Case Study

Japanese manufacturer uses Higg sustainability data to discover textile-level insights

The story of an innovator

Teijin Frontier is a leading Japanese polyester manufacturer with a reputation as a values-led innovator. Since its inception, the firm has prioritized socially and environmentally responsible operations and looked to cutting-edge solutions to help drive down impact.

“We always prioritize values that contribute to a healthy environment and a prosperous future,” explains Yukihiro Shigemura, who heads up environmental strategy and supply chain management for Teijin Frontier.

Teijin fabric
“We always prioritize values that contribute to a healthy environment and a prosperous future"
Yukihiro Shigemura,
Environmental Strategy and Supply Chain Management

Since 2012, the company has used Higg to understand their impact both at a facility and product level – the company is a long standing user of the Higg Facility Environmental and Social Modules (FEM and FSLM), as well as the Higg Materials Sustainability Index (MSI).

According to Shigemura, “[Higg] makes our industry much more transparent.” As more brands and retailers use a common set of tools to measure their impact, the industry can compare results, scale progress together, and enable buyers to make more informed decisions.

In 2020, the company doubled down on its environmental strategy and launched THINK ECO, an aggressive plan to decrease fossil fuels, chemical pollution, and impact on climate change across operations by 2030. Under THINK ECO, at least 50% of products sold have to be made from recycled materials. Teijin Frontier developed this goal specifically to reduce their carbon output, and the MSI, which scores a material based on multiple environmental factors, including fossil fuels, has been a key informant to meeting this goal. The company studied the different materials currently in use and identified opportunities for change so they could confidently set a 50% recyclable goal knowing the outcome would result in data-backed impact reduction.

Using Higg MSI data to drive impact

Teijin Frontier used MSI data to show customers the materials with lower environmental impacts. In one instance, the company proposed a switch with a large client that manufactured uniforms in Japan. Sonekatsu was able to compare five different blends across key environmental areas and show the client the total impact of each uniform variation, pictured below. 

Armed with clear, objective scores across impact areas, it was a win-win – the fabric met Teijin Frontier’s goals and still produced a high quality material for the client.

The company has used MSI in multiple instances to help prioritize manufacturing textiles with lower impact. For example, they measured another in-house ultra light-weight knitted waterproof textile and compared it to its alternative, a high-density woven version. The latter scored noticeably lower across MSI categories. This type of data-driven analysis has been critical in helping Teijin Frontier stay on track to meet their THINK ECO goals.

Teijin Frontier MSI Graphic
Using the Higg MSI, Teijin Frontier measures impact for a variety of its textiles

Designing towards circularity

Teijin Frontier isn’t settling on simply making the most sustainable products. The company is now setting its sights on product lifecycle management, and integrating a more circular approach from the beginning of design. 

“Our real homework will be at the end of use,” Shigemura reflects. The brand has explored closed-loop recycling technologies and will continue to pursue materials that are easiest to recycle and repurpose.

Teijin Frontier is on a mission to innovate across its supply chain, weaving sustainability into its corporate structure, operations, and product design. The apparel industry has a long way to go, and taking this kind of holistic approach will help the industry scale progress at the pace our planet demands.

Ecopet yarn

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