Blog: Beth WrightHow Levi Strauss is driving sustainable change

Beth Wright | 4 March 2019

The denim and jeans sector is having to work tirelessly to change perceptions over its sustainability, or lack of it. But change is nigh, promises Michael Kobori, vice president of social and environmental sustainability at Levi Strauss & Co. The company recently expanded its Partnership for Cleaner Textiles (PaCT) programme to four countries in Asia and is now engaging in one of its most ambitious plans to date, with a target to cut carbon emissions across its supply chain by 40% by 2025. "At this point, that is the most aggressive target in the industry, we believe, in terms of both the magnitude and the timeframe," Kobori tells just-style.

Meanwhile, demand for greater transparency from apparel companies has led to sustainably sourced cotton gaining greater market share, according to Textile Exchange's first annual 2025 Sustainable Cotton Challenge report.

And UK industrial thread manufacturer Coats has launched a new strategy in which it sets out seven "ambitious" targets for 2022 across five priority areas which it says will accelerate progress towards a more sustainable future.

But in Australia, several brands selling apparel have been called out by Oxfam over their social responsibility practices. The charity alleges the brands are failing to protect garment workers in their Bangladeshi and Vietnamese supply chains, adding many are going hungry due to low wages.

On supply chains, and, as part of its efforts to boost profitability, US department store retailer Macy's Inc has outlined plans to trim its upper management structure. Macy's says this will allow better investment in areas such as improving supply chain efficiency and enhancing inventory management.

Also in the US, speciality retailer Gap Inc is to close 230 of its namesake brand stores amid plans to spin off its Old Navy brand into an independent, publicly traded company. The split will see Old Navy become a standalone company while the group's remaining Gap, Athleta, Banana Republic, Intermix and Hill City labels will operate under a yet-to-be-named business (NewCo).

Hong Kong-listed Esprit too is looking at plans to sharpen brand identity and improve its product offering, announcing it is to build a "new model for the future".

Meanwhile, changes in minimum wage rates are likely to be of significant concern to apparel brands and retailers sourcing from Southeast Asia in 2019, with pay in many countries continuing on an upward trajectory.

And US tariffs on US$200bn worth of imports from China are set to remain at 10% after President Donald Trump tweeted he will delay the increase to 25% which was scheduled to come into force on 1 March.

In other news, Gore warns its goal to commercialise the production of its polytetrafluorethylene (PTFE) membranes without the use of PFCs of Environmental Concern (PFCEC) will take longer than originally expected, UK footwear group Clarks names Giorgio Presca as its new CEONike retains its position as the world’s most valuable apparel brand, and American Eagle Outfitters  launches a rental subscription service for clothing.

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