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Denim Producers Tackle the UN’s Sustainability Goals Head On


Durable, versatile and arguably one of the common staples found in a person’s wardrobe regardless of age and sex is denim, particularly in the traditional form of a pair of jeans. According to the global business data platform Statista.com[1], the market value for denim accounted for USD$90 billion in the U.S. and is expected to increase to USD$105 billion by 2023. Denim jeans are cited as the most valuable product in the sector, however the discussion on the production process of denim has seen a sharp increase in parallel.

According to EarthCheck.org, 2 billion pairs of jeans are produced annually[2], and with that heady figure comes some rather startling facts surrounding the sustainability of this popular product. On average one pair of jeans requires a staggering 3,781 litres of water. In the production process, tons of toxic chemicals are used for dying, which may cause water pollution as well as skin irritation. These facts somehow make denim lose its appeal.

It’s not all bad however, for some brands have combined our love for denim with a more environmentally-friendly and sustainable approach. Sustainable fiber brand, TENCEL™, for instance, has created denim fibers made from botanic origin which can now be found in the jeans of many brands including Kings of Indigo, Levi’s, GUESS and Reformation.

In 2015, the United Nations (UN) set out 17 goals[3], that are a blueprint to achieving a better and more sustainable future for us all. All 17 goals are interconnected to address issues ranging from poverty, inequality, climate change, environmental degradation to peace and justice. For the textile and fashion industry, they can make a great contribution to achieving these goals by incorporating eco-responsible materials and technologies

Many denim brands understand the environmental urgency required to clean up their act across their entire supply chain including Goal #6: Clean Water & Sanitation, Goal #7 Affordable and Clean Energy and Goal #12 Responsible Consumption and Production.

As a participant in the Climate Summit at the UN General Assembly, Lenzing Group has dedicated core operations and strategies pledging to effect positive change and also help drive value for other companies.

Carved in Blue

The TENCEL™ brand recently reached out to the denim mills and brands to conduct a series of “Carved in Blue” interviews to see how much progress they’re making with the 17 SDGs, which goals were they prioritizing and how much these goals mean to their businesses.

Cone Denim

Cone Denim, a denim fabric supplier incorporates TENCEL™ branded fibers and TENCEL™ Lyocell fibers with REFIBRA™ technology blends into the Sustainblue™ fabric collection. The breakthrough TENCEL™ fibers with REFIBRA™ technology not only increases composition of pulp made from upcycled cotton scraps collected from garment manufacturing process to up to 30%, but also facilitates the transparency and traceability. These 100% bio-degradable fibres produced from sustainably sourced wood by environmentally responsible processes are desirable for their softness, strength, and inherent moisture absorption.

On the subject of tackling SDG #6, Cone Denim said,“Cone Denim and Elevate Textiles have set a target to reduce absolute water usage 25% by 2025 on a 2016 baseline. We have joined the UN CEO Water Mandate, and under this program we will be reporting annually on our actions and results related to the Mandate’s six commitment areas.”[4]

Within textile industry, every part in the supply chain matters, from sourcing to production. CLOSED, a denim brand, always views sustainability and social responsibility as their key value[5]. Laura Reinke, digital editor at CLOSED said, “The goal #12 to produce our collections in a more sustainable and responsible way is something that is very important for us at Closed. It’s part of every decision we make in every department—from design to marketing, from production to e-commerce. It results in little things like offering an eco-friendly packaging alternative in our online shop and in bigger things such as producing our bestselling light-blue Pedal Pusher denim with 100% organic cotton from next year on.”[6]


Pinar Demirel, marketing manager at CALIK DENIM added, “Among these, SDG #9 and SDG #12 have specific importance for the denim industry. Two of our strategy’s three main pillars, leading innovative products and reducing our impact on the environment, directly contribute to these SDGs. Through our entire value chain, natural resource consumption, especially water and energy consumption, and chemical pollution cause severe environmental and health impacts. We know that we must consume and produce responsibly and, in order to do so, we need innovation and technology to develop sustainable products and processes.”[7]

Denim brands and textile manufacturers have begun to wake up to the environmental responsibilities across the entire denim supply chain, working hand-in-hand with textiles such as TENCEL™ Denim. The UN’s set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals targets 2030 as an achievable deadline – we can therefore expect to see more big changes to the denim industry in the next decade to come, and not a moment too soon.

[1] https://www.statista.com/topics/5959/denim-market-worldwide/

[2] https://earthcheck.org/news/2017/march/are-you-contributing-to-fast-fashion/

[3] https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/sustainable-development-goals/

[4] https://carvedinblue.tencel.com/sdg-decoded-sdg-6-clean-water-sanitation-part-iii/

[5] https://www.closed.com/en/about/

[6] https://carvedinblue.tencel.com/sdg-decoded-sdg-12-responsible-consumption-production/

[7] https://carvedinblue.tencel.com/sdg-decoded-sdg-12-responsible-consumption-production/

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