Sustainability in Practice
Nature is our business.
In 1990, Esprit embraced a new mission statement: “Be informed, be involved, make a difference”. According to the new motto, our designers looked beyond the surface of fashion, paying special attention to the social and environmental impacts of apparel manufacturing. As a result, an organic collection by Esprit was created: a line of socially and environmentally responsible clothing that made Esprit a pioneer in the sustainable apparel market. At the time the collection was launched, organic farming was nowhere near as wide-spread as it is today. But once the seed was sown, it went on growing.
Today, we are still striving to make a difference by adopting an eco-conscious way of thinking – and putting it into action. It comes to life in the select materials we use and the eco-focused collections we create.
In 1992, Esprit pioneered the sustainable apparel market with an organic collection. Today, we are still convinced that supporting organic farming is the right way to go for us.
The key principle of organic farming lies in switching from a chemical rich to a biodiversity based management focus. This improves the environmental quality of the land by keeping it healthier. Of course, not using harmful chemicals is also healthier for the farmers and even gives them higher premiums, as chemicals are more expensive than compost for example. Another essential principle of organic farming is crop rotation, meaning the growth of different kinds of crop on the same land in different seasons. This is not only better for the soil but also provides the farmers and their families with a range of different food crops.
So with the purchase of an Esprit garment labelled ‘organic’, you can feel as proud as we are of making an active contribution to sustainability.
Our organic cotton is grown in soil using only natural fertiliser and pest control methods. This, together with crop rotation and improved water management, results in healthier land and a healthier environment. It also ensures our farmers have the opportunity to grow a variety of different food crops to live on.
At Esprit, we use organic cotton that has been certified by The Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), the world’s leading processing standard for textiles made from organic fibres. Our organic cotton is traceable throughout the production process. Whilst it may cost more, we at Esprit believe that using sustainable fibres, such as organic cotton, is one of the best ways of caring for our planet.
(For more information see Cotton In Conversion)
Cotton in Conversion
Cotton in conversion is the term used to define cotton that is grown organically on land used for organic farming for less than three years, as this is how long it takes for the soil to recover and replenish after conventional cotton farming. Thus only after three years of organic farming is the cotton certified as organic. For the farmers, this transition period from conventional to organic farming can be a very difficult time financially, as the yield is usually lower in the beginning. We strive to support our farmers by buying cotton from them during this time, thus allowing farmers who would otherwise not have the capital to switch into organic production. Giving such support is one of our many investments into a better future because the more cotton is grown organically, the more soil will be healthy and the more farmers will be able to lead better and healthier lives.
(For more information see Organic Cotton)
Linen is made from the fibres of the flax plant. It is very sensitive and vulnerable to weed damage. Nevertheless, our organic linen is grown without the use of harmful chemicals, protecting the health of the farmers and the soil.
When our farmers produce organic wool for Esprit, they do so with respect and care for their animals. The sheep live on organic feed and graze on organic land. They are reared, fed and transported with regard to their well-being. Their stress levels are kept as low as possible. And as with all our wool, no mulesing is permitted.
Other Sustainable Fibres
Tencel®1 is a cellulose fiber made from eucalyptus wood pulp. Eucalyptus trees are fast growing evergreen plants providing some great advantages in regard to sustainability: they can be grown without any artificial irrigation and without any use of pesticides. Tencel®1 is produced in a closed loop process, where almost all of the solvent can be recovered and reused making it eco-friendly, water saving and economical.
At Esprit, we understand the importance of protecting our environment by recycling. First of all, it means saving raw materials and energy that would otherwise be used for producing new materials. Recycling also generates lower greenhouse emissions than new production, which means it is less harmful for the global climate, helping to preserve our beautiful environment – for us and for future generations. That is why we incorporate recycled materials in certain fabrics. We even recycle some of our own factory waste. We have launched entire collections made with recycled materials. Recycling does make a difference!
The new production of nylon is one of the most energy consuming and carbon dioxide emitting fiber productions there is. Thus we try to use as much recycled nylon as possible, which is made from discarded nylon fabric and products. An effective way of minimizing our environmental footprint!
The Beachwear Collection 2013
For the second year in a row, Esprit is launching a beachwear collection in recycled nylon. Our ’Eco Capsule’, a series made from 100% recycled nylon combined with Lycra®2 to enhance performance, offers relaxed and sustainable beachwear. The collection hit the stores in March 2013 and includes eight tops and bottoms, with 16 pieces in total.
The Beachwear Collection 2012
Esprit was one of the first labels to produce a beachwear line using recycled nylon. In cooperation with an Italian manufacturer, we developed an innovative mix of Lycra®2 and nylon, the latter comprising up to 70% recycled nylon. The new material was presented in May 2012 with a total of three colourful Esprit beachwear ranges.
The recycled polyester fibres used in our clothing are mostly made from discarded plastic bottles. Instead of having them go to a landfill and polluting the environment, we give these materials a second life through recycling. This way, we consume less energy and produce fewer emissions. With polyester being one of the most widely used textile fibres in the world, this means that by switching to recycled polyester, we make a big contribution to protecting our environment – for us and for future generations.
Most of our recycled cotton is made from our own cotton fabric waste. We collect it from our production, recycle it mechanically, break it down and spin it into new yarns. These are then knitted or woven into new fabrics used for new, environmentally friendly Esprit clothing.
Textile waste is a readily available resource for Esprit: the offcuts of the millions of T- shirts and denim jeans we produce become the raw materials for our recycled fabrics. But what’s even better is that by recycling, we save water, energy and greenhouse gases. A carbon footprint audit( or LCA – Life Cycle Assessment) that we carried out showed impressive results, revealing that we used up to 75% less water on the recycled T-shirts compared to the conventional product. We are presently working on new production processes that would further reduce the amount of water and electricity used.
Esprit’s Recycled Collection is Global Recycle Standard certified, so that you can be sure that each of the garments contains at least 30% recycled content. We are currently developing a denim fabric with a 43% recycled content, which amounts to almost double that of our first denim trial.
2012 Recycled Collection, Hong Kong
As a result of the EcoChic Design Competitions, the winner of 2011 Janko Lam designed a collection for Esprit. This was Esprit’s first Recycled Collection in Hong Kong. To find out more about the competition go to EcoChic Design Awards. The collection featured stylish T-shirts and denim that were made from Esprit’s own manufacturing offcuts. Many people don't realise how much textile material is wasted on the cutting table. For our Recycled Collection, denim and T-shirt offcuts were collected from our factories, recycled and woven into new fabrics. An effective and responsible way to deal with scraps that are usually discarded!
This Recycled Collection was only available in Asia-Pacific countries. But now that we have seen the extent to which we can influence our water and power consumption and reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, we will expand globally in the near future.
Our recycled wool is made from wool waste, coming from pre and post-consumer waste that would otherwise be going to landfills. In the recycling process, the fibres are pulled apart, carded and cleaned several times before being formed into new yarn. These are then made into beautiful fabrics to be used in our clothes.
In Germany and Austria, we have been involved in the I:CO project since 2011. The scheme encourages people to bring back and deposit their old clothes and shoes in special collection boxes. In exchange, they receive a discount coupon they can use against any new( Esprit) clothing they buy. A great incentive for acting eco-consciously!
I:CO collects and sorts the clothes, fabrics and shoes. They are then upcycled into new garment fabric or recycled into industrial products such as cleaning cloths, carpet underlay and insulation. I:CO collection boxes were placed in all Esprit stores in Austria, in 16 selected stores in Germany (North-Rhine Westphalia), which were in use until the end of 2012. We are now reviewing the project and investigating the necessary steps to enlarge its scope.
I:Collection boxes have also been placed in the global headquarters in Ratingen, Germany. Here, our employees are encouraged to use the boxes to return their own clothes for recycling as well as to hand in old, damaged or otherwise unsellable product samples. With each drop, they are all contributing to a cleaner, more sustainable environment. Following the above, we are looking to enlarge the scope to our Asian headquarters in Hong Kong.