environment2022/03/16

Meet The Wolf & Badger Sustainability Team

by Wolf & Badger

As part of B Corp month and going ‘Behind the B’ we’re introducing you to some of our sustainability team who are working hard to make Wolf & Badger a more ethical place for our employees, designers and customers. If you’ve wondered how our brands achieve their guarantees then our Sustainability Executive, Becky is here to talk about the process of assessing our designers alongside sharing her views on sustainability and what she gets up-to on an average day. 

Hello! Can you tell us a bit about your role and how you came to work in sustainability?

My interest in sustainability first started at university. I studied Fashion Management and Marketing and I was fortunate that our course had a strong focus on sustainability as it is such an important issue in the industry. After learning more about how harmful the fashion industry is, I knew I wanted to expand my knowledge and try to change the industry for the better! I joined Wolf & Badger 4 years ago as a marketing intern and from the outset was always super keen to get involved with any sustainability projects. This led me to pivot into the sustainability team as this is where my passion lies. I now work on vetting all our designers on the platform. I’ve been lucky to play a part in developing our guarantees and creating the marking criteria for how we assess our designers. I also write guides on sustainability issues for Wolf & Badger employees, our designers and our customers, helping to share knowledge so everyone is able to shop ethically and learn about sustainability issues.

What does a typical day look like for you? 

I’ll start my day with a very essential, large cup of tea and scan through my emails and updates from the team. I’m currently working part-time while I complete my masters so I like to start with catching up on anything I missed on my days off and answering any questions that have been left for me. 

I’ll then move on to look at the new submissions of designers' evidence for their guarantees. We have a requirement that all guarantee submissions need supporting evidence and it’s my job to read through and check we have everything needed to award the guarantee. Each guarantee has different evidence required and I use our marking sheet which has a 1-5 scale of criteria to award a guarantee. I’ll check the designers' evidence against this and award them a number, with 5 being that we have everything we need. Anything less and we’ll get in contact with the designer and send them the marking sheet so they know where they can improve or if they’ve missed any evidence to award the guarantee. 

A big part of my job is staying on-top of new certifications and developments in supply chains and sustainable sourcing. I’ll spend time researching new learnings and innovations in the space and working this into our initiatives. It’s always interesting to find useful new insights! 

Model wears the Ashley Organic Cotton Top by Baukjen

What’s your best advice to assess the sustainability of a product?

Firstly, it’s important to ask yourself a couple of questions before deciding to hit buy. Will you wear/use the item at least 20 times? Does it pair with other items in your wardrobe? Is this an impulse purchase or fulfilling a need? There’s no use investing in a ‘sustainable’ piece if you’re not going to use it!

After you’ve decided if you really need that new piece I’ll always have a look at the product description. I tend to avoid synthetics in new pieces (polyester, nylon, acrylic) as these are made from fossil-fuels which don’t biodegrade. If a brand doesn’t list what an item is made from it’s a big red flag. 

Secondly, third-party certifications are your best friend. They’re a really useful and easy way to ensure the designer is living up to what they’re claiming. We ask for third-party certifications in our vetting process because of this. 

The most common to look out for are:

  1. GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) - If you’re buying organic cotton especially, this is the best mark to look out for. These not only ensure that the cotton is at least 70% organic but they also have stringent environmental and ethical criteria for the entire supply chain. This means waste water and chemical usage is monitored when processing the cotton and that workers are treated fairly too. 
  2. GRS (Global Recycled Standard) - This is the most common certification for recycled content in materials. Do be aware though that this certification can be awarded for as little as 20% recycled materials so always check the materials list on the product you’re purchasing! However, as with GOTS it does monitor other factors alongside certifying the recycled content such as working conditions, pollution, energy and water usage.
  3. OEKO-TEX - This standard is used to assess our Non-Toxic guarantee as it confirms that the final product is completely free of chemicals that are harmful to humans.

What are the difficulties in the vetting process?

Our brands are of varying sizes and have different product categories which makes developing one standardised system to assess them all very difficult. We often find edge cases or unique issues which we have to troubleshoot and this can take time to investigate - but what’s life without a challenge!

Another tricky aspect is that while certification schemes are immensely useful in vetting a product, they’re often inaccessible to smaller designers due to cost and capability. This is something we’re working to overcome within our own vetting process while still retaining our stringent and trusted standards across all our brands.

Cushions by Mumutane, combining Nordic aesthetics and vibrant African expression

What are the main difficulties in the industry when it comes to sustainability?

One of the simultaneously exciting and frustrating things about working in sustainability is that we most definitely have our plates full of issues to tackle. Whether it’s the recyclability of materials, paying living wages to workers or curbing the increasing amount of plastic pollution from our polyester-filled wardrobes - there’s a lot to keep us busy. 

Greenwashing is an especially sore issue, as labels such as ‘sustainable’, ‘eco’ or ‘green’ are attached to a product with no indication as to what that means, making choosing products even more confusing.

However, while this can be overwhelming, one action we as individuals can take which has a real impact in tackling overconsumption is changing our relationship with clothes. I’m sure you’ve heard statistics about the quantity of clothing entering landfills yet we’re hit with constant messages pressuring us to shop. Saying no to the big fast-fashion retailers greenwash and instead discovering small, independent brands, charity shops, rental platforms and swapping with friends and family are all ways to consume more ethically (only when you need to). We don’t need to succumb to the pressure of purchasing a new item each week to keep up with the latest trends. Instead we should celebrate originality and creativity, treasuring quality clothes that last.

What is the most rewarding aspect of the job?

The most rewarding aspect of my job is being able to help educate designers, staff and customers about sustainability and ethics - which is one of the reasons why we attained B Corp certification! Additionally, being able to constantly learn and improve our initiatives. We know we’re far from perfect and there’s lots more work to be done. We’ve got big plans to expand our positive impact in the future, so watch this space!

Discover Becky's B Corp edit below: 

Independent
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