Toolbox / Carbon Curious
When it comes to climate change, we all know that things have to change. Radically!
But working out the best thing to do can seem as unfathomable as a pick-a-path book when you are 6 years old??
Cue the Climate Action Programme Mindful Fashion New Zealand ran in conjunction with Ekos. RUBY and nine other Mindful Fashion members participated.
We measured our emissions in the financial year that ends in March 2022, for all things within our direct control, and for all locations within Aotearoa. This includes data that is related to the daily operations in our IRL stores, and at our RUBY HQ, the freight of materials during the production process, freight to get garments from our factories to RUBY HQ, and freight to send our garments to our IRL stores or online customers. In the ‘technical’ language, this means that our footprint includes the data for Scope 1 and 2 and some of Scope 3.
Honestly, for those who haven’t done this carbon measurement process, it is daunting. SO MUCH DETAILED INFORMATION IS REQUIRED. But doing it with a group where you all have to meet the same deadlines, and can share and learn from each other makes the task so much more achievable.
And, for what feels like the first time, we have been given ANSWERS that are clear and simple: THIS IS WHERE YOU ARE EMITTING THE MOST, FOCUS ON THAT.
As with most sustainability initiatives, there is no single solution, but having real data has given us a clear direction on where we need to focus our efforts to have the most impact.
Why is measuring our carbon footprint important? We are aware that the climate crisis is right in front of us, and it is up to all of us to play our part to reduce our emissions. But you cannot manage what you haven’t measured, so now that we have our results, we can take active steps to reduce our footprint.
Here are our results from the Mindful Fashion programme. Please note that they have not yet been audited, however we are confident enough to share them with you because of the process we went through with Mindful Fashion and Ekos.
We will complete a full audit with Toitu in September 2023, but we wanted to share these results now as they may be helpful for your own carbon reduction work.
Our Red Flags
We had heard that airfreighting is a bigger emitter of carbon than sea or road. But holy crap! We didn’t realise just how much. What our results show is that airfreight only makes up 24% of the total kilometres our product travelled, but it creates 90% of total emissions from freight. Total freight emissions are 309.685 tonnes, and air freight is 278.72 tonnes.
With the instability of supply due to COVID, climate change related weather conditions and Russia’s war on Ukraine, we had to use airfreight more than we really should to ensure we were getting our product in on time. To give you an idea, when we sea freight something, it usually takes 4 weeks to get to us, but since COVID it has taken up to 12 weeks. Planning for this uncertainty of supply is challenging. For example, we don’t want to bring in our heavy winter coats too early. But if they come too late, we will miss the sweet spot of when people are actually looking for a new coat.
However, we have now accepted the uncertainty around sea freight, and have worked hard to refine our design and purchasing processes to mitigate the effects on the business.
To do this we have increased our design and production teams so that we can work further ahead of time, and we have reworked our purchasing methods so that we can still operate successfully when product is delayed.
There will always be seasonal product that we need to be on time (think that cute lil summer party dress, or snuggly winter coats, or the 100% correct colour we all ADORE that simply must come in at just the right time), and so for now, we accept that airfreight is still something that we may have to use. However, it is a fallback rather than a standard.
We have set a target that we will sea freight 80% of our product going forward, and we plan to be there by October 2023.
For many years we have been working to reduce the waste we send to landfill, including; composting our food and organic waste, sending broken plastic hangers back to the manufacturer to be recycled, recycling in house, and collecting soft plastics. We actually thought we were doing pretty well. And EVEN THEN, our emissions from waste to landfill are 5.83% of our total emissions, or 20.95 tonnes.
You can refer to the Waste section of our Toolbox to see what we are doing in regards to our production and packaging waste. At RUBY HQ and in our IRL stores, we will take further steps, getting all of our team onboard to reduce our waste to landfill even further.
It’s important to highlight that these emission levels do not include emissions generated by sending waste from the manufacturing process to landfill. Currently, none of our CMT waste goes to landfill (see more in our Waste section of this Toolbox), but if it did (as is the standard practice in the industry), we believe that the emissions from waste would be significantly higher. This is why as an industry we need to work together to properly channel excess materials from production away from landfill, and into other products that are valuable.
Will will audit our 2022 and 2023 emissions relating to all of the things within our direct control (RUBY HQ, IRL stores and our freight) with Toitū in September 2023. From there, we can see where the changes in emissions have occurred over the past three years, and make a robust plan to reduce them.
In the meantime, there are a few low-hanging fruits we will tackle, which will help to reduce the emissions identified during the Mindful Fashion programme. For example, we are in the process of upgrading our car fleet to be hybrids / electric. We have already converted one of our two vans converted to electric, and two of our three cars are hybrids. We have also switched energy suppliers to Ecotricity: they are carbon neutral, and their energy is from 100% renewable sources.
Looking further into the future, we plan to investigate and measure more of the emissions related to our full supply chain, for example the fabrics that are produced in our mills overseas.
We will update you with our Carbon Curious strategy for the next five years once we have processed our audited results.
The work and care we put into our product so that each piece is loved for a long time and by many.
We believe in strengthening & educating our local community whether that be those in our team, Rubettes that frequent our stores or those we haven’t met yet.
Insights into our carbon footprint and the plan to reduce our emissions.