Kontoor Brands Announces Plans for Water Conservation, Sustainable Cotton

(Credit: Kontoor)

by | Dec 16, 2021

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(Credit: Kontoor)

American lifestyle apparel company Kontoor Brands, maker of Lee and Wrangler denim, just released its 2020 Sustainability Report detailing its progress and plans for water conservation and sustainable cotton, among other environmental measures.

By deploying water-saving and recycling technologies, Kontoor has reduced water consumption by more than eight billion liters since 2008 and is on track to achieve its goal of saving 10 billion liters of water by 2025. Kontoor highlights its Indigood Program, which initially targeted water savings during the fabric construction phase of the apparel supply chain with innovations such as foam-dyed denim. It has since been expanded to include any water savings technology in apparel fabric production that uses at least 90% less water than conventional fabric production, citing a laser-based fabric finishing technology as an example.

With regard to sustainable cotton, 50% of the 120 million+ units of apparel and accessories produced by Kontoor in 2020 were made with sustainable cotton. By 2025, Kontoor plans to source 100% of its cotton from sustainable suppliers.

Kontoor also discussed its waste reduction efforts, reportedly diverting two-thirds (67%) of its waste from landfills by recycling, upcycling, or downcycling, including repurposing cardboard boxes for product shipment, employing reusable pallets, and using recyclable packaging materials. 

Kontoor is partnering with eco-minded organizations to improve its environmental performance in other areas. Its collaboration with biotech company Infinited Fiber Company saw the development of technology that enables embedding chemically recycled fiber into jeans and jackets. Traditional mechanical recycling cuts fiber so small that it is no longer usable. Chemical recycling does not have this limitation, allowing for a more sustainable product.

Additional environmental initiatives outlined by Kontoor include:

  • Using 100% preferred chemistry by 2023 for all of its chemicals, such as dyes and finishes.
  • Creating full transparency for its products and materials throughout its supply chain, from farm (for cotton) or manufacturer (for synthetics) to final product.
  • Increasing renewable energy use at its owned and operated facilities.
  • Establishing science-based targets for greenhouse gas emissions reductions in 2022.

Kontoor spun off from VF Corporation in 2019, another apparel company home to brands such as Dickies and North Face. In October, VF announced its own sustainability improvements, which included a boost to its renewably sourced electricity, efficiency improvements in lighting, heating, and cooling, and a reduction in waste.

Kontoor noted that it is an outlier in advancing its sustainability efforts through the pandemic, with many companies “pushing pause…during these tough times.” In October, a report by climate change solutions consultant Climate Board found that despite strong pledges, the fashion industry is not on track to meet its indirect (Scope 3) emissions goals.

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