James&Co aims to lead by example. To get out the message that faux leather/vegan leather outerwear made in traditional polyurethane (PU) - which accounts for basically all such outerwear except for James&Co - is harmful to the environment and to workers. And there are now alternative fabrics for leather look outerwear that are sustainable.
We are taking the leadership position to drive market demand for sustainable outerwear resulting in other brands making the switch to the sustainable alternatives. We are also driving the 'reduce, reuse, recycle' message of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals which will significantly improve the fashion industry's and consumers' practice of sending fashion items to landfill.
The recognition of our brand's positioning as a nominee for Top Sustainable Retailer is so welcome. We look forward to the announcement and event next week and whether James&Co is the winner or not we will of course continue on doing and promoting this sustainable fashion track.
Here's a summary of the James&Co sustainability actions:
1. The reasons why traditional PU is harmful to the environment and society:
- The chemical reaction required to create traditional PU relies on the addition of a solvent. The solvent most commonly used is dimethylformamide - DMF. The use of DMF is released into the atmosphere as a Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) or Hazardous Air Pollutant (HAP) and exposure to it is known to cause a wide range of health impacts to humans and animals.
- PU is a plastic and is not bio-degradable. Used in fashion items such as jackets, these items fall into the consumer response to disposal of clothing - which is to send them to waste fill and add to the known issues of disposing of plastic.
2. Developments in replacing traditional PU with sustainable waterborne PU (WBPU)
- Technology to replace the use of hazardous solvents like DMF with water has been underway for some years.
- A leading organisation driving sustainable alternatives to environmentally-unfriendly traditional PU has been a spin-off from the original developer of PU ie Bayer. Covestro was established in 2015 and is a leading organisation in developing waterborne PU fabrics for apparel.
- Covestro has also worked on replacing fossil fuels in the manufacture of PU with recycled C02 thus minimising the impact on the environment during manufacture.
- Government concerns about the impact of DMF has also seen growing regulation around its use. The American Chemistry Council notes that US Government regulation of VOCs and HAPs including DMF is driving the use of waterborne PU in industrial and commercial applications.
- The leading sustainable retail group Inditex now rules out traditional PU as a fabric which can be used by any of its suppliers.
3. Developments in the James&Co business to embrace and drive sustainable opportunities
- Begun in August 2012 as a Peta-approved Vegan online retail brand tailoring classic womens outerwear in traditional PU - which was the only leather alternative available at the time
- With technological innovation since 2012 we were enabled in 2018 to end manufacturing in traditional PU and move forward with sustainable leather look fabrics.
- 'water borne' or 'water based' or 'DMF-free' PU (WBPU) which is made in a factory without plastics or solvents and for which water is the primary solvent, is a low emitter of CO2 in production and is bio-degradable. We call it 'eco leather'.
- Pinatex pineapple leaf leather fabric which is a natural sustainable material made from pineapple leaf fibres. The pineapple leaves are the by-product of existing agriculture and their use provides an additional income stream for farming communities in the Phillipines. It has been used for shoes, bags, belts and furniture. James&Co was an early adopter of the fabric in our outerwear as the density became appropriate for apparel.
- In 2019 James&Co passed the accreditation process and is now a Certified B Corp, testament to James&Co's highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose.
- James&Co has heeded the global call for business to be a leader in pursuing a better world in line with the work of the United Nations and the targets for 2030 set out in the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
- One of those targets is to substantially reduce waste generation through prevention, reduction, recycling and reuse by 2030. James&Co has responded to the call with our focus on tailoring in sustainable fabrics and helping to eradicate plastics-based PU from fashion.
4. JAMES&CO SUSTAINABLE ECO LEATHER LEADERSHIPJames&Co believes that our leadership in ending manufacturing in traditional PU can be communicated widely and be a beacon over time for other leather look brands to end the use of traditional PU for their fabrics. It can also be the source of information for consumers to make the choice of products which will be their personal contribution to a better world.
The success of James&Co selling its outerwear and raising knowledge of the brand will help to make a difference for our planet in these ways:
- every purchase of a James&Co product is a purchase choice which takes a PU jacket out of the equation and diverts a PU jacket from subsequent addition to landfill
- contribute to reducing the fashion industry's status as one of the world's most polluting industries in terms of carbon emissions and even more so when it comes to the impact of contributing to waste and to plastic pollution in our waterways. It has also been estimated that 97% of textiles which are sent to landfill could actually be recycled. There is increasing focus by the fashion industry on 'reduce, reuse, recycle' to lessen the environmental impact.
- sharing information about the James&Co product and it's environmentally-friendly fabric will be information on which consumers can make a choice that will make a difference ie to choose a sustainable jacket over a plastic traditional PU jacket
- it will help in creating the mindset for consumers to reduce, reuse and recycle PU jackets and so make a difference to achieving the UN SDGs:
- REDUCE PU jackets by not buying another one traditional PU one;
- REUSE PU jackets by sending them to charities of choice:
- RECYCLE PU jackets by sending them to James&Co or established points of collection
- contribute to the ultimate removal of toxic plastic traditional PU material from use as a clothing fabric as other brands make the switch to sustainable material in light of consumer demand
- raising the comparatively low global awareness of the SDGs and “Increasing public awareness of the SDGs ... [to] help facilitate the large-scale global change which is required in order to shift the world onto a more sustainable and resilient path and tackle the vast challenges of eradicating poverty and improving the natural environment.” Read more.