“We must focus on increasing material recyclability and giving clothes a ‘second life’ as an essential alternative to landfill”- Debbie Shakespeare

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Avery Dennison is a global materials science company specializing in the design and manufacture of a wide variety of labeling and functional materials.

Recently Team Denim Focus covered an interview with Debbie Shakespeare, senior director, sustainability, compliance, and core product line management, Avery Dennison. The conversation is drafted below-

Fig- Debbie Shakespeare, senior director, sustainability, compliance, and core product line management, Avery Dennison.

Please tell us about Avery Dennison?

Avery Dennison is a global materials science company specializing in the design and manufacture of a wide variety of labeling and functional materials, needed in nearly every major industry. Our headquarters are in Glendale, California, and the company employs more than 32,000 people, in over 50 countries.

We supply pressure-sensitive materials for labels and graphic applications; tapes and other bonding solutions for industrial, medical, and retail applications; and tags, labels, and embellishments for apparel. We’re also known for our radio frequency identification (RFID) solutions, serving retail apparel and other markets.

What makes Avery Dennison special compared to other company?

When we think about what makes us different, the first thing is our history and our legacy. We’ve been in garment manufacturing for such a long time – eight decades – and we’re a company that sits in the middle between the brand and the factories that are making the clothing. Our position means we understand what’s needed from both sides.

“Avery Dennison creates more than just labels. We’re focused on finding innovative solutions for some of fashion’s biggest challenges. Our digital ecosystems have the ability to make every item intelligent so that unique connections can be forged between people and products.”

At Avery Dennison, we work to create a better future for businesses and the environment.

What is the recent development?

We just announced our emissions reduction targets, which have been approved by the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) and are consistent with levels required to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement. As such, we have raised the bar on our own sustainability goals, by setting ambitious 2030 targets. Avery Dennison has committed to reducing absolute scope 1 and 2 GHG emissions by 70% from a 2015 baseline year, and is also committing to reduce absolute scope 3 GHG emissions from purchased goods and services and end of life treatment of sold products 30% by 2030 from a 2018 base year.

The specific 2030 targets fall under three broad sustainability goals:

  • Deliver innovations that advance the circular economy;
  • Reduce the environmental impact in its operations and supply chain; and
  • Make a positive social impact by improving the livelihoods of people and communities.

Avery Dennison’s overall ambition is to have net-zero emissions by 2050.

While we are wholly committed to reducing our own carbon footprint, our energies are also focused on helping our customers’ make progress with their carbon-reducing initiatives.

How do you maintain sustainability in your product and service?

We have strong, publicly-accessible ESG policies covering human rights, climate change, water usage, supplier standards, responsible materials sourcing and slavery and human trafficking, and we’re committed to building on this transparency and continually reporting achievements and learnings. Our stakeholders expect to see meaningful progress, and we work hard to demonstrate our commitment to the long-term health of Avery Dennison and the planet, which is why our sustainability goals are so vital as we come out of the pandemic.

Advancing the circular economy is a key part of maintaining sustainability through our products and services for the apparel industry. We’re passionate about finding practical ways to cut textile waste, applying our materials expertise to invent and engineer user-friendly solutions. A big focus is increasing material recyclability and giving clothes a ‘second life’ as an essential alternative to landfill.

How did Avery Dennison tackle the pandemic situation?

Like every other company, we saw how attitudes toward sustainability have been particularly sensitive to the pandemic. Given the nature of the global lockdowns and the temporary reduction of industry and transport, many consumers became very hopeful for the future of the environment. But this spike in eco-positivity was soon corrected by Q3 2020 as activity resumed and it became clear that even shutting down cross-sections of the economy is not enough to reverse climate change.

Even so, since that point, positivity toward the environment has crept back, likely because many have seen the pandemic as a reckoning moment in pushing society and industry toward better alternatives. These attitude shifts toward the environment reflect how receptive consumers are toward initiatives which further the sustainable agenda.

Over 60% of the fashion buyers we asked in our recent report with GWI want more transparency, before they make a purchase, about the journey of their clothing. The pandemic brought with it a huge dependency on technology. Over the course of 2020, for example, monthly usage of QR codes rose by as much as 50% in the UK and by nearly 20% in the U.S. Mobile payment usage also became more popular, rising by 13% in the U.S.

This helps explain why this same report found that around 40% of fashion buyers in these countries say they feel more comfortable using QR codes since the pandemic, with a similar proportion believing triggers like QR codes and NFC taps are easy ways to access digital experiences.

We have been working to develop strong use cases via collaborations with other brands within the industry to showcase to customers the scope of what our digital innovations can deliver. As such, we have launched a series of pilot projects. First we focused on recycling and partnered with LA-based post-consumer garment recycler Ambercycle and more recently we collaborated with lifestyle brand UpWest, and ReCircled, an apparel, and footwear recycling and reuse focused organization.

UpWest and ReCircled worked together on this upcycling project, which converted existing sweaters into cozy winter blankets, dog sweaters and mittens. These products then rejoined the store inventory to be sold.

UpWest and ReCircled enlisted Avery Dennison to provide the digital triggers and data connectivity essential to complete the circularity loop.

This collaboration demonstrates Avery Dennison’s Digital Care Label solution, showing how it can be used in an upcycling context and provide a brand experience.

Any message to the global textile industry?

Commitments are really important, and now is the time to make really meaningful steps forward to achieve these end goals and targets. From a textile perspective, this means reducing the amount of material consumption. Think about how you can do more with less, switch the remaining volume to lower carbon products such as recycled material and work closely with your supply chain to ensure they have climate goals. Then provide transparency of process through digital technologies and triggers.

Companies can also achieve a rapid reduction of tangible products in favor of more digital solutions.

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