Austrian underwear company Wolford recently achieved gold level accreditation from Cradle to Cradle and closed its production loop on both a technical and biological level. The company also aims to produce 50 per cent of its entire product range under the same exacting environmental and ethical standards.
Cradle to Cradle certification necessitates 360 degree sustainability: material health, material reutilisation, renewable energy and carbon management, water stewardship and social fairness. The challenge of achieving gold level Cradle to Cradle accreditation is tough, but it was embraced with fervor by Wolford Chief Commercial Officer, Silvia Azzali.
Talking about the various challenges faced to achieve the title, Azzali says, “One of the most difficult challenges was rethinking the components of our products. One of the most difficult challenges was rethinking the components of our products. We had to go back to the very beginning and research colours, yarns etc. The next challenge was the dyeing process. We had to find colours that didn’t release any harmful substances. This was actually the reason why we only offered black products in the beginning. At that point, black was the only colour suitable for our Cradle to Cradle Certified range. Today however, we’ve got some other colours in the pipeline which will launch soon including: white, blue and jade green.”
Challenges were faced not only in the production and development phase, but also while planning the packaging, labels, and print colours. Wolford also incorporates sustainable values and practices throughout every level of business. The company headquarters in Bregenz is based in a water reservation park, next to the shore of Lake Constance to meet very high environmental standards. They have their own water treatment plant that cleans and recycle water after the dyeing process and ensures that no toxic substances are released into the environment.
Communicating the brand’s vision to the customers, Azzali says, “We conducted a survey with a local university to determine whether customers were willing to bring their products back after the natural life cycle. Immediately, the response was positive. Over 50% said they would be happy to bring the product back to the store if it helped avoid waste.”
“With this information in mind, we created a communication strategy for online and offline. We informed our customers through a dedicated landing page, social media activations, dedicated windows, and POS materials. We also used the reach of different key opinion leaders, to help us spread the message,” added Azzali.
Wolford has already launched the first tights made out of 100% Econylyarn in June this year. They did a sneak peek on Instagram one week before the official launch, with influencer collaborations in all markets. All employees posted images in the Econyl tights on World Ocean Day to create awareness for the plastic pollution in the ocean,” says Azzali.
Speaking about the future plans of the company, Azzali said, “We are aiming to produce 50% of our complete Cradle to Cradle Certified Collection by 2025. It’s a long journey and we are not there yet. We have launched the first products, for the biological cycle last year in September and products for the technical cycle will follow next season. The collection will be extended season by season. Our idea is to not invent a completely new line with C2C pieces, but instead replace our existing products step by step.
“We are also working on a Sustainability Road Map. This map will include a detailed overview of different certificates, suppliers, textiles etc. It considers everything from the eco-friendly production of material, as well as social fairness and CO2 imprints,” she added.