Living in the world of fast fashion, we have unfortunately become accustomed to rapidly purchasing and discarding clothing at low costs. Due to a large change in our buying behaviours, the average consumer buys “60% more clothing than 20 years ago” (George Kell, Forbes, Can Fashion be sustainable, 2018). As a consequence, our world has undoubtedly witnessed a rise in waste due to the industry being directly responsible for “up to 10% of global CO2 emissions, 20% of the world’s industrial wastewater, 24% of insecticides, and 11% of pesticides use”(George Kell, Forbes, “Can Fashion be sustainable,” 2018). With growing concerns around climate change, executives have been transforming their business models to improve their supply chains and minimize undesirable environmental effects, while consumers are rounding a phase of heightened awareness in regards to their purchasing habits and the environmental repercussions. One globally renowned brand leading by example is denim mogul, G-Star. Infamous for their cutting-edge approach, G-Star is helping bring fashion into the age of sustainability.

 

In order to address environmental issues in relation to the fashion industry, sustainability has become a number one priority for CEOs across the world. Brands today are continuously working to improve all stages of the product lifecycle, from design and manufacturing to transparency and efficient water usage. Denim brand G-Star is notorious for their avant-garde approach to going green and launching world-class initiatives such as ‘Raw for the Ocean’ in collaboration with musical artist Pharrell Williams, which is focused on denim spun from recycled ocean plastic. Sustainability has always been of importance to the company, and “in 2006, we realized that sustainability needed to be integrated into the heart of our business in a formal way; that’s when we officially started our Corporate Responsibility department,” stateFrouke Bruinsma, the Director of Corporate Responsibility for G-Star.


After her career as legal counsel
, Bruinsma went on to establish this corporate Responsibility department reporting directly to the CEO. She built the department around four pillars: Responsible Supply Chain, Sustainable Products, Sustainable Operations, and Community Involvement. This is keeping in mind, Frouke says, “When we design and produce, we must do that for the future. If we still want to be here as a denim brand in a hundred years from now, it is crucial for us to think innovatively about the impact we have on people and the planet.” As a true sustainable pioneer, she notes that “it’s important to understand that innovation is at the very core of our DNA, and sustainable innovations are naturally a part of that. Innovating for the future also means taking responsibility for the social and environmental impact we have.

 As a process of continuous improvement, the Corporate Responsibility program naturally evolved over the years. With the progression of the program, Frouke encountered certain obstacles:The biggest challenge is how to scale and accelerate the adaptation of our innovations in order to have a meaningful impact. We, as a brand, alone cannot change the entire denim industry,” she notes. As a result of such challenges, the world’s first cradle to Cradle Gold Certified™ denim fabric was developed together with the G-Star partners. They created this while giving “an open access to actual denim fabric and our findings to other brands via the Fashion Positive Library,” she explains. The library allowed the brand to share the cutting-edge “revolutionary hydrosulfite-free, indigo technology,” which was introduced in order to make the fabric together with other mills,“ so they can adapt positive denim practices in their own productions” at the manufacturing stage.

There are, however, remaining elements that still need to change but are more difficult to impact. Frouke references a few, including how to clean and recycle the waste that was not designed to be cleaned nor recycled or how to scale and accelerate sustainable innovation and consumer education/behaviour/demands which play a crucial role in expediating the change for good across all industries. Initiatives to address these are not an easy task. Last, but not least, Bruinsma mentions the importance of changing different governments and their policies.

As there are a number of factors that still need to be altered in order to implement change, G-Star has already reached incredible milestones, having launched Our Most Sustainable Jeans Ever; the G-Star Elwood RFTPi jean’. This particular denim product was developed “by analyzing each part of the denim design process and exploring how to reduce the environmental impact at every stepThis jean marks a milestone in sustainable denim manufacturing for us but also for the industry.”

By partnering with Dystar and Artistic Milliners in 2016, G-Star created the world’s most sustainable denim fabric from“organic cotton, grown without synthetic fertilizers and pesticidesand the world’s cleanest indigo technology which uses 15% less indigo, 70% less chemicals, requires no hydrosulfite, and produces no salt by-product during the reduction and dyeing process, consequently saving water and leaving a clean and recyclable water effluent,” she explains. Frouke continued that the brand is extremely proud that “the result was the World’s first Cradle to Cradle Certified™ Gold denim fabric whose chemistry presents zero risk for people and planet.”From washing to zippers and rivets, G-Star is dedicated to recyclable elements, staying away from harmful chemicals, and disseminating information on how to prolong the life of consumer garments.

Sustainability is rapidly developing and becoming newly embedded in organizations’ DNA. Due to the rise in consumer awareness, brands are pushed to be transparent in the fashion industry. When it comes to consumer use, G-Star added “a Clevercare® tag to care label in the garments and on the webshop to educate our customers how to care for their garments because vast water and energy impact happens at the user stage,” further explainsFrouke.

Focusing on the future, G-Star’s approach to innovation and sustainability definitely sets the brand apart in the fashion industry. As consumer demands for transparency and openness rise, businesses will be forced to adapt their business model, and Frouke is sure that this will be “a driving force for sustainability and accelerating the change, making it the new standard.

Comments