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What You Need to Know About the Evolution of Clean by Design

Published: 04 November 2019
4 min read
Aii Programs
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By Kurt Kipka, Vice President

November 4, 2019

Before I joined Aii earlier this year, I had led Clean by Design (CbD), a highly regarded program that was founded by Dr. Linda Greer at the Natural Resources Defense Council. Shortly after I began my new role at Aii, we had the great opportunity to fully integrate CbD into the organization, bringing together a proven methodology with an organization positioned to drive scalable impact.

Many in the industry are familiar with the longstanding success of CbD since its inception in 2007. However, over the past few years many of CbD’s programmatic elements have evolved, extending the program’s ability to affect positive change.

There are a few key elements to highlight in the new ways Aii is leveraging the CbD methodology:

  • Geographic reach. Since it was first introduced, CbD has come a long way and expanded globally. To date, we have managed cohorts of mills in mainland China, Taiwan region, Vietnam and India, and we can reach any facility globally by leveraging our long-standing expert consultant relationships. Currently, we’re exploring further managed program reach in other high-priority regions for the industry.
  • Updated programming. CbD programming has expanded to deploy not just foundational, “low-hanging fruit,” level projects, but also intermediate and advanced level projects to reduce environmental impact. We’ve also supplemented the highly successful program for energy and water efficiency for textile mills with a pilot project for applying best practices for chemistry and wastewater management. Over the next year, we’ll also expand our programming to include all facility types across the apparel supply chain.
  • Integrated approach. With CbD fully integrated into Aii, we lean into our role as an aggregator and connect mills, brands and technical experts to scale improvement programs and innovation through investment, partnership and data-driven best practices, including measurable, transparent results.
  • Flexible model. We’ve partnered with other leading mill improvement programs to establish criteria for quality programming and aligned metrics.  That means we can provide data assurance and expert support for impact projects led by brands, services providers and even mills, beyond our traditional cohort approach.
  • Training and engagement. To ensure sustainable results, we also focus on engaging and training mill staff, a critical component of CbD. We provide a network for practitioners and an e-training curriculum for participants to receive peer to peer and remote learning opportunities.

Most importantly, the CbD methodology has proven its efficacy and ability to improve environmental impacts. In fact, the most recent set of 33 mills that completed the program in October 2019 achieved the following validated savings, which are consistent across all of our 100+ past participants:

  • 5,000,000  m3 of water
  • 64,000 tons of coal equivalent energy (1,300,000 GJ)
  • 150,000 tons of CO2 emissions
  • $20,000,000 worth of annual savings in operational costs
  • A 12-month payback time on initial mills investment
  • 18.6% in water savings
  • 10.3% in energy savings overall
  • 9.5% reduction of GHG emissions


  • The top 5 water-saving mills reduced water usage by more than 40%
  • The top 5 energy-saving mills reduced energy consumption by more than 30%
  • The top 5 GHG-saving mills reduced GHG emissions by more than 27%

At Aii, we see even greater potential for the CbD methodology to support and scale our mill improvement programs and deliver high-level thought leadership and impact in the apparel industry. Now, the CbD approach provides Aii with a foundation for aligning impact initiatives, enabling us to aggregate results and efficiently deploy resources for the industry. There is so much opportunity to curb environmental impact through supply chain improvement and we see how it is driven by multiple stakeholder needs, including brand priorities, evolving regulations and consumer demand. Through a continuous improvement framework, these and other mills can build on their past in-program and individual success to achieve an optimized level of efficiency. In many cases, up to 15% energy and 20% water reductions.

It is exciting to see how much impact CbD has had on mill improvement programs to date and I’m looking forward to seeing that impact continue into the future. If you’d like to learn more about CbD and how we’re using this methodology through our work at Aii, please feel free to reach out – I’d love to connect.

You can view Kurt’s original post on LinkedIn: