The word “Sustainable” is most definitely the latest buzz word used by so many brands these days. Most brands that have become “Sustainable” overnight scream from the rooftops about how earth-friendly or eco-friendly their products are; however, many don’t seem to really understand what environmentally friendly actually is.
Sustainability ...causing little or no damage to the environment and therefore able to continue for a long time [REF]
Pretty simple eh? You would think so, however, we see so many brands getting this completely wrong.
For instance, we just received a newsletter from a premium sportswear brand that describes how sustainable they are. They talk about producing garments that last as long as you do (wow, that’s a guarantee and a half!, What if you are just 20 and live to 100 years old, are their garments really going to last 80 years?) and that they design classics that are not this season trend and are timeless. They even claim that the word “Sustainable” isn’t a buzzword in their company and is core to their philosophy. Sounds great. Lifetime lasting product, made from sustainable materials, ethically sourced and classic, timeless styles not sold on-trend.
The second story in their newsletter reads “Buy 2 and get 20% off”.
How is this environmentally friendly? It’s completely contradictory to their “philosophy” as they are trying to upsell. When you then dig a little deeper, you find that nearly half of their range uses virgin polyester which is about as far removed from sustainable as you can get.
Dig even further and some glimmer of sustainability creeps in with recycled plastic being used to create one of their styles, however, they confuse the consumer by talking about sustainability here when all they are doing is recycling toxic plastic waste to produce more plastics.
Part of their range includes merino wool, which is a highly sustainable fibre, however not when you blend it with polyester as they do!
So, what actually makes a brands product sustainable?
Go back to the meaning of Sustainability - causing little or no damage to the environment and therefore able to continue for a long time [REF] and make sure your brand and its products stand by this, otherwise, tone down the sustainable broadcast.
There are fibres that are much more sustainable than others, such as Pure Merino Wool, Tencel, Bamboo, Modal and Hemp, however recycling plastic bottles to produce polyester isn’t one of these fibres. Sure, it's cleaning up the oceans and landfills, however, it’s a temporary clean up as these garments will eventually be thrown away in landfill and remain there for decades, perhaps centuries.
Quality is also a key driver to making something sustainable. Manufacturing goods that are produced to the highest standards and will therefore last longer are much more sustainable than something that falls to bits. Think about creating icons that will be cherished and cared for. What’s more sustainable, a Toyota Prius fuelled by batteries or a Land Rover Defender fuelled by diesel. Prius right? Not when you take into account that over 70% of Defenders ever produced are still on the roads today or how toxic battery production and waste is.
Care for the product is another factor. If harmful synthetic fibres are being washed out of the garment into our waterways and oceans every time you wash the garment then this isn’t eco or sustainable, so think about using fibres that may not need to be washed as much because they don’t attract bacteria and therefore smell.
Lastly, think about hard selling and discount sales. Ultimately, as a society, we have become careless and consumer-driven, buying because of want rather than need. If we only bought what we need, the world would be in a much better place than it currently is, so rather than pushing discounts and volume, think about the long game and brand loyalty by selling less at the right price for consumers to love your brand while you sustain your growth and the planet.
We are passionate about creating sustainable and ethically produced sportswear for our clients. If you are looking for a sustainable sportswear supplier, please get in touch