Greenfibres Ethical and Environmental Policy
Greenfibres Environmental and Ethical Aims
These aims are written with the understanding that all living creatures are interconnected, that the twin challenges of climate change and resource use (and waste) are the defining challenges of our time, and that we – the human species – have the capacity to realise, create, and act upon, appropriate solutions.
Within this context, we at Greenfibres aim:
- To source the highest quality organic and natural textiles and to minimize the use of synthetics. (1)
- To pay a fair price for goods or services and to use local labour wherever possible.(2)
- To minimize packaging (and use only recycleable packaging when needed). (3)
- To minimize “textile-miles” and to help re-establish and support local textile production and manufacture in the UK. (4)
- To conduct the business of running a business in a mindful and responsible way, including the actions taken, operating principles and service providers used.(5)
- To contribute to the education of the general public on organic textiles and related issues (e.g. GM cotton and working conditions of textile workers). (6)
- At Greenfibres we are passionate about the environment that we live in and are part of. We will go to great lengths to ensure that any products we source do as little damage to the environment as possible. This decision process begins at the seed level. Often the choice is quite a simple one: organic or conventional. And since organic farming inhibits the use of artificial fertilizers, herbicides, insecticides, defoliants or any other man-made chemicals, the choice is obvious to us. In our opinion organic farming offers the only sustainable option for the future of food and textile production. Its techniques are far more in harmony with the natural rhythms of the world around us and aim to mimic nature by not creating monocultures or soils that are reliant on chemicals in order to maintain even the lowest levels of fertility. Hence, we choose organic fabrics over conventional wherever we can. Organic cotton, organic wool and, to a lesser extent, organic linen are becoming more and more widely available, which makes it easier for us to take the position that, for example, we will not offer a cotton product unless it is organic. On the other hand, hemp that can be used for textiles is not yet really grown or produced organically. However, the fact that it grows prolifically without the need for fertilizers or pesticides and is such a beneficial crop for farmers and the soil, has helped us in our decision to actively promote hemp products.
- There is no point in selling a product made with organic materials if it has been made under compromised working conditions. We will not source products from companies that use or condone such practices or which contravene human rights in any way shape or form. Organizations that supply Greenfibres must comply with the Code of Conduct as contained in the Global Organic Textile Standards. Further to this, we make every effort to use as much local and small-scale labour as possible. We have a facility in Plymouth that we use to produce many of our own-label, hand-made goods and garments. We treat staff as stakeholders and pay people above average wages for the work being done given the area we operate in. Further more we are against increasing disparities of incomes and undertake to never have the highest earner in the company making more than 5 times the wage of the lowest earner.
- Packaging is very wasteful. Raw materials and energy are required during production, pollution is formed throughout the manufacturing process and transportation, and finally disposal is either in a landfill site or at an incineration plant. This is bad enough, but when you add the fact that a great deal of packaging is unnecessary or not even biodegradable (when environmentally sound options are available) then the picture is far worse. At Greenfibres, we are very serious about minimizing our use of packaging. That which we do use is predominantly biodegradable, reusable and recyclable. The small amount of plastic we use in our packaging (approx. 3% of all packaging used by us) is often re-used from other origins. We encourage our suppliers to take a responsible approach to packaging and have lobbied for biodegradable packaging alternatives since the mid-1990s.
- For many people, the concept of “food-miles” introduced the ideas of carbon foot-printing, and the considerations around air-freighted food highlighted the complexity of the total energy and human cost of a product. The issues around textiles are at least as difficult as food products.
- Raw materials have a range of different life cycles, and trying to unpick a garment’s history can throw up all types of questions. Just looking at one fibre – for example hemp – shows how much more could be done to support local textile production and use. High quality hemp used in garment production need not only come from China (where 98% of all hemp in grown). It is being successfully grown in Poland, Romania and other parts of Eastern Europe (where we buy 90% of our hemp), and poorer quality hemp is increasingly being grown in the UK. In the next 5-10 years, we hope to be able to buy direct from UK growers. Greenfibres contributes to the reintroduction of hemp as a viable crop in the UK by showing that there is a market for high quality hemp textiles and products. The same is true for linen: the south west of England has a perfect climate for flax, from which linen is produced.
- We try to manufacture as many of our products in the West Country as we possibly can (approx. 20% in the 2007 catalogue). By supporting a small manufacturing facility just outside of Plymouth, we hope to send a message that “made in the UK” matters and that we intend to do our part to re-invigorate the local textile skill base.
- We believe that to operate a socially and environmentally responsible business we must fully realise our ecological footprint and take responsibility for the way we spend our budgets. To minimize the impact that Greenfibres has on the local and global environment, we have decided to take the following steps regarding services we require to run the business (in addition to those mentioned in points 1 to 4).
- we use electricity from renewable sources (we use Unit-e)
- we use ethical banking (we use the Co-operative Bank)
- we use co-operative service providers (we use the Phone Co-op as our telephone company)
- we use local companies where possible (we use local accountants, cardboard recyclers, printers and reprographic companies)
- we use high post-consumer content recycled paper in all our stationary and catalogues
- Greenfibres participates in a number of organizations and forums where issues relating to organic fibres are discussed and promoted. These include: The Soil Association; The Fair Trade Foundation; the Pesticide Action Network UK; the Environmental Justice Foundation; Labour Behind the Label; the Organic Trade Association; the Organic Fiber Council and the International Association of the Natural Textile Industry. Greenfibres also supports the activities of other organizations, including: the Transition Towns and Transition Network; Landscope; Women’s Environmental Network; the UK Biodynamic Association and others through donations of time and money which amount to approximately 10% of annual profits. The Greenfibres catalogue has information about organic textile matters and directs ethical customers to appropriate web sites and research sources.
This document was written in November 1996 and subject to a bi-annual review (last done April 2011)