Outdoor apparel brand Icebreaker has reinforced its commitment to the use of natural fibres and sustainable production with the launch of its inaugural Transparency Report: Made Different. Touting it as an industry first, the report gives readers a full behind-the-scenes view of the brand’s entire operation.
“Our thinking was simple. What if our customers could see everything we do?’’ explained Greg Smith, the CEO of Icebreaker.
“Whilst we’re not perfect, we are proud of what we have achieved. In this report, we share with you our origins to where we are today. We identify where we can improve, and our aspirations for the future,” he added.
In an industry largely based on petrochemical synthetics, Icebreaker has taken a nature-based approach to outdoor apparel since it was established in New Zealand by founder Jeremy Moon in 1994. The company claims that the symbiotic relationship between nature and people guides every design, development and supply chain decision made by the brand.
The Transparency Report supports this claim by laying out the company’s full supply chain matrix – disclosing every partner at every tier of the supply chain and the relationships through each tier – as well as outlining its Merino wool grower accreditation programme and how it has reduced its global range size to keep with product design and company values. Over 85% of Icebreaker’s raw material consumption remains based on natural fibers.
Icebreaker works with 40 suppliers in 59 factories, connecting more than 50,000 workers in 15 countries. Impressively, 65% of Icebreaker’s production volume is led by partners with whom Icebreaker has been working for 13 years or longer. To continue to foster long-term relationships with suppliers and maintain traceability in its supply chain, the company recently signed historic ten-year forward contracts with farmers. Icebreaker notes that securing this long-term supply of New Zealand merino also provides economic certainty for farmers and ethical wool to the highest animal welfare standards for consumers.
“Sustainability isn’t just a feature of Icebreaker’s products, it’s the values and design of our business. I founded Icebreaker to offer a natural choice to adventurers and disrupt the outdoor industry towards sustainable solutions. It’s why we exist. We are constantly struck by the irony of the outdoor industry to promote petroleum-based synthetic fibers, such as polyester,’’ Moon said. “We believe there is a better way and nature has the answers.”
At a time when use of plastics in our daily lives – including clothing and the plastic microfibers it releases into the water supply – is coming particularly under scrutiny, the brand outlines in the report:
- How more than 85% of its global fabric composition is natural fibre and only 15% is man-made – with even its underwear being made up of around 83% merino wool
- Work on a water-soluble bio bag for its packaging – that if eaten by a sea creature before decomposing, would actually act as a food source
- Commitment to RealFLEECE® fabric and highlighting the plastic polyester make up of most highstreet ‘fleece’
- Goals for removing all plastics and non-biodegradable additives from packaging
The release of Icebreaker’s Transparency Report marks the next chapter in Icebreaker’s story and highlights key areas for action as the business continues its mission, including: continuing to seek out natural alternatives to synthetic fibers, refreshing its global packaging, and the launch of the Icebreaker Growers Club.
“Transparency opens us up to the deepest possible feedback on the decisions we make. We need it,” said Icebreaker Chairman Rob Fyfe. “This is what will allow Icebreaker, the industry we work in, and our entire economic system to evolve and improve.”