Photo: Everlane

1. Everlane

Founded by Michael Preysman, the eight-year-old Frisco brand built its rep on the idea of “radical transparency”. For each item it sells, it reveals and breaks down the cost of materials, labour, transport, and mark-up percentage, winning over the new gen of consumers who are shopping more cautiously and consciously. Now, its goal is to reduce its environmental footprint and normalise choosing eco among consumers – the same way it did for pricing transparency.

No Virgin Plastic

Everlane has made a commitment to use no virgin plastic in its entire supply chain by 2021, which includes its products, warehouses, offices and stores.

The first step in this commitment is Renew, a collection of outerwear made from three million recycled plastic bottles.

It will reduce single-use plastic waste by 50 per cent in its offices and stores by March 2019, and by 100 per cent by 2021.

It introduced renewed alternatives into its product lines in 2018. By 2021, it will redevelop all its existing yarns, fabrics and raw materials that contain virgin synthetic fibres with renewed alternatives.

Starting this year, all its products ship in 100 per cent post-consumer recycled plastic poly bags.


Clean Denim

When Everlane wanted to make denim jeans, it found Saitex, a denim manufacturer in Bien Hoa, Vietnam, that aims to be the cleanest, most sustainable denim manufacturing facility on the planet. Saitex runs on 45 per cent alternative energy like solar power, reducing energy usage by 5.3 million kilowatt-hours of power a year, and lowers CO2 emissions by close to 80 per cent. It also plants trees to offset emissions. To further save energy, Saitex air-dries its jeans with air recycled from hot factory machinery, skipping electricity- guzzling traditional driers.

While typical manufacturers waste up to 1,500 litres of water for one pair of jeans using “belly” washing machines, Saitex recycles 98 per cent of its water using a unique closed water system, efficient jet washing machines, and a five-step filtration process to ensure the water is so clean that it can be drunk. Just 0.4 litres of water is lost for each pair of jeans – and it’s due only to evaporation.

Denim production also creates a toxic by-product called sludge. To prevent it from leaching into the environment, Saitex sends its sludge to a nearby brick factory to be mixed into concrete, which is then made into bricks to build affordable homes.

2. Fjallraven

The Swedish outdoor brand is best known for its Kanken backpacks, but it should also be better known for its sustainability efforts.

It provides accessible and comprehensive care instructions for its products to help customers extend the life of its apparel and gear. Fjallraven’s website offers advice on washing, storage, fabric waxing, and how to care for its wool and down items and Eco-shell tents, bags, and sleeping bags.

When deciding on materials, Fjallraven refers to its own Preferred Materials and Fibres List that grades materials by their impact on the environment. The list is constantly updated to reflect new research and materials. The brand prioritises traceable natural materials and uses organic, renewable and recycled materials wherever possible.

Materials and fibres are classified as follows: excellent, such as recycled wool, organic hemp and Tencel; good, which includes recycled polyester, G-1000 Eco and traceable wool; okay, like polyamide, cotton, and metal buttons; and those the brand does not use, such as PFCs, PVCs and angora wool.

It does not use fluorocarbons. Favoured by the outdoor industry for water- and dirt-proofing gear, the chemical compound is harmful to the environment as it does not readily break down in nature, can be transported over large distances and held in living organisms, and eventually works its way up the food chain, affecting reproduction and hormone production in mammals.

3. Patagonia

Calling itself The Activist Company, the outdoor apparel brand from the US has amplified its involvement in political activism since the start of the Trump administration. In 2017, it gave away its Black Friday profits – all US$10 million (S$13.6 million) of it – to hundreds of grassroots environmental organisations. In December that same year, it publicly sued President Donald Trump for reducing the size of two national monuments in Utah.

Last year, Patagonia launched Patagonia Action Works, a website that helps people to find environmental activism opportunities near them, and also endorsed two Democratic Senate candidates, who the company says will “help protect natural resources in Nevada and Montana”.

The surprising outcome: Taking a bigger stand in the political arena has positively impacted Patagonia’s bottom-line, proving that staying neutral is no longer the best strategy. In today’s political climate, it is the companies that show they genuinely care about issues bigger than themselves that will win the support – and money – of consumers.

Her World's sustainability issue

This story was first published on Her World’s April 2019 issue.