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How Copen United is Growing its Commitment to Sustainability

In recent years, many brands and retailers have begun increasing their sustainable initiatives to further their commitments to the planet and people. One company that has pushed for a more sustainable future since its inception in 1945—providing unique products and stylistic solutions for interior garment design worldwide—is Copen United, a global supplier of pocketing, waistbands and linings.

Here, Bill Broadway, executive vice president at Copen United, discusses how the company is expanding its sustainable initiatives with new partnerships and what’s still in store.

Sourcing Journal: Copen launched a new Hemp Series of pocketing. How will this further Copen’s sustainable goals?

Bill Broadway: Our Hemp Series addition—which launched in 2022—seemed like a natural fit into our continued pursuit of bringing new and innovative ideas to our sustainable product line. Not the most important development for us in the last few years—but vogue for sure.

Used for over 5,000 years as fabric, hemp has a natural resistance to bacteria, is breathable, has nice color penetration, has wicking capabilities and can be recycled more than many other fibers. Adding to its capabilities, hemp needs minimal water to grow—with minimal pesticides needed—is two to three times stronger than cotton and is one of the most sustainable fibers on Earth.

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Furthering Copen’s strive toward a more sustainable future, the company engaged with Oritain. What does your relationship with Oritain entail?

B.B.: Our Oritain engagement—made official in March—may be one of the most important decisions we’ve made in recent times. It’s becoming more important for us to know where our products come from. The brands and vertical retail are now trying to do the right thing by verifying the supply chain that supports their products. We consider traceability to be a vital part of sustainability.

Signing up with Oritain not only gives our customers confidence in Copen United but also gives us insurance that we are doing the right thing. Due diligence is so important today, especially when it comes to prohibitive cotton.

Oritain can test for the origin of fiber by isolating the hidden isotopes within the fiber—like a tiny origin fingerprint left by the soil composition or the environment only found in the specific region of growth.

Now, we can test our fiber, yarn or fabric at any point of our supply chain to verify the origin. Oritain tells the truth, proves origin, and now Copen does too. Besides all the above, Oritain is the only recognized authority for U.S. Customs [and Border Protection] on fiber origin—as we understand it.

As ESG agendas become more important to us all, Oritain became the best choice. We are proud to be the first pocketing company to officially engage with Oritain.

If you are importing into the U.S., there is a law now that must be considered—the UFLPA—which states prohibitive cotton cannot be imported into the U.S. in any form. Failure to comply causes container detentions and huge fines. Again, it is all about doing what is right—making our world a better place. I hear often now that responsible sourcing is the first step in being sustainable.

Copen continuously seeks the latest innovations to further its growth. What plans does the company have for the future?

B.B.: With social responsibility a part of Copen’s DNA, we constantly strive to be better than we were yesterday. Now, we are focusing on continuing our growth. Kevin Bardsley, managing director of Copen Europe, recently celebrated the 10th anniversary of Copen Europe. We are also growing every year in Turkey and Bulgaria.

We had a great show at Kingpins Amsterdam, spreading the word of being a Champion of Sustainability award recipient for three years in a row from UNIFI for our work with Repreve, as well as engaging with Oritain.

We have many strategic plans and initiatives on the horizon—we can’t share quite yet—so stay tuned.

Why is sustainability important to Copen?

B.B.: The choices we make on sustainability define who we are as people and a company. We consider ourselves as the stalking horse of sustainability as a pocketing, waistband and lining supplier to the apparel industry. We lead, not follow. Not everything we jump into is a success, but we continue to break through the doors first.

Sustainability has become a cornerstone of our corporate goals. It is very simple. We want to improve our quality of life and protect our world, environment and people for future generations. We are all seeing the effect of global warming and excessive waste in landfills around the world. We all have a responsibility to engage.

To learn more about Copen United, click here.