Blog Posted : 25th April 2022
Y.O.U Underwear’s Journey to Net Zero
What has underwear got to do with Greenhouse Gases? Great question!
Every new item we buy has its own ecological footprint, no matter how small – even something as essential as underwear. At Y.O.U Underwear, we’re always looking for new ways to minimise our environmental impact, while increasing our social one. That’s why we donate two pairs of underwear for every one sold, and have so far donated over 20,000 pairs to vulnerable women and girls across the UK and Africa. We are also proud to be the UK’s Top Scoring B Corp and the highest scoring fashion brand in the world. This furthers our commitment to people and the planet, and proves that business can be a force for good.
Last year, we committed to becoming Net Zero by 2030, but hope to meet this goal much sooner. In this blog, we’ll share what Net Zero is, why it matters, the progress we’ve made and our plans for the future.
What is Net Zero?
Net Zero is the state at which the greenhouse gases (like methane and carbon dioxide) going into the atmosphere are balanced by removal out of the atmosphere. This is important, especially for CO2, because it’s the state at which global warming halts. Net Zero is often confused with carbon neutral; though similar, Net Zero requires every Greenhouse Gas to be balanced, not just CO2. Methane is often left out of the conversation is worrying as methane is actually 25 times more potent than CO2 for trapping heat in the atmosphere.
Why is Net Zero important to us?
Even as a very small business, we share a great responsibility to respond to the urgency of the climate crisis with tangible solutions. We’ve set ourselves ambitious but achievable goals, and periodically measure our progress and share this information with our customers. If businesses and governments don’t act within the timescale needed, the effects will be catastrophically irreversible.
Our progress so far
We first pledged to become Net Zero last year, but our journey to minimise our impact started long before that. We think that making this commitment is an important step in a businesses’ decarbonisation journey, but only when accompanied with holistic efforts to be as sustainable and ethical as possible. We consider the environmental footprint at every stage of our supply chain, from using renewable fibres to recycling our old mailer bags into earrings. Here are just some of the way we’re minimising our planetary impact:
We only use organic cotton: Y.O.U underwear is made from Fairtrade and GOTS certified organic cotton that is PETA-Approved vegan. Organic cultivation is better for the local soil and waterways, because it is grown without harmful pesticides which pollute drinkable water and pose a risk to farmers’ health. Conventional cotton is also one of the world’s most polluting crops, whereas organic cotton uses 71% less water and 62% less energy than traditional cotton. By opting for organic cotton in 2021, we avoided CO2 emissions equivalent to driving 644.2 miles in an average passenger car.
We plant a tree for every newsletter sign-up: When the fashion industry is a big contributor to deforestation and global greenhouse emissions, tree planting projects are a vital way to counter-balance this impact and reforest the earth. They also help offset emissions when further reduction is not possible. Last year, we planted 60 trees with Treedom across 4 projects in Kenya, Guatemala, Colombia and Haiti, and 114 trees with Ecologi across 2 projects in Mozambique and Madagascar.
We introduced a take-back scheme for old underwear: In our Oxford Covered Market shop, we have a Zero Waste Box™ by Terracycle, so you can responsibly dispose of your worn socks, tights and pants. This makes us responsible for the entire lifespan of our undergarments, from production to disposal, and ensures that unsellable underwear is repurposed, instead of entering landfill.
Getting help along the way
There are lots of resources out there on becoming Net Zero, and the SME hub is a brilliant place to start. The government site has a handy calculator to help you with your scope 1 and 2 emissions. Calculating your scope 3 emissions materials, manufacturing, freight, retail, shipping and end-of-life) is a mammoth task. It’s likely your biggest emissions output and the hardest to make quick fixes! That’s why it’s so important to get started early, and to have these conversations about the lifecycle of your product.
Speaking of, we’ve still got a way to go before reaching Net Zero. One of our biggest projects this year is to calculate our current carbon footprint and formulate a Net Zero Action Plan, and to share this with our customers to keep us accountable. We’re measuring this supply chain-wide, taking into account our farming practices, digital sustainability, manufacturing processes and circularity goals.
We’re always looking for ways to improve, as a brand and at a product level. This year, we’ve challenged ourselves to find a more sustainable alternative to the elastane we use, to improve our size range, and to explore the possibility of replacing our current low-impact, GOTS certified dyes with natural dyes. As SMEs, we’re in a unique position to reevaluate our business models more easily and embed the triple bottom line – people, planet and profit.
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