We continue working to implement environmental best practices during the manufacture of our products so that we limit our impact on the environment and promote a cleaner and healthier planet. Our environmental program evolves as we learn more about our global impact by looking at our product life cycle from start to finish.
factory WASTEWATER management
Apparel production involves a large quantity of water and if not treated properly, can present a threat to people and the environment. That’s why our supply chain environmental program has been focused on working with factories to make sure that water is safe when it is discharged. We communicate our commitment to eliminating toxins in factory wastewater through the AEO Wastewater Management Standard, which we launched in 2013. Our program is built around wastewater testing, factory training, and capacity building so that factories can truly implement change to better protect the environment. In the next phase of this program, we will be supporting factories to align with the AEO Wastewater Management Standard.
sustainable apparel coalition
In 2016, AEO joined the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC) along with more than 200 other members to implement a common industry approach for environmental assessments at factories. We are using the SAC’s Higg Index suite of tools to help us measure the environmental impacts of factory operations.
We worked with 120 factories, denim mills, and laundries to build awareness and understanding of the Higg Index and complete self-assessments to establish a baseline of performance. Moving forward, we will engage more factories and develop customized training based on our suppliers’ assessment results, increasing our focus on chemical and wastewater management to help factories improve their environmental performance.
Sustainable Denim Washing
Garment finishing is the last step in the manufacturing process where wash processes give denim the final desired look. We are working with key laundries to implement Jeanologia’s environmental impact monitoring (EIM) software as an initial step towards building more sustainable processes during garment finishing. The EIM software assesses the environmental impact of the garment finishing process across four areas: water consumption, energy consumption, chemical use, and worker health.
Once we establish a strong basis of understanding with laundries in how to use the software, we will measure the performance of wash processes starting with our highest-volume denim styles. The next step will be to develop targets and monitor progress to drive greater sustainability.
BETTER COTTON initiative
We use more cotton than any other raw material to make the jeans and tees our customers love to wear every day. That’s why we joined the Better Cotton Initiative in 2015. We want to make sure cotton is grown using more sustainable farming techniques and supports the livelihoods of the people who produce it.
To date, we’ve engaged key denim mills to educate them on sourcing more Better Cotton. We are working to increase the number of mills we work with in this program and expand our education efforts across other areas of our supply chain with the ultimate goal of increasing the total Better Cotton volume we source.
Similar to cotton, synthetic raw materials offer another opportunity for enhanced sustainability. Did you know that plastic water bottles can be used to make blue jeans? We started working with Unifi, Inc. and several of our key mills in 2015 to help us manufacture fabrics containing recycled or waste synthetic raw materials. Unifi has figured out a way to transform used plastic bottles into a recycled plastic fiber called REPREVE®, which can then be used in many different types of fabrics. So far, we’ve been focused on engaging key denim mills about sourcing REPREVE® fiber. We look forward to finding ways we can include more sustainable and innovative materials like recycled plastic water bottles in our apparel.