Mapping the Product Life Cycle

Mapping the Product Life Cycle Reducing impacts at every stage

To understand environmental impacts for the entire process—from design, to sourcing, to manufacturing, all the way to a customer’s closet—we perform life cycle assessments (LCA). We use these to evaluate indicators such as product carbon emissions, chemicals and water usage from cradle to grave. Our LCAs helped us understand where we can engage our supply chain, internal teams and customers to help reduce the environmental impacts of our products at all stages.

Product Lifecycle

We perform life cycle assessments to understand
environmental impacts for the entire process—from
design, to sourcing, to manufacturing,
all the way to a customer’s closet.

To understand environmental impacts for the entire process—from design, to sourcing, to manufacturing, all the way to a customer’s closet—we perform life cycle assessments (LCA). We use these to evaluate indicators such as product carbon emissions, chemicals and water usage from cradle to grave. Our LCAs helped us understand where we can engage our supply chain, internal teams and customers to help reduce the environmental impacts of our products at all stages.

Given that denim plays such an important role in each of our brands’ assortments, we measured the environmental impact of a pair of both men’s and women’s jeans, as well as one of our T-shirts. Our findings revealed that, in terms of water, raw materials have the greatest impact, primarily due to the water required in cotton cultivation. Consumer use contributed the second-highest water impact due to laundering garments. Consumer use also contributed the most significant carbon emissions due to the high level of energy required to dry jeans and other clothes. 

Using these results, we increased our efforts in areas where we have direct influence: raw materials selection, fabric development, garment production and finishing. We also affirmed that durable and well-loved garments, worn time after time, will have lower life cycle impacts, which has strengthened our commitment to classic, well-made designs that our customers love and keep for years.

 

We affirmed that durable and well-loved garments, worn time after time, will have lower life cycle impacts.

Key Stages in the Apparel Life Cycle

To understand our impacts and where we have the greatest leverage to address issues, we use a tiered approach to mapping our supply chain. The nature of our relationships with our product suppliers means we have the most visibility and control over our tier 1 suppliers. Our tier 1 suppliers encompass cut-and-sew facilities—where garments are embroidered, cut, assembled and finished—and laundries, where finishes are applied and garments are washed before being packaged and sent to our distribution centers. All of our tier 1 facilities are asked to respond to the Sustainable Apparel Coalition’s Higg index, a self-reporting tool that evaluates environmental performance and helps identify opportunities for improvement. Since 2016, we have published a complete list of our active facilities

Our tier 2 suppliers include textile mills, where fabric is woven or knit and dyed to the perfect color or pattern. We have mapped the facilities of our strategic tier 2 suppliers and are systematically mapping out all facilities for our tier 2 mills. Additionally, we published Minimum Expectations of Social and Labor and Environmental Issues to our entire mill base in March 2017, establishing standards for both social and environmental monitoring and performance (read more on our engagement with mills around water consumption and quality). So far, we have engaged 30% of our strategic mill facilities in water and energy-efficiency programs in China, India, Vietnam and Bangladesh, and we are planning to engage more. 

Our supply chain begins with what’s sourced from suppliers within tier 3, which includes raw material cultivation and extraction, the first stages of production and the preparation of those materials into fibers ready to become cloth.