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Unifi Outlines Progress in Sustainability Report

Fiber manufacturer Unifi Inc.’s new sustainability report documents its progress over the past year.

Among the key accomplishments, Unifi is prioritizing new, innovative products and processes to reduce total energy and water impacts throughout the life cycles of its products and those of its customers. It is also pledging to continue applying life cycle assessment to its products to provide a pathway to further reduce the environmental impact for customers, brands and end consumers.

“Unifi’s commitment to environmental, social and governance responsibility is at the forefront of everything we do,” Meredith Boyd, senior vice president of technology, innovation and sustainability at Unifi, said. “This latest sustainability report highlights the hard work our organization has put into the last year, making it one of our most impactful years since our founding a half century ago.

“We invested in technology and product development that prioritized reducing our environmental impact and took even further steps toward sustainability through enhanced transparency,” she added.

Headquartered in Greensboro, N.C., Unifi manufactures and sells innovative recycled and synthetic products made from polyester and nylon to knitters and weavers that produce fabric for the apparel, hosiery, home furnishings, automotive, industrial and other end-use markets.

Unifi said sales of Unifi’s flagship recycled brand Repreve continue to grow quarter over quarter. Significantly, during the year six of Unifi’s seven owned and operated facilities achieved zero waste to landfill manufacturing.

Boyd cited sustainable actions such as an investment in eAFK EvoCooler Texturing Technology that reduces the environmental impact across Unifi’s operations, decreasing customers’ indirect impact downstream, and continued investment in emerging mechanisms and technologies in pursuit of more circular solutions, like expanding Repreve textile takeback efforts and advanced recycling technologies.

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“These developments are aimed at expansion of responsible solutions for our customers and our planet,” she said. “Our focus on initiatives like these allows us to grow our existing textile take-back programs and aid our customers and partners in creating new ones.”

The company’s facility in Reidsville, N.C. completed a lighting upgrade, switching all ceiling lights to LED bulbs. The project is estimated to reduce the operation’s carbon emissions by 612 metric tons of CO2e per year.

All of Unifi’s owned and operated facilities are expected to complete the Higg Facility Environmental Module (FEM) for 2021, fulfilling the company’s vision of transparency across manufacturing processes. Established by the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, the Higg FEM is the most commonly adopted facility environmental performance assessment. It will allow Unifi to communicate to customers its commitment to environmental management, while validating and benchmarking its performance within the industry.

CEO Eddie Ingle noted in the report that in July, the Higg Materials Sustainability Index confirmed that Repreve textured polyester yarn manufactured in the U.S. reduces global warming potential 42 percent compared to conventional virgin polyester. The company also noted that it believes transparent collaboration is the key to building a better understanding and path forward on the issue of microfiber shedding. That’s why it joined the Microfibre Consortium to work with industry partners on this topic.

“As a global leader in textile solutions, we have a responsibility to be a vocal and engaged participant in the pursuit of a better future for people and our planet,” Ingle said. “I’m proud of the significant progress we have made over the last year, including taking further steps towards our goal of recycling 30 billion bottles from landfills in 2022. Through strategic innovation in our processes and the inherent ingenuity of our people, we’ll continue making progress towards our vision of working today for the good of tomorrow.”

Unifi has developed the U Trust verification program to aid in supply chain transparency by mitigating risk and validating product information. This comprehensive certification program aims to offer Repreve customers greater transparency.

Fabrics made with Repreve contain FiberPrint, a proprietary tracer technology used to analyze and validate Repreve fiber content claims and composition. From any point in the supply chain, using the FiberPrint tracer technology, Unifi can test products to verify Repreve is
present and in the intended amounts.