From fiscal 2019 to 2020, which ended Jan. 1, 2021, the children’s wear retailer grew the amount of responsibly sourced cotton it used from just 6 percent to 46 percent. The company has made progress by improving its global cotton farming practices through membership in the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI).
The next significant step in the company’s evolving raw material approach takes aim at polyester, according to Adrian Sherman, vice president, environment and social responsibility for The Children’s Place.
“Moving from virgin polyester to recycled polyester is a major part of the new goals we’ve set here,” Sherman told Sourcing Journal.
The Children’s Place aims to use 100 percent recycled material for the polyester fibers in pocket bags in denim and woven bottoms by the end of fiscal 2025. It also plans to use 100 percent recycled material for the polyester fibers used in woven labels and zipper tape within the same time frame.
Across all apparel goods, the retailer set a goal for 25 percent of the polyester fibers used to be recycled by the end of 2030. In bolstering its recycled fiber offering, the company is keeping in line with certifications such as the GRS, or Global Recycle Standard.
The report details eight focus areas, including: supply chain compliance, worker well‐being, climate and energy, raw materials, water stewardship, chemical management, waste, circularity and diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I).
Sherman told Sourcing Journal that the Covid-19 pandemic shaped much of the discussion for this year’s report and overall ESG goals. Adding onto that, consumers’ climate concerns pushed the retailer further to prioritize areas like emissions, waste and materials.
“We see the expectations and the interest from our customers, we know that our customer cares about these topics and that they want to support purpose-minded companies,” Sherman said. “The big step that we’re taking here is really focusing on those environmental initiatives where we believe we can have a positive impact across areas like reductions in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, use of more sustainable raw materials and diversion of waste. When we look at climate change, we think that it is the most critical environmental issue of our time.”
In calculating its GHG emissions baseline, The Children’s Place now annually updates its progress on reducing its carbon footprint, in line with the following science-based goals approved by the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi).
At the start of 2020, The Children’s Place set its first GHG emissions goals, aiming to reduce absolute scope 1 and scope 2 GHG emissions across its global operations by 30 percent by 2030, from 2018 levels. Scope 1 emissions come from sources operations under the control of the retailer, such as its facilities and vehicles, while scope 2 emissions originate from indirect measures such as the company’s electricity, heating and cooling.
From the same 2018 baseline, The Children’s Place wants to cut absolute scope 3 GHG emissions from purchased goods and product transport by 30 percent by 2030 as well. These scope 3 emissions fall outside the retailer’s jurisdiction, namely taking place throughout the supply chain.
According to Sherman, the specialty apparel retailer plans to cut water usage by 25 percent by 2023 by working with vendors to reduce water consumption in manufacturing and processing. The Children’s Place already has reduced its denim partners’ water consumption by six liters per unit, amounting to nearly 285,000 gallons of water conserved through those processes.
In particular, the company achieved a 17 percent reduction in water use at its top 20 denim and woven bottom factories, which represent “the lion’s share” of The Children’s Place’s business in these categories, according to Sherman.
Going hand in hand with this water stewardship is responsible chemical management. The retailer will be joining the Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals (ZDHC) initiative as part of the decision to further eliminate chemicals and instead use preferred alternatives.
The Children’s Place’s report also highlighted its newest brand, tween e-commerce label Sugar & Jade, saying that sustainability and community are part of the overall core vision for the retailer going forward.
The ESG goals extend to the people working for the organization, whether at the headquarters or at the company’s stores. The Children’s Place recently set a goal to double the number of Black employees at its U.S. headquarters in Secaucus, N.J. And this need for diversity extends all the way to the top, with women comprising more than 50 percent of the company’s board of directors and senior leadership team.
The report states that 64 percent of the company’s associates identify as racially or ethnically diverse. Racially or ethnically diverse associates represented 70 percent of new hires and promotions during fiscal 2020.
“We believe diversity makes us a stronger company,” Sherman said. “Teams operating in inclusive environments outperform others. We’re proud of our diverse teams that we have in place, and we recognize and celebrate the strong gender and racial representation that we have across the company. That’s just a part of how we approach the workforce.”
The company’s goals and initiatives are informed by the Sustainable Accounting Standards Board (SASB) standards, the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) standards, and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).