An icon in her own right with legendary routes, Stella has built a brand around sustainability, vocalizing her ethical initiatives beyond being a vegan company. We know the brand doesn’t use leather or fur and yet despite what might seem like a huge loss in potential sales in leather accessories (shoes & handbags), the brand thrives and has found remarkable eco & sustainable solutions to meet this “challenge”.
Today I want to share the incredible company initiatives that are ingrained in Stella McCartney’s business practices at all stages and levels of development, brick & mortar.
Let’s start by taking a look at the pre-fall 2014 collection. It was actually an Ecouterre article that sparked my interest to write this post and further explore the company.
The entire collection breathes sustainability from the use of organic fabric, biodegradable rubber soles, in the shoes, hand bags made from vegetable-oil-based faux Nappa, as well as sustainable wool. A new partnership with Nature Conservancy and network Ovis XXI, as noted in the Ecouterre article.
This new partnership with the Nature Conservancy and the Argentina Rancher will help to restore 15 million acres of grasslands in Patagonia while focusing on sustainable sheep grazing. All in efforts to reverse the damages of over 100 years of overgrazing which resulted in the grasslands turned into a desert, incapable of supporting ranching or wildlife.
What is so beautiful about the way Stella McCartney approaches integrity through her design is the honesty & transparency of her company while equally placing value on the importance of relevant modern design. From the beginning Stella’s designs have captured, inspired and have been adored by everyone in the industry, contemporary consumers abroad, fashion followers and avid fans. Regardless whether they actively support or embrace sustainable/ ethical fashion, they were by indirectly supporting the designer herself. She has gracefully & humbly helped to lead the industry in a positive way, without solely promoting herself as “the ethical designer”.
TRANSPARENCY BY DESIGN
You don’t have to look far on the company website to learn about all their corporate initiatives. The more I learn, the more I realize it’s a dream company come true! Stella, hire me!… please!!!… The company website details their commitment clearly and I’ve highlighted some of this here.
Now bare with me, it’s worth the read!
THE STELLA MCCARTNEY COMMITMENT is simple: R.H.M.
Responsible – Honest – Modern
In part, they recognize the importance of being a leader and the responsibility of their impact. Always working towards new and innovative ways for sustainable development. They are honest and realistic with their steps to becoming a more sustainable company. Noting it’s a journey, requiring dedication and knowing you cant be perfect. By striving to always be better they stay modern, considering the future in all aspects of design, consumerism and the environment.
Being sustainable or ethical is integral at all levels of a company structure from the operations and logistics of the corporate studio space, the factories & suppliers, fabrics & trims, the delivery chain & distribution, the retail stores and customer care of the product itself. Stella McCartney details their efforts at every stage and here are just a few:
- All Stella McCartney stores, offices and studios in the UK are powered by wind energy. Internationally, they use renewable energy to power the stores and offices whenever possible. 45% of operations are run on 100% renewable, green energy and 65% are run on partially green energy*.
- They use organic cotton as much as possible in their collections.
- In 2012, 34% of denim and 36% of jersey for ready-to-wear was made from organic cotton and 50% of all knitwear for Stella McCartney Kids was organic.
- All Stella McCartney locations have recycling systems – In 2013 they added textile recycling to their system in the UK. In 2012, 34.3 metric tons of waste was diverted from landfill and recycled or reused.
- Within the UK, all business taxi journeys are booked through Climate Cars – a service that deploys only hybrid cars.
- In 2011 SM, opened their first certified LEED in Dallas, Las Vegas & Beijing (or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design). The store is equipped with solar panels and a new energy efficient air-conditioning unit.
- Their signature wood flooring is made from Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified woodà sustainably managed forests.
- Green Guidebook in 2012 to help their stores run more sustainably. The e-book provides guidelines on how to save energy and water, reduce waste, and lessen the overall environmental impact of Stella McCartney stores.
As we all know by now, the company does not use fur or leather of any kind for any of their in house or licensed products. Although I am undecided about my view of leather and even fur to some degree (I own and wear leather to this day) I respect SM’s decision to forgo it all together. After reading their company rational, it does make me question leather as a resource. However, regardless whether I make a choice to eat a vegan lifestyle, meat will still be consumed by the general public and I don’t think any of the animal should go to waste. Despite caustic chemicals used in the tanning process, I would really like to research and see an environmental impact comparison of biodegradable/ eco-friendly leather to that of a natural-oil based faux leather substitutes, not only in terms of development processing, durability and end-use decomposition.
Never-the-less, here are valid points as to why SM chooses not to use animal hides, as sourced from the company website:
- Other than the obvious ethical issues surrounding the culling of animals for their hides, in recent years studies by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and NGOs such as PETA have discovered that the environmental impact caused by our reliance on meat and its by-products is not sustainable.
- Factoring in the resources needed to rear cattle, producing a fur or animal skin jacket consumes 20 times the amount of energy needed to produce a coat made from natural fibers or synthetic materials.
- Animal skins used for clothing and accessories are loaded with caustic, toxic chemicals that prevent them from decomposing – the very opposite of what we expect from an organic resource.
- Although leather-makers like to tout their products as “biodegradable” and “eco-friendly,” the process of tanning stabilizes the collagen or protein fibers so that they actually stop biodegrading.
- Groundwater near leather tanneries in developing countries has been found to contain critically high levels of lead, formaldehyde and even cyanide, causing cancer and other fatal illnesses in nearby populations.
- You can check out these videos that Stella McCartney made for PETA. Stella McCartney Takes on the Leather Trade & Stella McCartney Anti-Fur
Although todays post may feel informatively overwhelming. It is not often enough a company reveals itself so transparently; thankfully this is becoming more common! Understanding these vital steps taken in a companies practice truly help us make well-informed educated choices when purchasing products.
In recent years, the company has made a strong effort to align and collaborate with a number of consciously minded organizations, such as:
- Clean by Design by NRDC, as the first luxury company to do so in 2011. They are “an innovative program that uses the buying power of multinational corporations as a lever to reduce the environmental impacts of their suppliers abroad. Clean by Design focuses on improving process efficiency to reduce waste and emissions and improve the environment.” As noted on the company website, “Textile manufacturing has a big environmental footprint, polluting as much as 200 tons of water per ton of fabric with a suite of harmful chemicals, and consuming tremendous amounts of energy for steam and hot water.”
- Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI), an alliance of companies, voluntary organizations and trade unions, all working together to improve working conditions around the world.
- International Trade Centre. The program goes beyond charity by providing work and livelihood to disadvantaged communities in Kenya. SM created tote bags in partnership with the UN made by hand. Since 2012 they’ve reached 160 people.
Lastly, SM’s partnership with KERING SUSTAINABILITY, working towards reducing their impact on the environment by 25% by 2016. With ambitious targets, they aim to:
- Reducing carbon emissions, waste and water usage resulting from the production of products and services by 25%, while accounting for the growth of our business.
- 100% of paper and packaging will be sourced from certified sustainably managed forests with a minimum of 50% recycled content.
- Ensuring all hazardous chemicals have been phased out and eliminated from our production by 2020.
- 100% of gold and diamonds will be sourced from verified operations that do not have a harmful impact on local communities, wildlife or the ecosystems, which support them.
- Additionally, KERING SUSTAINABILITY has a set a target date of 2016 for all brands in the luxury group to complete an Environmental Profit and Loss (EP&L).
As shared from the company website: “The EP&L is a strategic risk management and transparency tool. It provides an initial analysis of the risks attached to raw material costs and it provides insight into the problems of resource scarcity. It creates an understanding that these issues and their consequences can mitigate risk in the supply chain, as well as helping to guide investment in order to achieve better management of these challenges. The EP&L measures and assigns a monetary value to the key environmental impact associated with a company’s operational and supply chain activities. This includes greenhouse gas emissions, water consumption, land use, air pollution and waste production.” All of which is truly valuable information!
And that’s all I have to say about that. Happy Monday !