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Uniqlo Owner Will Source Half Its Materials From Recycled Sources

Uniqlo owner Fast Retailing has pledged to source half of its materials from recycled sources by 2030 as part of a larger sustainability push that seeks to “emphasize care for the environment in all processes” from manufacturing to transportation and sales.

The Japanese retailer, the world’s third-largest apparel purveyor in terms of revenue after Inditex and H&M, said it plans to advance its LifeWear concept of “clothing designed to make everyone’s life better” by “sharply reducing” greenhouse-gas emissions and waste and accelerating its transition to a new business model that embraces both sustainability and growth while “safeguarding human rights in all processes.”

By spring/summer 2022, for instance, some 15 percent of polyester employed will come from recycled PET bottles. Fast Retailing will also be expanding its introduction of materials that “place a lower burden on the environment,” beginning with synthetic fibers such as rayon and nylon. It will also be developing new reuse and recycling services and technologies to extend the life of its products post-purchase.

To improve overall transparency, the company plans to publish a list of all cut-and-sew supplier factories by March 2022. It also aims to establish traceability across the broader supply chain, from spinning to raw material creation. Through Fast Retailing site visits, audits by third-party organizations and third-party certifications, it said, the firm will “identify and correct any human rights or labor environment issues at an early stage” with increased due diligence.

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“Providing apparel that customers will cherish for a long time has been the aim of our business for many years,” Koji Yanai, group senior executive officer of Fast Retailing, said in a statement. “With environmental problems and other serious global issues becoming increasingly evident, we have further advanced our philosophy, and are pursuing measures to show the world a completely new way for clothes to be, while contributing to the realization of a sustainable society.”

Fast Retailing said it has positioned climate change as one of its most pressing issues by committing to reducing absolute greenhouse-gas emissions from its own operations, such as stores and offices, by 90 percent from a 2019 baseline by 2030 and absolute greenhouse-gas emissions from raw materials, fabric and garment production by 20 percent over the same period. These targets, Fast Retailing said, were approved by the Science Based Targets initiative and are in line with efforts necessary to achieve Paris Agreement goals. It also plans to achieve net-zero by 2050.

To get there, the GU, J Brand, Helmut Lang and Theory parent plans to reduce electricity consumption at stores through energy conservation initiatives, with a goal of roughly 40 percent reductions at roadside stores and approximately 20 percent reductions at mall stores. By the end of 2021, eight Uniqlo stores in Japan will have achieved Gold Level certification of green building rating system Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, better known as LEED. Fast Retailing also plans to develop new “highly energy-efficient” store formats, with a prototype store launching sometime in 2023.

All electricity used by Fast Retailing stores and key offices globally will also stem from renewable sources by 2030, though all stores in North America and in some countries in Southeast Asia, along with all 64 Uniqlo stores from nine markets in Europe, have already made the switch or will do so by the end of the year. Meanwhile, the company will be working with core partner factories that make up 90 percent of Uniqlo and GU manufacturing to implement energy efficiency, decarbonization and renewable energy schemes.

“By moving forward with broad support and cooperation from customers and partner corporations, Fast Retailing will create the ‘new industry’ of LifeWear,” Yanai said. “By making LifeWear available to more customers, we aim to conduct business in a way that improves the lives of people and societies throughout the world.”