This post by Hannah Ritchie originally appeared here on Sustainable Brands March 23, 2015 and is cross-posted here with their permission.
International fashion brand EILEEN FISHER has announced its new Vision2020 campaign, detailing the strides it plans to take in the next five years to attain 100 percent sustainability in its practices.
In a national advertising campaign about its efforts, the eco-conscious company is promoting the steps it plans to take in eight defined categories: materials, chemistry, water, carbon, conscious business practices, fair wages & benefits, worker voice, and worker & community happiness.
“To create a truly responsible supply chain, we need to scrutinize everything we do, from the field to the factory to the landfill,” said Candice Reffe, Co-Creative Officer at EILEEN FISHER. “We need to take a hard look at what’s often swept under the rug — toxins, carbon emissions and low worker pay, to name a few. It won’t be easy. We’ll need the help of our customers, our manufacturing partners, and like-minded brands. And we’ll do it with two simple words: No excuses.”
A core element of the brand’s plan is to continue to improve the sustainability of its resources and materials. In the next five years, it hopes to attain better fiber sustainability by using only organic linen and cotton materials in its products, swap Tencel for rayon (Tencel is a next-generation form of rayon fiber, and deemed more environmentally friendly), as well as certifying that all wool has been provided by sheep raised by humane farming methods.
Fabric coloring can often be a major headache for textile companies trying to clean up their manufacturing processes. EILEEN FISHER plans to continue its partnership with bluesign® technologies to improve its impact in terms of chemical damage, water and energy consumption. As part of Vision2020, the brand aims to have 30 percent of its items bluesign® certified. The company also aims to branch beyond its own practices by collaborating with other textile companies to push demand for more responsible dyes in a bid to shift the industry standard.
While most companies are continuing to increase their consumption of natural and energy resources with business expansion, EILEEN FISHER aims to reverse this trend by using less water, producing less fabric waste and reducing its carbon emissions by investment in renewable energies. By 2020, the brand assures that its US operations will be better than carbon-neutral; they’ll actually be carbon-negative.
Sustainability goes beyond just environmental and resource concerns, however, and EILEEN FISHER says it will also focus on increasing its social contribution. In a bid to improve the livelihoods of the workers in its supply chain, the brand is focused on finding alternative supply chain sources that contribute fair wages, and are investing in additional programs such as The Handloom Project to improve rural community life.
To maintain brand and supply chain transparency and monitoring, the brand also plans to map its global supply chain, investigating its suppliers, factories, spinners and mills to ensure they are maintaining acceptable sourcing and working standards. It will be publishing updates on its progress for customers to follow online.
Another material issue in the fashion industry is fabric waste. EILEEN FISHER plans to continue its clothing recycling program to help reduce waste; the program is projected to recycle one million items, which the brand will then resell. If items aren’t suitable for resale, the designers plan to fashion the raw material into new products.
EILEEN FISHER says it hopes that its new Vision2020 framework will drive its practices towards total sustainability, and potentially inspire other companies to push towards a new conscientious norm for the fashion industry.
Fortunately, the ball is already rolling on that front, as a number of smaller fashion brands — including Two Birds Apparel, Rapanui and tonlé — have built their business models around achieving zero-waste and sustainable practices. Although each takes a slightly different approach, the end goal is the same: transforming fashion into a sustainable, ethical industry.
Sustainable Brands is a learning, collaboration, and commerce community of over 348,000 sustainable business leaders from around the globe. They produce content, events and other learning solutions designed to inspire, engage, and equip our community to profitably innovate for sustainability.