Wrangler invests in soil health to improve supply chain
- Wrangler is on a mission to boost soil health in its supply chain in order to enhance water efficiency and productivity in its agricultural suppliers.
- Last month the jeans manufacturer published an evaluation of U.S. cotton producers' journey toward sustainable soil, finding while 78% of farmers use conservation crop rotation, conservation tillage (33%) and cover crop practices (2%) have only been partially adopted.
- The company began its journey toward cotton sustainability a year ago, when it announced a pilot project to study the above practices' effects on production alongside an Alabama farmer. Since then Wrangler has committed to doubling its sustainably sourced cotton, Supply Management reports.
Wrangler's strategy is more than a feel-good mission. Water efficiency — and finding ways to boost it — has become a global problem that is beginning to show its impact on business.
Buyers for apparel companies may have noticed cotton prices are skyrocketing in the first half of 2018. Markets Insider data shows the raw material's price rose 11.8% in the past six months.
One big reason is the droughts that prevail across the U.S.' top cotton-producing regions, limiting water allocation and therefore production. Couple that with an increased demand expected for 2018 plus market uncertainty due to trade-war-threats with China — a top U.S. cotton buyer — and supply becomes extremely tight, according to California Apparel News.
Conscious of this trend, Wrangler has long been an advocate for water conservation.
Jeans manufacturing is water-intensive, not just due to the cotton supply needs, but also because the last step of production requires the clothes be soaked in multiple water baths. In 2016, the company announced it had saved three billion liters of water by decreasing the amount of baths needed at its facilities, as well as better recycling processes, but it would still look to save 20% more water by 2020.
"Scientific research shows greater attention to soil health can further reduce the water and energy inputs required to grow cotton and other crops," Wrangler Sustainability Director Roian Atwood said when announcing the pilot project with the Alabama farmer. "We hope to have dozens of growers in the program within a few years.”
However, the latest report shows the company, and its allies in building a more water-efficient supply chain, still have a long way to go within the U.S., where 16% of the world's cotton is farmed.
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