The materials we use to make our products come from nature: what we choose and how we source these materials has implications for the environment.
We consider elements such as water use, land impact, animal welfare, chemical use, and human health in our approach to sustainable materials. These considerations help us to prioritize which fibers and materials we use.
MORE SUSTAINABLE COTTON
Conventional cotton growing methods often require large quantities of pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers. These can have negative impacts on the environment. In addition, cotton needs a lot of water to grow, which is an increasingly scarce natural resource in many cotton-producing regions. In order to improve the environmental profile of cotton, Esprit became a member of the Better Cotton Initiative in February 2016. The Better Cotton Initiative is a non-profit organization that takes a holistic approach to sustainable cotton production. The initiative trains farmers on how to best manage the environmental, social and economic aspects of cotton production. It supports the people who grow cotton to implement more environmentally-friendly cultivation methods that also help farmers reduce costs and increases profits.
By the end of 2020, we aim to ensure that 50 % of our cotton comes from more sustainable sources, including from the Better Cotton Initiative, certified organic cotton, and certified recycled cotton.
We consider organic cotton a more sustainable option as well. Currently, less than 1% of the world’s total cotton production is grown organically. This makes it more difficult to source organic cotton. Organic cotton is grown without pesticides or synthetic fertilizers and according to strict standards. Esprit has increased the range of organic cotton in our collections. We are using the Organic Content Standard and the Global Organic Textile Standard to trace and certify our organic cotton. Both standards verify the presence and amount of organically grown materials in a final garment by tracking the chain of custody from the first textile processing step to the end product.
We also focus on increasing the use of recycled cotton, which comes from post- and pre-consumer waste. Post-consumer waste is for example old garments that come from donations. Pre-consumer waste includes cutting scraps from production. The aim is to keep both sorts of waste out of landfill. We use the Recycled Claim Standard and the Global Recycling Standard to accurately represent the presence and amount of recycled material in our finished garments.
Polyester is a synthetic fiber that is often used in functional sportswear and blends. Polyester is made from oil and is not biodegradable. As alternative, we have increased the use of recycled polyester, which has been made from used PET bottles. This reduces waste and emissions, and encourages more thoughtful material selection. Esprit uses the Recycled Claim Standard and the Global Recycling Standard to ensure recycled materials are indeed being used. Both standards affirm the presence and amount of recycled material in a finished garment.
Cellulosic materials, such as viscose, rayon and lyocell are manufactured artificial fiber, as opposed to natural fibers like cotton. The raw material is derived from natural sources of cellulose, often trees. In comparison to synthetic fibers, such as polyester, are cellulose fibers bio-degradable. In order to responsibly source these fabrics, the cellulose needs to come from properly managed forests, as opposed to endangered or old-growth forests. Additionally, the chemical processes should be as efficient as possible, aiming for a closed-loop system. We partnered with the environmental non-profit organization CanopyStyle in September of 2015 to ensure that our cellulose fabrics do not come from at-risk forests. We support a future that does not exploit ancient and endangered forests to create man-made cellulosic fabric. For more information, please see Esprit’s Policy on Protecting Forests through Fabric Choices.
At the end of April 2018, Esprit committed to the Roadmap towards responsible viscose as outlined by the Changing Markets Foundation. Therefore, Esprit commits to improve the manufacturing process of viscose and modal fibres. Following the roadmap, Esprit will take all the steps to promote and improve the sustainable production of viscose and modal fibres. Esprit will clearly communicate procurement requirements and evaluate the environmental impact of the production process and social impacts of the suppliers along the whole supply chain. The goal is to minimise the effects of harmful chemicals in the manufacturing processes by adopting a closed loop system.
Lyocell is a biodegradable fiber made mostly from eucalyptus trees. Eucalyptus trees grow comparably fast, require less water and nearly no pesticides. Therefore, this fiber is considered a more sustainable option. Around 10% of our products with cellulose fibers are made with Lyocell.
MORE SUSTAINABLE SYNTHETIC LEATHER
Synthetic leather, which is generally polyurethane-based, allows us to create leather-like products without using material derived from animal. However, the challenge is that the manufacture of conventional polyurethane (PU) requires a solvent called DMF, which can be hazardous for workers and can pollute the environment. We are working to shift our production from conventional polyurethane to water-based polyurethane that does not use DMF. Our target is to switch all synthetic leather to water-based polyurethane by 2025. To learn more about our research work on DMF-free synthetic leather, please read our case study.