ESG Outlook is Sourcing Journal’s discussion series with industry executives to get their take on their company’s latest environmental, social and governance initiatives and their own personal efforts toward sustainability. In this Q&A, Prasad Reddy, CEO of eco-footwear company Twisted X, talks about how little steps toward sustainability go a long way.
Name: Prasad Reddy
Company: Twisted X
What do you consider to be your company’s best ESG-related achievement over the last 5 years?
Sustainability is the backbone of Twisted X® and is fully ingrained in our brand DNA. From creating new eco-friendly materials to exploring new techniques for construction, Twisted X® holistically evaluates every step of our process to create environmentally responsible materials and production processes without compromising quality and performance.
We have made so many advancements in this space, but I am very proud of our distinction as carbon neutral in Twisted X’s headquarters, along with our global factories, distribution and shipping. We created a new role of sustainability strategist, and a large part of this job function was to set, measure and report on metrics to quantify our efforts moving forward. This was something unheard of for a company of our size.
What is your personal philosophy on shopping and caring for your clothes?
A philosophy I have shared with my kids and that I implement in my everyday life is that when you buy something you should also donate something. That way you are only truly buying things to satisfy a need instead of a want, plus extending the life cycle of the item to benefit someone else afterwards.
I am minimalistic by nature. If something works for me, I’m not going to change it and that’s how I feel about my clothes. If I like it and it fits, then I will wear it until it no longer serves me. I have jeans that I’ve been wearing for over 20 years for this exact reason. They may have rips and tears in them but luckily that’s back in style now!
How much do you look into a brand’s social or environmental practices before shopping?
This is a huge consideration factor for me as a consumer. I always aim to support companies that do good, whether environmentally or socially. If I see something negative coming from a brand or anything they are associated with that could be bad for the environment, the community or any specific group of people, I will not support them.
Anything new you are doing to boost sustainability beyond the fashion industry?
There is so much we can do as individuals, and even small changes can make a big impact. This includes really simple things like turning off the water while I brush my teeth, turning off the lights when not in use and recycling appropriately. I’m also very mindful of packaging. For example, when my wife and I shop for milk, instead of going for the big gallon of milk, we reach for two half gallons to skip the large plastic container.
What would you say is the biggest misconception consumers have about sustainability in fashion?
Consumers automatically assume that sustainable footwear is going to cost more and also be less durable. While it is true that sustainable materials often cost more, Twisted X has committed to absorb costs and not pass along increases to our retailers.
Regarding durability, at Twisted X, we’ve found that leveraging sustainable materials for different parts of the footwear actually makes for better footwear. An example is the expanded application of our eco-fabric (ecoTWX®), in which a variation is used for our shoe lining (ecoTWEED®). This has enabled us to migrate from nylon lining to a 50/50 ecoTWEED® and bamboo charcoal blend that is more breathable, moisture-, antibacterial- and odor-absorbing, as well as softer.
What was your company’s biggest takeaway from the Covid crisis?
During the pandemic, the whole structure of retail was thrown a curveball, and we immediately saw that our retailers needed help in any way we could give them. Since Twisted X is not direct to consumer, we could focus on supporting our retailers via creating robust assets such as social, web and email layouts and templates that could be customized and quickly implemented. We knew we could take the burden of extreme inventory off their shoulders by increasing our product inventories and making them easily accessible to keep up with demand amid supply chain slowdowns.
Twisted X also kept prices consistent while broadening the depth of products and education offered to retailers. Setting our retailers up for success helped us further our relationships with those who constantly help us.
What is Twisted X’s latest sustainability-related initiative?
We have a commitment to bring to market a new innovation or technology every six months and when possible, one that revolves around our sustainability mission. Three years in the making, Zero-X™ is the first collection of footwear created without chemical adhesives, eliminating harmful toxins and high-energy production processes. Introduced in 2021, Zero-X™ utilizes a proprietary interlocking, double-stitching system, and independent stitching construction eliminating 75 percent of the harsh environmental issues created with traditional footwear. In addition to the lack of harsh chemical adhesives, scoring dust, debris and the elimination of heating and cooling production energy, with every pair sold, we plant a tree in the U.S. through our partnership with One Tree Planted®.
We continue to innovate with new materials like leatherTWX®, an upcycled leather material comprised of 80 percent recycled leather from our production that would otherwise end up in landfills.
What is the fashion industry’s biggest missed opportunity related to securing meaningful change?
Packaging and materials. Packaging, to me, is the most obvious thing that can be fixed. When you buy a shirt, it comes in a plastic bag and then you get another plastic bag when you check out. If brands cut down on the amount of packaging or utilize more sustainable options, that could probably eliminate around one third of all the problems associated with the sale of apparel. Materials are little easier to change and can be a great next step.
The industry should consistently evaluate production processes to find what can be innovated or changed. It may not be possible to completely eliminate certain parts of the process, but we can minimize harmful outputs and ensure machinery is kept up to date to increase efficiency.