Kontoor Brands on Track to Source 100 Percent Sustainable Cotton by 2025

By: Kontoor Brands News Team Sep 25, 2020 Feature Story Tags: Sustainability, Product

The production of denim requires a lot of cotton. Our brands, Lee® and Wrangler®, recognize the effect denim production has on our planet. That’s why Kontoor Brands, parent company to the Lee and Wrangler brands, has committed to using 100 percent sustainably grown cotton by 2025.

The reason is simple: sustainably grown cotton is better for the environment and the people that produce it, which results in products that you can feel better about. This effort requires collaboration across various components of the production process – including farming practices, soil health management, and supply chain innovation, among others.

“Large-scale cotton production typically requires the extensive use of fertilizers, pesticides and water – practices that are costly to farmers and the environment,” said Roian Atwood, Senior Director of Sustainable Business Practices, Kontoor Brands. “In recent years, we have been closely following an emerging set of farming practices proven to improve yields while decreasing impact. We are working to educate farmers and mill partners on these practices and encouraging them to incorporate more sustainable cotton in their production.” 

Through research as part of the Wrangler Science and Conservation Program, an alliance of industry experts, pioneering farmers, and nonprofit partners, and in collaboration with the Soil Health Initiative’s Healthy Soils for Sustainable Cotton project, we’ve seen significant promise in three land stewardship  practices. These practices, when used together, not only increase yields, but also decrease costs and inputs, lower risks from weather and pests, and add three times more carbon to the soil than conventional practices.

These methods include:

  • COVER CROPS: Farmers plant cover crops after cash crops have been harvested to cover the soil during off season as a way to reduce erosion and nutrient loss, while also enhancing soil fertility.
  • CROP ROTATION: Farmers plant a different crop into the soil each year. This practice has been shown to help manage pests and diseases, reducing the need for pesticides. It also nourishes the biological ecosystem below the ground, creating more favorable growing conditions for crops.
  • CONSERVATION TILLAGE: Farmers implement a range of practices, such as no-till and strip till, that reduce soil disturbance from plowing, preventing erosion and nutrient loss.

Our sustainable cotton sourcing priorities complement Kontoor’s efforts to eliminate the water used in the denim dyeing process through its IndigoodTM technologies,, including a foam-dye process that uses 100 percent less water than the conventional denim dyeing process. The Wrangler brand also recently introduced a 100 percent sustainable, locally sourced product, the Wrangler Rooted collection

Together, we will continue to push for positive environmental change without sacrificing the quality and durability that the Wrangler and Lee brands are known for.  Kontoor Brands formally defines sustainable cotton as: 

  • Traceable fiber with corresponding farm level-data that demonstrates positive environmental outcomes1 over time that advance the principles of regenerative agriculture2.
  • KTB accepts sustainable cotton management frameworks and their certifications on a case-by-case basis. Currently, KTB recognizes cotton grown under one of the following programs: Organic, Better Cotton Initiative, BASF’s E3, Cotton REEL, and the U.S. Trust Protocol.
  • KTB accepts recycled cotton from validated sources of postindustrial, and post-consumer recycled cotton.
  • Alternative fibers based from biogenic sources aligned with regenerative agriculture, will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis (e.g. hemp, linen, flax, etc.).
  • Must be in compliance with the social labor requirements outlined in our Cotton Fiber Sourcing policy.

1 Positive Environmental Outcomes – meaningful (Yield improvements per acre/hectare, increased soil carbon (Organic Matter%), meaningful reduction in GHG intensity per KG lint (CO2e per kg Lint), meaningful improved water quality (Edge of Field Ratings), or meaningful reduction in water consumption (liters pr KG lint) while otherwise farming in a sustainable manner.

2- Principles of Regenerative Agriculture mean farm practices that limit tillage, protect the soil, maintain living roots in soil, increase biodiversity, efficiently manage water, use integrated pest management, and rotate livestock when possible.