Business of Fashion’s Sustainability Index was released back in March, to ‘track the fashion industry’s progress towards urgent environmental and social transformation’. Its aim is to create a transparent and trusted benchmark to measure progress towards achieving sustainability goals in the fashion industry. The index was categorised into; Transparency, Emissions, Water & Chemicals, Materials, Worker’s Rights and Waste. It’s quite a tough read. The average overall score was just 36 out of a plausible 100. We’re far from where we should be, but the data generated by this report should help objectively identify shortcomings and lay out a clear framework for future advancements.
Because of its global scale and cultural influence, fashion has a prominent role to play in solving climate change and improving the welfare of the workers who occupy each step of the supply chain. Instead of utilising that role, the index found that the fashion industry’s rhetoric on sustainability is often far ahead of companies’ actions.
As a way to ensure we are not part of the rhetoric, and hold ourselves accountable to the standards we have set, we’ve assessed our brand, our products and our supply chain against each of the key indexes set out by BoF.
A lot of companies have stepped up their commitments to operate more responsibly, but it’s difficult to make like-for-like comparisons with varying degrees of disclosure. We’ve strived to be as transparent as possible throughout, without telling you exactly by who and where our products are made. We’ve been clear that they are sourced between India and China and produced in Bangladesh. The factories that turn the raw materials into our products are Fear Wear approved and GOTS certified, promising a variety of social, ethical and environmental standards including the traceability of products from the field to us, with all of this information available on our website.
The data on emissions created by our products is hard to nail down, it’s subject to which field the cotton is picked from, the product and the colour, but on average it’s about 0.27 CO2 emissions per product. It’s estimated that they travel around 25,000km from the field to the customer, by both truck and boat, which inevitably increases the amount of emissions generated. At the moment, we’re able to offer our collections on a made to order basis, with the best quality organic cotton and recycled polyester available. It’s a trade-off we have had to make at this stage in our business, but we have taken steps to offset these emissions and are working to bring this production closer to home.
WATER & CHEMICALS
Going back to product production, using only organic cotton we ensure that minimal water is used in crop production, and that it’s not polluted by harmful chemicals. Water treatment at the fabric and dyeing stage of production is also a key concern and one of fashion’s biggest pollutors. We only work with factories that have high scale water effluent treatment plants, meaning that the toxic elements generated at this stage are all treated and removed and that the water is safe enough to be discharged back into the environment. It’s also used for car washing and gardening at the factories. At the printing stage, everything is printed ‘Direct-to-Garment’, the NeoPigment inks used are free of heavy metals and chemicals, making them non-hazardous, non-toxic and biodegradable. It’s a waterless printing system and a much more sustainable alternative to screen printing.
We use only 100% GOTS certified organic cotton and recycled polyester in our products. Organic cotton, grown without pesticides and using only natural methods benefits the soil, fauna and the environment and helps create biodiversity and promotes good health and quality of life for the farmers and their communities. Recycled polyester is used in our sweatshirts and totes, it allows for considerable energy savings in the manufacturing process and is a step towards tackling the monumental environmental challenge of plastic waste. Ultimately, where virgin materials – such as organic cotton – are used, a brands sustainability is limited. This is something that is at the top of our list and we are striving to source our products from 100% recycled materials.
Our products are made in Fear Wear Foundation approved factories based in Bangladesh. This independent organisation works with apparel brands, garment workers and textile industry influencers to improve labour conditions in garment factories. FWF representatives carry out audits in all of our suppliers’ partner factories and implement Corrective Action Plans where necessary as well as running an independent helpline to ensure complaints are heard and taken care of, should the factories’ internal means fail. All of the workers are entitled to a living wage, holidays and healthcare. They have on-site childcare, free transportation, performance and attendance bonuses and increasing pay scales. Our suppliers also invest in projects such as subsidised grocery stores, which increases their buying power and disposable income.
Taking a look at us a brand firstly, we are made to order, so our products cease to exist until you order them. This helps us minimise waste and ensures we aren’t holding huge quantities of stock. Then considering our supply chain, our suppliers have now started collecting the offcuts of their organic fabrics, with a view to create recycled yarn for the production of new ranges. The water waste from our manufacturing process was covered a little earlier, and in terms of packaging, everything is recycled and recyclable.
The aim of the Business of Fashion’s index is not to celebrate or chastise any company, but to take stock of the progress that has been made. It reveals clear pain points where urgent action is needed as well as exciting opportunities for meaningful transformation. Applying this to our own model has enabled us to do the same, we can see where the steps we have taken to search out and implement sustainable alternatives are holding up, but we can also see where improvements can be – and will be – made.
If there is anything we have discussed here that you want to know more about, please do get in touch – firstname.lastname@example.org