For some time now, it’s very common to run into the word “sustainability”. We find it and use it in many senses: sustainable fashion, sustainable development, sustainable trade… We also find many brands labeled as “100% sustainable”, but do we really know what it is and what implies this thing called sustainability? Do we know the sustainable criteria that a brand, a project or a business should meet to be considered as “sustainable”? Or is it the word sustainability starting to lose value because of a bad continuous use?
We tell you about some general issues with respect to the concept of sustainability, to the sustainable criteria that a business should meet and we give you some information about what OA already does and what we have in mind to do in the next months.
About the concept of sustainability:
We often connect the concept of sustainability with actions dedicated to respect the environment and, although this is one of its strengths, we can’t talk about sustainability without paying attention to social and economic issues.
In fact, the concept of sustainability includes the following:
- Environmental sustainability, focused on coordinate the preservation of biodiversity with the economic and social development.
- Social sustainability, that looks for the union and stability of the population.
- Economic sustainability, the one that takes care of the latter to be profitable.
The relation between these three kinds of sustainability is undeniable, hence the need of dealing with them in a global way in order to be able to carry what we know as sustainable development.
What is a sustainable company and what criteria must met to become so?
For a company to be labeled as sustainable, we think that it must keep in mind its contribution to achieve a sustainable development. That is, we have to measure its contribution to the environmental, social and economic sustainability.
In our field, we found a lot of companies that are promoted as sustainable companies or brands because they use an organic and certified material and, although that is great, it’s not enough.
A correct environmental policy open to continuous improvements, social commitment or transparency are some of the ‘must’ that a business should meet in order to be considered as a sustainable company and, however, we don’t talk about this criteria frequently.
Given so much ‘greenwashing’,maybeit would be useful to sum up some of the principles or basic criteria (there are many more) that a company must meet in order to be considered as a sustainable company and save it from end in the cemetery of those companies and/or brands that, unknowingly, are not as sustainable as they think. Watch out! We say “unknowingly” because we really think that it is a matter of concept, but not a matter of intention.
Some general criteria or indicators of sustainability could be the following:
- Not participating of forced or obligatory labor;
- Rejecting and no participating of child exploitation;
- Rejecting and no participating of child exploitation;
- Rejecting and deleting any kind of discrimination;
- Defending the free association;
- Recognizing the right of collective bargaining;
- Supporting a preventive approach against the environmental challenges;
- Taking initiatives to promote the environmental responsibility;
- Encouraging a technological development respectful to the environment;
- Showing transparency and fighting against corruption in all its forms.
In a more specific way and more focused on what would be a company like OA, we could also add the following indicators:
- Durability of the product: life cycle and product quality;
- Use of certified materials: GOTS, IVN – Naturleder, Ekarf, Biokreis, Oeko-Tex, Oeko Tex ® Leader Standard, OCC, etc.);
- Use of recycled materials;
- Use of biodegradable materials;
- Traceability: control of the supply, production and distribution chain;
- CO2 emissions, that is measure especially in the use of transport;
- Environmental health;
- Quantity of water and energy used;
- Job created. Local employment;
- Satisfaction level of the workers;
- Social benefits for the workers;
- Gross value added;
- Circular economy;
- Handmade or in an artisanal way;
- Development of local communities and especially of districts;
- Activation or impulse of social projects;
- Transparency about processes and a clear and honest communication;
- Commitment and responsibility.
What is OA already making for being a sustainable company and what is it left for it to do? Some information:
One of the bases of our philosophy is being better every day in order to minimize more and more our impact on the planet.
We don’t believe in the idea of being sustainable 100%, but we do believe in what Galeano said: A lot of small people, in small places, doing small things can change the world.
We also believe in the need of producing a bigger consciousness about this subject. We think that, little by little, we can educate minds for changing habits, minimize our environmental impact and do our bit to drive the social change.
Algunos datos acerca de lo que hacemos:
- At OA we support and defend the principles of fair trade understood &mdashaccording to the World Fair Trade Organization&mdash as "a commercial system based on dialogue, transparency and respect, which seeks a greater fairness in international trade, paying special attention to social and environmental criteria”.
- OA has created jobs thanks to the local production of its products and guarantees decent work for everyone involved at any point in the supply and production chain. We strongly oppose and join the fight against any type of child exploitation or discrimination of any kind.
- We are proud to work with quality materials such as those available in the workshop. These are always certified materials, respectful with the environment, toxic-free and we avoid the use of chemical substances, among other things. Our leather is free of chromium and other heavy metals, so they are biodegradable, our textiles enjoy recognized certifications such as GOTS, OCC or Oeko-Tex, our trimmings are nickel free... At OA we also bet on using recycled materials like recycled leather, recycled silver (ecosilver), recycled polyester, recycled cotton, recycled paper and cardboard... You can have a look at all our materials here.
- Our design and our products posses a very good durability and timelessness. An OA bag can last for many years. Even a lifetime! Everything is done in an artisan way and most of the work is handmade. We also use machines, but they are all last generation machines that consume the minimum thanks to servomotors.
- Our zero waste philosophy leads us to minimize the waste of material and to produce generating as little waste as possible. We managed to reduce the reduction to percentages below 5% in the case of leather and even less in the rest of the materials.
- Local business: at the logistics and production level we do not work with intermediaries or make mass productions, we produce in our workshop, in limited editions and, on the outside, we only work with trusted suppliers and collaborators that also fulfill with the principles of our manifesto.
- We believe that, in order to fulfill with everything we have been telling you, we must maintain a consistent and traceable price philosophy. That's why we do not participate in massive purchases or sales, because our margins are adjusted 365 days a year. If we adjust them even more, there will be no benefit for the company, but on occasion we will do it to try to facilitate the purchase to users. We cannot lower prices more... We cannot keep up with the prices of other companies in which you can buy a product at a very low price, knowing that such a low cost implies a very, very, very high cost at another point in the process.
- The OA team is 95% integrated by women. We believe in feminism on many levels, but in this aspect we focus on feminism as a proposal for social transformation. A proposal that, in addition to involving equality and justice, guarantees the sustainability of life, understood among other things as a model of development that revolves around people and the planet.
- Our packaging is handmade in our workshop using recycled materials such as pasted cardboard and recycled paper. We use ecological glue and we stamp our brand manually without using inks. We have managed to avoid the bags imposed by transport companies, so you will always receive our products in recycled and reusable cardboard boxes.
- We are transparent, clear and honest. We share information, knowledge and know how to listen to customers, collaborators, suppliers and distributors.
- We are committed: we commit to fulfill.
This is not all! How can we improve?
When we speak of being a sustainable, honest, conscious brand, we refer mainly to the fact that the foundations of our birth and the decisions we make every day are based on facts and principles like those we have been explaining. But ... the thing should not stop there. There are and there will always be new ways to investigate and new actions to carry out.
OA is still a very young company, and we still have a lot of work to do to continue improving and expanding our principles and sustainability indicators.
Currently, we continue with our commitment to investigate more options regarding sustainable materials.
We work especially in finding a vegan durable material to apply to our designs that really complies with sustainable standards.
We work daily in a content that helps to continue raising awareness and encouraging the taking of sustainable and respectful with the environment actions.
Another goal for the upcoming months is to improve our transparency by showing the processes, both in our workshop and in the factories where we obtain our materials, as well as showing the people behind OA.
In connection to transparency, we also want to show broadly and in depth, the economic traceability of our products. (Yes, really show how much a product like ours costs so that we are more aware that it is really impossible to buy a handmade leather bag at the price we see it in large chains like Inditex or others).
In general, we are very aware that we must and want to continue growing and advancing our purposes. That is why at OA we are committed to dedicating an important part of our energy to advancing along this very complex path of sustainability.