James&Co Is A Bluesign® System Partner For Synthetic Leather (aka 'lether™')

 

Bluesign System Partner logo

James&Co joined Bluesign® in partnership as a Bluesign® SYSTEM PARTNER in 2020. The significance of working in partnership with Bluesign going forward cannot be over-stated.

About Bluesign®: global partner for a sustainable textile industry

Bluesign® was founded in 2000 by a group of textile and chemical experts. They sought to develop a textile product with the lowest possible environmental burden, with resource-improving production and augmented safety for workers and consumers. They formed an independent company called BLUESIGN.

The objective was and remains working with suppliers, manufacturers and top brands to reduce the overall environmental footprint of the textiles they use, with a particular focus on the chemicals used. Bluesign provides an holistic solution for safe and environmentally friendly textile production, working at each step of the supply chain to ensure that products meet rigorous benchmarks focussed on people, the environment and resources.

The ultimate result for those with whom it works for enhanced outcomes for the textiles under examination is verification and certification with a Bluesign Product® seal

The aim of the seal is to reduce the environmental impact of the textile industry.  It also stands for the safe production and processing of synthetic and natural fibers. 

Products that are at least 90 percent processed in certified factories are allowed to bear the Bluesign® Product seal.

It's not really correct to say, as said above, that the right to use the bluesign seal is the 'ultimate result' of the Bluesign system. Certainly a milestone and an achievement, but the Bluesign System Partners (more than 500 of them) form an active and growing industry forum for collaborating on some of the industry’s most pressing sustainability challenges.

The seal covers the follow product life cycle phases:

Raw material production

Cultivation of natural fibers (e.g. cotton) and production of synthetic fibers (e.g. polyester)

Manufacturing

The production and processing of yarns and fabrics into a finished garment includes many sub-steps (e.g. spinning, weaving and knitting, sewing, assembly and finishing)

Trade/Transport

The transport route from one production step to the next and to the end user

Usage phase

The phase of use by the owner

End-of-life

Disposal of the textiles or return of the substances to the cycle (recycling)

Approaching the certification from the beginning rather than focussing on the end product is the defining feature of the Bluesign® system. By preventing hazardous chemicals from entering the input stream in the first place, the  Bluesign® system - Input Stream Management  system- creates a clean process that provides consumers with the confidence they are purchasing a product that is both sustainably produced and that meets the highest consumer safety standards. 

Using the input-stream management process, chemicals are assigned to one of three categories: blue– safe to use; gray–special handling required; and black–forbidden. The bluesign system helps factories properly manage gray chemicals and replace black chemicals with safer alternatives.

To put the Bluesign® Product seal in context for the James&Co sustainable vegan lether™ products, there are many certification seals that relate to textiles but not applicable to synthetic leather. 

OEKO-TEX Made in GreenEU Ecolabel - textilesFairtrade Textile ProductionNatural textile IVN certified BESTFair Wear FoundationGOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard),Naturland - textilesBetter Cotton Initiative (BCI)C&A biocottonCotton made in Africa (CmiA)Global Recycled Standard (GRS)OEKO-TEX 100Responsible Down StandardWorldwide Responsible Accredited Production (WRAP)Fairtrade Textile ProductionCradle to Cradle - Textiles - Platinum LevelbioReBusiness Social Compliance Initiative (BSCI)Content Claim StandardEthical Trading Initiative (ETI)Nordic Ecolabel - textiles,STeP by OEKO-TEX®Blue Angel - textilesSA8000,  Business Social Compliance Initiative (BSCI)Cotton made in Africa (CmiA)Vaude Green ShapeWorldwide Responsible Accredited Production (WRAP)"Socially fair" VFI social standard for finished goods

Bluesign Collaboration with ZDHC

ZDHC  is a global collaboration of more than 160 organisations from the textile, apparel, leather and footwear industry with the objective of protecting the planet by reducing industry's chemical footprint. The collaboration is across the entire value chain including global brands, chemical suppliers, and manufacturers. By managing chemical inputs, the work intends to ensure safer products, cleaner water and fresher air for the benefit both people and planet.

The ultimate aim is - through collaborative engagement, standard setting, and implementation -  zero discharge of hazardous chemicals: the ZDHC Roadmap To Zero

ZDHC has developed a Manufacturing Restricted Substances List (MRSL 2.0). which is a list of chemical substances. These substances are banned from intentional use in facilities processing textile materials, leather, rubber, foam, adhesives and trim parts in textiles, apparel, and footwear. Using chemical formulations that conform to the ZDHC MRSL allows suppliers to assure themselves, and their customers, that banned chemical substances are not intentionally used during production and manufacturing processes.  

ZDHC does not provide an independent certification system to confirm conformance with its MRSL.  It has an  Accepted Certification Standard which is conferred on an organisation that has existing certifications as indicators of conformance. 

Since 2019 Bluesign® Product certification (see further below) has the ZDHC Accepted Certification Standard to indicate that Bluesign® certification verifies ZDHC MRSL conformance at the highest level 3.

Bluesign® Finder

Shortly after its creation in 2000 Bluesign® began work on developing  list of chemical substances. It undertook scientific chemical assessments of chemical formulations to evaluate their hazards as safe, use with care, and banned. 

But Bluesign's work went further than listing the 600 chemical substances of the 900 different ones assessed that were banned. It was not enough to merely point out which chemicals to avoid—manufacturers need good and safe alternatives. Bluesign created the first and most comprehensive positive list in the industry, outlining over 11,000 safe and effective alternative chemicals, to promote active chemical management in the industry. 

That work has been ongoing and is kept up-to-date and found in the Bluesign® Finder, a web-based advanced search engine that currently lists 16,000 third party verified commercially available textile dyes and auxiliaries out of over 28,000 assessed chemical products. The chemicals identified as meeting Bluesign's criteria for assessment and verified to the highest standard as more responsible to make textile materials are marked as Bluesign® Products.

Bluesign® Apparel Brand System Partners

The first apparel brand to join as a Bluesign System was Patagonia. To ensure that its products were made with Bluesign Products ie approved fabrics by applying the Bluesign process to its whole materials supply chain with the objective of continuous improvement of environmental performance in their textile supply chains, to help conserve resources and minimize impacts on people and the environment.

Other significant apparel brand Bluesign System Partners include Eileen Fisher and Everlane.

James&Co Is A Bluesign®System Partner

James&Co is a pioneering Bluesign® System Partner:

  • we are the first fashion brand/retailer in Australia to become a Bluesign® SYSTEM PARTNER
  • we are the first fashion brand/retailer whose end-products are tailored in synthetic leather  to become a Bluesign® SYSTEM PARTNER.  And it is with 'synthetic leather' that we are working with our supply chain to assess the chemical inputs and road to Bluesign® Product 
  • we the pioneering brand to ditch the vegan leather which is traditional PU and manufacture in lab-grown and plant-based eco-friendly synthetic leather fabrics.  Traditional PU is known to contain the harmful chemical DMF which was the main driver for the research and work into leather look alternatives without that chemical.  Read more.  
  • in 2020, the Italian judiciary banned the use of the word 'leather' in respect of materials that were not derived from animals.  To comply with the Italian law, and in anticipation of the approach expanding to other countries, we have adopted and are trade-marking the word 'lether'. No a = no animal.  Hence ultimately the Bluesign approvals will be in respect of lether- as applied to eco, cactus leaf, pineapple leaf, grape skins and such.

As the market for vegan leather - the most commonly used term for cruelty-free synthetic leather - grows (recent research that global demand for vegan leather will continue to rise by an annual rate of 49.9% to reach US$89.6 billion by 2025) and the demand by consumers for more ethical and environmentally friendly products (recent UN research revealed 88% of consumers expect brands/retailers to offer them advice on making sustainable choices) - the importance of knowing the composition of the synthetic leather fabric and the circumstances in which it is manufactured is heightened. 

The growth in the vegan leather market and the increasing sustainability expectations of consumers also heighten the need for the services of Bluesign across the wide fashion industry.  

Herein lies another important fact to state about the fashion industry which again highlights the significance of Bluesign services: 

Sustainable fashion is a movement and process of fostering change to fashion products and the fashion system towards greater ecological integrity and social justice. Sustainable fashion concerns more than just addressing fashion textiles or products. It comprises addressing the whole system of fashion. (wikipedia)

That is, it is not just about the textiles. It is also about the social and environmental impacts of making the textiles and every other step of the supply chain.  The fashion industry is the 2nd largest contributor to landfill and all the work to making fashion more sustainable will be a massive step towards that reducing that input. 

Now as a bluesign® SYSTEM PARTNER we will be working with the experts from Bluesign to help the James&Co brand and our sourcing factories to/in the following ways:

  • specify the composition of the synthetic leathers that we are sourcing from factories that now are called 'eco leather'. In particular and the critical first step, the chemicals that go into the making of eco leather.  And the steps our factories need to take to reduce the hazardous chemicals in the composition;
  • identify the environmental impacts which our sourcing factories have in terms of air and water quality and energy use. And the steps our factories need to take to reduce the harmful impacts to the environment;
  • ensure the labour conditions of our sourcing factories comply with all required legislative conditions and there is absolutely no scope for abuse of human resources.

We have built into all our core policy decisions, especially our Supplier Code Of Conduct,  the expectation that all sourcing factories will provide us with all information required about chemicals, environmmental and social impacts so that we will work again for the great advantage of Bluesign services.