ESG Outlook is Sourcing Journal’s discussion series with industry executives to get their take on their company’s latest environmental, social and governance initiatives and their own personal efforts toward sustainability. Here, Chris Fox, chief sustainability officer of Hanesbrands, Inc., discusses corporate commitments to People, Planet and Product, and how seemingly small acts like washing clothing in cold water can have outsized positive impacts.
Name: Chris Fox
Title: Chief Sustainability Officer
Company: Hanesbrands Inc.
What do you consider to be your company’s best ESG-related achievement over the last 5 years?
Setting our aggressive new 2025 and 2030 sustainability goals, including science-based greenhouse gas targets. These goals, on which we report progress annually on HBISustains.com, will push us to make a real difference across our three sustainability pillars: People, Planet and Product.
What is your personal philosophy on shopping and caring for your clothes? How do you try to minimize the environmental impact of the clothes you buy?
The most impact we can have on greenhouse gas emissions generated from the apparel we wear is to wash in cold water instead of hot. Over half of all GHGs emitted over the life of a garment come from heating water in the laundry room. Through our #ColdWaterWash collaboration with Tide, we are working to convince consumers to make the switch to cold water in an effort to reduce their carbon footprint while preserving the lifespan of their clothes and save money. Personally, I only wash in cold water.
How much do you look into a brand’s social or environmental practices before shopping? Any examples of something you did or didn’t buy because of this?
Personally, I always consider a brand’s ESG practices, especially when it involves single-use plastic. I also look for companies that are implementing innovative ways to upcycle and try to only buy from companies that focus holistically on sustainability.
Anything new you are doing to boost sustainability beyond the fashion industry?
Sustainability is about personal choices as well as company actions. We are about to launch the “I’m In” campaign with our 50,000 global associates asking them to commit to impactful sustainability habits. For example, volunteering 8 hours in the community, giving a pint of blood, washing clothes only in cold water, carpooling, using public transportation, turning off computers when leaving work, donating clothing etc. Essentially, we’re asking our people to do their part to improve the lives of people and protect the planet.
What would you say is the biggest misconception consumers have about sustainability in fashion?
The biggest misconception is that sustainability has to be expensive. Given the breadth of our program, Hanesbrands continues to show that sustainability is an affordable, and highly impactful, option. The strides we’ve taken toward our 2025 and 2030 goals have resulted in notable cost savings for our business and for our consumer.
What is your company’s latest ESG-related initiative?
We recently announced our progress toward our 2025 and 2030 global sustainability goals. We also announced the launch of our “I’m In” global associate sustainability campaign, encouraging associates to do simple things to create major change. With more than 50,000 associates around the world, the “I’m In” campaign is designed to further strengthen HanesBrands’ impact on improving the environment and fostering engagement among our internal teams to help create a more comfortable world for every body.
As consumers become more aware of worker conditions and how clothing is produced, how can the industry best spread the word on progress?
Be transparent. We discuss our human rights initiatives at length on HBISustains.com.
What do you consider to be the apparel industry’s biggest missed opportunity related to securing meaningful change?
HanesBrands consists of iconic brands like Hanes, Champion and Maidenform and products are worn by consumers around the world. Because of our recognition and over a century in the industry, we have the opportunity, and the responsibility, to make a positive environmental and social impact. I believe there is opportunity for the industry to appropriately join forces and create large scale change.
What companies are making the biggest sustainability inroads?
The companies that are making the most progress are the ones that look at sustainability very holistically across multiple parameters, as we do with our People, Planet and Product pillars. Progress is much more than just specific sustainable product attributes; it should be at the core of the company’s purpose. When consumers purchase a Hanesbrands product, they can feel confident that product was created with people, planet and product in mind, every time.