It is only the third month of 2018, but already two companies have claimed to launch the most sustainable jeans ever. Confusing, right?
Most sustainable jeans ever #1: G-Star Raw
Back in February G-star RAW launched the(ir) most sustainable jeans ever, made out of 100% biological cotton. After years of analyzing their complete denim production chain, they developed new techniques and technologies that significantly reduce, and in some cases completely eliminate, the environmental impact of creating a pair of G-star jeans. For example: they recycle 98% of the water used during production, the other 2% evaporates. No salts, and 70% less chemicals are used in their indigo dye and most of all: 98% of the new denim line is recyclable.
It’s no surprise this earned them the gold level certification form the Cradle-to-Cradle Products Innovation Institute. The non-profit institute is an agent of circular change, that educates and empowers manufacturers of consumer goods to become a positive force for society and the environment.
Most sustainable jeans ever #2: HNST
Antwerp based brand HNST launched the(ir) most sustainable jeans ever last week. Their yarn is completely made in Flanders and consist of 56% recycled denim fibres (your donated jeans, are actually used to make new jeans: how awesome), 21% Tencel ® and 23% virgin cotton (new cotton). Unfortunately the virgin cotton isn’t biological yet, but replacing it is one of the main priorities for their second collection. They do not use any chemicals in their indigo dying process, instead they use electrocells to fix the indigo powder on the jeans fibers. With their name being HNST and the website title being letsbehonest.eu, you expect them to be honest, right? And they are, they completely describe their process, from the collection stage to production and finishing.
HNST does not shy away from sharing their process, which makes them very trustworthy (unlike some other ‘radical transparent’ or ‘essentially different’ brands. I’m talking about you Everlane and ASKET, but I’ll save that for another blogpost 😉 ).
Still confusing? Yes.
It is not up to me to decide which jeans is the most sustainable jeans ever, there are a lot of factors influencing that decisions, and both brands have their reasons to do so. But, what I cannot really understand is how two companies (one major and one start-up) can both claim to develop what they think is the most sustainable jeans ever, whilst working not even 200km apart from each other. Yes, they might not have known from the start they we’re working towards the same end goal, but probably somewhere along the ride they did. I think hard statements like ‘the most sustainable jeans ever’ coming from different companies confuse the consumer and might make them doubt the authenticity of the product. I know it even confuses me, while I’m pretty updated on the subject.
What am I missing?
One thing that I’m personally missing from both companies is the post-consumer stage. HNST does net (yet) address this on their website. Because their jeans consists for 56% of recycled denim, I would assume they would love to recycle their first collection into yarn for future collections. So I’m curious how they will address this in the future.
G-star does mention the end-of-life stage on their website, but not in a major way. How are they going to make sure their most sustainable jeans ever, is actually returned in to a collection bin? The sum of yearly discarded textiles in North-West Europe alone is 465 million kg, only 30% is collected for reuse or recycling. The other 70% is either reused in another way, or disposed of between residual household waste. These numbers do not really ensure that we can trust consumers to correctly dispose of their unwanted textiles, without any help from the industry, government or their favourite brands.
I would love to see companies implementing an effective post-consumer take-back scheme, that goes further than H&M’s recycle bin. To me, it is only possible to be the most sustainable jeans ever if you involve your consumers at the end-of-life stage, making it possible to close the loop on all ends of the supply chain.