Alliance for Responsible Denim

Startdatum1 september 2016
Einddatum1 september 2021
  • Kunst, Cultuur en Creatieve Industrie
  • Creatieve industrie

The denim industry faces many complex sustainability challenges and has been especially criticized for its polluting and hazardous production practices. Reducing resource use of water, chemicals and energy and changing denim production practices calls for collaboration between various stakeholders, including competing denim brands. There is great benefit in combining denim brands’ resources and knowledge so that commonly defined standards and benchmarks are developed and realized on a scale that matters. Collaboration however, and especially between
competitors, is highly complex and prone to fail.
This project brings leading denim brands together to collectively take initial steps towards improving the ecological sustainability impact of denim production, particularly by establishing measurements, benchmarks and standards for resource use (e.g. chemicals, water, energy) and creating best practices for effective collaboration. The central research question of our project is: How do denim brands effectively collaborate together to create common, industry standards on resource use and benchmarks for improved ecological sustainability in denim production? To answer this question, we will use a mixed-method, action research approach. The project’s research setting is the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area (MRA), which has a strong denim cluster and is home to many international denim brands and start-ups.


The Alliance for Responsible Denim (ARD) brought denim brands and suppliers together to collectively take initial steps to improve water and chemical use and waste in denim production.

In the two year project, ARD achieved several goals. It set out to increase the demand of post-consumer recycled denim (PCRD) so that water usage in cotton cultivation and textile waste are reduced. The ARD collectively produced PCRD fabrics which acted as a catalyst in the industry and sparked further innovation and production of PCRD. ARD members also experimented with alternative, sustainable methods of denim finishing. Several ARD brands implemented more sustainable finishing for never-out-of-stock styles and entire collections. Tools for industry professionals were developed from this work.

Furthermore, the research revealed the complexities of multi-stakeholder collaborations. Over time we gained insights on how competitive tensions are managed, how specific governance mechanisms influence outcomes and how legitimacy is created for the collaborative organization or network. Several academic papers have been presented at conferences and are under development for publication