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Next Version of Cradle to Cradle Calls for More Social Fairness

The denim industry’s move to a circular model is an ongoing process that requires innovation and collaboration among experts throughout the supply chain—and the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute is updating its standards accordingly.

In a Kingpins24 panel discussion, Rivet executive editor Angela Velasquez spoke with Christina Raab, Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute vice president, strategy and development; Adriana GalijasevicG-Star Raw denim and sustainability expert; and Omer Ahmed, Artistic Milliners CEO, on Cradle to Cradle’s updated circular mission.

Currently in its third iteration, the institute is working on a fourth version of certification that includes improvements to all five of its critical performance categories: material health, material reutilization, renewable energy and carbon management, water stewardship, and social fairness. And while the framework closely aligns with other global sustainability initiatives like the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the new version will home in on product circularity and social fairness—aspects that Raab feels are especially important in today’s climate.

“The Cradle to Cradle (C2C) certification supports all of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, directly or indirectly,” she said. However, three goals in particular “are very relevant in the current discussions that we are having in the world,” she added.

According to Raab, these are SDG 3, good health and well-being; SDG 8, decent work and economic growth; and SDG 12, responsible consumption and production. The C2C framework ensures protocols like chemical safety, fair working conditions and production methods that are “in harmony with nature.” COVID-19 has made these priorities front and center, triggering a call for more businesses to adopt more ethical processes and show proof that they’re actually following through on their promises.

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Benefits of certification are felt throughout the supply chain, including mills that have been able to reduce their environmental impact in measurable ways.

“It was only after a C2C certification that we were actually able to quantify and communicate accurately the impacts of our investments,” Ahmed said.

By heavily investing in clean energy and water stewardship, Pakistan-based Artistic Milliners was able to offset its carbon footprint by 10 megawatts, making it a carbon-negative company.

In 2018, the mill worked with Dutch denim brand G-Star Raw, dye provider DyStar and denim manufacturer Saitex to make the world’s first-ever C2C Certified Gold denim fabric. Since then, the fabric has served as the foundation for G-Star’s Spring ’20 range of fully C2C Certified Gold products. According to Galijasevic, it’s these kinds of partnerships that are destined to change the industry for the better.

“We as one brand cannot change the entire denim industry,” she said, highlighting G-Star Raw’s decision to make its C2C-certified denim fabric open source. “It’s great to see how all of our 15 supply chain partners work together to make fully certified products possible.”

While the C2C framework can be seen as a challenge to some, for Galijasevic, it’s an inspiration.

“We see the Cradle to Cradle standard as an opportunity to think about denim design in a new way,” she said. “It’s about seeing how this holistic framework can actually become an enabler of new design rather than a barrier or limitation.”