Fashion’s buzzword “sustainability” is really starting to take off in a big way, with many high-end fashion houses rolling out greener initiatives to reduce their carbon footprint. What’s even more impressive is that larger retail chains such as Swedish brand H&M and Japanese casual wear label Uniqlo are also taking bigger steps to champion sustainability.
No stranger to the green movement, Uniqlo has been at the forefront of social and environmental sustainability for well over two decades. Unlike fast fashion labels, the Japanese apparel brand’s clothes, with their timeless designs, are meant to outlive trends by focussing on the customer’s needs for quality fabrics and workmanship. This simple philosophy has laid the foundation for all aspects of its business operations, especially in the employment of sustainable materials and using less resources in production processes.
“We believe that the power of clothing can be a force for good. By designing, making, and selling good clothing that is simple, of high quality and built to last, as well as by employing recycled materials, we can reduce the burden on the environment and make the world a better place,” says Hwee Lee, the newly-appointed sustainability senior director for Uniqlo Singapore.
In 2006, the company launched Re.Uniqlo — an all-product recycling initiative that collects lightly used Uniqlo apparel and gives them new life either by donating them to refugees or disaster victims, or upcycling them to become parts of new products. Clothing that is deemed unwearable is recycled into refuse paper and plastic fuel (RFP) pellets as a substitute for fossil fuels.
Uniqlo has taken fillings from 620,000 used down jackets to be repurposed into new jackets for its Fall-Winter 2021 collection
One of its most successful recycling activities is the Down Recycling Project, which has taken the feathers and fillings from 620,000 down jackets and repurposed them into other fashion items. Uniqlo has also started using recycled polyester made from post-consumer PET bottles for clothing under its LifeWear line such as the Dry-Ex Polo Shirt and Men’s Fluffy Yarn Fleece Jacket.
To lower water wastage and chemical usage in the production of denim wear, Uniqlo has adopted the BlueCycle technology that cuts water use by 99% in the jeans finishing process. And to address the need to reduce single-use plastics, the company now encourages shoppers to bring their own reusable shopping bags.
Uniqlo has adopted the BlueCycle technology that cuts water use by 99% in the jeans finishing process
Through its various green initiatives — such as the installation of solar panels and LED lights for store lighting — Uniqlo has successfully achieved a 38.7% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions (per unit area) in 2020 as compared to 2013.
“As a company, we are responding positively to environmental issues including climate change, seizing opportunities for us to transform our actions throughout our value chain with cooperation from our business partners and stakeholders. We have since committed to targets that support the Paris Agreement, and are working to consistently reduce greenhouse gas emissions from our stores and entire supply chain,” shares Lee.
Lee will be focused on driving sustainability as part of Uniqlo’s business strategy by creating new value through its products and services; respecting human rights in the supply chain; respecting the environment; strengthening com- munities; and supporting employee fulfilment.
Empowering the people
From a social perspective, as of 2019, Uniqlo demonstrated its ethical commitment through notable achievements including increasing the percentage of women in management positions; employing people with disabilities; training and employing refugees in selected countries; and donating items to developing nations.
To offer support during the pandemic, Uniqlo has donated over 15 million Airism masks to medical facilities in Japan and abroad, including 15,000 hawkers in Singapore this year, and is working to assist communities through the provision of clothing for the needy.
To raise awareness of its zero-waste mission, Uniqlo Singapore worked with Design Singapore Council this year to challenge fashion designers to create wearable garments made from preloved Uniqlo products. Launched in January 2021, the Zero Waste Design challenge underscored the company’s aim to deliver clothing that improves the lives of customers and reduces impact on the environment for a more sustainable future.
Local fashion designers competed in a Zero Waste Design challenge to create wearable garments made from preloved Uniqlo products
“We will continue to promote sustainability and step up efforts to deepen our relationships with our communities, engaging our stakeholders to join us on our sustainability journey, as well as customers who share our aspirations of a better world,” says Lee.
“Apart from collecting preloved Uniqlo items and donating them to underprivileged communities, we also work with other individuals in socially and economically difficult situations to empower them with skills and knowledge to build a better society,” she adds.
She cites examples like Uniqlo’s year-long partnership with Community Chest which commissions design work to special-needs individuals to celebrate their artistic talents, and work with Care Corner to empower at-risk youths on self-expression through fashion.
Look for Sustainable Corners at selected outlets to learn more about eco-friendly practices and Uniqlo’s green efforts
If you’re interested to discover how to live a more sustainable way of life, Uniqlo Singapore is rolling out a month-long campaign this October to celebrate its apparel line, LifeWear, through a series of new store experiences at its Orchard Central (OC) global flagship outlet, workshops, and livestreams focusing on craftsmanship, innovation and sustainability.
Highlights include a jeans upcycling workshop by FIN Crafted Goods, perfume masterclass by Scent by Six, mask embroidery by Isabel Lim, and Japanese art of furoshiki (traditional folding cloth) by Janus Academy. Workshops are by invitation only to customers that have shopped at the OC outlet. For the full calendar of events, visit https://bit.ly/CelebrationofCraft
Have some lightly used Uniqlo items to donate? Drop them into the recycling bins located at all Uniqlo outlets islandwide.