Tommy Hilfiger has revealed an ambitious program to accelerate the company’s sustainability mission.
Its platform, called “Make It Possible,” is an approach to environmental and social sustainability that reinforces the company’s commitment to create fashion that “Wastes Nothing and Welcomes All.” At the outset, the company is committing to 24 targets centered around circularity and inclusivity, outlined across four pillars toward 2030.
• Circle Round: Make products to be fully circular and part of a sustainable loop.
• Made for Life: Operate with sensitivity to planetary boundaries, in the areas of climate change, land use, freshwater and chemical pollution, from what the company buys to where it sells.
• Everyone Welcome: Be a brand that works for every Tommy Hilfiger customer, always inclusive and completely accessible.
• Opportunity for All: Create equal access to opportunity — no barriers to success.
Hilfiger’s strategy is supported by parent company PVH Corp.’s Forward Fashion strategy, with a set of 15 priorities designed to reduce negative impacts to zero, increase positive one to 100 percent, and improve the more than one million lives across the company’s value chain.
“In these times of health, human, environmental and economic crisis, we share a responsibility to find innovative solutions that will encourage inclusivity and build a more circular future,” said Martijn Hagman, chief executive officer of Tommy Hilfiger Global and PVH Europe. “It is in our nature to drive change, even in the most challenging of times, which is why we are announcing our ambitious Make It Possible sustainability program, outlining 24 targets toward 2030.”
He said Hilfiger has a decade-long track record of driving a more sustainable future, including pioneering denim processes, championing water stewardship and creating more inclusive collections. It started with building internal awareness, and doing pilot programs with its products. “Now we feel we’re at the point that it’s fully embedded in our way of working, and we’ve had a significant impact. We are ready to raise the bar much higher and externally commit to it,” he said.
Among the initiatives of its program are that by 2025, the company looks to produce three million pieces of denim containing post-consumer recycled cotton. By that same year, it expects three of its most commonly purchased products will be completely circular, including the full traceability of key raw materials. Hagman said it hasn’t been determined which three products.
In addition, by 2025 the company is working toward 50 percent of its denim products using low-impact manufacturing in finishes and fabrics; 100 percent of packaging in its operations and supply chain to be recyclable, reusable or compostable, and its products to be sold free of oil-based, single-use plastic packaging.
By 2025, its water leaving wet processors are expected to have zero hazardous chemicals and will be filtered for harmful microbes. The company’s offices, warehouses and stores will be powered by 100 percent renewable electricity by that year, and will drive a 30 percent reduction in its supply chain emission by 2030. In addition, by 2030, all Hilfiger offices, distribution centers and stores will achieve zero waste and eliminate single-use plastics.
Further, Hilfiger looks to achieve gender parity in leadership positions by 2030 and by the same year expects to make professional and life skills development programs available to 200,000 women across the supply chain. By 2023, Hilfiger seeks to expand unconscious bias training and digital literacy programs to reach brand associates globally and all of its suppliers in two key production countries by 2025 and in four by 2030 will proactively support industry-wide collective bargaining to achieve living wages.
Being inclusive is a key element of Hilfiger’s program.
“I opened my first store, People’s Place, in 1969 in my hometown of Elmira [N.Y.] for people of all backgrounds to come together and share exciting pop-culture experiences,” said Tommy Hilfiger. “As our brand has evolved over the years, driven by this inclusive spirit, so has our commitment to social and environmental sustainability. With Make It Possible, we will go even further with our commitment. We’re working toward our vision with the entire organization focused on it and, while we’re not there yet, we are going to get there.”
Among some of the company’s sustainability and inclusivity initiatives have been the launch of Tommy Hilfiger Adaptive, designed to make dressing easier for adults and children with disabilities, and the Tommy Hilfiger Fashion Frontier Challenge, a global program aimed to support start-up and scale-up stage businesses developing solutions that promote inclusivity and sustainability in fashion. Earlier this month, Hilfiger introduced the People’s Place Program to advance the representation of Black, Indigenous and people of color communities within the fashion and creative industries, as reported.
More than 80 percent of Hilfiger’s designers have been trained on circular design strategies, and the goal is to have 100 percent trained by next year, said Hagman. In 2019, 72 percent of cotton used globally came from more sustainable sources. In addition, 43 percent of all denim, or two million pieces globally, are finished in lower-impact processes, reducing the amount of water and energy used. With each season, Hilfiger continues to include more sustainable styles, as evidenced by the 50 recent more sustainable styles planned for spring 2021, double the amount from spring 2020.
Hilfiger joined with industry partners in signing The Fashion Pact in August 2019. The company also joined the Ellen MacArthur Foundation Make Fashion Circular and Jeans Redesign initiatives and in recent years partnered with the WWF to address water risk in its strategic supply chain locations.
Asked why it was necessary for Hilfiger to have its own sustainability program separate from that of PVH, Hagman said, “It was important for the Tommy brand to have a sustainability program that was complementary to the PVH program.” He said of Hilfiger’s 24 targets, most of them match the PVH program. Specifically, about 14 or 15 of them are equal to the PVH program and nine or 10 are specific to the Tommy programs. “All those [Hilfiger] targets and commitments are consumer-facing. The ones that are part of the PVH program are industrywide and more vendor- and supply-chain facing,” he said.
Is the Hilfiger customer willing to pay more for sustainable products? “I think generally the customer is not so much willing to pay for it, but they do expect it from global brands like ourselves,” said Hagman. “We have not raised any prices. We feel it’s important to innovate and push the industry forward. We anticipated that if we work with more sustainable cotton, our [free on board] prices would go up, and we make lower margins.” He said in reality, the industry is moving forward and the supply chain is become larger and the techniques are better. “The impact on prices is relatively limited. So far, the argument that it’s more expensive is not really an argument for not doing it,” he said.
As for whether COVID-19 put a crimp in some of their sustainability targets, Hagman said, “The short answer is ‘no,’ and it’s actually the opposite.” He said some of the positives of the COVID-19 crisis is that they’ve seen acceleration in certain parts of their business, and sustainability has been one of them. “The end consumers are more conscious of the environment, in general, and are looking for brands that stand for those same things,” he said.
Turning to human resources, Hagman feels that Hilfiger has a lot of work to do in cultivating and promoting more women and people of color to leadership positions. In leadership positions in the U.S., 19 percent at PVH are nonwhite in vice president positions and above, 4 percent are black, 5 percent are Hispanic, 7 percent are Asian and 3 percent, considered other. In the U.S., 33 percent of senior executives at PVH are women, 50.6 percent are vice president and above, 42.2 percent are senior vice president and above, 55.2 percent are vice presidents, 62.3 percent are directors and 67.3 percent are managers.
“We have a way to go there. For me personally, the percentage is not high enough. I made a personal commitment to the U.S. organization as well as the European organization I’m leading that we need to take more action to increase the share of female leadership as well as minorities and to become a more inclusive organization,” said Hagman.
“It’s clear that a higher percentage of female leadership doesn’t happen in how we recruit today. We are reviewing our recruitment policies to make sure when we recruit, we have the right representation. We need to take specific actions to make it happen,” he said.
Finally, Hagman is seeing signs of life when it comes to brick-and-mortar. “There’s clearly less traffic in the stores, less people coming into the physical stores, but those who do come in appreciate the measures we’re taking and they come in to buy something. Even though traffic in the physical stores is lower than it used to be, the conversion rate is much higher,” he said.
“All in all, our recovery is going pretty well. Considering the situation we’re at, we’re happy with the trend that we’re seeing. Lastly, we see a conversion to online, our own dot-com and pure-play web site. That’s where the traffic grew and where we see new consumers entering.”
Would he consider opening secondhand stores and starting a rental service?
Hagman said they’re looking at all models.