Denim is not only one of Bestseller’s most popular categories, it is also the focus of several sustainable initiatives the Danish company laid out in its recently published 2021 sustainability report. With global labels like Jack & Jones, Noisy May, Only, Selected, Pieces, Vero Moda and more a part of its portfolio, Bestseller is using its wide reach to drive denim forward through a sustainability strategy it calls Fashion FWD.
Bestseller’s end goal? To be climate positive, fair for all and circular by design.
“To reach our North Star and achieve the ambitious goals we have set for ourselves, we need to increase our contributions to—and investments in—innovation, as well as take concrete steps to sever the connection between business growth and resource consumption,” said Anders Holch Povlsen, Bestseller CEO and owner. “This is far from an easy undertaking, and it demands collective action in all areas from raw materials to end consumer and beyond. Business aspirations can no longer come at the planet’s expense.”
The addition of new fibers is paving a greener path. In 2021, Selected achieved an industry first when it brought denim styles made with cotton from Africa’s new organic standard, CmiA-Organic. The CmiA-Organic jeans are fully traceable from field to finished product. The fibers are grown without pesticides, irrigation, or genetic modification, while CmiA’s social programs support smallholder farmers and their communities in Sub-Saharan Africa, according to the report.
Jack & Jones introduced a line of jeans made with Lenzing’s Carbon-Zero Tencel. All emissions related to the production, manufacturing and distribution of the fiber have been calculated and offset, making it a certified carbon neutral product.
Bestseller’s partnership with long-standing supplier Artistic Milliners is an example of how its sustainability strategy casts a wide net. In March 2021, Artistic Milliners launched its own fully traceable organic cotton called Milliner Cotton Organic as part of its work with Organic Cotton Accelerator (OCA) and WWF-Pakistan. The cotton, traceable via blockchain technology, is grown in Pakistan’s southwest region Baluchistan. Bestseller and Jack & Jones are helping to take this “new generation of organic cotton” to scale. Through the partnership, the company says it can secure “farm-to-fashion traceability for its indigenous organic cotton in a direct-to-farm approach that will benefit one of the most underdeveloped communities of Pakistan.”
In general, Bestseller is conscious of the supply-demand pressure on the world’s organic cotton market and it pledges to continue to invest in supporting programs. In the first half of 2022, the company said it will access potential investment targets through the likes of OCA and CmiA to identify the best projects.
Though Better Cotton is not physically traceable to end products, Bestseller is also relying on its membership in Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) to source sustainably. “The more Better Cotton we source, the greater impact we can achieve,” the company stated. In 2021, Bestseller sourced 70 percent of its cotton from BCI, which helped save an estimated 23 billion liters of water. It will continue to make Better Cotton a minimum requirement for all suppliers and an onboarding requirement for new suppliers.
New chemistry alternatives are driving change, too. In 2021, Only developed a new denim initiative called Wiser Wash Jeans, which eliminates the pumice stones and toxic chemicals involved in traditional washing of indigo denim. The first jean styles made with Wiser Wash are part of Only’s “NOOS” program of in-stock items and more will launch this year.
Communicating the impact of its products is part of the agenda. In 2021, Bestseller completed a pilot of the Higg Index Transparency Programme with its Selected brand. The program enables brands to disclose the environmental impacts of fabrics across four areas—greenhouse gas emissions, fossil fuel consumption, water use and water pollution—in a consumer-friendly way. Jack & Jones, Vero Moda and Only have started trials.
The company also conducted lifecycle assessments for two denim styles by Selected using the Higg Product Module.
In some cases, the garments themselves are platforms for communication and education. In 2021, Pieces began printing information about circular design and the importance of reusing and recycling clothes inside jeans pockets.
Bestseller’s Circular and Digital Business Model expands on the company’s efforts to be circular by design. In July 2021, the company joined the growing roster of denim brands investing in Infinited Fiber Company, the maker of the regenerated fiber Infinna. It also joined Fashion for Good’s Full Circle Textiles Project-Polyester, which has enlisted four innovators to provide chemically recycled polyester from post-consumer waste. The fabric will be made available to Bestseller brands for assessment.
Additionally, Jack & Jones has begun setting up repair stations in its stores. Available in eight stores (with “many more” to come), consumers can get their jeans repaired free of charge, while they can also order repair kits for free online and fix their jeans themselves. The brand also rolled out a rental program for a limited range of jeans and outerwear.
A new internal guide providing a framework for all designers and product developers on how to work with circularity in the design phase is intended to accelerate progress. Bestseller’s investment in circular design training “began to bear fruit” in 2021 as both Vero Moda and Selected launched products made with Circulose, Renewcell’s fiber made from recycled textiles using 100 percent renewable energy. The guide was made available to the public this year.
“At Bestseller, we want to accelerate our company and the wider fashion industry towards a sustainable reality,” Dorte Rye Olsen, Bestseller head of sustainability, said. “Not only do we believe this is the right thing to do but it is also a business imperative. We believe that a successful and resilient business is one where people and planetary boundaries are respected, and business growth improves the world we live in.”