Published 4 years ago.
About a 6 minute read.
Wrangler is taking big steps to achieve sustainability. By tackling the industry’s biggest challenges, the jeans giant is carving out a competitive advantage and helping other apparel makers improve industry practices.
The global fashion industry has a large environmental footprint: It’s
responsible for 8 percent of all greenhouse gas
nearly 80 billion metric tons of
year; and there are over 8,000 different chemicals utilized by apparel makers to
produce clothing. What’s more, consumption is set to increase by over 60
Global fashion leaders have faced increasing pressure to take on
to meet growing demand and its impact on earth’s finite resources.
An apparel brand taking big steps to tackle sustainability is
Wrangler. The brand and its parent company,
Kontoor Brands, view environmental and social
stewardship as a key to success.
By tackling the industry’s biggest challenges, Wrangler is carving out a
competitive advantage and helping other apparel makers improve industry
practices. The company is focusing its efforts on a circular supply chain; and
instead of adhering to fast-fashion trends, Wrangler has its sights on a cradle
to cradle supply
In this way, the brand hopes to reduce the toll of fashion on the environment
and preserve resources for generations to come.
Supply chain management is at the core of Wrangler’s sustainability plan. The
brand is investing deeply in finding new ways to improve soil health, water
usage and dying techniques, and to nurture the next generation of farming that
is the lifeblood of the apparel industry.
Soil health is critical to agricultural productivity and sustainability.
Wrangler relies on the soil and the farmers that cultivate it to supply them
with raw materials like cotton, necessary to make clothing.
“Preserving and enhancing the health of our soil is critical and necessary to
the preservation of America’s denim heritage and future generations of people
who work the
land,” wrote Roian
Atwood, Wrangler’s Director of Sustainability.
Wrangler works with scientists and specialists to enhance soil
The brand is implementing techniques including no-till, cover crops, and crop
and grazing rotations to supplement organic matter and microbial organisms in
the ground. These practices lead to higher yields for farmers and reduce
associated carbon emissions. They also help preserve natural habitats and
Wrangler is also sharing its internal findings with future leaders. In
partnership with the National Future Farmers of America, North Carolina,
and the USDA’s National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS),
Wrangler held a Land Stewardship
students at its Greensboro headquarters. By investing in soil health, Wrangler
is able to advance industry practices, reduce its impact and strengthen its
Production of cotton — the foundation of most denim — has historically used
massive amounts of water, as well as chemicals that harm the planet. Wrangler is
dedicated to using its scale and purchasing power to reduce the negative impact
of the cotton industry. Championing issues that go beyond your brand or industry
is an essential aspect of leading with purpose. In 2017, Wrangler started a
— this group consists of companies, scholars and nonprofits dedicated to
improving cotton farming. Partners such as Cotton Inc., Soil Health
Institute, the E3 growing platform, Field to
Texas Alliance for Water Conservation, The Nature Conservancy, North
Carolina State University, the NRCS and others help Wrangler and the apparel
industry shift towards producing more sustainable cotton. The company’s plan for
2020 is to work with its cotton farmers to help them implement these best
practices across soil health, water management and more.
Internationally, Wrangler is an active member of the Better Cotton
Initiative (BCI), which works to improve environmental and social practices in
the global cotton industry. Wrangler and its cousin brand, Lee, augmented
the purchase of BCI-certified cotton from 700 MT to over 8,000 MT in just two
years. What’s more, Wrangler has set sustainability
decrease the overall footprint. By 2025, Wrangler plans to reduce the impact of
its primary materials 35 percent. By then, it will also ensure all non-US or
Australian cotton adheres to sustainability practices.
On average, it takes roughly 1,800
water to make a single pair of
but Wrangler is implementing water-conservation technologies in its
manufacturing plants. In fact, between 2007 to 2016, Wrangler reduced its water
3 billion liters; the brand’s goal is to cut back water use by 20 percent from
2012 levels at all finishing facilities by 2020. Wrangler reduces water
consumption by implementing techniques such as changing the way it applies
detergent in the finishing process. By making small changes in detergent
application, the brand was able to minimize water use by 28 percent in the
finishing process. The company also uses efficiency measures such as water
pressure and fixture best practice, and is working on water recycling and
cleaning strategies such as microorganism filtration. These practices have led
some manufacturing facilities to be able to use roughly 45 percent recycled
water. By addressing water use, Wrangler is cutting back on supply-side costs,
as well as advancing the industry.
The typical denim-dyeing process requires lots of water and chemicals. Wrangler
is leveraging its position to create innovative sustainable dyeing solutions. In
partnership with Texas Tech University and Tejidos Royo, Wrangler is
exploring foam dyes with smaller environmental
and collaborating with Stony Creek Colors,
which uses natural indigo dyes. Most commercial brands use petroleum-based
indigo to reduce costs and increase scale. Alternatively, natural indigo uses
plant-based indigo to create the classic blue jean color. Natural indigo can
also be used in commercial dying machines, making it easy to incorporate into
existing supply chains. Wrangler uses Stony Creek Colors’ natural indigo in
collection and plans
to explore further collaboration. Such environmentally conscious innovation not
only improves its sustainability profile, it also advances its brand image and
Wrangler’s commitment to sustainability is guiding the brand’s business and
innovation strategy. By innovating at scale, Wrangler is positioning itself as
an industry leader and carving out a competitive advantage that will drive
long-term growth for the company in a marketplace that now demands truly
A version of this post first appeared on the We First blog on April 24, 2019.
Published Oct 8, 2019 2pm EDT / 11am PDT / 7pm BST / 8pm CEST
Simon Mainwaring is the author of Lead With We, the Wall Street Journal bestseller that shows how companies address purpose, sustainability, and climate challenges in ways that build their business. He’s the founder and CEO of the award-winning strategic brand consultancy, We First, that’s a B Corp ‘Best For The World’ Honoree and a Real Leaders Top 50 keynote speaker in the World. He hosts the influential ‘Lead With We’ podcast, is a columnist for the CMO Network in Forbes, and wrote the New York Times bestseller, We First. He’s been a Featured Expert and Jury Member for the Sustainable Development Goals at the Cannes Lions Festival and U.S. One Show for Sustainable Development.