Toad&Co Bares All For Sustainable Fashion

Courtesy of Toad&Co

Sustainable apparel was a key topic during this year’s London Fashion Week, and for good reason. The apparel industry knows their current status quo — the one that made them the fourth largest polluter of air and water, and responsible for 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions — is not a good look.

I recently came across the Save The Planet Go Nude campaign, which aims to educate consumers on the impact conventional clothing has on the environment. The campaign was launched by sustainable apparel company Toad&Co. This reminded me that within an industry that’s struggling to mitigate its impact, a select number of brands have found success with sustainability. And I wanted to know how.

I sat down with Toad&Co’s Materials Manager, Ciara Cates, to understand their approach to sustainability and how other apparel brands can follow suit.

Meet Toad&Co:

…hell-raisers in sustainable fashion, guided by three main principles: make quality clothing worth the resources we use, change the way clothing is made, and give back to people and planet.

Q1: What does sustainability mean to Toad&Co?

CC: Sustainability makes us who we are and is a personal passion of our CEO. Although sustainability is integrated into every aspect of the business, we primarily focus on three main initiatives:

  • Eco materials – Our recently launched Spring 2019 line is 100% eco. This means every garment is made from a minimum of 80% sustainable fibers and/or fabrics that are 3rd party certified for responsible manufacturing.
  • Renewed apparel – We partnered with the Renewal Workshop to extend the life of our garments by transforming damaged, excess, and returned Toad&Co clothes so they can be resold and worn for longer.
  • Reusable shippers – We reduced the waste associated with our shipping by working with Limeloop. They developed a reusable shipper (made from vinyl recycled from billboards) that last for 10 years.

Q2: There are many environmental impacts of apparel, why did Toad&Co choose to prioritize those three?

CC: We looked at the lifecycle of our clothing and started asking, where are our biggest impacts? Eco materials were a natural focus for us. As an apparel company, we were already keeping a close eye on our fiber portfolio. Not only is it easy to trace, but when managed correctly it can reduce our impact on the environment, benefit our fiber suppliers, and lead to cost savings.

We also knew we could reduce our impact by extending the life of our garments. Partnering with the Renewal Workshop means used clothing, including those with tears, broken zippers or missing buttons can be reused, instead of going to landfill.

Addressing our shipping was a no-brainer for our logistics team. We knew there must be a way to reduce the amount of waste generated from shipping, we just needed to find it.

Not so fun fact: in the U.S. more than 85% of clothing is sent to landfill

Q3: What were some challenges to achieving the three initiatives?

CC: For eco materials, we had to find good suppliers at a good price, this took a lot of searching. But it was worth it. We ended up with likeminded suppliers that were just as interested in providing eco materials as we are in using them. As a result, we have a smaller supply chain made up of quality partners.

When it came to re-purposing used Toad&Co garments and finding a solution for our shipping, we really had the same dilemma… where do we even start? Since we aren’t experts in these areas, we knew we had to find partners that were. That’s how we ended up working with the Renewal Workshop and Limeloop.

Q4: Brands note cost as a roadblock to creating more sustainable clothes, how has Toad&Co gotten around this?

CC: We deal with cost issues too. When we’re faced with price, sourcing, or other challenges, we get really creative and really resourceful to meet our sustainability standards. I like to think of this as the MacGyver approach.

For us choosing sustainability isn’t the easy route, it’s the only route

Q5: Where do you think the trend of sustainable apparel will be in 5 years?

CC: I’ve worked in sustainability for more than a decade, and in recent years I’ve seen a lot of progress. I think this progress will continue for the apparel industry due to a few drivers.

First, the price for resources like energy and water will continue to rise, so companies will inherently find solutions to reduce their consumption. Secondly, the pressures from consumers and regulators will only continue to grow.  And lastly, I think technology will make a huge contribution to our industry by making supply chain transparency and sustainability attainable. Mapping and understanding your supply chain are huge tasks for companies, this will free up time and resources for them to implement sustainable solutions.

Q6: What advice would you give other apparel companies starting their sustainability journey?

CC: Understand where your biggest impacts are and start with the low hanging fruit. Use the momentum from these wins to tackle more complex issues. Brands should also view their suppliers as partners – they can be huge in helping to achieve sustainability goals. Certification agencies are also a great resource, they have a pulse on the industry and are there to provide expert guidance.

Lastly, it’s important to remember that this is a marathon not a sprint. For example, it took us over a decade to achieve 100% organic cotton from when we first started using it. Implementing initiatives can take time, but it will pay off.

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Lisa Campbell


Medtronic, Sonos, Trex and United Rentals

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