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Textile Durability and Recycling Top Outland Denim’s Wins for 2021

Outland Denim’s 2021 Impact Report underscores how it has made transparency part of its brand DNA.

This year, Outland Denim expanded its rigid jeans options, collaborated with fellow Aussie brand Spell on a line of vintage-inspired denim staples, introduced ready-to-wear and celebrated a milestone it its traceability journey, marking 100 percent traceability of its organic cotton denim.

The B Corp certified company also made progress on long-term projects and goals. It updated all black denim to denim dyed using Saveblack, a process that uses 85 percent less water compared to conventional dyeing. Outland also tested jeans for 30 home laundries and performed 13 durability tests to meet the minimum test standard for jeans, verified by Outland Denim’s Research and Development Engineer

More work lies ahead, including addressing size diversity in both its products and storytelling, and completing work on a water filtration system that has been delayed due to the company being unable to find local expertise to implement the upgraded system.

Social impact

Outland Denim was founded as a social enterprise to support people out of modern slavery and vulnerability through investment in training, life skills acquisition, economic empowerment and opportunity for career progression, and its putting in the effort to maintain that mission.

“We believe that the global fashion industry has a crucial part to play in not only meeting the bare minimum in human rights but in lifting the standard of what we believe to be the minimum for human dignity,” James Bartle, Outland Denim founding CEO, stated in the report.

The report notes that 85 percent of surveyed employees were in the Moderate, High or Extreme risk categories when beginning their career at Outland. The company’s hiring process typically involves either word-of-mouth or nonprofit referral. The employees who come to Outland through partner NGOs have typically experienced sexual exploitation and/or labor trafficking, while those that come through word-of-mouth referrals have typically experienced workplace exploitation.

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After six months of employment and over time, employees are surveyed again to determine if the level of risk to exploitation has been reduced during their employment with Outland Denim. The report states that 76 percent of surveyed employees have a reduced level of risk to exploitation after six months or more of employment, education and opportunities with the company.

A living wage is a standard for its Cambodian staff. Outland is guided by the Anker methodology, and data specific to its workforce, to calculate a living wage for staff members in Cambodia.

In 2021, the company increased its Cambodian team by half; 20 percent of new employees applied after having experienced job loss due to the coronavirus.

More than half of the employees earned salary increases this year due to skill progression or promotion. Of the employees surveyed, 51 percent said that education and employment with Outland Denim helped them to decrease their debt, while 80 percent said it had helped to improve their financial security.

In March, the company offered its first Khmer literacy class to employees in Cambodia, to equip employees to have reading and writing skills in their own language.

Environmental impact

Oeko-Tex and GOTS certified raw materials are the foundation to Outland’s collections, and the company’s own wash and finishing facility, powered by state-of-the-art technologies, is at the core of its environmental savings.

Measured through third-party Environmental Impact Measurement criteria, 97 percent of Outland Denim’s washes are categorized as “low impact.” On average, garments are made with 37 percent less energy, 75 percent less chemicals and 63 percent less water compared to conventional methods.

The company stated that it is targeting net-zero emissions by 2030 through practices, policies and by offsetting those emissions that cannot be reduced. Outland’s total GHG emissions from July 1, 2020 to June 30th, 2021 was 1348 tCO2e—12 percent of which was from Scope 1 sources, 7 percent from Scope 2 and 81 percent from Scope 3, or indirect emissions.

The process of calculating Outland Denim’s first carbon footprint has highlighted areas for future improvement, however. Improving data collection processes “for more accurate calculations” and implementing informed emissions reduction targets will be its next steps.

All of Outland’s excess textile waste is directed towards textile recycling research, not-for-profit social enterprises and NGOs for training and awareness projects. Investments in upcycling textile waste is paying off, but the company is not ready to disclose details other than its team has developed in a lab a way to eradicate it.

“Now that lab testing is complete, it’s time to take the next step—the first commercial test. We’ll be testing this technology with a range of textile compositions to better understand the scope of this technology and what fabrics it can break down,” the company stated.

What’s next

Two-year goals for the brand include being the subject for a case-study evaluating the effects of water recycling on water and plastic pollution in the garment sector, prioritizing the use of Bluesign certified chemicals and creating a product that is 100 percent carbon neutral.

The company has started a system to track the number of items requiring repair, along with the percentage that it was able to repair for customers in order with a target to further expand product repair opportunities.

On a social level, Outland aims to establish charitable partnership programs in each of its major regions of distribution and develop a mental health program aimed at employees with low levels of literacy and education who have experienced exploitation prior to their time with the brand.

“We hope to be an encouragement to the fashion industry by moving toward a more ecologically sustainable business model with ethical practices that will benefit not only the environment but the very real lives of the many individuals and families who make up the communities most at risk of exploitation,” the company stated.