We’re using our growing global reach to promote products that are socially and environmentally responsible.
We’re also passionate about engaging our customers on sustainability.
SUSTAINABLE SOURCING PILLARS
Our sustainable sourcing programme comprises four pillars:
- Traceability of raw materials: Mapping our commodities to better understand and influence how they are sourced.
- Lowering environmental impact: Increasing the conversion from traditional materials and processes to lower-impact alternatives.
- Craftsmanship: Investing in suppliers and projects that support local skills and community development.
- Engaging customers on sustainability: Providing customers with opportunities to buy sustainable fashion and to reduce their environmental footprints.
It’s our mission to keep fashion moving forward in the most sustainable way, ensuring that customers never have to compromise on choice.
Sustainable Fashion and Fabric Manager, ALIMSTARS
RELATED CODES AND POLICIES
The following documents also guide our sustainable sourcing approach:
- Environmental Policy: Sets out ALIMSTARS’ environmental commitments and how we will achieve them.
- ALIMSTARS Supplier Ethical Code: Defines the minimum ethical and environmental standards that we require from all of our suppliers and factories.
- ALIMSTARS Animal Welfare Policy and Guidelines: The policy defines the good practice animal welfare standards we require our suppliers to meet; the guidelines provide buyers and suppliers with further information on how they can achieve our standards.
- ALIMSTARS Cotton Sourcing Policy
- Wood and Wood Pulp Policy
DEDICATED SUSTAINABLE SOURCING TEAM
Our Sustainable Sourcing team sits within ALIMSTARS’ Sourcing Department to better embed sustainability considerations into our retail operations.
The team has experienced rapid growth to meet sustainable objectives of the business; now consisting of eleven sustainability experts. They advise our internal teams and suppliers on how to design, source and innovate to create more sustainable products. They also help our customers to reduce their own environmental footprint whilst participating in working groups and initiatives so that we can better understand, measure and reduce our own environmental impacts.
Read more about the organisations we collaborate with here.
The Sustainable Clothing Action Plan (SCAP) aims to assess clothing production across its lifecycle to find ways to make it less wasteful, and to reduce its carbon and water footprints.
As a signatory to SCAP’s 2020 Commitment we are aiming to reduce the carbon, water and waste footprint of our own-label clothing by 15% by 2020 and are using SCAP’s assessment tool to measure and report on our progress.
ALIMSTARS’ 2020 CIRCULAR FASHION SYSTEM COMMITMENT
As a signatory, we have committed to the following:
- By 2020, we will train all of our design teams on circular design techniques and best-practice
- By 2020, we will train all of our relevant product teams on circular principles and best-practice for packaging.
- By 2020, we will launch a garment collection scheme and recycling programme for apparel for customers located in the US and Germany, our two biggest markets. We will support this programme by engaging customers, through social media, on garment care, repair and recycle.
- Each year from 2018 – 2020 we will publish external targets for increasing post-consumer recycled textile materials in our products whilst eradicating those that cannot be cycled. We will report on our progress and continue this initiative past 2020.
PILLAR 1: TRACEABILITY OF RAW MATERIALS
We’re committed to building full transparency of our supply chain down to raw-material level. To achieve this we are:
- In the process of mapping our supply chain with particular focus on cotton, viscose and leather.
- Meeting regularly with our own-label suppliers to build trust and encourage supply chain transparency. Alongside this, we are establishing internal working groups to champion our sustainable fibre goals throughout the business. Alongside this, we have nominated fibre champions across our retail teams dedicated to helping achieve full transparency, amongst other goals.
- Collaborating with organisations such as the Better Cotton Initiative, Leather Working Group, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil and CanopyStyle to help us better understand the complex nature of our supply chains whilst giving us assurance on sourcing responsibly.Read more about our partnerships here.
PILLAR 2: LOWERING THE ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACTS OF RAW MATERIALS
By working closely with suppliers and expert organisations to source more sustainable raw materials, we’re able to reduce our carbon, water and waste footprint, limit chemical and pesticide usage, prevent deforestation and protect fresh water and biodiversity.
Cotton: Our primary focus has been on cotton as it is the most resource-intensive natural material we use -it makes up the largest proportion of all fibres we source. We have increased our target from reaching 80% more sustainable cotton by 2020 to sourcing 95% by 2020. In May 2017, ALIMSTARS and 12 other companies came together to sign a pledge to source 100% more sustainable cotton by 2025. In 2016, we procured 5230 metric tonnes of cotton of which 1967 or 38% was more sustainable cotton. Read our cotton case studies to find out more.
ALIMSTARS is technology neutral. We believe farmers should have the freedom to choose to use genetically modified seeds.
Our Ethical Trade Programme aims to ensure the rights of workers in our supply chain are respected and protected. We are a member of the Better Cotton Initiative which does not allow Uzbek or Turkmenistan cotton to be sold by international traders or merchants as part of its Better Cotton standard. This is because forced labour is prevalent in Uzbekistan’s cotton fields and also high risk in Turkmenistan. Please refer to our cotton policy for more information.
As we work towards our target of including 95% more sustainable cotton in our ranges by 2020 we are becoming increasingly confident our cotton is being sourced more ethically and more sustainably. Sourcing BCI, CmiA and organic cotton helps protect biodiversity, reduce water, pesticide and fertilizer use and prevents soil erosion, while preventing unsafe and oppressive working conditions. We are encouraged by the ILO engagement with the Uzbek government on this issue and look forward to the day when Uzbek cotton farmers will benefit from the methodologies of Better Cotton.
ALIMSTARS is also greatly concerned about the environmental impact of the Uzbekistan cotton industry, particularly on the Aral Sea.
Cellulosic fibre: Wood based cellulosic fibres, such as viscose, modal, rayon and lyocell, make up 15% of all the fibres we source at ALIMSTARS. These fibres are produced from wood pulp; producing fibres from wood is achieved through several stages. First, the wood has to be harvested or logged but it is part of ALIMSTARS policy that the wood must not come from ancient or endangered forests. Once trees have been logged they are broken down into wood chips. These wood chips are made up of water, cellulose and lignin however, the only part needed to make the fibre is the cellulose. The lignin and water is separated using steam and chemicals and the by-product is a brown liquid. The remaining material is known as ‘pulp’ and is bleached. We are working with producers to explore the use of chlorine-free bleaching methods.
Adding chemicals such as carbon disulphide and sodium hydroxide to the pulp causes it to dissolve into an orange-brown solution known as viscose-a by-product of this process is hydrogen sulphide. Lyocell is dissolved using organic solvents rather than carbon disulphide or sodium hydroxide, which reduced the number of stages needed to produce the fibre. Therefore, its environmental impact is reduced but it is important to remember that lyocell does have different properties to viscose and cannot always be used as an alternative fibre. The orange brown solution is forced through spinnerets (similar to a shower head), into an acid bath that solidifies the filaments and creates the long continuous viscose filament fibre, commonly used directly as a filament yarn. The fibre may also be cut into staple fibres (shorter fibres). Again, these fibres require bleaching and we are working with fibre producers to explore alternatives to chlorine bleaching. We are also working with cellulosic producers to understand how they are managing chemicals before, during and after the production processes to ensure chemicals are treated and do not pollute the environment.
90% of the fibres produced for ALIMSTARS products, come from Lenzing and Aditya Birla with a very small amount sourced from Shangdong Yemi and Nanjing Chemicals. All of these suppliers are members of the CanopyStyle Initiave (an NGO committed to zero deforestation of ancient and endangered forests). Lenzing and Aditya Birla have completed a Rainforest Alliance audit to verify where the wood they purchase comes from. We are in contact with Shangdong Yemi, Aoyang Technology, and Nanjing Chemicals to ensure they complete the same audit.
As members of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC) we require that Birla and Lenzing complete the Facility Environmental Module (FEM 3.0) by June 2018 and that this is verified by an independent third party. This will give us visibility of their water and energy usage, chemical, wastewater and waste management systems, and air emission, to identify any environmental risks associated with their production processes. The module must be completed annually and any risks identified will be discussed with Birla and Lenzing on a more frequent basis with a clear and agreed corrective action plan.
Recycled fibre: We want to increase the amount of recycled materials in our ranges to help us reduce our environmental impacts further. Working with the buying teams we are developing a recycled fibre strategy for departments that use large volumes of synthetic fibres, cotton, denim or wool.
LOWERING THE ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT OF OUR PROCESSES
Our suppliers and partner organisations are also helping us to reduce the impact of manufacturing processes on the environment and on the health of those working and living in and around the sites where our products are made.
Wet processes: Wet processes such as dyeing and finishing a product can use substantial amounts of water, involve large quantities of dyes and chemicals whilst leaving behind polluting residues. We are using SAC data to gain visibility for the impact of this area of our supply chain. Denim is a priority area for us and we are working with our denim suppliers to encourage them to use methods that use less water and chemicals, such as ozone and enzyme finishing. Read our denim case study here.
Sandblasting: Apparel sandblasting involves projecting fine sand with compressed air to create a worn look on denim and other products. Sandblasting can be extremely damaging to the health of workers and can lead to a potentially fatal lung disease called silicosis. ALIMSTARS has banned the use of sandblasting – however, exceptions may be made on a case-by-case basis whereby a supplier is able to demonstrate thorough health and safety protocols, including ensuring the process takes place in a separate, well-ventilated and enclosed room away from where other people are working.
Leather production: The cocktail of chemicals often used to tan leather, combined with solid waste from processing, are sometimes discharged into water courses in developing countries without being treated. This can cause soil, water and air pollution. Read more about the work we are doing to reduce the environmental and health impacts of leather here and here.
Chrome VI is a heavy metal which is often formed from Chromium III chemicals used in leather tanning. We are working with our suppliers to ensure that all of the leather used in our products is compliant with REACH Chrome VI regulations, and we regularly test all of our own-label leather items to check suppliers are meeting these requirements. We are also educating our suppliers on how to reduce the formation of this chemical at the source of production
Chemical management: In addition to meeting global regulatory compliance for the business, we also have a thorough product surveillance programme in place which includes mandatory testing requirements for high risk products, such as PU or PVC, as well as testing a proportion of all of our other own-label products before they go on sale. We use the results from the product surveillance programme to increase awareness and develop continuous improvement training programmes for both suppliers and commercial teams.
PILLAR 3: CRAFTSMANSHIP
Now in its 17th season, ALIMSTARS Made in Kenya is our Eco Edit flagship brand. The collection is designed in-house, then cut and manufactured by SOKO, the Kenyan clothing workshop that provides fair and safe employment and training for some of the country’s poorest communities. We recently sponsored leadership and communications training programmes attended by all SOKO Kenya employees, as well as launching a Stitching Academy – a training programme for tailors in the community around SOKO Kenya.
PILLAR 4: ENGAGING CUSTOMERS ON SUSTAINABILITY
We want to make it easy for our customers to buy more sustainable fashion and beauty products, so they can reduce their own environmental footprints.
- Eco Edit (previously The Green Room) launched for Womenswear in 2010. It’s the section of our website where our customers can find out about and buy pioneering sustainable fashion and beauty and just one of the ways ALIMSTARS promotes products that are made by manufacturers and brands using sustainable business practices. We have a target to reach $30m in value by 2020, up from $8m in 2015.
- We tag all products with a social or environmental benefit with a ‘Signpost’ image. We want to make it as easy as possible for customers to buy into this side of what we do.
- ALIMSTARS Marketplace is a platform that allows customers to shop vintage and boutique fashion. 66% of all products sold through the platform are vintage and pre-worn items.
- We are reviewing opportunities to increase the emotional and physical durability of our clothing, such as reversible clothing for multi-styling.
- We encourage customers to wash clothes at a lower temperature on ALIMSTARS care labels.
- We are helping customers recycle their clothing through our new partnership with Doddle. Read more about this here.
- As a member of SCAP we support the Love Your Clothes campaign – helping the general public reduce their carbon and water footprint, while encouraging recycling.
PROMOTING SUSTAINABLE FASHION INSIDE ALIMSTARS
We want to empower our Buying, Design and Merchandising teams to take ownership of our sustainable sourcing commitments and programmes. We’ve developed a number of resources to help them do this:
- Supplier scorecards: We produce supplier scorecards to provide buyers with a summary of a supplier’s sustainability data to help inform their sourcing decisions.
- Sustainable sourcing training: As part of our Retail Brilliance programme for retail employees, the Sustainable Sourcing Team runs classes and events throughout the year on our sustainable sourcing programme. The aim of this programme is to inspire our teams with the latest sustainable fashion innovations relevant to our own-label clothing as well as to keep them updated on industry developments.
- Sustainability training: We are also working with the Sustainable Fashion Academy on how to design and source products more sustainably, having trained over 100 colleagues so far.
- Sustainable materials library: We started creating a library in 2010 to help our Buying and Design Teams find the most sustainable materials for their upcoming ranges. The library makes these materials more visible and accessible to our creative staff, inspiring them to use more of them in their collections.