How sustainable is sustainability in consumer goods

I often wonder, whenever the subject of sustainability comes up, is there a point at which, sometime in the future a time when we are all living, interacting, traveling, consuming and discarding in sync with the environment and each other? Sounds far fetched. How far away are we? Pretty far. And, will we ever get ‘there’? Most likely not. Is it worth even trying? Absolutely. This is my internal conversation that’s a continuous loop.

Like any lover of unspoilt nature, when I see images of oceans clogged with plastic and rainforests levelled, my skin crawls. As a large scale manufacturer, we have a huge responsibility to bear, and it’s been a pet project of mine to affect change in the way we do things, from our mass production facilities to our interaction with our clients.

Like any reputable manufacturer we are geared up for meeting multiple suitability and ethics requirements, we are well versed in the certifications required. We have to be, but to me, that’s the bare minimum for any organisation if we are to significantly reduce our impact on the planet. Frankly, it’s not nearly enough – we are all well aware of what role we play in our growing collective carbon footprint and rising landfills.

On certification, many of the certification boards should be looking at their policies and standards more dynamically to update them more regularly, to keep with the current times. Feedback from the coal face is essential. One example that I came across last winter was a recycled fabric, made from plastic bottles. When I held it in my hands it felt brittle, almost crispy, and immediately I knew it would not pass the durability tests. Needless to say it would end up in a landfill far quicker than a virgin weave. And of course the rolls came with a clear stamp of approval that it was ‘sustainable’ fabric. (Let’s not even mention the scandalous material manufacturers buying new plastic bottles to make their fabric…)

The most important next steps, as we move into a more mature landscape of sustainability involves looking at the big picture – end to end analyses. Today we hear the term “full circle economy” and that gives me more hope that we are heading in the right direction. The steps after that are to make sure that the full circle of the supply chains are in board, in our case from the buckle makers to the buyers.

In the end, it all comes down to intent and a consciousness of what we do, always. If we apply it to every decision we make, we can affect the changes we need. We are still in the infancy of this infinite ‘quest’ for zero impact. But small steps in the right direction count. I will be sharing more of my thoughts on this. Please let me know yours.