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Gildan Reveals Sustainability Achievements and Shortfalls

Gildan Activewear Inc. published its 2020 Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) report, detailing the vertical apparel manufacturing company’s environmental achievements and shortcomings in the face of “unprecedented circumstances” due to the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic and two hurricanes in Central America.

“Last year, more than ever, we were able to witness the strength and resiliency of our unique business model and the importance of ESG,” Glenn Chamandy, president and CEO of Gildan, said. “While we are pleased with the success and recognition we have achieved, there is still more work to be done and we are now working on our ‘Next Generation’ ESG strategy and a new set of long-term goals, which we will announce later this year.”

Gildan, which completed its second set of five-year environmental targets last year, said while the company was not able to meet all its goals as it diverted attention and resources to navigating through the pandemic, responding to the aftermath of the hurricanes and putting its people first, it was still able to make some important progress.

Key 2020 environment highlights included 33 percent of Gildan’s total energy came from renewable sources, 88 percent of the company’s total waste was recycled or repurposed, and an 11.4 percent reduction in water intensity was achieved from 2015 to 2020.

Despite its efforts, Gildan said it did not fully achieve all of it global environmental targets planned for the 2015 to 2020 period. These included overall emissions intensity decreasing only 1.1 percent, falling short of the company’s target when compared to the baseline. This was largely due to a greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions intensity increase of 13.6 percent from 2019 to 2020.

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In addition, Gildan’s energy intensity decreased 2.6 percent in the time frame, not achieving its target when compared to the baseline. From 2019 to 2020, energy intensity decreased 3.12 percent. Plus, between 2015 and 2020, Gildan’s landfill waste intensity decreased 4.9 percent, not achieving its target when compared to the baseline. From 2019 to 2020, our landfill waste intensity decreased 1.3 percent.

Gildan said the increase in absolute energy consumption was largely attributed to extending the vertical integration of its manufacturing process by developing yarn-spinning operations in 2017 into company-owned manufacturing facilities. Additionally, it added fashion and performance styles to its product mix, which require more energy to produce and did not adjust its environmental targets to consider the acquisition of these facilities or the introduction of these new styles.

The increase in GHG emissions intensity in 2020 compared to 2019 was due, in part, to a reduction in the use of biomass energy systems in the Dominican Republic and Honduras, which dropped from a share of 44 percent of total energy consumption in 2019 to 33 percent in 2020.

Gildan said it will continue restoring its biomass facilities in Honduras damaged by the hurricanes and anticipates returning to the same or higher levels of renewable energy generation by the end of 2021.

Gildan’s energy efficiency initiatives include reusing hot condensate water to produce steam at one-third of the cost and with far less energy than the traditional process at its textile and hosiery facilities in Central America, the Caribbean and Bangladesh.

It also captures and recycles chemical additives in the condensate to reduce the amount of chemicals used for generating steam. To cool its facilities, Gildan uses absorption chillers that capture thermal energy from steam production to create cool water that is used for air conditioning.

In 2020, Gildan began installing a new air-conditioning economizer control system at knitting facilities in Honduras. Similar systems are also in place at facilities in the Dominican Republic.

In 2020, Gildan said it achieved the vast majority of its social goals and maintained industry-leading working conditions and labor practices by creating safe and healthy workplaces, respecting human and labor rights and employees’ freedom of association, empowering women and offering competitive benefits.

During the year, Gildan mobilized a team of experts to develop and implement stringent biosecurity protocols in its facilities to protect employees during COVID-19. Humanitarian aid and a disaster relief program were activated to support employees and local communities affected by hurricanes Eta and Iota.

Employee wages in all of Gildan-owned manufacturing facilities were evaluated based on the Fair Labor Association data-collection tool, with 53 percent of employees covered by a collective bargaining agreement and 97 percent represented by formal health and safety committees.

Gildan is a leading manufacturer of everyday basic apparel, marketing its activewear, underwear, socks, hosiery, and legwear in North America, Europe, Asia Pacific, and Latin America, It portfolio of company-owned brands includes Gildan, American Apparel, Comfort Colors, Goldtoe and Peds, and under a licensed Under Armour socks line.