The Sustainability Plan of HUGO BOSS | Sustainable Luxury Series

 
 

It seems that HUGO BOSS with its brands BOSS and HUGO remains aesthetically relevant and trendy. But what about sustainability? This article is based on answers  provided by HUGO BOSS and additional content was added through investigative research.

 

 
 
 
HUGO BOSS AG is a german premium brand headquartered in Metzingen, Germany. Founded in 1924 by Hugo Ferdinand Boss, the company originally produced general-purpose clothing. After World War II and the founder's death in 1948, HUGO BOSS shifted their focus from uniforms to men's suits with a distinctness for sharp tailoring. The company went public in 1988 and started expanding its range of products to beauty products. In 1997 the company added men's and womenswear (HUGO) diffusion lines and a full women's collection in 2000 (BOSS). The brand expanded as well into children's clothing from 2006-2007 and has since evolved into a major global fashion house. As of 2018, the HUGO BOSS AG owns more than 1,113 retail stores worldwide. According to Business of Fashion: HUGO BOSS saw a strong Christmas quarter at the end of 2019. Demand at the German label's renovated stores and growth in online retail drove better-than-expected sales. Fourth-quarter sales rose 4 percent to €825 million, beating average analysts' forecast of €805 million. The label’s shares increased by 2.4 percent in premarket trade as a result. It seems like HUGO BOSS with its brands BOSS and HUGO keeps on being relevant and trendy from an aesthetic point of view but how updated and involved are they in terms of sustainable performances?
 

HUGO BOSS and its sustainable plan

 

HUGO BOSS first of all highlights that the fashion and textile industries face many challenges in terms of sustainability these days. It's important to reflect that the textile industry always has been a pioneering industry, offering a low-hurdle entry point to industrialization and hence to economic and societal prosperity. But as pioneering the industry is, the setup on the ground is often too restricted to the systems and processes used. The industry hasn’t changed drastically so this is still the situation today. The textile industry is still a rather fragmented place that only started to build platforms and to collaborate pre-competitively a few years ago – mainly as a result of the understanding that sustainable challenges could be addressed collaboratively.
 
Another relevant aspect is that a garment is a product group with a certain complexity, sometimes adding more than 100 different components to one style. The more complex supply chains get as a result of the various and wide range of components used, the higher is the need for transparency along the whole chain. Transparent challenges are global ones and should be addressed globally. HUGO BOSS is one player within a large and global industry, and can't be the sole bringer of change especially with issues surrounding transparency. Today there is a common belief in the necessity of joined action across different companies. Hence HUGO BOSS is promoting industry-wide action and investment in effective technology to ensure that the fashion industry as a whole can tackle the important issue of complexity and transparency in the supply chain in the industry as a whole.
 
 
 
 
 

 

HUGO BOSS has its own sustainable action plan as well as targets for 2020 and 2025.

 

 

The Sustainable Program

 

The sustainable program, which is subdivided into six fields of action which are: the company itself, the environment, the employees, the company's partners, the products and the society. This year an Implementation of a group-wide and comprehensive stakeholder management strategy should be in place.
 
In terms of the environment, the company operates production sites and sends its goods through a supply chain that spans the whole world. CO2 emissions, waste, and wastewater cannot be avoided - but they can be reduced efficiently. Until 2025 a reduction of 30% in energy consumption, a 40% reduction in CO2 emissions (Scope 1 and 2) and a 40% reduction in water consumption. All of these reductions concern consolidated sales compared to 2016 as a base year for the company's measurement.
 
The company aims to implement a sustainable store concept for the construction and renovation of stores in all regions to reduce the company's retail operations impact. The company's vision in regards to its employees is basing the company's ability to grow sustainably through its employees. Creating a work environment in which each individual can make the best possible contribution and exploit their potential for success. Starting by revisioning the global strategy for occupational health and safety in the company with the aim of establishing a standard across the Group until 2020. Developing and implementing a job evaluation system and strengthening of employee involvement through regular employee surveys in each location.
 
Regarding the partner's work, the company obliges all partners to respect social standards like human rights, to ensure safety in the workplace and to pay employees fairly. Strengthening the company's work with its suppliers when it comes to reducing environmental impacts in the supply chain. Until 2025 the aims to Achieving complete transparency for all finished goods suppliers concerning social, environmental and economic performance factors and their digitally supported supply chains. An ongoing mission is to purchase more than 90% of all goods from suppliers who achieve the result satisfactorily or better in social audits. Until this year all strategic finished goods suppliers must comply and raise awareness of the environmental issues involved in their components among employees.
 
In terms of the company's targets for its products, the ultimate goal is innovative and sustainable product solutions from pineapple leaf fibers to virtual 3D prototypes and plasma treatment of wool. This year the company should finalize two major projects related to its product planning and production. One is the development of a comprehensive guideline for the use of sustainable materials, which defines clear roadmaps and time targets for the most frequently used materials throughout the company. The second one is the implementation of the Circular Design Strategy as part of the "2020 Circular Fashion System Commitment" of the brand. All of these projects are done side by side to the ongoing offer of special sustainable and innovative capsule collections in an annual rhythm.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

The company aims to implement a sustainable store concept for the construction and renovation of stores in all regions to reduce the company's retail operations impact.

 

Sustainable Product Solutions

 

n terms of the company's targets for its products, the ultimate goal is innovative and sustainable product solutions from pineapple leaf fibers to virtual 3D prototypes and plasma treatment of wool. This year the company should finalize two major projects related to its product planning and production. One is the development of a comprehensive guideline for the use of sustainable materials, which defines clear roadmaps and time targets for the most frequently used materials throughout the company. The second one is the implementation of the Circular Design Strategy as part of the "2020 Circular Fashion System Commitment" of the brand. All of these projects are done side by side to the ongoing offer of special sustainable and innovative capsule collections in an annual rhythm.
 
When talking about society the company wants to contribute to its future viability. Be it UNICEF educational projects in Africa, professional development programs for women in Turkey or events that give children from socially disadvantaged families access to art. This year the company implements a corporate volunteering project with global commitment. By 2025 the company would reach 2,100 women from a weak economic background with professional job training and around 1,400 children will be supported by the company's Education Association.
 
When asking the HUGO BOSS representative about any preference or rating between all six fields of the action plan, it didn’t seem like there is any preferability. On the other hand, the company integrates the sustainable targets with its stakeholder’s expectations and requests and it is a firm component of the sustainability program. This is why the current focus lies in developing sustainable product solutions and creating more transparency throughout the whole value chain.
 
The company developed these strategies and guidelines to support the different teams and departments in the company by implementing sustainability within their scope. These tools also support the company's work externally with its partners in the supply chain. These guidelines include their own Code of Conduct as well as the Social Standards for decent working conditions, which are based on the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. Also, a set of environmental guidelines (including guidelines on chemicals management) and regulations are in use to continuously improve the footprint of their supply chain together with their production partners.
 
The company has been working closely with its stakeholders for many years – such as NGOs, unions, academia, and customers, etc. One of the missions of these stakeholders’ communications is to develop engagement in the company’s programs across all six defined fields of action. The last Stakeholder Dialog just took place in October. The focus of the exchange was the effects of technological advancement and digitalization on textile production, supply chain, product development, and design. This dialog is an important exchange for us to include external views and feedback from relevant stakeholders and is essential to help implement the topic of sustainability in the company.
 
The company ensures that sustainability is at the forefront of their corporate discussion through the Sustainability Committee, headed by the company's Chief Executive Officer, and is currently incorporates about 20 members from all relevant management functions and serves to discuss current sustainability topics.
 
 
 
 

 

In order to involve more employees in sustainability, HUGO BOSS regularly organizes sustainability events to enrich and expand the employees’ perspective on sustainability.

 
In terms of sustainability, the company's aims lie more specifically in cotton. By 2020, 50% of cotton used is to be sourced as sustainable cotton following the company's cotton guidelines. By 2025, this share should rise to at least 90%. In 2018, HUGO BOSS already purchased around 40% of our cotton from sustainable sources. Trying to clarify what it means to make sustainable cotton the company has to take into account a range of criteria determining the sustainability of cotton. All of this is done while optimizing the efforts with cotton sustainability by collaborating with a small number of standard-setting organizations such as Better Cotton Initiative, Cotton made in Africa, Cotton LEADS and YESS: Yarn Ethically & Sustainably Sourced.
 
Another target is sourcing 90% of the procurement volume from finished goods suppliers (including their own production facilities) by 2020 who have achieved a satisfactory or better result in their last audit. As of December 31, 2018, the proportion was 91% (2017: 84%).  The last example regards climate protection: As part of the UN’s Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action, reducing CO2 emissions is a core element. HUGO BOSS pledged itself to the goal of reducing CO2 emissions by 30% by 2030.
 
As we can see the brand has a concrete set of targets, these give the necessary orientation while on the other services to measure sustainability success and achievements on an annual basis. At the moment the targets fall on the years 2020 and 2025 and a continuous process is being carried out to assess the development in this regard. 
 
In addition, HUGO BOSS is a member of the Dow Jones Sustainability Index for the third year in a row, which benchmarks the company's engagement compared to other companies in the industry. In recent years the company has been collaborating with different organizations, associations, industry initiatives, and companies. For example, the Global Climate Action for Fashion working group of the United Nations, the German Textilbündnis or Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals amongst many others. The company collaborates closely with various start-ups, such as berlin-based Circular Fashion, which focusses on promoting a circular fashion approach within the industry through training sessions and other tools.
 
The circular steps the company is already implementing or planning to integrate in the close future are based on the given ever-increasing demand for resources to feed and clothe the world. HUGO BOSS considers the integration of circular economy principles to be an important element to ensure sustainability within the fashion supply-chain. They started with training for their designers and will integrate circular principles into all HUGO BOSS design briefings from the Spring/Summer Collection 2020 onwards. They collaborate with the Berlin-based Circular Fashion startup and organize workshops and knowledge transfer between the different responsible departments to hopefully achieve an ongoing use of resources.
 
It is clear to the fashion industry that one of the biggest motivations to be sustainable as a brand is consumer demand. HUGO BOSS communicates all their behind-the-scenes sustainability efforts to consumers. They communicate sustainability criteria broadly via hanging tags with information on sustainable materials such as recycled padding and sustainable down. The integration of information into the online shop where customers can now filter the “Responsible” product portfolio. Besides, they get information via customer newsletters or can visit dedicated sub-pages created for the company's dedicated responsible capsule collections.
 
Like other brands, HUGO BOSS is tackling and developing its paths around the topic of sustainability and is trying to aim high and set targets respectively. On that note, it is important to highlight that HUGO BOSS replied to our questionnaire. The company even shared more information than could be found on their different communications channels. They shared their efforts around sustainable strategies, aims and action plans within the brand but also regarding external collaborations and hopes for the future of the industry. 
 
This is the standard of transparency we are looking for. 
 
 
 

+ Words: Danielle Keller Aviram

Danielle Keller Aviram is a sustainable jewelry and fashion researcher, consultant and designer. She graduated an M.A focusing on sustainability in fashion at AMD Berlin after doing her B.A in jewelry and accessories design in "Shenkar" Tel Aviv. After her B.A she had her own international fine jewelry brand operating for 5 years.

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