Since Gildan's beginnings, respect for the environment has been central to the way the Company operates. In fact, one of Gildan's ESG priorities as a global manufacturer is to conduct business in a way that optimizes and conserves resources. With an ESG journey spanning over 20 years, Gildan has made consistent efforts to minimize its environmental impact and become a leading sustainable apparel manufacturer.
With climate change posing more and more of a risk to the world, Gildan understands its responsibility to lower its environmental impact. To that end, the Company set new environmental goals as part of its Next Generation ESG strategy earlier this year.
We sat down with Juan Carlos Contreras, Senior Vice-President of Manufacturing - Latin America, and Carlos Duran, Vice-President of Project Engineering, to learn more about Gildan's decades-long commitment to the environment and the Company's future ambitions.
Gildan is well known in the industry for its best-in-class environmental standards and practices. How did it all begin?
Juan Carlos: Gildan's environmental journey so far has been as fulfilling as it has been impactful. Ever since we established our manufacturing facilities, we did so with the intention of using resources as efficiently as possible.
In the early 2000s, we established our first Biotop, a nature-based solution that allows us to return clean, and chemical/dye-free water into nature. This system allows us to clean our dyed water in a completely natural way. At the same time, it irrigates the green areas around our facilities, fostering biodiversity and providing a home to a variety of plant, animal, and bird species.
Carlos: Optimizing the use of resources is better for our business and for the planet; a win-win situation for everyone! And that's exactly what we aim to continue doing with our new Climate, Energy, and Water area of focus.
What other advancements has the Company made on the environmental front since the implementation of the Biotop?
Juan Carlos: Over the years, we have monitored, reported, and optimized our environmental practices, adapting, and responding to the evolving needs of areas where we operate and the planet.
These consistent efforts have allowed us to make many strides in lowering our carbon impact, implementing energy-efficient and renewable energy initiatives, and increasing water efficiency. The list of our efforts over the last two decades is long, but some of our major achievements include the implementation of our biomass system, heat recovery systems, absorption chillers, and more.
Carlos: Our biomass system burns agricultural, factory, and process waste, allowing us to meet almost 40% of our total energy needs through renewable energy, and minimizing the waste that goes into landfills which produces harmful GHG emissions.
Another example is our heat recovery system, which uses thermal energy for our dyeing processes instead of steam. Through this process, we reduce the amount of steam needed to produce the right temperature for dyeing, ultimately decreasing our water intensity and energy consumption.
In addition, Gildan has been setting measurable environmental targets for the last ten years which has created a focused mindset for our organization to continuously assess how we can make apparel better and uncover new opportunities to reduce our environmental footprint.
What Climate, Energy, and Water goals has Gildan set as part of the Next Generation ESG strategy that was launched in early 2022?
Carlos: Our Climate, Energy, and Water goals are a continuation of our longstanding commitment to the environment and to manufacturing apparel in the most sustainable way possible. Here are the goals we have set:
Reducing Scope 1 and Scope 2 GHG emissions by 30% by 2030, aligning with the Science-based Targets initiative (SBTi) and the level of decarbonization required to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement.
Attaining a 20% reduction in water intensity by 2030 (compared to a 2018 baseline) to improve water efficiency, and implementing water reducing, reusing, and recycling initiatives.
Juan Carlos: I am excited to see how these goals will come to life as they drive us to make progress for the planet, while ensuring that our operations increase in efficiency as well.
How does the Company plan to reduce its Scope 1 and Scope 2 GHG emissions by 30% by 2030?
Carlos: Gildan has made great progress in its energy initiatives, such as investing in the biomass system, which, as I mentioned earlier, allows us to meet almost 40% of our energy needs. As we move towards reducing our Scope 1 and 2 emissions even more, we intend to implement additional efficiency projects and increase our use of renewable energy, primarily solar. In addition, we aim to increase the amount of low-carbon energy that is available, among other opportunities.
Juan Carlos: Gildan has also aligned its goals with the Science Based Target Initiative (SBTi), joining over 2,000 other companies working towards achieving a low-carbon economy.
Regarding Gildan's water goals, how will the Company reduce its water intensity by 20% by 2030?
Carlos: With our decades of experience, we look as much at what goes into our processes, as what comes out. Currently, we have goals to continue investing in water efficiency and water treatment systems to optimize and reduce the amount of water needed in our operations.
For instance, 87% of our water consumption occurs during textile production, primarily during the dyeing process. To reduce our water usage in this area, we developed an automatic batching colour system, which can determine exactly how much hot water is needed for a specific quantity of dye. This system helps us prevent water wastage, saving hundreds of thousands of gallons of water every year.
Juan Carlos: Water intensity is something that we take very seriously at Gildan. This goal will help push us to continue to look for new technologies, invest in new systems, look for more innovations, and be creative in our approach to water conservation. This goal has already induced interesting conversations, and I am keen to see how we can continue bringing it to life.
As a final note, what are you most looking forward to as you see the Company making progress towards these goals?
Juan Carlos: As a leading apparel manufacturing Company, and as a responsible corporate citizen, Gildan has the potential and opportunity to make a difference, because we know that our actions can have a large impact on our surroundings and the planet.
With our Next Generation ESG strategy's Climate, Energy, and Water area of focus, I am confident that we have a great framework which will help us drive the initiative to promote even more sustainability within our operations and reduce our environmental footprint.
Carlos: I look forward to seeing how our actions yield results, and how we continue Making Apparel Better® in addition to making the world a better place.
To find out more about Gildan's ESG efforts, click here.