This Earth Day we’re not going to sell you a t-shirt. We’re going to tell you about how Outland works every day to invest in our planet.
Combat modern slavery
Did you know that if modern slaves were collectively a country, they would be the third largest emitter of CO2 outside the USA and China?* Or that, in turn, climate change is a driver of modern slavery?
Illicit trades aren't usually known for their human or environmental concern. Nor is the fashion industry.
Our genesis as a company and brand began with the desire to tackle human trafficking, a form of modern slavery. Modern slavery is a US$150 billion industry affecting an estimated 50 million people globally; they are some of the world’s most vulnerable people. The global fashion industry is itself guilty of slavery and exploitation: G20 countries import an estimated $354 billion of products tainted by slave labour annually, and the fashion industry accounts for $127.7 billion of this.
The fashion industry is worth USD$1.7-$2.5 trillion, employing an estimated 430 million workers along its supply chain (from the farmers growing and processing cotton and other fibres to sewers at the cut-make-trim stage) – and with that kind of economic power and influence, we can either do a lot of harm, or a lot of good. We exist to do good.
Investment into people
If there are no people, there can be no sustainable development or course correction: it's up to us to steer the ship. From the people farming organic cotton to those developing more sustainable manufacturing technologies, we all have a part to play in conserving our planet for future generations.
Our investment into people starts with finding some of the most vulnerable to exploitation and elevating them out of situations of modern slavery or conditions adverse to human flourishing. We offer training, employment with living wages, upskilling, educational programs, and health care. Essentially, we equip, and hope that our people will become people in the community who give back to other people and the planet, too. Further down the food chain, we invest into suppliers who also equip and empower their workers, or who are invested in creating better businesses to do so.
In turn, our retailers and customers also become part of a fashion ecosystem that gives rather than takes. We want to create real, human connections and conversations that start with, “Are those Outland denims?”. The Outland Denim business model provides the platform, tools and resources for both our customers and employees to create change: to embody the universal need for hope, dreams and belonging (and damn good denim jeans).
*From forests to factories: How modern slavery deepens the crisis of climate change, Bales, Sovacool, Journal of Energy Research & Social Science, July 2021: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2214629621001894
It’s not lost on us as a brand that we are in a state of climate emergency. According to the targets set by the Paris Climate Agreement, there are only 27 years remaining to reach global net-zero emissions. Every year counts.
Calculating our annual carbon footprint, including direct and indirect emissions, has provided us with a better understanding of our environmental impact as a brand and how we are contributing to climate change.
In our 2022 Impact Report, we were proud to report that year-on-year, we have reduced our brand emissions by 36% across areas that we have control over (Scope One and Two) as well as those we indirectly contribute to (Scope 3). There are a few key areas of the business that are the greatest contributors to our emissions footprint. One of these, upstream freight, we have been able to reduce by 60% largely by prioritising sea over air freight.
The second of these key areas is purchased goods and services (i.e. goods procured through our supply chain and the products made and sold to Outland Denim by our Cambodian factories). This is the largest CO2 contributor to the business, accounting for between 50 and 60% of our overall emissions, which means our purchasing practises really matter: we’ve reduced emissions in this area by 29%. However, full disclosure: this is largely attributable to a change in methodology adopted between our 2021 and 2022 Impact Reports.*
Our emissions from “Use of Product Sold” (how our customers wear, care and repair their Outland Denim products over their lifetime) has increased 13% year-on-year relative to the volume of product purchased (i.e. more product sold = more emissions unless significant emissions reduction practises are adopted by our customers - i.e. stores and direct customers of Outland Denim.
As we work toward becoming an “Earth Positive” brand, depositing more goodness back into the Earth than we take, we are making a stop at Carbon Neutrality by offsetting those emissions that we can’t reasonably reduce in our operations. We have committed to doing so for FY23.
We invest heavily in ensuring our products are made with the highest quality and most sustainable raw materials available to ensure your Outlands have a long shelf life. By prioritising the use of GOTS-certified organic cotton, and increasing our use of natural fibres and decreasing our use on synthetics year-on-year, we are also putting less stress on the Earth.
Unlike conventional cotton, organic cotton is farmed with zero use of agrochemicals such as synthetic pesticides and chemical fertilisers, which are known to reduce soil quality, contribute to water pollution, and severely affect the health of farmers. Organic farming also helps to reduce environmental impacts and enhance social responsibility while potentially saving water.
Organic soils are also shown to sequester more carbon than conventionally farmed soils and the farming of organic cotton has been linked to lowering emissions, though this is relative to the geography and other influencing factors at the farm level.
Read more about our raw materials usage in our full 2022 Impact Report.
Our Wash House
Outside of our emissions, we are deeply committed to honouring the Earth through responsible production practises. This is why we acquired our own vertically integrated wash house facility in 2018.
Led by our expert Textile Engineer, the Wash House allows us to have control of our environmental impact while also creating further job opportunities. The Wash House is where we add elements like fading, tone, and distressing details to your jeans - basically all the rich characteristics that bring them to life. In the world of denim, this stage conventionally relies on toxic chemicals, extreme water and energy use, and techniques that are harmful to both the environment and garment makers. But our Wash House is fit out with innovative, state-of-the-art water, energy, and chemical reducing technology by Jeanologia.
Giving Outlands a second life
The Outland customer prioritises sustainability, humanity and quality goods he/she can feel good wearing, and so do we. Our customer will wear, wash, repair and reuse their Outlands until they come to the end of their reasonable life or get traded.
As more Outland Denims make their way into circulation, we are endeavoring to find creative, sustainable ways to prolong their useful lives and ensure that the end of their lives causes no harm to the environment.
In 2021, we partnered with AirRobe so that when it comes time for you and your Outlands to part ways, you can pass them on to a fellow denim lover to enjoy, while getting a little cash back in your pocket in the process. As you add-to-cart, the option is available for you to add your new Outlands to your AirRobe wardrobe. Once you’re ready to pass them forward, you can list them for resale with the click of a button. Check out pre-loved Outland Denim on Airrobe.
Tackling textile waste
In Australia alone, approximately 800,000 tonnes of textile waste end up in landfills each year. Australian charitable recycling organisations spend $13 million per year sending unusable donations to landfill.
As a community, slowing our consumption may help reduce our waste, but we fear it won’t be a fast enough solution. And it’s true that we could recycle, but not all textiles can be recycled, and depending on the material, recycled fibres aren’t always as durable as virgin fibres, so their lifespan is shorter.
This is why we are investing heavily into research and development of waste and circularity technology, and working to remove textiles from landfill and revolutionise the way we dispose of clothing. Not just for the use of us as a brand, but for the use of the whole fashion industry.
Progress (not perfection)
According to EARTHDAY.ORG organisers, the way to achieve a sustainable future is collaboration.
“We need to act (boldly), innovate (broadly), and implement (equitably),” it says. “It’s going to take all of us. All in. Businesses, governments, and citizens — everyone accounted for, and everyone accountable. A partnership for the planet.”
As we grow as a brand, we are committed to progressing our environmental stewardship by way of investment in new technologies, textiles, techniques and industry partnerships to place the planet on a more positive trajectory.
Read more: “Fashion for the earth” by EarthDay.org
Click here for a deep dive into our brand carbon emissions audit for 2022.
Click here to read our 2022 Impact Report Snapshot.
*We updated our methodology for FY22 to work out an average total emissions from the raw materials purchased by the Outland Denim Group as a whole (i.e. including raw materials purchased for our other brand manufacturing clients), divided by the units produced by the group, to provide a per unit CO2e. This was then multiplied by the total units Outland Denim (the brand) purchased.