Winston-Salem-based HanesBrands Inc. is making progress on sustainability goals the company hopes to reach by the end of the decade, but getting there will take overcoming some challenges.

The apparel maker has set big goals to reach by 2030, including cutting emissions from its facilities by half, going to 100 percent sustainable cotton, and eliminating single-use plastics in its packaging.

Last month the company released a report detailing its early progress on some of those goals, including an 11 percent reduction of emissions since 2019. 

HanesBrands Chief Sustainability Officer Chris Fox says the most challenging goal may be one that's set for 2025 — 100 percent recycled or biodegradable material for its polyester products.

“And a lot of that is just econ 101,” he says. “There's more of a demand for recycled poly than there is supply right now, and it's driving up the cost … And that's something we're continuing to work through.”

Fox says about 15 years ago the company switched its oil-burning equipment to renewable energy at its mill operations in the Dominican Republic and El Salvador. Making that move was not only cleaner but saved the company millions of dollars over the years.

He says to reach the company's 2030 goals it will take similar major investments.

But he says it's worth it as sustainability becomes a presumed part of doing business.

“I think the consumer expects it. The investment community expects it,” he says. “We're on calls quite frequently with major investors and shareholders and this is what they're expecting us to do. The governments and regulators are expecting more and more of us and in this space, as well.”

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