreased production time and costs.
By investing in modern machinery, ADM said it’s been able to reduce its water consumption by up to 80 percent, with 80 percent of the water that is used treated and recirculated throughout its facility for secondary use. These eco-friendly benefits extend all the way down to consumers, who aren’t required to wash their denim as often thanks to the fabric’s high retention properties.
To track its resource usage, ADM incorporates Jeanologia’s Environmental Impact Measurement software, and it also monitors every piece of denim made, analyzing every property from water consumption to dye usage.
Its factory, meanwhile, is powered by closed-loop solar power and an in-house heat recovery system, putting ADM on a clear path toward achieving that ambitious 100 percent sustainability goal.
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