Consumers today are voting with their wallets in greater numbers than ever before. Whether driven by political beliefs, ethical stances or environmental awareness, shoppers have become more conscious of the brands and retailers they support.
For companies that are striving to lead the charge on ethical matters, this more empowered customer is a welcome change. For instance, outdoor apparel brand Toad&Co is hoping more shoppers will join its pursuit of sustainable practices and responsible products. The company carefully selects everything from the fibers that go into its clothing collections to the composition of its reusable mailer bags, which replace traditional shipping packaging.
“We try to focus on the full lifecycle of the garment so we try to make all of our products reusable, and in turn, we’re trying to use as many mechanically recycled products as possible,” said Ciara Cates, materials manager for Toad&Co, adding in this way, they’re creating their own circular economy. “Our clothing could go into the same feed-stock that we’re actually pulling from.”
With the company’s Spring ’19 collection, Toad&Co will reach an important milestone. Starting with that collection, 100 percent of its styles will be sustainable when looking at 80 percent of the garment’s content.
Being able to source products to that standard has taken a lot of work, especially given that the brand refuses to compromise on function in its pursuit of sustainability. “We don’t make $7 T-shirts, so if consumers are paying what they’re paying for our product, it has to perform, keep looking good and it needs to be durable and easy care,” Cates said. “There are some great materials that are really eco-friendly, but they won’t last 10 washings so we won’t use it.”
This high bar is the reason Toad&Co continues to increase the number of styles it offers that are made from DuPont™ Sorona®. The biosynthetic fabric combines eco-efficiency with function, providing exceptional softness, maximum comfort and long-lasting performance. Additionally it is comprised of 37 percent renewable plant-based ingredients and requires 30 percent less energy and releases 63 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions as compared to Nylon 6.
“We use DuPont™ Sorona® as a replacement for spandex. The stretch and recovery [the product provides] is so much longer so the consumer can enjoy their garment a lot longer and it won’t bag out, and it is easier to care for,” Cates said. “And on top of that, with something like 30 percent Sorona®, you can actually recycle that garment versus 16 percent spandex, which is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to recycle.”
And now that DuPont™ Sorona® is a bluesign® system partner, she said, it makes it even more appealing. The bluesign® system sets and controls standards for sustainable textile production, including the elimination of harmful substances, to protect consumers and the planet.
“Certifications are a great starting point whether it’s Eco Passport, Oeko-Tex, GRS [Global Recycle Standard] or GOTS,” Cates said. “If a vendor comes with those already, it shows good faith that they’re at least trying.”
For DuPont™, the bluesign® system partnership underscores the company’s support for universal standards and accountability when it comes to reducing emissions, boosting circularity and eliminating harmful chemicals in the apparel industry.
“As a bluesign® system partner, we are joining a growing collection of chemical suppliers, manufacturers and brands that are responsible acting parties of the textile value chain,” said Renee Henze, global marketing director for DuPont Biomaterials at DuPont Industrial Biosciences. “Certifications like bluesign®, tools like the Higg index and apps like Good on You, offer industry peers and even consumers a holistic view of brands’ transparency and traceability and encourage consumers to make more responsible choices.”
To speak to those shoppers who already understand the importance of purchasing ethical goods as well as those that may still need education on the subject, Toad&Co is very vocal about its product benefits. The brand takes every opportunity in its product descriptions, marketing messages, hangtags and blog posts to raise awareness, and going forward, the company plans to up the messaging.
Henze credits brands like Toad&Co. for being vigilant and actively working to educate consumers. “The most effective brands are those that are authentic and incorporate sustainability throughout many parts of their program,” she said. “They’re connecting with shoppers and making them feel empowered through their choices and learning opportunities.”
Sarah Matt, vice president of brand and marketing at Toad&Co, said that’s another important part of using certified products. “Leaning on the partners like DuPont™ Sorona® to tell the story only gives it more substance. It gives us more validity. Not every consumer will want to go that deep, but for those that do, it enhances the value of the product,” she said, adding that while certifications like bluesign® may not be widely recognized yet, she’s confident they will become akin to the Good Housekeeping seal of approval going forward.
Henze said today’s consumers have more resources than ever to help them make ethical buying choices, and the more they know, the more change there will be in the industry. “Consumers are demanding sustainability from brands and ultimately companies to think differently about their design and materials. Brands have placed greater emphasis on improving their corporate responsibility and supporting the passions of their consumers,” she said. “You can see this prominently in the outdoor industry where consumers and brand leaders have united around environmental conservation and reducing their environmental impact.”