nat’v isn’t one of your average apparel brands trying desperately to tick a sustainability box. We’re not backpedaling or looking for sustainable shortcuts to catch up and keep up with the bare minimum that is expected these days. We’re not here to Greenwash you; sustainability is literally one of our core values - and we mean literally when we say literally. We’re not doing that thing where people say ‘I literally died!” For real, creating a range of super comfy basics for women who want to choose a better, more sustainable option is the whole reason we built our brand in the first place.
We talk about our supply chain in a bit more detail over here, but basically, we strive to make sustainable choices at every level. We use a combination of recycled and sustainable materials and choose the best-practice methods to minimise our carbon, waste and water footprint. The aim is to be part of the solution for a better planet, and we want to do it for and with you, so come for the knickers and stay for the journey!
Our purpose is to make basics that are better for people and the planet, so having that simple sounding goal at the centre of every decision we make is how we stay on track.
In terms of sustainability, it comes into every aspect of the business. From the initial idea to start nat’v basics, it was an incredibly gruelling process to get to the point where we had chosen our fabric and supply chain partners. People often associate organic cotton, or bamboo with sustainability when they think about fabric, and they both have positives. But they can also be problematic when it comes to things like water use or other aspects of their production. I wanted to create the most sustainable basics possible with the technology available right now. There’s some amazingly smart humans in this world doing incredible things with closed-loop manufacturing and finding innovative ways to reduce waste and remove traditional chemicals from the manufacturing process. Sustainability isn’t just one thing, one material, it’s a holistic approach that is more than just the sum of its parts.
That's why we don’t just stop at the material either, we incorporate sustainability into everything we do, from the packaging to the stickers to the electric forklift in the warehouse and the compost bin in the factory for everyday lunch scraps. It’s definitely a journey - you’re never going to be perfect, so you just have to keep trying. I’m always looking for the next opportunity to make a more sustainable choice for the stage that my business is at.
We have put significant research into the materials that we use, including travelling to China and meeting the manufacturers. Communicating our sustainability needs to an industry focussed on mass production and minimal costs was a huge challenge, not due to the language barrier, but due to our specific and pedantic need for the products to be the highest level of comfort and sustainability. The outcome has been surprisingly rewarding. Not only have our suppliers met our strict demands for comfort and sustainability, but they have also made real changes to the way they look at their manufacturing procedures with a new and improved attention to sustainability. This has been a mutually educational process that we are extremely proud of.
How we are making an impact?
We have five main areas within the business that we can make real change and they include: Product, Packaging, Shipping, Internal Procedures and Charity Work. Below we will break down our real changes and impact.
Our Selected Yarn
All of our basics are made with 80% or more TENCEL™ Modal fibres. Our authentic manufacturer, Lenzing, are is an Austrian company who we have selected to use for our main yarn because they have a commendable reputation for their environmentally responsible closed-loop production process, which transforms wood pulp into cellulosic fibres with high resource efficiency and low environmental impact.
The fibre originates from the renewable raw material wood. Tencel Modal fibres are extracted from sustainably grown beech trees. The certified biobased fibre is then manufactured using an environmentally responsible production process. This solvent-spinning process recycles process water and reuses the solvent at a recovery rate of more than 99%.
Composed of natural material, all Tencel Modal fibres are biodegradable and compostable under industrial, home, soil and marine conditions, thus they can fully revert back to nature. The softness of Tencel Modal fibres will last longer and are able to withstand repeated wash and dry cycles compared to cotton. This specific yarn has been carefully selected by us for its minimal footprint on both carbon and water resources.
The remaining components of our knickers are a blend of polyamide and elastane - we know; definitely not the most sustainable materials - but without the properties in these materials, we just wouldn’t be able to produce a product with such longevity and usability. Using 100% natural blends sounds amazing in theory however in real time, this option does become rather unsustainable because the underwear simply does not last; it biodegrades too quickly. We’re determined to find a more sustainable solution though, and this year we have been in deep research trying and testing more natural alternatives. Now thinking about how much time and resources go into making all garments we really have to find a happy medium between longevity, customer expectations, price and sustainability. After these extensive trials, testing and sampling with no avail, we have now placed our focus on exploring recycled polyamide as an option. We’re glad to report we may have found a better solution, but we are still in our sampling phase and will not have the full tick of approval until early next year. We have high hopes that this will be a winner.
It took some time to find the right dying process for our knickers, because there are many things to really consider and all have their own pros and cons to break down when choosing the right option. After much research we chose the method reactive fibre dye, which is a subset of low impact dyes. We chose this option because it’s the most eco-friendly method when considering both practicality and sustainability. Low impact dyes don’t contain any toxic chemicals and don’t require toxic mordants. They also require significantly less water during the process which helps keep waste at a minimum. Low impact dyes also aren’t toxic to the people dying the fabric or the environment.
Vertically Integrated Manufacturer
The first place we started our search for supply chain partners was here in our own backyard. It would have been the best outcome for us if we could use a manufacturer here in Australia - think of the travel miles and carbon emissionss we could have avoided!
But alas, it wasn’t to be (at least not yet). Once we had decided on the perfect fabric above, we had to find the perfect partner to team up with who could cut and stitch our designs. Because our fabric is an ultra-modern type of material and not your average run of the mill poly-cotton-blend, it is something that most manufacturers have never worked with. So, we had to find a team that was experienced enough to do right by this futuristic fabric! The team that we found is located in Jiaxing, China one hour outside of Shanghai.
Our manufacturer is a world leader in efficiency and production capabilities, making them an ideal fit to pick up the baton from the Austrian team producing the yarn in an environmentally responsible and highly resource efficient way. One of the main reasons I choose this factory is because it’s vertically integrated. Being vertically integrated allows for improved efficiencies across all areas of manufacturing. So once the yarn has been secured, they weave, dye, cut, sew and complete the thermal transfers until we have the finished product. Being able to complete the majority of the garment in the one place allows for better processes and minimisation of waste contributing to a more sustainable end product.
Our partnerships with our sustainable packaging companies is another success story. Our packaging mailers are able to be re-used and when it has reached the end of its lifecycle it is compostable. Unlike traditional shipping mailers, ours are NOT made from plastic. Our mailers are made from mostly plant-based materials such as PLA and a certified compostable material called PBAT (some seriously fancy ways of saying corn starch and bonding agents).
Our compostable shipping mailers are proudly certified as both Home and Commercially Compostable. Our mailers hold certifications which meet the Australian standards (AS5810 and AS4736) administered by the Australasian Bioplastics Australia (ABA). Our supply chain also complies with ISO 14001 standards, ensuring environmentally ethical sourcing and production.
Our tissue paper and stickers are all also compostable and have been printed using soy-based ink on acid free paper. All ink used on our packaging products are soy based and is made from soybeans. As opposed to traditional petroleum-based ink, soy-based ink is more environmentally friendly. The paper is acid free and certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), which is an organisation that works to promote the practice of sustainable forestry worldwide. The FSC ensures customers have the option to choose forest products like paper and wood that have been sourced in an environmentally friendly, socially responsible and economically viable manner.
We have a large and engaged customer base that not only follow but contribute to our social media presence. Using this presence and engagement, we have been able to educate our customers on the ability to compost their packaging and in return we have seen our customers develop their appreciation for sustainability.
Last year on the 27th of April we launched a new company program called Offset. Our Offset program is way for us to monitor and deliver our customers orders 100% carbon free. We use Shopify’s app called Offset to run this program automatically through our website. Since then, we have sent 35,339 orders to our customers and the carbon shipping emissions we have offset from those orders is 20.9 metric tonnes which totals 34 million kilometres travelled.
Our impact based on 20.9 metric tonnes is equivalent to 81,202.7 kilometres driven by an average passenger vehicle, or 8,710.5 litres of petrol consumed, or 2.6 million iPhones charged, or 1.577 flights around the earth and lastly 47.216 barrels of oil consumed.
Our Offset contributions have supported forest protection initiatives and we are proud to show that we have protected forest areas and our contributions are currently funding the Jarí Para Forest Conservation Project in the Amazon Rainforest. This Offset program has been verified using the Verified Carbon Standard.
Looking at everything through sustainably-tinted-glasses doesn’t just stop with the knickers though; we think about it all day.
We are proud to share that in the year 2021 we have implemented the following:
- Battery powered forklift – instead of diesel or gas
- X 2 Compost bins. One for the kitchen and one for the factory floor and our compostable returns
- Skylights to allow more natural light through and use less electricity
- LED lighting to save resources and electricity
- We only purchase recycled paper and use both sides when we can
Here at nat’v basics we are big, big believers in giving back! From day dot we have done our best with limited capital to find ways to always support our fellow humans in need and the planet. Sine our beginning we have managed to:
- Feed over 11,000 humans with Oz Harvest. We love this charity because it aligns so closely with our company’s ethos, which is people + planet. Oz Harvest not only feed those most in need, but they also save tonnes of food waste from ending up in landfill which then turns into methane and carbon emissions.
- We planted just over 2000 plants in Australia with One Tree Planted. After last year’s bushfires we really wanted to help reforest our beautiful country that had been decimated by those horrific fires we all remember too well.
- This October 2021 we have teamed up with a charity called Thread Together, they’re a grassroots organisation who deliver new, good quality clothing and shoes to people in our community who are doing it tough. They believe that we can restore dignity and hope for men, women and children who are going through a difficult time. We created a limited colour this month and for every pair sold we are donating $1 to this wonderful charity!
Starting next month, we are launching our Charities of Choice program which is designed to give our customers the choice at checkout to choose 1 of 3 charities which they would like us to donate $1 too on their behalf. It will also allow for our customers to donate extra funds to the charity if they choose too. We will be partnering with a brilliant platform called i=change to track our impact and allow us to be transparent with the monies we are giving back. We are excited for the launch of this nat’v initiative.
Over the last two years that we have been in operation we must say that we are proud that all we have achieved but there is always room to do more and be better and we intend on doing so.
We design every aspect of our basics range from a sustainability mindset. Yes, we want people to feel amazing in our undies so they become loyal fans and returning customers, but we only want them to return when they actually need to restock their underwear drawer.
We don’t continuously launch new product lines, or colour ranges, because we don’t believe that is the sustainable thing to do. There are no ‘fashion trends’ we’re trying to tempt our customers to keep up with, it’s literally well made basics they can rely on to last, in simple, wearable designs. (Very) occasionally we will run a limited edition colour to raise awareness and funds for causes that we believe in and want to support. But outside of that, we know most people are happy to keep their undies to themselves and just want a comfy, sustainable option so they can feel good under their clothes as well as with their buying decisions.
What We Are Looking Into Further
This year we really want to focus on the end of lifecycle of all our pieces, this is something that is ongoing and we are doing a lot of research to make sure we come out the other end with a good plan to implement. So stay tuned.
We have already learnt volumes from our journey, and we’re determined to continue our pledge to make things better. This will require finding and engaging with more like-minded partners in the supply chain and delivering everyday products with as little footprint as possible.
We encourage you to share your requests or ideas to help us make more of a difference in everything we do.