GUESS aims to integrate sustainable practices into our operations by focusing on product responsibility, being good water stewards, and reducing our greenhouse gas emissions.
Increasing the environmental sustainability of our products is a key priority for GUESS. We are making significant strides in considering the environment at every stage of the product lifecycle—from design and materials selection to end-of-life.
Although cotton is widespread and renewable, it is also highly resource intensive to produce and, due to climate change, its yields are declining. Meanwhile, the demand for cotton is increasing. In 2019, we launched our GUESS Responsible Sourcing Policy on Cotton to increase procurement of preferred cotton sources while working to improve traceability and avoid prohibited cotton sources from entering our supply chain.
Our preferred options include sourcing Better Cotton through the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI), organic cotton, and other alternatives to conventional cotton (e.g., recycled cotton).
The GUESS Responsible Sourcing Policy on Manmade Cellulosic Fabrics, launched in 2018, was implemented to ensure the ethical sourcing of certain rayon/viscose, modal, and lyocell fabrics—fabrics that are linked to the destruction of ancient and endangered forests. We are also increasing the amount of man-made cellulosic materials we source from sustainably managed forests, closed loop systems and innovative material sources by partnering with innovative companies, suppliers, and organizations.
In 2019, the company sourced 10% of its materials with more sustainable alternatives, and is actively working to reach its goal for 20% of all materials to be more sustainable by 2021.
We continually assess new materials, technologies and processes that reduce environmental impacts while maintaining or even elevating the quality of our apparel. Our internal GUESS Responsible Materials Sourcing Guide provides guidelines and best practices for product designers and only products that meet these criteria can be marketed as GUESS Eco. For denim, this means using the latest technology to reduce water and/or chemical use, as well as including at least one eco material. For non-denim, products are made with 20%-100% certified sustainable materials and may also include a more sustainable production method.
In 2019, GUESS made rapid progress toward its goal to have 25% of its denim and all apparel to meet its “eco” guideline described above. As of Holiday 2019, more than 20% of its denim and 14% of its apparel adhered to its eco guideline, a significant increase from 6% and 5% respectively at the beginning of the year.
GUESS first announced our pledge to Global Fashion Agenda’s 2020 Circular Fashion System Commitments in 2017. Since then, we’ve worked hard to promote circular fashion through customer product take-back, second-hand programs and new partnerships that aim to reduce apparel waste, promote reuse of materials, and preserve important natural resources otherwise used in production.
RESOURCED is our signature customer take-back program that enables customers to bring in their unwanted clothing and shoes to any GUESS store in the U.S.—from any brand—for recycling. Product recycling is facilitated by our ongoing partnership with I:Collect (I:CO®), an innovative global solutions provider for the collection, sorting, reuse and recycling of apparel and footwear. Since May 2018, GUESS has collected over 75,000 kgs of product in the U.S. and Europe for recycling.
Guess U.S. aims for 100% store associate engagement, which we encourage through store competitions and customers promotions that provide discounts on purchases in exchange for apparel and shoe contributions. We have made a commitment to expand the RESOURCED program globally in 2020 to reach our targets for Global Fashion Agenda’s 2020 Circular Fashion System Commitment. To learn more about the RESOURCED program, check out our video available on the GUESS YouTube channel and at www.GUESS.com/Resourced.
In April 2019, we released a #GUESSVintage assortment of authenticated GUESS vintage items sourced from around the globe. The launch of GUESS Vintage contributes to our commitment to circular fashion, celebrating fashion that lasts while simultaneously avoiding the use of raw materials to produce a new product.
The GUESS Denim Water Footprint shows that one pair of jeans uses 2,700 liters of water throughout its lifecycle, from cotton sourcing and denim production to customer care and washing. We address our water impact by using water-efficient technology, reducing chemical use, communicating with customers and collaborating with business partners and our communities.
In 2018, we launched the GUESS Water Action Plan to address each phase of the denim lifecycle to prioritize water savings and water quality as well as water education and community engagement.
Responsible Cotton Sourcing
Through our Responsible Cotton Sourcing Policy and partnership with the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI), we are working to reduce our reliance on conventional cotton, which is known to be a water intensive crop.
Through our denim targets for GUESS Eco denim, which uses the latest water saving technologies, we are working with denim laundry partners to invest in efficient water practices and encourage eco-friendly manufacturing processes.
Improved Manufacturing Processes
Nanotechnology – Saves water by directly applying enzymes to garments to break down colors, rather than applying them in a larger wash cycle.
Laser – A cleaner way to distress denim that saves on chemical and water use.
GUESS seeks business partners that employ responsible water use, discharge and chemicals management practices. This helps to ensure that the chemicals used in our supply chain and incorporated into our products do not negatively impact consumers, workers, or the environment.
Continuous improvement opportunities are also defined for suppliers. We’ve set a progressive timetable for suppliers to develop in-house wastewater treatment plans, including: providing evidence of wastewater testing and corrective action measures, maintaining a list of chemical formulations and regulated hazardous chemicals, and investing in new technologies and tools to use water more efficiently.
In 2018, GUESS worked with a group of key denim vendors to learn more about their practices and test whether our Water and Chemical Management Policy creates a positive impact and addresses supplier challenges on the ground. We included vendors in Mexico and Pakistan—regions identified in the GUESS Denim Water Footprint (in the GUESS FY2016 – 2017 Sustainability Report) as areas with higher water stress— to better understand water management practices in these regions.
The pilot project was designed to test the feasibility of a new water stewardship policy for denim by engaging with key denim laundry partners. The aim was to gain insight on the effectiveness and implementation of the policy on-the-ground. The results from the pilot project are now being implemented into our water and chemical stewardship actions.
The impacts of climate change are starting to be experienced globally. We assess our climate-related risks on an annual basis and are committed to measuring our carbon footprint, setting reduction targets, and reporting progress against those targets.
GUESS is in the process of updating its carbon emissions reduction targets to align with the consensus of the global scientific community that we must limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius to maintain a safe and habitable environment for all. GUESS is a signatory to the Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTi), a group of over 1,000 companies worldwide taking action toward ambitious goals toward a zero carbon emission future. In November 2020, GUESS had its Science-Based Targets officially approved by the SBTi, which will cut GUESS’ scope 1 & 2 direct emissions by 50%, and scope 3 supply chain emissions by 30% by 2030. GUESS is developing its implementation plan to achieve these goals which will become public in 2021.
In FY2019, our total scope 1 and 2 greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions for GUESS* operations at 1,133 facilities was 40,785 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MTCO2e), which is equivalent to emissions from 8,659 passenger vehicles driven for one year**. This represents a 10% decrease in emissions intensity per square foot from our FY2016 baseline.
During the FY2018 – 2019 reporting period, we started to calculate our scope 3 carbon footprint. This currently includes waste data for our Los Angeles Headquarters, U.S. Distribution Center, and global inbound and outbound transportation. We are also focused on reducing carbon emissions at key supplier mills and currently have a special project in China in partnership with the Environmental Defense Fund Climate Corps program to help develop this effort. With a more in-depth Scope 3 assessment in progress, we plan to submit an ambitious emission reduction target to the Science Based Targets initiative in 2019, which will address scope 1, 2 and 3.
Energy efficiency is both an emissions reduction and cost-cutting measure. As one of our primary environmental impacts due to the number of facilities we control, we focus on conserving energy. Our past reporting detailed our ongoing LED lighting projects at our stores, distribution centers, and headquarters. We’ve continued to expand these initiatives, retrofitting or opening 100 LED stores since FY2017.
In FY2019, we launched a special project to retrofit 37 GUESS Factory stores—nearly 10% of our North American portfolio. These are our largest stores by square footage, and therefore consume the most energy and represent the greatest opportunity for energy reduction. In total, 38% of stores in North America and 35% of global stores are outfitted with LEDs.
We will continue implementing LEDs in all new locations, including overhead and furniture lighting as well as graphic lightboxes and rolling out the LED lighting project for all candidate stores.
The concept of circularity is not limited to fashion; we’re also working to increase recycling and reuse and reduce waste sent to landfill associated with our operations.
Waste & Recycling
In FY2018 and FY2019, our Guess U.S. corporate headquarters sent 262.6 tons and 232.6 tons of waste to landfill, respectively. This represents a sharp decline from the 496.6 tons of waste sent to landfill in FY2017, which is largely attributed to a reduction in construction activities. During these two years, we also steadily increased our mixed recycling rate by over 10%, from 73.98 tons in FY2017 to 89.29 tons in FY2019. As part of our strict adherence to safe handling practices for hazardous waste, we recycled 1,423 light bulbs and 243 pounds of batteries at our Guess U.S. headquarters.
We’ve made great strides in improving the waste diversion efforts at our headquarters. By early 2019, we rolled out our corporate recycling program across 90% of the headquarter campuses, using a combination of communication and infrastructure to facilitate engagement and behavior change. To ensure a strong program, a Zero Waste expert did a walk-through of our campus and helped us set appropriate goals.
In acknowledgement of our efforts, we were recently awarded the recycLA Star Award, a program administered by the Los Angeles City Board of Public Works to recognize business and apartment owners who embrace recycLA’s waste diversion opportunities.