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Japan-based Fast Retailing Group aims to have 20% fewer GHG emissions in its supply chain, 90% fewer emissions in its stores and offices, and to increase the proportion of recycled materials to about 50% by FY2030

Unveiling its fiscal 2030 sustainability targets and action plan today (2 December), Fast Retailing said its key initiative is to make good clothes that are better for the environment.

Its ‘LifeWear’ concept means the company creates clothing designed to make everyone’s life better and not only emphasises quality, design, and price but also meets ‘good clothing’ from the standpoint of the environment.

Fast Retailing wants to address its care for the environment in all processes from manufacturing to transport and sales and by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and waste to establish a production process that has a light environmental impact.

“For a more sustainable business, Fast Retailing has established an environmental policy that employs revolutionary technologies to reduce the burden on the global environment,” it says.

The company sees climate change as one of its most pressing issues, upholding targets set out in the Paris Agreement, and acting to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.

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By GlobalData

In September, the company announced its targets to reduce GHG emissions by 2030 have been approved as Science-Based Targets by the SBT initiative (SBTi).

Fast Retailing group senior executive officer Koji Yanai said: “Providing apparel that customers will cherish for a long time has been the aim of our business for many years. With environmental problems and other serious global issues becoming increasingly evident, we have further advanced our philosophy, and are pursuing measures to show the world a completely new way for clothes to be, while contributing to the realization of a sustainable society.

“By moving forward with broad support and cooperation from customers and partner corporations, Fast Retailing will create the ‘New Industry’ of LifeWear. By making LifeWear available to more customers, we aim to conduct business in a way that improves the lives of people and societies throughout the world.”

Fast Retailing targets

Fast Retailing own-operations targets (stores and offices):

  • Reducing electricity consumption at stores through energy conservation initiatives, aiming for approximately 40% reductions at roadside stores and approximately 20% reductions at mall stores.
  • By the end of fiscal year (FY) 2021, eight Uniqlo stores in Japan achieved Gold Level certification by LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), the most widely-used green building rating system in the world.
  • Developing new, highly energy-efficient store formats, with an aim to launch a prototype store during 2023.
  • Switching electricity used by all Fast Retailing stores and key offices globally to renewable energy sources by FY2030. By August 2021, all 64 Uniqlo stores from nine markets in Europe had switched over to renewable energy. By the end of 2021, all stores in North America and in some countries in Southeast Asia will complete this switch.

Supply chain targets:

  • Using strong relationships with partner factories, Fast Retailing will ensure a planned reduction of greenhouse gas emissions across its supply chain, which account for 90% of the total emissions relating to the business.
  • By November 2021, defined conditions and issues at each of the core partner factories jointly accounting for 90% of Uniqlo and Gu manufacturing. Formulated plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and to implement energy efficiency, decarbonisation, and renewable energy initiatives.
  • It will have established processes and structure for 150 people from the manufacturing and sustainability departments to monitor and manage greenhouse gas reduction efforts.

Product targets:

  • Since 2019, Uniqlo has increasingly introduced recycled materials. By 2022 Spring/Summer, about 15% of polyester used derived from recycled PET bottles.
    o 2019SS: Some DRY-EX Polo Shirt products employed recycled polyester.
    o 2020FW: Some Fluffy Yarn Fleece products employed 30% recycled polyester.
    o 2021SS: Released waist bags using 30% recycled nylon.
  • The company is expanding its introduction of materials that place a lower burden on the environment, starting with synthetic fibres such as rayon and nylon.

Waste reduction initiatives

Realize “Zero Waste” early by reducing, replacing, re-using, and recycling materials used in the process of delivering clothes to customers

  • In July 2019, Fast Retailing enacted a group policy to abolish unnecessary single-use plastics.
  • Since September 2019, plastic shopping bags have gradually been replaced with more environmentally-friendly paper bags. In September 2020, Uniqlo and Gu introduced a charge for paper bags at all stores in Japan, where 70% of customers now decline shopping bags.
  • From 2019, GU launched an initiative to collect product hangers in stores and return these to factories for re-use.
  • From 2020, the company began consolidating packaging materials used in product transport into a single material to simplify recycling.
  • From 2021, to recycle packaging materials and waste from product transport, the company launched proof-of-concept areas for recyclables separation, collection, and processing in some Uniqlo and Gu stores.

Establishing supply chain transparency and traceability

Strengthen transparency and traceability to raw material level; identify and correct human rights, labour environment and environmental issues in the supply chain

  • Since 2017, Fast Retailing has published a list of core sewing partner factories, and since 2018, expanded the list to include core fabric mills. By March 2022, the company plans to publish a list of all sewing partner factories it has ongoing dealings with.
  • In addition to audits at garment factories and core fabric mills, the company aims to establish traceability across the whole supply chain, from upstream spinning mills to raw material level. Through Fast Retailing site visits, audits by third party organizations, and third-party certifications, the company will identify and correct any human rights or labour environment issues at an early stage.
  • In July 2021, the company formed a global project team of approximately 100 people to begin these operations. Starting from material procurement at the farthest point upstream, the company is carrying out due diligence for human rights across the entire supply chain to ensure the early detection of human rights violation risks.

Fast Retailing will also promote ethical and responsible procurement of raw materials, establishing procurement policies for both plant and animal-derived materials.

The company recently became the latest signatory of the Microfibre 2030 Commitment, a new global initiative to minimise the impact of microfibres on the natural environment.