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27 April 2022
HanesBrands flips the sustainability focus
SustainabilityNet zeroClothing, apparel
Like many clothing companies, HanesBrands is all too aware of the need to address sustainability issues but it is coming at this topic from a different angle to most.
It’s all about costs
Apparel brands tend to be focused on things like the provenance of raw materials and labor conditions in the factories they contract out their manufacturing to. But since HanesBrands owns the majority of its factories, it has effectively flipped the focus, says chief sustainability officer Chris Fox.
Speaking at the recent Economist Sustainability Week, he explained that textile mills are energy intensive and that, as far back as 2007, a primary goal has been to reduce energy costs. Investment in, first, biomass plants and, more recently, solar, has helped save “literally hundreds of millions of dollars”, he said: “Figure $25m-plus a year, year-over-year, because we made these investments 15 years ago.”
A different model
“When you get the benefit of the direct cost savings of that investment, it drives you to different places,” he added. “We knew if we invested $1, we'd get two, three or four in return. We allowed the business side, the cost-saving side, to drive our sustainability goals.”
And he believes there is scope to apply the same philosophy in related sustainability areas such as packaging. “I think everybody agrees that we’ve got to get out of plastics or somebody else is going to tell us we have to get out of it anyway,” he observed.
And, again, his priority when it comes to changing packaging and using less is simply to save money. “If I save both on energy and in packaging, if we’re able to hit our cost-savings goals, we will hit our sustainability goals as well.”