SanMar’s Journey Toward Sustainability

When we talk about sustainability we often focus on where we want to arrive: the brighter future we’re trying to bring into being. However, the most important part of being sustainable isn’t the destination – it’s the journey.

Like any journey, there’s exploring to do, experiments to attempt and new pathways to seek along the way. All this exploration leads to exciting discoveries, but it’s still best to plan ahead before you embark. There’s a lot to consider when you’re trying to be a sustainable business and seeing the paths others have taken can be a helpful guide.

With that in mind, we’d like to share how SanMar approaches our journey toward improving our sustainability performance.

Teams from across the company come together to design, source and develop product that customers will want to buy and use. To reduce the environmental impact of those products we have to look closely at how they’re made and the materials used to create them.

Where We Come From

SanMar's Suppliers

SanMar works with suppliers who share our values and implement social and environmental best practices. This includes adhering to our Global Operating Principles, meeting our code of conduct and more specific factors such as maintaining efficient machinery, facilities that run on renewable energy, water saving and recycling projects, waste reduction and waste recycling.

As a part of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, we join a group of peers and competitors from across the apparel, footwear and textile industries working to minimize our environmental impact while making positive impact on people. We all work together to develop a universal approach to measuring sustainability performance through a suite of shared tools, known as the Higg Index. We ask suppliers to complete the Higg Facility Environmental Module to measure their impact across energy use, emissions, water usage and more. 

This is one example of one of those exciting discoveries we talked about earlier: we’ve found along the way that even businesses in apparent competition can come together to share goals and ideas. SanMar is proud to work in partnership with companies who are improving their social and environmental impact.

What We’re Made Of

The District Re-Tee

Just as important as knowing where our products come from is knowing what they’re made of. By taking an approach based on science and doing our due diligence, SanMar’s product creation teams are increasingly focused on developing and sourcing products with a lower environmental impact.

The recent introduction of our first t-shirt made from 100% recycled materials, the District® Re-Tee, is the clearest example. We’re also exploring more recycled content options across our brands, but fabrics are only one option. Organic cotton is another type of fabric that can reduce a product’s environmental impact. SanMar is proud to carry Allmade apparel because of their overall approach to sustainability, and their new 100% Organic Cotton Tee is an excellent example of this.  

Where We’re Going

Everyone approaches their journey from a unique perspective. Each business has different needs and there’s no one-size-fits-all solution that works equally for everyone. This is SanMar’s approach so far, with recognition that we still have plenty to learn on the journey ahead of us.

It’s important, especially if you’re just starting down the path to sustainability, to not get overwhelmed by the complexity of the overall picture. “The key thing is to do something,” says SanMar’s Sustainability Manager Emily Gigot. “Start someplace small. Choose one style to promote to that customer who’s been asking about sustainable products. Take one step in your business and when that goes well, keep going.”

In other words, don’t let the scale of the problem prevent you from taking an action that you are uniquely equipped to take. Don’t try for perfection right out of the gate – remember that nobody is doing this perfectly yet, and we can all learn from one another’s missteps and successes along the way.

Sustainability is a journey that leads to better places. And like every journey, there’s only one way to begin: choose your first step and take it with confidence in your abilities and hope for the future.