Sourcing Journal’s Sustaining Voices celebrates the efforts the apparel industry is making toward securing a more environmentally responsible future through creative innovations, scalable solutions and forward-thinking initiatives that are spinning intent into action.
Asics is shrinking its carbon footprint, in part, by giving old clothes a new purpose.
Asics knows there is no “i” in team.
To outfit Japan’s Olympic and Paralympic teams, the sportswear brand launched a campaign to collect 30,000 items of used athletic wear “rich with memories,” which it will use to create the official uniforms ahead of the 2020 games in Tokyo. Soliciting clothing from the general public has a two-fold purpose, according to Asics: It rallies feelings of patriotism while delivering a resource that is better for the planet.
“We aim to unite Japan by functioning as a bridge between the Tokyo 2020 Japan Olympic and Paralympic teams and the public who will cheer for them,” a spokesperson said. “The Tokyo games aim to be the most innovative and sustainable one in history, so it was the logical thing for us to establish a project that would revolve around sustainability innovation, function and a dialogue with the consumer.”
Asics is harvesting unwanted clothing outside of Japan, too. Besides working with I:Collect in the United States to establish a take-back program in select stores, the company has also been setting up “recycling centers” at major marathons across Europe, including races in Barcelona, Paris and Stockholm.
Increasing its use of recycled textiles is one way Asics says it plans to reduce its carbon emissions. Like most companies, the vast majority of its CO₂ impact stems not from lighting or cooling its offices and warehouses but from the “creation of the materials we use in our products, the manufacturing process of our products and the end-of-life stage,” the spokesperson said.
After exceeding its 2020 CO₂-reduction targets two years ahead of schedule, Asics has pledged to whittle its supply-chain carbon emissions by 55 percent of its 2015 baseline by 2030. It will also transition to using only recycled polyester and 100 percent more-sustainable cotton by that time.
Establishing goal posts has helped inform the company’s efforts, it says. Last year, Asics introduced the FlyteFoam Lyte, a new breed of performance footwear midsole material, composed of 34 percent sugarcane waste and 6 percent cellulose nanofiber, that is not only 55 percent lighter and 20 percent stronger than industry-standard foam but also generates 27 percent fewer carbon emissions.
“These targets and their subsequent roadmap currently form the backbone of our group sustainability strategy and more particularly how we approach the impact of product,” the spokesperson said. “It has led us to select and commit to various very concrete objectives to shift to better ways of manufacturing and shift to more sustainable materials.”
In June, Asics became the first sporting goods company to support Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures, meaning it will voluntarily describe in future public annual financial filings the metrics it uses to set internal climate targets, along with the processes it employs to manage climate-related risks.
In what areas has the fashion industry made the biggest strides in sustainability in the last five years?
“Compared to five years ago, there has been a lot of innovation and technological development in the area of circularity. Today, technologies to chemically sort and recycle post-consumer collected fibers are available for more types of material and at a much higher level. A few years ago, this type of recycling was often either not possible and/or the resulting materials of such processes were not able to compete with their virgin equivalents in quality or price.
In the past five years, we have also seen an important shift in the position that non-financial performance of organizations has to stakeholders, in particular investors. Partly driven by the realization that our world is facing enormous challenges in the coming decades on the effects of climate change and resource depletion, the extent to which organizations take sustainability along in shaping their mid- and long-term strategies has never been valued more.”