After the horrific devastation from the bushfires on our gorgeous country and the ever-increasing and glaringly visible imprint of climate change on our world, we at Hills & West want to commit to actively engage in improving our sustainable practices and reducing our environmental footprint. Every little bit helps and we need to start in our everyday to create change. We are passionate and more determined than ever!
In 2020 our driving motivation is improvement.
Improving on our current processes, the way we work, collaborate, communicate and educate. From the interns we host each year to the coffees in KeepCup’s… We want to live, breath and be better versions of what we are today, and hopefully at the end of the year we can look back with a smile and feel like we are forever improving.
We did some research…
The fashion industry largely contributes negatively to the environment. The industry is, in fact, responsible for over eight percent of the world’s overall carbon emissions; more than the aviation and shipping industries combined.
Because of this, we, as a brand, want to make improvements, to where we can, to our production process inorder to reduce our impact on the environment.
According to the UN Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development, sustainability is “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. There are three pillars for sustainability; economic, environmental and social.
For now, there’s no common definition as to what sustainable fashion actually is but the Ethical Fashion Forum has shared 10 criteria for what qualifies as ethical fashion, addressing each of the three pillars of sustainability:
- Countering fast, cheap fashion, and damaging patterns of fashion consumption
- Defending fair wages, working conditions and workers’ rights
- Supporting sustainable livelihoods
- Addressing toxic pesticide & chemical use
- Using and/or developing eco-friendly fabrics and components
- Minimising water use
- Recycling and addressing energy efficiency and waste
- Developing or promoting sustainability standards for fashion
- Resources, training and/or awareness raising initiatives
- Animal rights
So, sustainable fashion ultimately means creating clothes, shoes, accessories, and other textiles without damaging the environment with all its components, or negatively affecting people’s lives.
We want to reach as many of these pillars throughout the whole product life cycle (design, raw material production, manufacturing, transport, storage, marketing, sales) as well as their afterlife (use, reuse, repair, remake, recycling, and up-cycling).
However, the responsibility does not solely rest on manufacturers. Instead, it’s shared with the wearer, requiring changes in consumption and use behaviours (including caring and washing). Together we can work towards a more sustainable and eco-friendly future.
Why become sustainable?
The numbers are alarming… Some of the more concerning figures stem from Australia’s fashion allies in the United Kingdom and United States of America
UK consumers buy more than one million tons of clothing annually. Around 50% ends up in landfill, while the other half is recycled or sold in vintage and/or charity shops.
In the US market, consumption is significantly higher, where annual waste of clothes is around 23.5 million tons each year, 10% are qualified for resale and the rest (90%) ends up in a landfill or given to charity.
At Hills & West we want to be known as a brand who strives for continuous improvement. Always aspiring for a more sustainable future.
Since our inception, we have held the ethos of timeless, multi-purpose, trans-seasonal, lifestyle accessories that stand the test of time.
Creating awareness for consumers on the importance of supporting sustainable brands is the first step to advocating change.
Our goals for 2020 and beyond
- Environmentally responsible packaging and distribution
Goal: 100% of packaging to be recyclable or biodegradable by 2021
How we will do this?
- Use packaging that is from recycled materials
- Use paper that is compostable – like corn-starch packing, mushroom packaging and seaweed packaging.
- Encourage customers to use less packaging and reduce waste. If they require packaging, educating them on how to properly distribute the waste via recycling or compost etc
- Review our distribution and look to services like DHL’s GoGreen Climate Neutral Service
Currently we use recyclable packaging for about 75% of our pieces. We still use bubble wrap to protect our pieces and want to look for an alternative that is 100% environmentally friendly.
2. Product waste management
Managing our internal sustainability goals when it comes the production of our products.
Goal: 10% zero leather waste by the end of 2020
We will do this by;
Using as much of our leather cut-offs or unused product for smaller up-cycled collections, packaging or given to charitable causes for reuse.
3. Carbon offset for travel
We travel a lot, for clients, inspiration, and visiting our families. We’re very aware of the emissions that produces.
Goal: 100% offset carbon footprint
We will do this by;
Choosing eco-friendly suppliers
We try to select transport and accommodation providers who have been officially recognized for their eco-friendly efforts. To find out those suppliers, guidance includes The SAM Corporate Sustainability Assessment (CSA), an annual review of sustainability across several industries and The Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC), the international accreditation body for sustainable travel, which provides certification to hotels and other accommodation providers who have sustainable operations.
If the same goals can be met via video conferencing, we don’t travel. It’s a greener alternative!
Contribute to carbon offset
If travel is a must, we will offset by contributing to an offset program or an organisation that plants trees. Anything that can offset the damage we create. We will be looking with reputable organisations to partner with.
4. Defending fair wages, working conditions and workers’ rights
Goal: To remain 100% fair
To continue in improving our sustainability efforts, it’s important for us to follow as many of the worldwide sustainable fashion initiatives as possible.
The Ethical Fashion Initiative is part of the UN mantra, which connects artisans from developing worlds with top international brands. The aim is to radically reform the fashion industry by guaranteeing good working conditions, a liveable wage, and minimal impact on the environment.
We have approached this by souring manufactures in Sydney, providing liveable wages, supporting local talent and improving eco-footprints.
5. Supporting local communities and improving lives globally
Goal: Support local artisans by remaining 100% Australian Made. and contribute to the less fortunate overseas.
We have always had the ethos of giving back. Traveling through Nepal in 2014 and meeting Goma at the Rainbow Children Home in Pokhara was a huge impetus behind setting up Hills & West.
Always motivated beyond creating fashionable lifestyle accessories, we as a brand want to support local Australian businesses, in protest of fast fashion and exploitation of developing-country workers.
FAID is a new, collaborative destination, that is making you think twice about how and where you shop. Established in The Rocks, an iconic destination with views of the Harbour Bridge and Opera House, FAID is home to some of the most exciting emerging Australian-designed fashion and accessory brands. Thoughtfully curated and staffed by designers themselves, FAID invites visitors to learn, touch and explore.
We will continue to mentor and inspire other businesses to do things differently and show that steps can be taken to champion home-grown and local. We will continue to offer internships for designers and business’ seeking to start their own brand.
Supporting disadvantaged children around the world
Goal: Continue to give back and create positive change to the charities that help disadvantaged children around the world.
Each year, Hills and West dedicates 10% of profits (and growing) to help children around the world gain an education. We continue to donate and find ways to raise funds for the Rainbow Children’s Home of Nepal and Kiwanis Australia, that support disadvantaged children around the world.
The Rainbow Children Home of Nepal is an orphanage that has been keeping children safe and educated since 2007 and continue to help local communities that have been devastated by natural disasters.
With the same purpose of improving children’s lives around the world, Kiwanis is a global organization of volunteers dedicated to changing the world one child and one community at a time, locally and globally through Kiwanis Club-sponsored activities and programs. Kiwanis comprises 600,000 members in 70 nations and geographic areas that serve children and communities worldwide.
Beyond the 10% of proceeds, we do individual fundraisers and other activities. For example you can see Aisha every second Sunday a month at Bunnings in Artarmon selling sausage sandwiches for Kiwanis.
The fight against fast fashion
We are advocates of slow fashion throughout the entire lifecycle of our products that extends beyond manufacturing.
Each product is individually designed and handcrafted with quality materials. We take pride in our bags of being high quality, durable, purposeful pieces that are made to last a lifetime.
These are some of our mantras that we would love others to find joy in experiencing too.
These are the steps that we will take in 2020 forever stiving for a better, more ethical and sustainable future.