WWD: On ESG Front, American Eagle Outfitters Exceeds Goals

By: WWD Staff | Link to article

The retailer is moving the needle on reducing water usage and helping local communities.

American Eagle Outfitters Inc. released its second “environmental (Planet), social (People) and governance (Practices)” report, which spotlights the progress the retailer has made via its “Building a Better World” initiative.

The company also shared new sustainability goals after noting it has exceeded several water conservation targets. “Most notably, the company reduced water use per pair of jeans produced by 38 percent in 2022, surpassing the initial water reduction goal one year early,” American Eagle Outfitters said in a statement.

The company also said its commitment to social responsibility has been central since the brand’s founding, “as evidenced through its initiatives and more than two decades of ESG achievements,” the retailer said, also noting that with enhanced transparency, “as well as SASB and TCFD-aligned sustainability reporting, [American Eagle Outfitter]’s commitment to increased oversight and performance has resulted in a number of advancements over the last twelve months, including MSCI’s upgrade of [the company]’s ESG rating from ‘BBB’ to ‘A.’”

Jay Schottenstein, executive chairman of the board and chief executive officer of American Eagle Outfitters, said, “Doing good — and doing right by our customers, associates and communities is deeply woven within the fabric of [American Eagle Outfitters]. We are proud to release our second ESG report to highlight greater transparency and our ongoing commitment to building a better world. Every day, we strive to make lasting improvements across our organization that will lead to a more sustainable and equitable future.”

New initiatives were highlighted in the report, including the creation of the Aerie Real Foundation in 2022, which formalized and expanded the brand’s “decades-long history of philanthropy to promote women’s empowerment, inclusivity and sustainability,” the company said.

Regarding expanded and enhanced planet goals, the company said it has achieved or exceeded several environmental goals, “directed at protecting the planet and driving meaningful change across the retail industry.” Additional targets include recycling 70 percent of the total water used in denim laundries by 2025 and reducing the company’s water footprint by 2028, including its operations and partner factories and mills.

In addition, the company said it is committing to net-zero emissions by 2050 and will reduce virgin plaster by 50 percent and its total plastic footprint by 30 percent by 2028. It will also shoot for using sustainable sources for 75 percent of all fibers by 2028.

Other highlights include that the company (with its customers) donated more than $10 million to nonprofits “that share [American Eagle Outfittler]’s vision for building a better world and include support of mental health, youth and women’s empowerment and education programs for teens and young adults. The company also awarded about $850,000 to 45 of its store associates through its Steven A. Davis Scholarship for Social Justice, which was created with a $5 million commitment that was launched in 2021.

The retailer also said it has saved 4 billion gallons of water across its denim production since 2017 and recycled 9 million gallons of water at laundries in 2022. The company also said it saved the equivalent of 174 million plastic bottles “by ensuring 25 percent of all polyester used in production came from recycled sources.” Other highlights include that store associates in local communities logged over 14,000 hours of volunteer service. The retailer also introduced Be Well@AEO, “a holistic program providing associates with tools and resources to manage their mental and physical health, financial goals and more.”