March 27, 2023
Living a more sustainable life is about always making conscious decisions about how and what we consume, selecting options that are less impactful. Taking less, not depleting resources, giving back, finding balance and avoiding waste are all guiding principles we live by.
This mindset applies to our business as well. We are motivated at home and at work to behave responsibly and to acknowledge and measure our impact. The greatest catalyst for our mission to change stemmed from travelling overseas to meet with suppliers. Being firsthand witnesses to the effects that fashion manufacturing, fibre farming and production has pushed us to assess the way we operated and what we made.
We realised that despite having a financially strong business, what we were doing was having some negative environmental outcomes, and once we opened the door to this understanding, we could not close it. It is our responsibility as business owners and citizens of this World to reduce our impact and change our processes to minimise it in the future. We are doing as much as we can now, and know we still have an enormous amount of work to get through – always striving to be better is our motivation.
Taking strong action on climate change is core to our values at Elk and we are working hard to reduce our environmental footprint. Investing in renewable energy, installing and upgrading more energy efficient lighting and equipment, and finding solutions to divert waste from landfill. We are also focused on designing better products, packaging and printing to have a lighter environmental footprint and are incorporating sustainable elements into new store designs and all physical operations.
Our biggest impact is through our product and so we support sustainable forestry, regenerative farming, and clean chemistry by using more ethically-produced and environmentally-preferred fibres and materials. Our product team also drives the design process to reduce unnecessary components, reduce fabric consumption and avoid material wastage.
We have achieved a great deal as we have shifted our traditional business to one that has a much lighter footprint.
Key achievements include:
- We are members of 1% for the Planet, committing to donate 1% of all sales to environmental not–for–profit groups.
- A partnership with TreeProject sees us donate $2 for every online order, which has supported the planting of more than 75,000 native seedlings since 2020. Our staff volunteers grow and plant some of these seedlings as well which helps farmers in Victoria regenerate their land.
- In 2022, we established an emissions reduction target that is aligned with (and exceeds) the Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTi) SME guidelines. To date, we have achieved a 90% reduction in our scopes 1 & 2 carbon emissions, and have a target of 100% reduction of Scope 3 by 2030 (from a 2018 base year).
- We have been powered by 100% renewable electricity since April 2021. Onsite solar provides 45% of our electricity with the balance purchased as 100% GreenPower.
The influence we have beyond our immediate business. We by no means have everything perfect, however, it is wonderful to hear that individuals including students and other business use our transparency reports to help guide their own journeys. Running a business like ELK is hugely complicated and sometimes even knowing where to start can be hard. So, this has been an unforeseen reward – our efforts are influencing a broader audience which helps to accelerate our collective journey.
Access to materials has always been and still is our greatest challenge. The fabrics and fibres we use are sourced from all over the World and whilst the demand for these materials should see them readily available there just simply isn’t enough volume or affordable options to meet industry requirements and expectations. Often the provenance and verification process of the material origin can also be hard to obtain.
We have solid goals and some great guides to assist with the procurement of and selection of materials, but accessibility remains our biggest hurdle. Our solution for this (now that we can again) is to travel and meet new mills and makers and to use more third party certified options. We are also researching markets that offer better transparency into the origin of fibres and visibility of their production facilities whilst partnering with organisations such as Canopy to help guide our choices and provide some guarantees.
The notion of green business is still relatively new in the context of our modern economy. For us, being early adopters in the fashion industry has meant we have had to educate ourselves and learn from day one when the conversation hardly existed. As science, innovation and research have evolved, we have had to evolve with it. We have had to teach ourselves and lean on others to work through challenges, and this has given us a very deep, grassroots understanding of the issues. Our business has almost had to learn how to walk again but this time with a lighter step – however knowing how to has not always been easy when the answers or ideas were not yet apparent.
We can see the progress, though – not only for our own business but for consumers and the industry as a whole, and this is so exciting. Things feel hard and some goals remain tough to achieve but we are so much further along the road to realising many of our targets and goals.
In the fashion industry there are many other brands that we look to such as A.BCH, Patagonia and Outland Denim who are all innovative and uncompromising in their operations. What inspires us, though, doesn’t always come from within fashion and we look to companies in tech, food and other industries to gather ideas and push ourselves to do more or try harder. Business is business and it doesn’t matter what you do or what you make; if you can find less impactful ways then that helps all of us to do better.
We are passionate about the idea of conscious consumption. There are so many viable ethical and sustainable fashion options available – not only buying new but buying second hand and recycled. We would love more customers to pause before they buy, to research who they buy from and ensure that these brands – in whatever industry have transparent, robust environmental and social standards. It is not only up to businesses to lead change. Governments can do their part to legislate, and customers can pressure brands to do better. Through active engagement we can all influence positive change.
If this inspired you to make considered fashion choices, check out ELK here.
Or if you're a business that's interested in finding out more about joining the Green Economy, get in touch today.