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 things such as water use, land use, animal welfare, chemical use, and human health in our approach to sustainable materials, which prioritizes our most commonly-used fibers and materials.
Conventional cotton growing often requires large quantities of pesticides, herbicide and fertilizers, which can have a negative impact on the environment. In addition, cotton needs a lot 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 (BCI) in February 2016. BCI is a non-profit organization that takes a holistic approach to sustainable cotton production by training 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.
In addition to being a member of the Better Cotton Initiative, we also focus on organic cotton. Less than 1% of the world’s total cotton production is organic, which makes sourcing organic cotton more difficult. Organic cotton is grown without pesticides or synthetic fertilizers according to strict standards. Esprit has increased the range of organic cotton in our collections and we are using the Organic Content Standard (OCS) to trace and certify our organic cotton. The OCS, developed by non-profit organization Textile Exchange, verifies the presence and amount of organically grown materials in a final garment by tracking the chain of custody from the certified field to the end product.
By the end of 2020, we aim to ensure that 50 % of our cotton comes from more sustainable source, including BCI, certified organic cotton, and certified recycled cotton. More broadly, Esprit participates in the natural fibers working group of the Partnership for Sustainable Textiles, a German government sponsored multi-stakeholder initiative seeking to improve sustainability in the textile industry.
Esprit incorporates recycled materials as a strategy to reduce waste, reduce emissions, and encourage more thoughtful material selection. Esprit uses the Recycled Claim Standard (RCS) to ensure recycled materials are indeed being used. The RCS affirms the presence and amount of recycled material in a finished garment. Starting in fall 2017, we will start to increase the amount of products with recycled content.
Cellulosic materials, such as viscose, rayon and lyocell are manufactured artificial fibers, as opposed to natural fibers like cotton, or synthetic fibers like polyester. The raw material is derived from natural sources of cellulose, often trees. In order to responsibly source these fabrics, the cellulose needs to come from properly managed forests, as opposed to endangered or old-growth forests, and 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.
MORE SUSTAINABLE SYNTHETIC LEATHER
Synthetic leather, which is generally polyurethane-based, allows us to create leather-like products without animal-derived materials. 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 PU to water-based PU that does not use DMF. Our target is to switch all synthetic leather to water-based PU by 2025.