keeping our supply chain green

Responsibility in our supply chain also extends to the environmental practices involved in the manufacturing of our products. As we’ve begun improving supply chain sustainability we’ve identified wastewater as the most impactful place to start. Working together with our production partners, we’ll continue to drive more and more sustainable manufacturing.

During production, factories discharge treated water into the surrounding environment. Companies and manufacturers must do their part to help protect vital freshwater basins around the world by treating this wastewater in an ecologically responsible manner, minimizing environmental impact.

In 2007, we joined the Business for Social Responsibility (BSR) Sustainable Water Group (SWG), a collaborative initiative of fashion brands, to explore different ways to minimize the environmental impact of manufacturing in our supply chain and at an industry-wide level. At that time, we also began monitoring water quality reports submitted by manufacturers in our supply chain.

As we analyzed these reports, we found that different facilities used a range of sampling methods. We concluded that by collecting our own samples, we could produce more consistent and comprehensive data. In 2010, we implemented a system to collect and evaluate our own wastewater samples, ensuring accurate test results using BSR standards. We conducted another round of these wastewater evaluations in 2012 and early 2013.

Taking the baseline information from these evaluations, we developed the American Eagle Outfitters Wastewater Management Standard for our production partners. The Standard outlines practices and monitoring requirements for our suppliers to ensure our apparel is produced with responsible chemical management and limited water contamination during manufacturing. For our suppliers, we want to communicate our commitment to eliminating toxins in their wastewater, while also providing sufficient time to implement changes to make this goal a reality. In 2014, we launched Wastewater Management Standard trainings with key suppliers to begin full roll-out in pursuit of our sustainability goal. So far, we have trained our American Eagle Outfitters sourcing and design teams to understand what we will be asking of our suppliers in the years to come. We have also piloted assessments and effluent testing with strategic suppliers.

AEO (including our American Eagle and aerie brands) became a member of the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) in 2015. BCI is an organization that makes global cotton production better for the people who produce it, better for the environment it grows in and better for the apparel sector’s future, by developing Better Cotton as a sustainable mainstream commodity. As part of its efforts, BCI works with cotton farmers in countries like China, India, Pakistan and Brazil to help them improve their social, economic, and environmental conditions.

By working with BCI, we support more sustainably produced cotton – thus using less water and pesticide. We are working with our cotton mills to begin to incorporate Better Cotton into our supply chain and are excited about this new partnership.