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The application period for the Champion Sustainability Fund opened at this year’s Clean Tech Summit, held March 29-30, 2022, at The Friday Center.

Almost one year after Carolina announced the Champion Sustainability Fund, Sustainable Carolina launched the application period at the 2022 Clean Tech Summit.

The fund is made possible by a $1 million investment from Champion Athleticwear, part of Winston-Salem-based HanesBrands’ portfolio.

Chris Fox, HanesBrands chief sustainability officer, gave a keynote at the Clean Tech Summit titled, “HanesBrands: Its Path to a More Sustainable 2030.” At the start of his presentation, he addressed the audience about the company’s recent investment in Carolina.

“We’re really thrilled to have been able to make this investment,” Fox said in front of the audience. “This is the kick-off talk that we’ll have here on campus, and we hope to develop our relationship.”

The Carolina community may be familiar with HanesBrands from its involvement in UNC Athletic’s group licensing program with The Brandr Group. UNC Student Stores also sells Champion t-shirts embellished with Carolina logos. But how did the University and HanesBrands begin collaborating to advance sustainability?

This new collaboration with HanesBrands has been years in the making, and the resulting Champion Sustainability Fund represents a major step in meeting the University’s future sustainability goals.

Not just product, but people too

Person on stage presenting about sustainability.
Chris Fox gives a keynote during the 2022 Clean Tech Summit.

HanesBrands is one of the biggest apparel companies in the world, with a current presence in 33 countries. It’s one of a few apparel companies that owns most of its manufacturing capacity – 70% of its production volume comes from its own factories.

During his presentation, Fox stressed that it’s not just about output, it’s also about “doing what’s right,” and creating opportunities for all.

HanesBrands has set high expectations with its 2030 sustainability goals, which fall under three categories: people, planet, and product. The company aims to reduce energy use by an additional 25% by using 100% renewable electricity and science-based emission reduction targets.

“If you’re looking at benchmarks, science-based targets are the way to do it,” Fox said. “We clearly recognized – when we went back and did benchmarking – that this was a path we needed to go down. Getting to 100% renewable energy is what will drive that overall reduction.”

In 2020, HanesBrands dropped 40% in greenhouse gases; energy and water were down 26% and 30%, respectively, on an intensity basis. In the work toward 100% renewable energy, the company is laying the groundwork, and in 2022, it aims to be at 48%.

These goals speak to Sustainable Carolina, especially as the University works toward net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2040. The work that HanesBrands is doing to improve the lives of people is also something sustainability at Carolina wishes to emulate.

“It’s all about people,” Fox said. “We have 50,000 manufacturing-level employees – they’re in our communities where we’re all living, working, and raising our kids. “We wanted to recognize and pay attention to this.”

HanesBrands looks to improve the lives of at least 10 million people by 2030 by providing health and wellness, education, and diversity and inclusion programs. Fox gave examples of the work being done to accomplish this goal. The company has put sewing machine operators through school, opened healthcare clinics in buildings, and paid living wages to ensure all basic needs are met.

Plans to Action at Carolina

The Champion Sustainability Fund opened to the Carolina community on March 29, 2022. Students, faculty, and staff may submit energy efficiency project ideas. As a revolving fund, the cost savings made through the project will be reinvested back into the fund and used for future sustainability projects.

An advisory board, which includes Carolina and HanesBrands Chief Sustainability Officers Mike Pieher and Chris Fox will assess the viability and impacts of proposed projects. Sustainable Carolina Analyst Melanie Elliott, who unveiled the fund at the Clean Tech Summit, also serves on the board.

“My hope for the fund is that it will jump start efficiency projects on campus to help us meet our carbon neutrality goal,” Elliott said. “By funding projects that will generate savings and replenishing the fund with those savings, we will have the ability to continue efficiency efforts well into the future.”

Learn more about the Champion Sustainability Fund and apply to have your project funded on the Sustainable Carolina website.

Two people in front of sign describing the Champion Sustainability Fund.
Sustainable Carolina Analyst Melanie Elliott stands with HanesBrands Chief Sustainability Analyst in front of Champion Sustainability Fund poster.
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