DISCUSSING G-STAR RAW´S ROAD TOWARD SUSTAINABILITY WITH REBECKA SANCHO
As a Dutchy, you have probably heard of the cutting-edge, raw denim company G-Star RAW. But for our readers who aren’t as familiar with the brand. Regarding sustainable innovation, quality, and design, the Dutch denim brand G-Star has set the standard for the whole denim industry. They are the first brand to create 3D jeans and the first brand to create denim fabric out of recycled plastic bottles from our oceans. They have been creating the ultimate conditions for us to find a perfect pair of jeans, all the while doing it sustainably. They take pride in producing and selling high-quality denim that is long-lasting and sustainable. So, we did a deep dive with the new head of sustainability at G-Star, Rebecka Sancho. We discussed G-Stars’ sustainable past, present and future. On their website, G-Star is already incredible transparant about their policies. But we wanted to give you some exclusive knowledge straight from the source.
Let’s start at the beginning; introduce yourself and what you do in the company.
My name is Rebecka Sancho. After graduating in Sustainable Development from Utrecht University in The Netherlands, I have been with numerous fashion brands such as Asics, WE Fashion and Hunkemöller. Earlier this year, I started at G-Star as Head of Sustainability, and in this role, I am responsible for further defining and implementing our RAW Responsibility Strategy. I’m incredibly passionate about innovation, and I feel strongly about the importance of collaboration with all stakeholders, from suppliers and peer brands to NGOs and governments. Combining innovation and collaboration is the driving force behind creating real change.
You Studied sustainable development; what is your motivation to bring G-Star to a new sustainable level?
Working for a brand with such a long sustainability history is rewarding, but we realize there is more to do. Sustainability requires us (and everyone else) to constantly evolve and find new ways to reduce impact through innovations, new measures, and new technological solutions. Besides continuously trying to reduce our impact, we are also looking into ways to create an actual positive impact on people and our planet for example, through regenerative cotton.
It’s incredible that the G-Star site has much transparency and information on production lines, factories, and more. However, it is always best to hear and talk about it directly with you! Could you talk us through the sustainability journey of the brand G-Star?
In 2006 we decided that sustainability needed to be integrated into the heart of our business. That’s when we officially started our Sustainability department. Because innovation is at the very core of our DNA, and sustainable innovations are naturally a part of that, we are constantly working on our next sustainable innovations. We see sustainability much more as an enabler rather than a hurdle. Throughout the years, we’ve drastically increased our use of responsible materials. Replacing nearly all our conventional cotton with more sustainable alternatives such as organic, recycled, and BCI-sourced cotton has been an essential first step for G-Star. For 2025 and 2030 we have set the bar even higher. In 2025, 75% of ALL our materials will be recycled, organic, bio-based or compostable, and in 2030, this will be 100%. We recently introduced the Responsible Materials Ranking to give our customers complete insight into each garment’s composition and environmental impact on our webshop. By doing so, we allow our customers to decide for themselves whether a specific garment matches their individual sustainability standards.
That’s remarkable, it gives us a clear understanding of our decisions and their potential effects. What would be a pair of jeans that could be the best choice? And what could be something we could do ourselves to improve our actions regarding our garments?
In 2018, we launched Our Most Sustainable Jeans Ever, combining the cleanest indigo technology in the world, the most sustainable washing techniques, and using 100% organic cotton. A lot of our work through the years was united in this jean and then awarded through a Cradle to Cradle™ Gold Level Certification. We have been building on that innovation and now offer many variations of that paricular denim fabric. Besides continuously improving our offer we also feel a responsibility to prolong the life of our garments by offering free repairs in our stores. But there’s also lots that you can do, for instance taking proper care of your garment by washing your jeans less and at low temperatures which will reduce water waste and prolong the life of your garments. And when the time has come to truly part from your jeans, you can hand them in at our stores so that we can ensure proper re- or upcycling.
Now that we know a little bit more about you and the sustainability history of the brand, could you give us more information on the steps you take to make a pair of jeans as sustainable as possible? Does this start immediately during the designing process?
Yes, it all starts in the design phase. Here you can make decisions on material use, but this is also the stage where you can have an important impact on the recyclability of a garment. Then, going beyond improving only our material use and focus on enhancing our impact when dyeing, washing, and putting together our garments. That is why we are scaling the use of Cradle to Cradle-certified fabrics and products throughout our collection. Other innovations that we apply in this phase are, for example, dyeing with upcycled plant waste or using natural mineral dyes.
I could find multiple countries and factories you work with for production worldwide. How do you assess a factory as a good fit for G-Star production?
We have a small and longstanding supplier base. We ensure that the social and environmental standards from our Code of Conduct are met through annual assessments. We have a rigorous onboarding process for potential new supply partners, and we will only start a new collaboration if they meet our standards and requirements.
Are there certain agreements and standards a factory must uphold?
In 2007 we introduced our Supplier Code of Conduct, representing all standards on Social and environmental standards, safety and health (S&ESH) regulations, ensuring that G-Star products are made under fair and safe circumstances. We continuously monitor and collaborate with our suppliers and external industry experts to uphold these standards and update the requirements where needed.
For everyone who doesn’t know, G-Star produces all sorts of denim jeans (e.g. for men and women but also unisex). Many different styles, designs, and colours, every season. After going through the website, I wondered why some designs are made in different countries and out of other materials. Why aren’t the same sustainability features incorporated into all denim jean designs? For example, some jeans are made of recycled products, fibres or plastics; some are cradle to cradle, while others are made of ecological cotton.
G-Star is for everyone; we really aim to be a democratic brand, offering the right style and fit for all our customers. That means offering a wide range of styles and fabrics, which all feature their own sustainability qualities. By applying multiple sustainable solutions throughout our collection, we are making it easier for our customers to create a sustainable choice that fits their personal style and taste.
G-Star has been leading the industry in sustainable and durable denim ever since the beginning of the company. What would be the next step for G-Star?
Sustainability is never done. That’s why we continuously set new and even more ambitious goals. We have made significant steps climbing the circular ladder throughout our entire product lifecycle, but we still have work to do. We are in the midst of closing the actual denim loop, ensuring that ALL returned G-Star jeans will be upcycled into brand new G-Star products. We will also introduce regenerative cotton in our garments, creating a positive impact. Raising the bar and innovating at every step is what we love to do.