Fast Retailing transforms its business to balance sustainability with growth

November 10, 2023 | 12:39
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Fast Retailing, a Japanese retail holdings company, is altering its operations to strike a balance between sustainability and business growth, contributing to a more sustainable society through a new circular business model.

There are eight brands under Fast Retailing’s management, namely UNIQLO, GU, Theory, PLST, Comptoir de Contonniers, Princesse tam.tam, J Brand, and Helmut Lang.

The company is advancing its RE.UNIQLO initiative to promote the recycling or reuse of all UNIQLO products. Following the 2020 launch of its recycled down jacket, it has continued to pursue the development of additional clothing-to-clothing recycling products that use cashmere, wool, and cotton.

Fast Retailing transforms its business to balance sustainability with growth
Representatives on stage at the 2023 Fast Retailing Sustainability media briefing held on November 7 in Japan

Koji Yanai, senior executive officer of Fast Retailing Group, said that the company takes responsibility for every LifeWear item it provides to customers.

"We are uncompromising, through product development, production, and post-sale, to ensure our products are used longer and with greater peace of mind. Together with our customers, local communities, and business partners, we continue to expand the possibilities of LifeWear, creating a business to enrich people's lives and societies around the world," Yanai said.

UNIQLO launched its RE.UNIQLO initiative to promote the recycling or reuse of all its products. The UNIQLO Pre-Owned Clothes Project was piloted as part of this scheme. For the trial, a pop-up store selling used clothing was opened from October 11 to 22 at the UNIQLO Harajuku Store in Tokyo.

Launched in September 2022 in London, the RE.UNIQLO STUDIO clothing repair and remake service has now expanded globally. Since September, the service has been available in 35 stores in 16 markets.

Expanding its clothing-to-clothing recycling efforts, Fast Retailing is now developing new products using cashmere, wool, and cotton from UNIQLO products that are collected at stores.

The company is working to establish a system for the end-to-end management of its supply chain, enabling it to directly apply quality, procurement, production, environmental, and workers rights standards across all stages of production. This includes specifying the raw materials and fabrics to use in the sewing stage right back to initial material procurement.

Since the 2023 Spring/Summer season, all UNIQLO products have been traceable back to raw material level. By August, the company identified spinning process suppliers to build trusted, long-term relationships for UNIQLO cotton products. Moving forward, Fast Retailing plans to extend a similar initiative for suppliers of all other materials.

Fast Retailing's production bases are being diversified. Along with expanding production in its main manufacturing country of China, the proportion of items produced in Southeast Asia is also growing, with the domestic production rate in Indonesia and Vietnam surpassing 50 per cent. There are also plans to expand production in India, a growth area for the business.

For greater visibility and control over raw material procurement, Fast Retailing is establishing a system to specify the production location and quality of raw materials at the planning stage, and to be able to trace these materials at any given time. Starting with cotton, it plans to expand this system to all materials.

The business established a production partner code of conduct with the mills for UNIQLO cotton products in the spring of this year, and regular audits were introduced in August.

Also, from August, UNIQLO and GU began disclosing sewing country information on the individual product pages on their online stores in select markets.

By the end of FY/2030, Fast Retailing has a target to reduce the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the energy use at its facilities, including both stores and major offices, by 90 per cent compared to FY/2019 levels. As of FY/2022, the reduction stood at 45.7 per cent.

Furthermore, it has a target of transitioning to totally renewable electricity at all Fast Retailing Group stores and offices worldwide by the end of FY/2030. At the close of FY/2022, this figure had reached 42.4 per cent.

Targets have also been set to reduce GHG emissions related to raw material production, fabric making, and sewing for UNIQLO and GU products by 20 per cent by the end of FY/2030. As of FY2022, the reduction was 6.2 per cent.

Fast Retailing will continue to work closely with its partner factories on all these initiatives to achieve its targets.

In terms of biodiversity initiatives, the group has published its Fast Retailing Group Biodiversity Conservation Policy. The company aims to achieve net positivity for biodiversity throughout its value chain over the long term.

It has conducted qualitative and quantitative assessments of the biodiversity impacts and dependency risks in its value chain, identifying significant land-use impacts from cashmere, wool, and cotton production.

For cashmere, Fast Retailing collaborated with researchers at the University of the Ryukyus in Japan, using satellite data to analyse the vegetation status at ranches supplying UNIQLO with cashmere. Sustainability Department personnel also visited the ranches to conduct field surveys.

Regarding wool, plans are in place to replicate the efforts that have been made for cashmere, and with cotton, the applicability of renewable agriculture is being carefully studied.

Fast Retailing Foundation awards scholarships to six Vietnamese students Fast Retailing Foundation awards scholarships to six Vietnamese students

With a commitment to continuously contribute to the positive development of people and social communities in Vietnam, the Fast Retailing Foundation, a subsidiary of Fast Retailing Group (the parent company of UNIQLO), has given scholarships for university training in Japan to six outstanding Vietnam students.

By Bich Ngoc

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