With this year’s World Environment Day themed “Solutions to plastic pollution”, we examine the Exponential Roadmap Initiative members putting circularity at the heart of their climate strategies. One such member is Houdini, a Swedish outdoor apparel brand that’s striving to become not just a net zero business, but a regenerative one that has a positive effect on both ecosystems and societies. Sustainability Coordinator Malva Carlsson explains.
Studies show that synthetic textiles are one of the main sources of pollution through microplastics. These particles that are smaller than 5mm in size pollute our waters when we wash synthetic clothes. What solutions can outdoor apparel makers like Houdini apply to reduce the problem?
There are different options for products that limit or eliminate microplastic shedding. One option is alternative synthetics that have an encapsulated padding instead of exposed microfibers. We pioneered such a fabric that greatly reduces microfiber shedding and can be recycled again and again in our Mono Air Houdi.
But we haven’t kept this development to ourselves: To enable change in our industry, we share all design work behind the Mono Air Houdi and the circular principles that Houdini is built upon. Collaboration and knowledge-sharing, by the way, is something we are truly committed to in all aspects of our sustainability work and which we practise for example via our active membership in the Exponential Roadmap Initiative, and the Race to Zero.
Back to plastics: Another option to avoid microplastics shedding is going with a pure, natural and biodegradable solution. At Houdini, we primarily use merino wool in products where we have chosen to use natural fibres. Merino wool offers many excellent properties; it can lock in heat even when moist and it naturally repels bacteria, which means unwelcome smells are not an issue.
In order to make our wool products more durable and improve properties such as comfort and moisture transport, we add other natural fibres like Lyocell. But it’s very important to not mix natural fibres with synthetics to ensure that the garments are biodegradable and recyclable.
How do you work with customers to promote product repair, recycling, and customer participation in sustainable practices?
We work to design a whole new system that lets our customers use our products but still consume less. The basic idea is to share garments. To provide access to our products without having to buy them, but also to extend the lifetime of products you’ve already bought.
Another effective way to lower your environmental impact from clothing is to use your existing garments longer and buy less new. We take great pride in helping our customers extend the lifetime of their favourites. We want to celebrate the beauty of used garments and the smartness of making the most out of what you have.
What advice or insights can you offer other companies seeking to adopt more sustainable practices and reduce plastic pollution?
It is critical that companies realise their opportunity but also their responsibility to become stewards of the planet. That means systems thinking and it means pursuing a holistic approach to sustainability.
At Houdini, we took the groundbreaking framework of the Planetary Boundaries, developed by world-renowned climate scientist Johan Rockström and others, and built the first ever corporate sustainability report around it. That exercise helped us to see that clothing is connected in one way or another to each of the nine boundaries, be it climate change, pollution, or fresh water use to name just a few. This insight has helped us take a truly holistic approach to our sustainability work.
I’d also recommend the Exponential Roadmap Initiative’s 1.5°C Business Playbook as a guide that helps us truly integrate climate and sustainability into our strategy and spell out concrete steps to reduce our own greenhouse gas emissions as well as value chain emissions, improving circularity – and last but not least, driving change in society.
This Q&A was originally published on the website of the High-Level Climate Champions here.