Icebreaker has decided to bare all about its supply chain in a global Transparency Report that details its relationship with growers, its environmental and human resource policies as well as the composition of its garments, among many other details.
The report indicates that about 85 percent of the materials going into the New Zealand brand's products are natural fibers, while 15 percent are man-made. The more precise breakdown provided by Icebreaker, which agreed an acquisition by VF Corporation late last year, puts the share of merino wool at 82 percent. The remainder consists of 8 percent nylon, 5 percent polyester, 3 percent Tencel and 2 percent Lycra.
The purpose and headlines of the Transparency Report were outlined by Peter Ottervanger, Icebreaker's general manager in Europe, at a breakfast organized by the European Outdoor Group (EOG) at Ispo in Munich. Ottervanger explained that the brand's entire premise was based on the idea of moving away from plastic-based garments, and building sustainable and transparent relationships with growers. However, the company realized that it had become slack about putting this forward when it was downgraded in an ethical fashion report.
As it studied the proposition of becoming fully transparent, Icebreaker found that only 56 percent of outdoor brands published a sustainability report. About 17 percent produced such a report only at group level. Just 9 percent published their full supplier list and 8 percent shared with the public the results of environmental audits. Some questions were also raised at Icebreaker about the wisdom of publishing a transparency report, which may turn out to be particularly interesting for competitors, but Icebreaker came to the conclusion that the complex supply chain model created by Jeremy Moon over two decades ago could not be replicated.
While appraising its own performance, the company found that it was doing well in the use of natural fibers, transparency and traceability. On the other hand, Icebreaker concluded that it should improve guidelines to its factories, and make its packaging more sustainable. The New Zealand firm has embarked on a program to fully overhaul its packaging by 2020 in alignment with its natural fiber vision, using materials such as fully biodegradable bags. The company has taken its long-term relationships with farmers one step further by launching ten-year contracts earlier this year.
Icebreaker is one of the outdoor companies that have come together in Europe in the last months to discuss ways for the outdoor industry to take the lead in sustainable business – and use that approach to engage consumers at retail level.
The second presentation at the EOG breakfast focused on Rakuten Fits Me, a service that aims to reduce the returns generated by online stores by making sure that customers buy the right size. It uses a huge database of body measurements, paired with artificial intelligence to issue recommendations to the buyer about their size in the brand's chart. Apart from the costs associated with returns, Rakuten Fits Me says that consumers are less likely to return to a website if they have had to return their first order.
A more amusing statistic heard at the breakfast is that Brits spend an average of two weeks in their lives being lost. It was shared by Nick Giles, managing director of Ordnance Survey Leisure, part of an institution that provides U.K. maps but has reinvented itself as a service that helps people to go outside.
As Giles explained, Ordnance Survey found out that about 65 percent of Brits are not confident reading a map. As a result it has worked on 3D mapping in digital format that makes it easier to grasp the lay-out of a route and the direction to take. It established Get Outside, a platform with 250,000 pages of contents, which can be sorted by activity or by area. So the supposedly stuffy map office has become a consumer-facing participation initiative, engaging many thousands of people per month and partners such as the Outdoor Industries Association, Osprey, Salomon and Craghoppers.