Ralph Lauren’s Indigenous Artist Fellowship, Cradle-to-Cradle Cashmere Celebrated in ESG Report

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Ralph Lauren’s corporate agenda is dotted with many social and environmental aims, as its latest report shows. And all of the encompassing elements are part of the broader business vision.

“Embedding this philosophy across our entire value chain is a natural and critical extension of Ralph’s vision as we work to address our impacts beyond the beautiful products and experiences we create,” Ralph Lauren president and chief executive officer, Patrice Louvet, said in an accompanying press statement.

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Between launching an Artists in Residence program for Indigenous artists, revealing the first in a series of Cradle to Cradle-certified, or C2C-certified,  “iconic” products, as well as earmarking a dedicated regenerative cotton fund, Ralph Lauren has kept busy.

The Artist in Residence program prioritizes artists who are “preserving traditional and evolving native craftsmanship.” The program aims to expand their platforms within the art, design, fashion and handicraft industries. Each artist’s tenure depends on their scope and availability, ranging from six to 18 months with potential for a permanent role with the company in the future. Participants will work remotely, but will visit Ralph Lauren’s corporate headquarters in New York with the opportunity for on-site creative collaborations.

“Each artist’s program may look different as our goal is to tailor their experience based on their desires and goals,” a company spokesperson said. “As we launch the program, we are working with partners like Creative Futures Collective to identify candidates. In the future, we aim to empower our recently formed external advisory council to help identify Artists in Residence candidates.”

Regenerative agriculture is also getting its due attention.

Last year, the company designated an inaugural grant of $5 million through the Ralph Lauren Corporate Foundation to establish the “U.S. Regenerative Cotton Fund” or USRCF, supporting long-term, sustainable cotton production in the U.S. The program looks to eliminate 1 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent from the atmosphere by 2026. Cotton makes up more than 80 percent of Ralph Lauren Corp.’s total material use, and the USRCF initiative supports recent material and dye process investments from the company.

For its circular design initiative, consumers can expect to see the first C2C-certified cashmere sweater from the brand later this year. Specifically, the launch is for the men’s “Purple-label” and women’s “Collection luxury” cashmere crewneck sweater. The drop ushers in the company’s sustainability goal to roll out five C2C-certified iconic styles in the next three years, or by 2025.

Two more C2C-certified projects are underway later this year.

Ralph Lauren has said it would step up efforts to map its supply chain to enable visibility of material origins across each step of the textile and garment supply chain. Given that product traceability is another component of the broader supply chain picture, the company also gave a status update on its partnership with tech firms Evrythng and Avery Dennison. The partnership began in 2019 and was said to entail the digital mapping of Ralph Lauren’s entire product catalogue. At the time, the product volume tracked at just under 200 million items — which is no small feat.

“To date, we’ve incorporated more than 200 factories into the [Digital Product Identification system, or DPIDs] program, and as a result, a majority of our apparel products now have DPIDs, and we expect every product to have a digital ID by 2024,” a spokesperson said.

As with other industry heavyweights, Ralph Lauren took an early stance on decrying PFAs or “forever chemicals,” which are facing a regulatory crackdown as clothing is pegged as a source of lingering toxins. The company pledged to rid its business (those with water repellant functionality) of PFAs and said it is on track to do so by fiscal year-end 2022.

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