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Ralph Lauren and Dow Explain How to Dye Cotton More Sustainably

Ralph Lauren Corp. and Dow are open-sourcing a cotton-dyeing platform designed to tackle water scarcity and pollution.

The two companies published on Wednesday a “step by step” guide to using EcoFast Pure, a Dow-developed cotton pre-treatment solution that they say requires 90 percent fewer process chemicals, 50 percent less water and 40 percent less energy using existing dyeing equipment. It also generates 60 percent less carbon dioxide than conventional means, which could help brands struggling to cut greenhouse-gas emissions and meet ambitious climate targets.

“As fashion supply chains look to recover from impacts of the pandemic, there is a critical window to build more sustainable practices into production processes,” said Mary Draves, chief sustainability officer at Dow. “By collaborating today to scale a less resource-intensive dyeing process, we can help address pressing challenges, like climate change and water resiliency, in the long term.”

The technology is part of Ralph Lauren’s new Color on Demand system, which it used to outfit Team U.S.A. for the ​​2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics Games. The brand, which recently joined sustainable think tank Global Fashion Agenda as a strategic partner, plans to use the platform to dye more than 80 percent of its solid cotton products by 2025. Traditional fabric dyeing requires trillions of water every year, generating a significant portion of the world’s wastewater, according to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. By making their manual freely available on the Dow website, Ralph Lauren and Dow say they hope to encourage the uptake of EcoFast Pure and push cotton dyeing in a more sustainable direction.

Ralph Lauren, which has referred to climate change as one of the most complex and challenging issues at present, previously pledged to zero out all greenhouse gas emissions from its operations and value chain by 2040. Though fashion is usually about competition and exclusivity, protecting the environment requires shared solutions, it said.

“If we want to protect our planet for the next generation, we have to create scalable solutions that have never been considered before. This requires deep and sometimes unexpected collaboration and a willingness to break down the barriers of exclusivity,” said Halide Alagöz, chief product and sustainability officer at Ralph Lauren Corp. “We are proud to have partnered with Dow on this innovation and to share it openly with our industry, with the hope that it will help transform how we preserve and use water in our global supply chains.”