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Holt Renfrew Sets Sustainability Standards for Denim and More

From new denim constructions, weights and washes to the steps global mills are taking to reduce impact, Rivet's SS23 In Season Look Book: Denim & Trims has everything you need to know for a successful denim season.

Enforcing sustainable practices often falls on brands and their supply chain partners who are responsible for things like ethical sourcing and water- and energy-saving production practices. It’s understood that the responsibility also falls on the consumer to make the right purchasing and garment end-of-life decisions. But what about retailers?

The retailer’s role in sustainability is actually quite large, and it’s a concept that Canadian luxury department store chain Holt Renfrew is taking to a new level. On Thursday, the Selfridges Group-owned company announced sustainability commitments that make it the first and only Canadian retailer to set approved science-based targets, or universal guidelines for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in line with the Paris Agreement.

“Our customers are at the center of our business, and we want to ensure that sustainability and innovation are at the forefront of their experience at Holt Renfrew,” said Sebastian Picardo, who was appointed president and CEO last year. “Retail can be a force for good, and we know that our customers want to make trusted, responsible purchases. Our 360-degree commitment to sustainability removes the barriers for them, allowing them to shop with confidence, in a responsible way.”

By 2030, Holt Renfrew will lower scope 1 and 2 emissions, or greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, from its operations by 65 percent and lower its scope 3 emissions, also referred to as value chain emissions, by 28 percent. By 2025, it pledges that 67 percent of its suppliers from purchased goods and services and upstream and downstream transportation will have science-based targets.

In addition to following science-based targets, the company is also setting sustainability goals centered on the products it sells—including its denim offerings. By the end of 2025, Holt Renfrew’s denim assortments will come from “certified and verified sustainable sources,” which it defines as GOTS-certified organic cotton and GRS-certified recycled material.

“As a multi-brand retailer, we are committed to working with our brand partners to achieve this commitment, and encourage transparency and a transition to more sustainable materials and production practices,” a Holt Renfrew spokesperson told Rivet.

The retailer currently sells jeans from AG, Paige, Frame, Rag & Bone and more.

Denim aside, it’s also taking inventory of its materials sourcing across the board. By the end of 2025, the most environmentally impactful materials across the business—cotton, leather, down and feathers, plastic packaging, palm oil and forest-derived fibers like paper, wood and cellulosic—will come from certified and verified sustainable sources.

Holt Renfrew is calling on strategic partnerships to ensure its targets are met. The retailer recently launched a partnership with innovative recycling company TerraCycle that helps consumers recycle used beauty products and packaging collected in Holt Renfrew stores across the country. It also partnered with animal rights organization Humane Society International/Canada to exit all animal fur and exotic skins by the end of the year—a move that’s crucial to appeal to shifting consumer priorities.

According to a recent report from the Material Innovation Initiative (MII), a company dedicated to the development of sustainable materials, the next-gen materials market is set to become an estimated $2.2 billion industry by 2026. The report defines “next-gen materials” as livestock-free direct replacements for conventional animal-based leather, silk, down, fur, wool and exotic skins.

It will also cease offering cosmetic products that contain plastic glitter as a way to reduce the amount of microplastics in the world’s oceans, and will improve waste diversion rates in all store locations to 85 percent by the end of 2024.

Additionally, Holt Renfrew has developed Green Build Guidelines for design, visual, and construction teams that outline requirements for sustainable building materials and products.