Earth day: 5 ways to make your business work for nature

Let’s do earth-centered business. Earth-day is the day to celebrate the beautiful things our planet has to offer, but also a day to demonstrate support for environmental protection. Yesterday we already announced our new CEO at The Terrace: mother nature. In our work, and in our support to our clients, we always try to think of the planet as a stakeholder.  And with planetary resources under stress, and 10 years left to reach the Sustainable Development Goals, there’s quite some work to do. At the same time, there are companies, big and small, that have the ability to not be a force of stress, but a force of good for nature and our planet at large. Here's a list of 5 ways to not focus on the ‘less bad’ but on the ‘more good’ for our earth.

1. Get ready to regenerate

Is your business model earth-positive? Sustainability has too long been about doing less harm, or reaching net zero, whilst companies have the ability to do much more. It is clear for everyone, including consumers, that reducing negative effects are no longer enough. According to a study by ReGenFriends nearly 80% US consumers prefer “regenerative” brands to “sustainable” brands as they find the term “sustainable” too passive. And we agree. The current state of the world needs companies that restore the health of individuals, communities and the planet.

A good example here is Interface, the world’s leading modular carpet manufacturer. As part of their Climate Take Back mission, whose goal is to reverse global warming, Interface piloted the “Factory as a Forest” initiative. Their production plant gives back to the ecosystem more than it takes —such as clean air and energy, potable water, carbon sequestration, and nutrient cycling. Next to that, Interface launched the world’s first carbon-negative carpet tiles, which sequester more carbon—from raw material extraction through manufacturing—without using offsets. Transforming your business model regenerative is not something that will happen overnight, but much more is possible than you might think.

2. Make global goals local business

Planetary challenges such as climate change are global challenges that require local solutions. Take big worldwide roadmaps, such as the SDGs, and use them as a framework of action across all your business operations. Tools such as the SDG Action manager developed by B Lab  and the SDG toolbox by the UN Global Compact can give you a good sense on how you can drive change.

Natura & Co, the group behind Avon, Natura, The Body Shop and Aesop, is a good example of a company that internalized the SDGs and brought it to the heart of different company and brand strategies. The company is not only prioritizing sustainability objectives and SDG’s, but it has also defined clear indicators to measure and track it’s progress.

3. Stay transparent

A good way to keep your focus and hold yourself – as a business – accountable is by adopting a common, standardized sustainability framework to track and disclose your progress. Applying common frameworks, such as s B Corp Certification, also helps you to better work together with partners such as peers, governments and NGOs.

An example of a company providing transparent insights is fashion and clothing company Reformation. The company publishes all environmental and social impact of its products in all communications and detailed information on their sourcing and supply chain. Another example is Buffer, a social media management software startu that takes financial transparency to the next level by publishing the salaries of all employees, complete with factors like local cost of living and prior experience. Buffer also keeps a public tracker of its own diversity numbers and actively encourages suppliers to follow transparency guidelines.

4. Build a movement

Companies are big influencers and play an important role in people’s daily life, such as for consumers or employees. A company can become a good ‘ally’ for the planet when it raises its voice, leverages awareness, and gets people to take action. Another key area for businesses here is the supply chain. Companies can drive significant impact by advocating and collaborating with suppliers to go further together.

For Ben & Jerry's activism and marketing on climate action and racial justice has been the brand's modus operandi for years. The company has been calling upon consumers, employees and leaders of developed nations to take action for climate change. Ben & Jerry’s also is one of the most prominent brands to speak out in support of the Black Lives Matter movement encouraging people to tackle systemic and institutionalised racism. Next to brand activism, the company worked closely together with suppliers such as Sustainable Harvest, Rhino Foods and Greyston Bakery on social and environmental ambitions.

5. Roll up your sleeves

Achieving earth’s sustainability is complex and overwhelming. What businesses have to add, is the creativity and capacity to move fast and get into gear. Of course companies need to start with integrating sustainability goals at the heart of their business strategy, but beyond that, there are many playful and interactive ways that companies can lead activations. And small actions can make a big difference.

Patagonia has been striving to be an environmentally friendly business for more than twenty years. One percent of their revenue goes to environmental organisations. Additionally, the company organizes workshops where consumers learn how to repair their own clothing and belongings. Similar to Patagonia, Fairphone enables consumers to organize their own Urban mining workshop, extracting valuable minerals from old mobile phones. 

Are you inspired to take earth-positive actions? Or have additional ideas other businesses should know about? Let us know!


Climate Neutral Group

Climate Neutral Group’s formula for maximum impact

This interview is part of The Terrace’s ‘1.5-degree society campaign’. In this series we ask professionals: how is your organization contributing to the 1.5-degree society? And – most importantly – what can other organizations learn from your experiences? We hope to inform and inspire other businesses to do even more and accelerate their impact. 

When Climate Neutral Group (CNG) was founded in 2002, they were one of the first organizations to fully focus on climate neutrality. Their mission is to accelerate the transition to a 'net-zero carbon' economy. CNG offers its clients advice on how they can reduce their climate impact and at the same time strengthen their business strategies. We spoke to Arjen Struijk, director NL, on how to strive for maximum impact.

What does positive change mean to you and what is your biggest, most important motive for investing in a sustainable future?
Positive change for me is about balance. Balance in what we use and what we give. For example, the balance in our use of natural resources and the diversity in our organisations. I believe that balance comes from being in open contact with yourself, others and the environment you work in. It allows you to receive feedback and with the intention of balance you can realise positive change. At Climate Neutral Group, balance is about aiming for zero emissions. Or even less, to balance others’ emissions.

How do you stay focused on your sustainability targets when so many things are changing in society, among which Covid-19, which influences nearly every cornerstone of the world?
When Covid-19 initially hit, our team went into survival mode. We feared the world would stop thinking about climate change all together. That feeling lasted for two weeks. Then, slowly but surely, some of our existing clients picked up the phone again, saying they wanted to continue the work we started.”

This kept us going. And then new clients also started calling: companies like WeTransfer, Exact software, BloomOn and an Italian coffee brewer wanted help with their transition to net-zero emissions. Of course, we do see some of our clients being hit hard by the virus. Especially those in the travel industry. But for many companies, climate change is now a topic they want to address, more than even before. I really hope that other B Corp companies have the same experience and see that their stakeholders and particularly their customers continue to choose sustainable.

What do you see as the biggest sustainability challenge for CNG at the moment and in the future?
We need all organisations on board, to reduce their CO2-emissions. But for now, we are still mostly working with innovators and early adopters. This is our balancing act. We want momentum to continue with the innovators as they are a source of inspiration but should not become so advanced in our advice and Climate Neutral certification that we become irrelevant for the rest. To make a maximum impact, we need to grow as an organisation and also work with organisations who are not in the frontline (yet).

What message would you like to pass on to other companies that are striving to create sustainable and social impact?
Strive to maximise your impact at all times. Look further than the boundaries of your own business model and be fearless! The formula for maximum impact is: ‘difference made’ x ‘volume’. Be critical of the role you can play in this and where you need others to maximize positive change.

Curious about the other articles of our '1.5 degree society campaign'? Last time we spoke with Bibianne Roetert from Lipton on how they are closing the loop on plastic waste.


How an ambition became the norm

Closing the loop on plastic waste at Lipton: How an ambition became the norm

This interview is part of The Terrace’s ‘1.5-degree society campaign’. In this series we ask professionals: how is your organization contributing to the 1.5-degree society? And – most importantly – what can other organizations learn from your experiences? We hope to inform and inspire other businesses to do even more and accelerate their impact. 

One key shift towards a 1.5-degree society is closing the loop on waste. With a growing business there comes a downside too: an increase in sales leads to the production of more plastic waste. Lipton, a hot and iced tea brand of Unilever, has the ambition to become a fully circular brand. Bibianne Roetert worked as a brand manager at Unilever and took a leading role in making Liptons’ plastic bottles 100% recycled and fully recyclable. The Terrace spoke with her on how she took these steps. What experience can she share for other businesses to sustain and accelerate the positive change necessary for the 1.5-degree society?

When did you realize that change was needed?
That was when I calculated, together with my colleagues, the impact of the plastic production of our bottles. It turned out to be immense. Yearly we use 1.400 tonnes of plastic for 60 million bottles. When making our plastic bottles recycled and recyclable, we reduce the CO2 impact with more than 40%. After a three-day conference back in 2018, in which one of the days was totally devoted to sustainability, we became very motivated in changing the course of our plastic use. I also had a personal urge and conviction that there was still a lot of value to be added to Lipton as a brand, which could contribute more to our planet. Only looking at monetary profits did not satisfy me when the plastic pile was growing together with the growth of the brand. Still, there was not yet a concrete plan on paper on what I thought I could do about it.

How did that go?
My manager challenged me to create this plan and I asked him for 2 months to understand the full lifecycle of plastic bottles in order to build a plan on ambitious yet realistic targets. He agreed. During those months I learned about the benefits of using recycled plastic and investigated whether Lipton could start with making all Dutch festival bottles from 100% recycled plastic, which could significantly lower our impact. That is where we wanted to start. While we were still investigating whether we could move all bottles to 100% rPET, we already started our communication during ADE Green 2018. There we pledged to be a fully circular brand at festivals in 2019. By already communicating about this bold step towards festivals and consumers, the ball started to roll faster and further.

How did that feel?
That was a cool and exciting time. We already promised the festival audience to make steps forward, so going back wasn’t an option anymore. Because we had made it so tangible, the urge was really there to get all the (technical) heads together and go for the grail.

It almost seems that you were running a political campaign and you were advocating to create a movement...
Sometimes it almost felt like that, there was such a clear mission. The advantage was that people saw me as the lead on this journey and knew that they could ask me anything about this topic so they could become experts too. There was a lot of respect and excitement that Lipton was taking a leading role in using recycled plastic.

In the end, you – and eventually your company – get the most energy by setting targeted and ambitious goals. Especially when you reach them!

It sounds like a fairy-tale, but no change comes without bumps on the road, I can imagine?
Exactly, the biggest obstacles were the technical implications. For example, there seemed to be a lack of availability of high quality recycled plastic in the beginning and along the way there were challenges with running all the tests in the factories in time. At those times I sometimes worried that we’d had to withdraw our commitment.

Yet, you did not?
Certainly not, we succeeded in making all the festival bottles of 100% recycled plastic in 2019. In fact, all our Lipton bottles in the Netherlands and Belgium are 100% recycled and fully recyclable since Q1 2020. We were the first soft drink brand to realize 100% rPET usage on such a scale in the Netherlands. We are now rolling this out to all the other countries in which Lipton is sold. We notice that the sentiment around the brand has positively changed. Also, we see internally that everyone believes in the brand and its mission, which results in a good and proactive atmosphere. It created a lot of wins in the end.

You now switched to Unox, another Unilever brand, a few months ago. What kind of experience would you share with other professionals working on similar challenges?
First, always try to understand how the lifecycle of your product works. What possible improvements are there to make? You have to gather as much knowledge as possible so that you can put everything in perspective. This is important for every industry, from plastics to meat. Second, pick one point on the horizon so everyone knows where to follow you. And last but not least: consistently keep moving towards that point. And this is easier said than done.

Are there any thoughts/last famous words you would like to share?
Ultimately, a lot of people are not aware of the impact they could personally make. They say: "I think it's special and I understand it’s important, but in my company it is not (yet) possible". I think it is important to motivate people and let them think more critically about what role they can play in a company, and that more is possible than you might think. Challenge yourself and don’t be afraid to challenge your surroundings. In the end, you – and eventually your company – get the most energy by setting targeted and ambitious goals. Especially when you reach them! Mark my words: Ultimately anyone can do it. It is possible in all companies and in all cases. It's about turning your (sky-high) ambitions into actions, as we did by introducing our 100% festival bottle.

In this series, The Terrace asks its network how they are contributing to the 1.5-degree society and what other organizations can learn from that. Last time we spoke with Lipton on how they are closing the loop on plastic waste. The last time we spoke with ASICS about their dare to focus.


Call it by its name: A plea to cherish the brave brands that accelerate the plant protein transition

It’s Dutch Food Week this week. This means all eyes are on (innovation) in the Dutch food sector for 7 days straight. One area where our global food sector is heading up against is the shift to a more plant-based diet. This shift is urgently needed to reach the climate goals we have set. Luckily, more and more brands take up the challenge to steer the transition, by enabling the mainstream consumer to switch their loved, known, products to more sustainable, also loved alternatives. Yet, while there is little time to lose when it comes to increase sustainable diets, somehow, we got stuck discussing the naming of these food products are allowed to have. I completely agree to provide consumers with more clarity and transparency, but it seems to me that we are losing focus on what really matters here.

Plant-based naming and labelling under pressure The plant-based food market is booming in Europe and predicted to grow further in the coming years. The market is expected to increase to 2.4bn euros in 2025, from 1.5bn euros in 2018.

On the 20th of October the European Parliament will vote on the proposed ban on the use of ‘meatish’ and ‘dairyish’ names for plant-based products. This could ban the widely accepted and commonly used terms, such as ‘veggie burger,’ or ‘plant-based steak’. This while a recent survey by the European Consumer Organisation (BEUC) demonstrates that EU consumers are overwhelmingly in favor of the use of meat-related terms for plant-based foods. The report shows that more than 68% of consumers support 'meaty' names for plant-based food products, as long as the products are transparently clearly labelled as plant-based or vegetarian. This because they then recognize the product they are looking for.

Brands respond bravely Just as bravely as plant-based brands are picking up the challenge to lead the protein transition, they are responding to this news. When Abbot Kinney's received a letter that they should not label their product as word yoghurt, they quickly responded that they themselves don’t want to carry that label either. They stated:

“The name yoghurt does not suit us. As our yog does not hurt.  Because, we care about our environment, health, climate agreement, agricultural land, gut, animal welfare, rain forests and planet. So, we keep the yog, and skip the 'hurt'.”

The Vegetarische Slager responded this week stating that products have all types of names that are not to be taken literally in general. Think ‘chicken fingers’ and the Dutch dish ‘Slavink’. Online people supported the brands’ message by sharing an Instagram message with ‘I am not confused’ and tagging the European Parliament.

What's in a name: for better labeling let’s focus on health and sustainability. The thing about this discussion is that it focuses on providing clarity where consumers are not lacking any. Not the name of a product and where it is located in the supermarket isles is confusing for consumers, but what the product consists of, how and by whom it is made and what nutritional quality of food is. Much is happening here, with the Nutri-score for instance, but at a brand level there are more and endless opportunities to communicate better and more transparently on food products. I believe this is what we should all focus on. Not just for plant-based brands but all food brands in general.

My hope is that we can provide space for innovative brands to challenge the status quo and move away from having semantic discussions on the naming of products. I cannot help but think what would be next: alcohol free beer becomes a hop-drink? I hope we will focus on what really matters: providing consumers with transparent, healthy and sustainable food products. I would love to hear: what do you think?


ASICS: Dare to focus

This interview is part of The Terrace's '1.5-degree society campaign'. In this series we ask professionals: how is your organization contributing to the 1.5-degree society? And - most importantly - what can other organizations learn from your experiences? We hope to inform and inspire other businesses to do even more and accelerate their impact. 

What if we are not committed to take any actions on climate change and limit global warming to 1.5-degrees? In the future, will it still be possible for people to enjoy outdoor sports in a sustainable environment? Or will having a city walk without the constant smell of smog be unimaginable by 2050?

Reason enough for ASICS to take continuous action: “Going forward, we will continue to act for future generations to achieve a sound mind in a sound body and address the climate change.’’ said Yasuhito Hirota, COO and President of ASICS Corporation, this September. To suit the action to the word they joined the RE100, the global environmental initiative composed of member companies committed to relying solely on renewable energy for their electricity needs in business activities.

We’re happy to see that ASICS takes a clear stance in accelerating their change and impact. We were able to ask the CSR & Sustainability team at ASICS EMEA, some questions on their challenges and learnings in contributing to the 1.5-degree society: 

What does positive change mean to you and what is your biggest, most important motive for investing in a sustainable future?
In the light of a 1.5-degree society, positive change would be the active involvement of all stakeholders that will enable us to fight climate change together. Not only us as a brand, but also our suppliers, customers and end consumers. We need to realize we all play a role in successfully changing the way we consume resources and impact our environment. I believe sports brands can play a positive role in changing the behaviour of people to reduce the impact we have on our planet.

How do you stay focused on your sustainability targets when so many things are changing in society, among which Covid-19, that influences nearly every cornerstone of the world?
This is indeed a challenge. At the same time some of the changes and crises in society like Covid-19 have also really helped people to realize that something needs to happen. So despite the many challenges, pressure on continuity of businesses and the economy, at all levels (authorities, institutions, companies and individual level) there is more motivation and determination to change than ever before. We also see a momentum of people and businesses being more open and receptive to big changes now, that we can also use to make changes toward more sustainable business actions, such as switching to digital services for sports and e-commerce sales growing dramatically. This can boost some of our sustainability programs even in these challenging times.

And are there any big bumps on the road that holds ASICS from going forward and hinder this progress?
For many team sports, people need to come together, which is a challenge in the lockdown situation that people are facing in many countries. However, due to the scale of this pandemic, there is a great push to develop alternatives to that, and at the same time more people are reverting to individual sports such as running in order to stay healthy and sound. Either way, the bumps on the road are not holding us back in the end, only delaying some people a little.

What do you see as the biggest sustainability challenge for ASICS at the moment and in the future?
With Climate Action and our CO2 reduction targets being the backbone of our environmental sustainability strategy, a big challenge lies with circularity. As a product driven brand, about 80% of our GHG emissions are so called indirect emissions and originate from processes that involve the materials, manufacturing and end of life stage of our products. There are still many challenges in truly converting into a circular business model. Some of them are technical and some of them also operational and involves the entire industry rather than only our company and its value chains.

What message would you like to pass on to other companies that are striving to create sustainable and social impact?
Focus. As a person and as an organization you cannot be and do everything. At ASICS, a lot of what we do has started with research. So, we would always suggest taking time for a good assessment. Take a close look at your organization and how you operate and where your – both positive and negative- impact lies. Although you can take a lot of inspiration and valuable learnings from others, you could sometimes feel pressure to start moving on a topic because of pressure from external stakeholders or other parts of your organization, but you will achieve the most impact if your sustainability and social ambitions are truly matching the nature of your business.


What the Oatly-controversy teaches us about the demand for transparency

What the Oatly-controversy teaches us about the demand for transparency

The Oatly-controversy

You probably heard already, Oatly has made the decision to sell a stake in the company to a consortium that includes Blackstone, a powerful private equity firm headed by Trump donor Stephen Schwartzman. Blackstone, in its turn, is allegedly investing in projects that link to deforestation in the Amazon rainforest. This hit me quite hard, as I am actually a great Oatly enthusiast myself. Oatly was the first plant-based alternative that has made me ditch milk. And just like every first relationship, it holds a unique place my heart. And I can't disagree with Oatly choosing Blackstone as an investor to be controversial, but, from a consumer point of view, I do not think that it is just this partnership that is making Oatly fans to call out to 'cancel’ the brand. I believe this comes from the consumer demand for radical transparency.

Transparency of investment matters too

Of course, similar to the Unilever buying Ben & Jerry’s and The Vegetarian Butcher and Alpro joining Danone, these shifts make people uneasy. This comes along when sustainable brands move from niche to mainstream. There are definitely more ethical investors I wish Oatly had chosen for, but it can be true that in this case these lacked the punching power that Blackstone has and Oatly needs. But consumers are interested in (read also: critical of) how these mainstream investors are willing to change their portfolios and position themselves as ‘a force for good’. In this regard, I disagree with the words of Nick Cooney, Managing Director of Lever VC quoted in Justfood.nl: ‘Who a food company receives investment from is not one of the things that consumers seem to care about.’. I think the case of Oatly proves that actually, consumers care. According to several brand studies, over 90 percent of consumers say transparency by a brand is important to their purchase decisions. Financial transparency is just as much part of this as the traceability of key ingredients. Consumers want to know how the profit of Oatly – which comes from their purchases - is reinvested responsibly.

Transparency means owning up to mistakes

I believe that Oatly has underestimated the expectations for radical transparency by consumers, especially coming from their key audience: sustainability minded people that try to shop consciously. After all, Oatly itself actively advocates for consumers to think critically about the dairy industry and to expect transparency. In big letters on their packaging it says: ‘Hey, food industry show us your numbers’. The lack of communications up front and the lack of clarity on the agreements between Oatly and Blackstone is why Oatly’s biggest fans now start to doubt the brand. It also does not help that as the critique explodes online, the tone of the company strikes many as too defensive and seems to blame the critical consumer as ‘unable to see the bigger picture’. See below a snapshot into the discussions.

From the bad to the promising

So, did I lose my belief in first love Oatly? Well, no. In our work at The Terrace we believe successful positioning of a company’s sustainability is all about covering ’the good’, ’the bad’ and ’the promising’. Oatly so far been an example of a brand that shows what’s not going well; their 2018 sustainability report stated on the front cover: ‘Slightly worse than last year’ for instance. I don’t think that 'canceling’ the brand will help in any way. I see the current discussion as part of a positive development where consumers ask questions and hold corporations accountable for their actions. And whilst I will open up my monogamous relationship status with Oatly, I hope that the brand will learn from it, comes back with more transparency on their financial decision-making and then keeps making waves in their industry. In other words: Hey Oatly show us your numbers!

I am curious what you think though: are you still on board the Oatly revolution? And do you believe the investor-relation itself or the lack of transparency is an issue? Show me your opinion about this article by sending me an email.


Eva Schouten

Moving towards a circular food system: The Terrace presents at the Erasmus Food Lab

On the 26th of November The Terrace consultants Eva Schouten and Luca Goossens visited the Erasmus Food Lab in Rotterdam to give a talk on circularity and specifically a circular food system.

About the Erasmus Food Lab
The Erasmus Food Lab aims to set an example of sustainable food culture, bringing consumers, researchers, cooks and food entrepreneurs, and professionals together. At the Food Lab you find everything needed to accelerate (local) food transition: information and guidance for sustainable strategies, an organic vegetable garden, a collection point for local produce from farmers in the area, a  great spacious kitchen and many, many dedicated students that want to drive positive change.

Getting serious about food
When the delicious vegan dishes were ready to be served, we facilitated a session about key strategies for closing the loop in our broken food system. Creating urgency for the matter isn’t hard with facts that speak for themselves:

  • Currently, the agrifood industry is responsible for almost a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions globally
  • 1/3rd of our food is currently wasted
  • 24 million slices of bread are tossed out each day in the U.K. alone
  • In cities, less than 2% of the valuable biological nutrients in food by-products and organic waste is composted or otherwise valorized
  • At current consumption levels, we will run out of known phosphorus reserves in around 80 years, which forms the basis of the fertilisers used widely in agriculture

The solution hierarchy
Luckily, there are serious opportunities out there for turning the tide around. After all, the world’s best dishes were made from food leftovers, Pot au feu is made of waste vegetables, bouillabaisse is the fish that’s damaged or bruised or unmarketable for the moment. However, we didn’t come to talk about recipes – we are sustainability consultants not chefs. We presented the best ways to turn food waste into value based on the EPA Food Recovery Hierarchy and ages old circular farming methods like using manure as a fertilizer, functioning as phosphorous too. Food waste can for instance be used as animal feed, an initiative already widely applied in Japan, the feed is known to be rich in lactobacillus bacteria, which eliminates the need for antibiotics, and farmers save 50 percent of the cost of regular feed.

For the circular economy local communities are key
Cities across the world have a unique opportunity to spark a transformation towards a circular economy for food, given that 80% of all food is expected to be consumed in cities by 2050, as stated Ellen McArthur in their Cities and Circular Economy for Food report. Cities can, in connection with local farmers, spark the transition towards a circular economy. Creating a circular economy requires an industrial-scale response, but this can be complemented by a community-based response and associated physical infrastructure, such as maker-spaces, labs, community technology workshops and any other community-based forms, more about this in this insightful blog.  We left the event hopeful as the energy and amount of initiatives already initiated at the Erasmus Food Lab clearly show that they are well on their way to become such an accelerator for circularity. We hope to have provided them with some inspiration to take along on their journey!


Sustainable Fashion Innovations

Sustainable Fashion: The innovations that are (or might be) closing the loop

A while ago, it was Dutch Sustainable Fashion Week and that means that there were plenty of side events to visit to hear the latest on moving towards circular fashion, waste reduction new textile innovation. I joined in the Book Launch of Dana Thomas ‘Fashionopolis” at the Fashion for Good Centre on Tuesday. As for any event on sustainability, Dana Thomas started the night by facing us with numbers, and these are extreme enough to create urgency to act:

  • 20% of our water is depleted by the fashion industry
  • 99% of our clothes are not recycled
  • 85 percent of textiles end up in landfills
  • for 1 kg of cotton 1 kg of chemicals is used
  • we throw away 2.1 billion tons of clothing a year
  • 60% of all textiles used in apparel are derived from plastic (accounting for nearly 3 trillion plastic bottles every year)
  • it is estimated that about 35 percent of the microplastics that enter the ocean are synthetic fibers from clothing

The industry, generating no waste, and all textiles would be recyclable and are put back in the loop. More than ever, the industry is embracing this change with 90 apparel brands committing to the Circular Fashion System Commitment due June 2020 and set up by the Global Fashion Agenda. And fortunately, there are also some great developments to learn from that could fix the broken system of our current ‘fast fashion’ industry. Lately, a small but growing group of innovators are attempting tackle wastefulness and pollution in the apparel right at the source and large brands are taking note and start to invest.

Herewith an overview of the innovations that are seemingly taking apparel from ‘beyond business as usual’ to circularity in the industry:

Reduce

An increasing number of brands are eliminating problematic materials and dyes from the production process. Everlane, for instance, publicly committed to eradicating all virgin plastic from the company’s supply chain, stores, and offices by 2021.

There is a natural fiber and eco-textiles ‘revolution’ approaching. Made from organic waste, living bacteria, algae, yeast, animal cells or fungi, designers are growing biodegradable textiles (Algae Life, AlgiKnit) and shoe soles (Bloom Foam) and are creating environmentally friendly materials like genetically engineered leather (Modern Meadow), leather made from pineapple leaves (Piñatex), silk made from orange peels (Orange Fiber). It is a matter of waiting for these technological advancements to reach more scale.

Then there is the waste of rest material. In in our current fashion system, the shirts, trousers and blouses are developed in large amounts of numbers where many (average of 30%) never reach the consumer. For fashion brands this is a built-in waste and for our planet, it is a complete waste of scarce resources. In comes ‘producing to order’, made possible by vastly evolving technology coined as ‘SewBots’. Programmed knitting and sewing machines can make ‘one offs’, where the product will get developed after you have ordered it and will be designed with your exact measurements, leaving little rest material behind.

Reuse

Will owning clothes become a thing of the past? We can now lease our jeans at Mud Jeans, and hopefully more clothing items will follow. I believe it will not take long before we will find more and increasingly user-centric borrowing platforms and stores like Lena Library, Tulerie, and My Wardrobe HQ in the shopping streets and, of course, online.

Brands are investing in expanding the life of clothing items, like the repair and reuse program of Patagonia and Nudie Jeans, and are investing in the afterlife clothing and take back the products after they are used. And Eileen Fisher now buys back garments from customers at $5 each and reworks the material into new merchandise. This Renew program brings in $3 million of the company’s $450 million in annual sales.

Recycle

Lastly, the fashion industry starts to ‘waste’ into value. An increasing amount of relatively new brands are building their collections on recycled materials like Ecoalf (100% recycled materials from discarded fishing nets, plastic bottles, worn-out tires, post-industrial cotton, and used coffee grinds), Veja (introduced material called B-mesh (“bottle mesh”) that is made from recycled plastic bottles) and Girlfriend Collective (sports bras and leggings made from recycled plastic).

At the moment, many textiles are cocktails of different fibre materials blended together and separating fibre materials so that they can be recycled is a major challenge. It is therefore crucial that we start designing products and textiles for disassembly, with different components made from mono materials. Filippa K is setting focus on 100% recycled and 100% recyclable collections, with their Eternal Trench Coat. Wear2 incorporates seams that by using microwave energy make the separation of tags, labels, zips and other materials easy and inexpensive.

A game changing technology that now enables us to separate cotton from polyester has also came to the rescue. The polymer recycling technology of Wornagain can separate, decontaminate and extract polyester polymers, separate cellulose from cotton and non-reusable and turn them into new textile raw material. With such advancements we are able to do this over and over again and we no longer need our planets raw and scarce materials.

Bringing it together

Of course, closing a loop can’t be done by one stakeholder alone. Given that the idea of a circular economy is to create a loop of events, everyone in the supply chain carries responsibility for the shift to take place. 2020 is approaching and we need effective alignment in the industry to turn otherwise fragmented innovations into change at scale. I am hoping to see and hear about collaborative initiatives like Easy Essentials and the Design for Longevity platform to connect the apparel industry for circularity.

So, are you a stakeholder working in or with the apparel industry and do you know about collaborative initiatives for circularity? I would love to get in touch!


Greta Thunberg

What sustainability needs now, is connection and activation

Last week, I was touched deeply by Greta Thunberg’s speech at the United Nations Climate Summit in New York. Still, as a communication professional, I can’t help but wonder if her words will not work counterproductively. Shouldn’t doom thinking make way for an inspiring movement of which everyone wants to be part? Or can’t the one do without the other?

Doom thinking petrifies

The message of Greta’s speech is dark and disturbing. It’s so dark that, as a listener, I feel like there is nothing left for me to do. I feel like my only option left is to book a one-way ticket to a tropical island to party until the whole world falls apart. Doom thinking has a petrifying effect and fear will never be an incentive for positive change. Yes, fear sends us in a direction, but it sends us the wrong way. This is the main problem of the current discussion about climate change. The discussion visualises a world characterized by images of endangered polar bears on melting ice caps. Not a world that you want to be part of and which gives you inspiration and direction.

The question of guilt polarises

All who are conscious of our environmental problems and who are already making an effort to change their behaviour in positive ways, feel addressed by Thunberg’s speech. All the while, climate sceptics just feel more and more united and their joint aversion is strengthened. Lastly, there’s the biggest group right in the middle: the group that’s neither sceptic nor activist. This is a group of people who can still be inspired to become more aware to take action. You inspire them by identifying the problem, point out a spot on the horizon and suggest the first practical steps to reach that spot. You inspire them by connecting, not by polarising.

Create a movement that people want to be part of

What would it be like if, instead of Thunberg with her dark speech, there would have been five kids on the stage? Kids who would point out the problem and its disturbing facts, as well as paint a picture of the world they’d like to live in when they’re as old as the politicians present. Then, they all tell us about the first steps they’ve taken to get there; whether it’s a clothing swap, a plant-based diet, the decision to stop flying or stop using a tumble dryer. They would dare every politician to join them in taking the first step. No matter how big or small that step may be. These children would unite in the ‘First Step Club’: a movement characterised by hopeful visions and first steps.

No revolution without rebels?

We need Greenpeace to put subjects on the agenda and to get activated. Is this speech also an example of this? Does the bridge-builder need the rebel? In the case of Thunberg’s speech, I’m doubtful. What I do know is that I get my energy out of connection and activation. That is my first step. I take this step with my clients at every single job I do.

 


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Everything you want to know about a CSR / sustainability report

In this blog we help you on your way to make your first CSR or sustainability report.

Why would you make a sustainability report?

Did you know that large companies in the EU are even legally obliged to publish data on their sustainability performance? There are also enough internal and external reasons for other organizations to start reporting on CSR.

External:

  • Customers and partners increasingly expect transparency about sustainability objectives and performance;
  • Civil society organizations and future staff also want to know what is going on and what you stand for as an organization;
  • With a report you can tell where you stand, where you want to go and what you need for that. Nice starting point for dialogue with your environment.

Internal:

  • With an annual report you show all employees what has been achieved, and also where challenges still lie;
  • By involving people in drawing up the report, you also involve them more in the CSR strategy and its implementation;
  • External communication about objectives, successes and challenges increases commitment in the organization.

How long does it take to prepare a CSR / sustainability report?

You will certainly be working on a few months to prepare a CSR or sustainability report. This is not something you do in a few weeks. It also takes more time the first time. In addition, there are other factors that influence this. Consider the complexity, size and maturity of your organization. Where smaller organizations have a lead time of around three months, larger or complex organizations usually take longer. In general, most companies manage to complete the report between three and six months.

How to start?

Are you convinced to make a first CSR report for your company? Here are a few tips to make things a little easier for you:

  1. Divide the process in steps and make a good planning
  2. Think carefully about who exactly you need in which phase (for approval, data, photos and other content);
  3. Make a structure for the report in advance;
  4. And see reporting as a journey or a cycle. It goes and it gets better every year!

Want to know more?

Follow our Reporting training or contact our reporting specialist Marjolein via +31 (6) 12965895 or marjolein@theterrace.nl to provide your reporting journey or other sustainable project with positive energy and structure!