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Cone Denim Owner Closes in on Sustainable Cotton Goal

Elevate Textiles’ 2023 Sustainability Report outlines the company’s progress on its “10 threads of sustainability,” an internal program founded in 2006 focusing on driving key sustainability initiatives like transparency and traceability.

“As we reflect back on the past year, we celebrate our progress and the strides we are making toward our sustainability commitments as a responsible company,” Sim Skinner, president and CEO of Elevate Textiles, said. “At the same time, we are reminded of the journey ahead and the many challenges and opportunities before us to fully achieve Elevate Textiles’ 2025 sustainability goals and begin to set goals for 2030 and beyond. We remain diligent in our efforts and commitment to drive meaningful actions across our brands and operations in pursuit of these goals.”

The report also highlights the Textile Exchange member’s active involvement in adopting the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which further guide the American & Efird, Burlington, Cone Denim, Gütermann and Safety Components owner’s efforts and focus on water stewardship, carbon footprint reduction throughout its supply chain, energy conservation, waste reduction and sustainable product development.

“We continue to strive to create a company of sustainability advocates that understand the importance and act in ways, both at work and in their everyday lives, to preserve and protect the natural resources of this world,” Skinner said. “Elevate and its brands are dedicated to understanding our customers’ sustainability priorities while also doing our part to constantly drive progress and improve sustainability practices within the company.”

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Since signing onto the Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTi) in 2019, Elevate became the first global textile manufacturer to receive validation for its STBi goals. Since then, it’s joined the Business Ambition 1.5°C Campaign and assessed emissions reduction targets across the entire value chain. Elevate’s approved targets include a 46.2 percent reduction in absolute Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions by 2030 from a 2019 baseline and a 46.2 percent reduction in several Scope 3 categories. As a signatory to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Fashion Industry Charter, Elevate has also set long-term targets to reach net-zero emissions by 2050 and utilize 100 percent renewable energy by 2030.

Last year, the company commissioned two additional rooftop solar projects at Elevate facilities—one at its Burlington factory in Jiaxing, China, and another at its A&E facility in Sri Lanka. The combined capacity of both projects is 1.38 MW, generating 22 percent of the electricity demand in the Burlington factory and 12 percent of demand in the A&E facility. For 2023, more rooftop solar power projects are underway.

Elevate joined the UN CEO Water Mandate to address its water consumption and in March, joined the Business Leaders Open Call for Accelerating Action on Water.

In 2019, Elevate committed to a 25 percent reduction in absolute water usage by 2025 based on 2016 levels. In 2022, it reached a decrease of 21.8 percent by investing in innovative dyeing processes and advanced wastewater treatment systems for recycling and reusing wastewater back into the process as clean water. Since 2016, the company has recycled over 4.42 cubic million meters and in 2022 had a global water recycling rate of 16 percent, cutting water intensity by 11.2 percent.

Elevate also has four ultrafiltration/reverse osmosis (UF/RO) facilities which recycle between 20 to 50 percent of water used, as well as three zero liquid discharge facilities, which recycle 90 percent of water used without dumping any of the proceeds into the surrounding ecosystem.

Elevate expanded its engagement with suppliers by asking them to implement the Higg suite of sustainability and social compliance tools. It also joined the Textile Exchange in 2022, building on its participation in the Recycled Polyester Challenge with the organization. Elevate has made progress toward its 2025 preferred fibers goal, sourcing 73.5 percent sustainable cotton in 2022 against its goal of 80 percent.

In 2022, recycled polyester only made up 25.2 percent of Elevate’s total amount of polyester purchased, It wants to get to 50 percent by 2025..

“We believe in being at the table with our customers, suppliers and other stakeholders as together we overcome challenges and partner to find meaningful solutions,” Jimmy Summers, Elevate’s chief sustainability officer, said. “Measurable action is a key focus for us. Setting long term targets and goals is necessary, but real progress can only be made by translating those into actionable steps for today, involving each person within Elevate.”