We work with the bluesign® standard to reduce supply chain impacts.
Our rapidly growing engagement with bluesign technologies is the cornerstone of our efforts to drive improvements in our supply chain. The bluesign® standard is a rigorous, independent system to ensure that factories address harmful chemicals at the fabric level and meet demanding requirements for consumer and worker safety, efficient resource use and environmental protection. The bluesign® system also requires that mills meet the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA), the European REACH (Registration, Evaluation, and Authorisation of Chemicals) protocols and all other relevant requirements.
We have aggressive goals for increasing the percentage of bluesign® approved fabric we develop each season and aim to convert 65% of our fabric to the bluesign® standard by 2015. Our approach has always been to prioritize our high volume fabrics and our largest suppliers to create the greatest and most immediate impact.
“We create shared value by helping our mill partners reduce their environmental impacts and costs, making them more attractive partners to apparel companies demanding sustainable materials. In return, the mills help us provide more environmentally responsible products for our customers and indirectly mitigate price increases through resource efficiency. They also understand that we award our business preferentially to mills that are bluesign® system partners, so they are investing in a long-term relationship with us.”
— Adam Mott, Corporate Sustainability Manager
In addition to working with our primary suppliers, we aggressively worked to influence additional supply chain partners to engage with the bluesign® system in 2010. These included trim, synthetic insulation, down insulation, buckles, cording, webbing, and seam tape companies. Next, we will work to bring our thread, label, footwear, and equipment materials partners into the bluesign® system.
Sourcing with the bluesign® standard
* Our 2011 collections are designed and ordered in 2010 so we are able to report
2011 product data in this report.
Peter Waeber, CEO, bluesign technologies, describes how the bluesign® standard works:
“The apparel industry has a history of very serious environmental problems. When textile manufacturing moved in a short timeframe from Europe and the United States to Asia, the know-how was not transferred along with the orders. Suddenly we had people making the same fabric using twice the amount of water, with poor quality wastewater treatment and air emissions and with a difficult life for their workers. This was often occurring in countries without strong regulatory programs and in water-scarce areas.
When I first launched the bluesign® standard ten years ago, we were focused on resource efficiency and optimization but we soon realized we had to start by eliminating harmful chemicals at the earliest stage of the process. To protect workers and consumers, we have developed our own risk-based list of over 900 substances. We prohibit some processes and chemicals (rated black), allow others with special process controls (these are grey — such as for performance fabrics) and allow outright those classified as blue. This is much easier than trying to remove a chemical once it is in a fabric
We give each mill a detailed, individualized assessment that allows them to compare their energy and water use per kilogram of fabric to that of a mill using Best Available Technology. One manufacturer was using 680 liters while another used 30 liters by weight to produce the same shirt. Continuous dyeing uses 4 liters of water instead of 200+ liters. Usually the savings are huge. In places where the owners may not be as sensitive to environmental concerns, the financial savings usually sway them.
Sometimes we have trouble getting mills to work with us. We do a very comprehensive assessment with our experts on-site for the screening; the whole process takes approximately two and a half months. Then they do another re-screening once mills have implemented our standards and are ready to certify their articles. The cost of participating varies depending on the complexity and amount of chemicals involved. Even though the payback period for this fee and for any equipment upgrades is usually only three months, there are no guarantees and the initial cost remains a barrier for some.
“Success came with our partnership with The North Face, one of the biggest companies we work with. They have the big orders and they have the power to make things happen in the supply chain. They are helping us expand into more mills and generate even more improvements.”
— Peter Waeber, CEO, bluesign technologies
While the data gathered from bluesign technologies’ work with textile mills is confidential, we have an agreement that gives us aggregated data from our bluesign® screened suppliers. This allows us to track the impact of the program from year to year. We are extremely proud of the environmental savings we have realized as a result of implementing this system — a testament to our strategy of identifying and addressing our biggest impacts first.
Supply Chain Environmental Savings for Our Products
2010 and 2011*
* Our 2011 collections are determined in 2010 and thus this data can be included in our 2010 report.
** Conversion factors per U.S. DOE and U.S. EPA
*** Average tanker truck volume = 500 gallons
bluesign® savings videos
To learn more about how we save resources and eliminate chemicals in our supply chain, please watch the three short videos below.