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, Tara Maurer-Mackay, senior vice president, product strategy, of PrimaLoft, discusses why reducing emissions should be priority number one.
Name: Tara Maurer-Mackay
Title: Senior Vice President – Product Strategy
What do you consider to be your company’s best ESG-related achievement over the last 5 years?
Our PrimaLoft® P.U.R.E.™ renewable manufacturing technology is the most impactful recent innovation that we’ve developed. P.U.R.E. (Produced Using Reduced Emissions) is a new standard in renewable manufacturing technology for synthetic insulation that drastically reduces carbon emissions generated during the textile manufacturing process. For decades, the insulation manufacturing process has relied on fossil fuels like coal and natural gas as energy sources. We identified this as the biggest culprit of carbon emissions in the traditional textile processing methods used throughout the industry. Our PrimaLoft® P.U.R.E.™ manufacturing technique significantly improves the energy efficiency of the process, resulting in carbon emissions savings of at least 50 percent and even up to 70 percent.
A full year of production of just one of our insulation products results in a savings of more than 231 thousand kilograms, which equals a 1,032,998-kilometer saving of CO2—enough to drive around the Earth 26 times! We expect these numbers to grow significantly as we increase production and expand this technology across our manufacturing footprint and product line. Our goal is to incorporate PrimaLoft® P.U.R.E.™ widely in our range in the coming years.
What is your personal philosophy on shopping and caring for your clothes?
I tend to invest in classic pieces and high-quality, durable items that will have a long shelf life. In recent years, we’ve seen more people shift towards this attitude when it comes to shopping, and it’s been great to see brands shifting messaging towards longevity. The more we can rely on long-lasting pieces that serve us well, and even have a second life when donated, the less waste we’ll accumulate.
How much do you look into a brand’s social or environmental practices before shopping?
We’ve really seen a sea change when it comes to increased transparency across the textile industry. As a consumer, this allows me to dig into a product’s certifications, material sources, etc., get a detailed picture of the impact of many of the items I’m purchasing, and make my decisions accordingly.
Anything new you are doing to boost sustainability beyond the fashion industry?
I do tend to look for transparency in products, and some recent purchase decisions for home furnishings and bedding have stuck out. There is a growing trend in the bedding industry towards more sustainable practices, and PrimaLoft has been at the forefront of this for many years. We’ve taken the same advanced material expertise that has made us the leading innovator in insulation and fabric for apparel and applied it to the home bedding market.
What is the biggest misconception consumers have about sustainability in fashion?
It’s a misconception that fashion is fickle, and sustainability will be a trend as opposed to a lasting pillar of the industry. The fashion industry may not have pioneered sustainability in the same way that the outdoor industry has but make no mistake, the fashion industry is committed to change. Their consumers demand it, and it’s the way in which business is now conducted within that segment. We’ve been proud to support this shift across a wide variety of fashion brands.
What was your company’s biggest takeaway from the Covid crisis?
That we never took our foot off the gas pedal! We continued our mission and, in many ways, accelerated it. It brought further into focus what we should and shouldn’t be working on. The biggest lesson learned was that we’re capable of adapting, and we can carry out the plans for our company, even remotely. We were able to collaborate and drive impact without physically being together or in-country, and that allowed us to continue moving forward towards our goals.
What is your company’s latest sustainability-related initiative?
In addition to PrimaLoft® P.U.R.E.™, in the spring we launched a strategic alliance with a company called Origin Materials to develop and functionalize high-performance, carbon-negative fibers and filaments for an array of textile applications. This alliance will focus on carbon-negative PET and next-generation polymers produced by Origin’s patented technology platform. The Origin platform turns sustainable wood residue into cost-advantaged, carbon-negative materials that reduce the need for fossil resources. PrimaLoft will utilize Origin’s technology and fully functionalize the material for applicable use in textiles, including outdoor, fashion and lifestyle brands, as well as home goods applications such as hypoallergenic insulated bedding, filtration, hygiene and medical applications. Origin and PrimaLoft will work diligently to develop materials that will be commercially viable over the next several years.
What is the apparel industry’s biggest missed opportunity related to securing meaningful change?
Carbon reduction. Reducing emissions is really the most important thing we can be doing to create meaningful change for the planet. It’s why we’re so focused on technologies like PrimaLoft® P.U.R.E.™ and our partnership with Origin Materials. We need to continue to find innovative ways to create high-performing products that excite consumers, while doing so in a way that reduces impact, or even has a positive effect, on the Earth.