Toxic Textiles Update: Carter’s First Sustainability Report

Submitted by ctate on
Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

At the end of July, Carter’s released its first sustainability report! This is a positive step for the company, which is the largest retailer of children’s clothing in the US. But we need to see bolder action on chemical management from Carter’s to end toxic textiles and create more sustainable apparel.

What is Carter’s doing?

Commits to source 100% sustainable cotton and polyester fibers by 2030.

Carter’s notes a majority of the fabric it sources is either cotton or polyester – so, there is a large potential impact with this commitment. However, it left us wondering what percentages of cotton and polyester are currently sustainable and what support will be provided to current suppliers so that the cotton they sell becomes more sustainable?

Additionally, Carter’s should report on progress being made on this commitment in future sustainability reports in a meaningful way, such as including percentages of the total and target dates. 

Carter’s also launched a line of clothing, Little Planet, that is GOTS certified. This is a positive step; Carter’s should expand its offerings of the GOTS certification to a wider percentage of its products so that clothing made with organic cotton is more widely available to its customers. In the report, Carter's vaguely notes that there is the intention to expand the scope of this brand – we encourage Carter’s to issue a time-bound commitment stating the percentage of total products that will be GOTS certified.

Many companies have one or two sustainable lines of clothing, but in order to transform the industry, companies need to apply sustainability efforts to all products.  

Obtain the Oeko-Tex certification on “much of” 0-24 months baby clothing by 2022.

The Oeko-Tex certification is a strong certification and addresses some of the hazardous chemicals used in apparel. This is a step in the right direction.

However, this commitment is vague. Rather, Carter’s should state what percentage of its clothing will be certified by 2022. Additionally, we would like to see Carter’s apply this goal it all its clothing, where possible.

Expects to require many raw material suppliers to carry Oeko-Tex certification.

Similar to the commitment above, this is a vague statement, and Carter’s should announce what percentage of raw material suppliers will carry this certification and by when.

Require Teir 1 apparel suppliers to follow the company's Restricted Substances List (RSL) and “heightened restricted substance requirements”.

We are glad to see this update from Carter’s and appreciate the reporting on progress of implementation of its RSL (which protects customers from many toxic chemicals and other substances). However, it is not clear what “heightened restricted substance requirements” are, and it is a relatively meaningless statement without additional details.

Carter’s still lacks a public manufacturing restricted substances list (MRSL), which limits what harmful chemicals garments workers are exposed to. We are seeing more and more companies make strong commitments to limit and phase out hazardous chemicals and protecting workers and local communities near factory suppliers, demonstrating that it is possible to end toxic textiles. Carter's needs to join these companies in issuing an MRSL. 

We encourage Carter’s to look at leaders in chemical management, such as Target which has time-bound goals to phase out Perfluorinated Chemicals and added flame retardants by 2022 as well as removing added Perfluorinated Alky Substances by 2025. Target has also implemented an RSL and MRSL in its textile supply chains.  

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Carter’s also committed to reducing greenhouse gas emission by 25% by 2030 and developing science-based targets.  While this is a positive step and is a clearly stated goal, we need urgent, bolder action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Carter’s has also disclosed data on its energy usage and emissions for the past three years; this type of transparency is a step in the right direction and we hope Carter’s will apply this transparency across all issue areas.

Increasing data collection.

By 2025, Carter’s intends to source only from suppliers that use the Sustainable Apparel Coalition’s HIGG Facility Environmental Module (Higg FEM). This will help to standardize data tracking within its supply chain, allow the company to see where improvements can be made, and better monitor year over year impacts.

Improving water management. 

The apparel industry is a water intensive industry and is the second largest polluter of water. Carter’s is starting to understand and monitor the water usage within its supply chain. Carter’s needs to commit to bolder action to address its water impact – we hope to see this in the next iteration of its reporting as it strengthens its environmental impact data collection processes.

Partnering with TerraCycle:

Carter’s has teamed up with TerraCycle to launch a program to recycle children’s clothing. Individuals can send in children’s clothing that cannot be donated or used to be recycled, rather than being thrown out. Using this program is free.

Learn more about the recycling program here:

You made Carter's improve. Now more consumer pressure is needed!

When we launched the Toxic Textiles campaign in 2019, Carter’s shared very little information about its sustainability efforts publicly, since then Carter’s has taken a number of steps:

  • launching an environmental, social, and governance (ESG) website,
  • disclosing a restricted substances list (RSL),
  • released a sustainability report.

This progress is thanks to the nearly 30,000 individuals who have called on Carter’s to step it up, but there is still a lot of room for improvement, so please take and share the action:

Carter’s CSR report can be found here and additional information about its sustainability efforts can be found here.


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