As consumer-product companies, we have a unique ability to make meaningful change in the broadest sense — and a shared responsibility to our consumers to help make doing the right thing an easy, affordable choice.
It might surprise some to learn that I started my career in the legal field. I
often think about the legal landscape as a microcosm for society — the
challenges that rise to the surface and the answers we ultimately define help to
shape the direction of our world. That’s one of the core reasons I went into the
profession — I wanted to make a difference in how businesses operate and help
them do the right thing. Since 2005, for me, doing the right thing has meant
helping to solve the complex tests we face in corporate responsibility and
Battling climate change and caring for the environment are no longer “science”
challenges to be solved by governments and NGOs, but societal concerns affecting
all of us. The same applies to the myriad complex social issues we face. And
while these concerns impact everyone, it can feel impossible for individuals to
take meaningful action.
This dynamic makes business a key player in the fight. When businesses make
socially responsible decisions, the decisions — and the results — are passed on
to the consumer. And this is something that consumers are taking note of. Recent
research found 71 percent of
want companies to help them take more sustainable actions in their everyday
lives — a message that I hear from our customers and consumers all the time.
Many in the fashion and retail industries have risen to the challenge in this
space. Some newcomers have literally built their brands on sustainability, while
other heritage companies continue to raise the bar. That said, sustainable
fashion often comes with a significant price tag and can have mark-ups over
conventional products between 150 percent and 210 percent, according to
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This has generated a false perception that making sustainable choices has to be
expensive. In reality, dozens of companies — from
— are balancing sustainability with cost and value, and giving everyday
consumers the opportunity to make a difference. Unilever was one of the first
companies to launch a comprehensive sustainability
in 2010. Although they’ve made significant changes to reach their goals, it
hasn’t drastically impacted what we pay when picking up a bar of soap in the
At HanesBrands Inc., this balance is core to
our company. With products appearing in 9 of 10 homes in the United States, we
have both a responsibility and unique ability to make meaningful change in the
broadest sense — from our impact on employees and communities, to our products
and the environment. From our earliest days as a company, we’ve met this
responsibility by delivering quality products and value for our consumers.
In the 1930s, for example, we began innovating our Reverse Weave
sweatshirts to address issues
around shrinkage, fit, durability and cost. This iconic product is still around
today; and these core attributes, especially durability, have made it a leader
in sustainability. I’m always amazed at people who tell me they still have their
first Reverse Weave sweatshirt, often bought in their college bookstore.
One of the ways we balance quality with cost is through the ownership of 70
percent of our supply chain. This gives us a significant advantage when it comes
to implementing sustainable business practices. We have over 60,000 associates
around the world who are our own employees — people we can directly impact with
programs such as education assistance and health and wellness clinics, as well
as numerous communities that we touch through volunteerism, product donations
Our supply chain also uniquely positions us to drive out costs through our
sustainability efforts. For example, since 2007, our work to reduce greenhouse
gases and energy use in our facilities has yielded approximately $265M in
savings for our operations. We also recently signed a power purchase agreement
for our Dos Rios facility in the Dominican Republic, one of the largest
textile mills in the world; so, it will be powered entirely by renewable energy,
further reducing costs and environmental impact at scale.
When it comes to packaging, we are committed to making a real difference. But we
know that we can’t do that alone — we must look beyond our own brands for the
solution. It will take engagements with retailers, distributors and others in
the industry to meaningfully reduce single-use
and packaging weight across the retail landscape.
Despite the wins that we have individually, nothing will be as powerful as the
movement we can drive when we partner together. This is especially true with
consumers — and it’s larger than what they purchase. In fact, one of the biggest
ways to cut down on emissions in the lifecycle of a t-shirt is simple: wash in
One of our long-term goals is to educate consumers everywhere to do just that.
The only way we are going to save the planet and chart a new course for society
is by empowering people to do the right
We have a shared responsibility as businesses to our consumers to help make
doing the right thing an easy, affordable choice. Together, we must make
sustainability accessible to all.