There is no planet B

Welcome to Duty Calls. This regular feature aims to shine a light on some of the most laudable examples of altruism and sustainability within the travel retail industry by companies that go beyond the call of duty.

For the last five years, Wolford has been developing one of the textile industry’s most sustainable products to date – its Cradle to Cradle Collection. Chief Commercial Officer Silvia Azzali tells Hannah Tan-Gillies how the company has worked towards closing its production loop.

“Sustainability has always been a part of our DNA,” says Wolford Chief Commercial Officer Silvia Azzali. The proof is in its Cradle to Cradle Collection, which has been in development for the past five years.

Wolford is the first textile company in the world to achieve gold level accreditation from Cradle to Cradle and close its production loop on both a technical and biological level. By 2025, Wolford aims to produce 50% of its entire product range under the same exacting environmental and ethical standards.

Here, Azzali explains how the linear economy’s ‘take, make, waste’ ethos is no longer an option and how Wolford’s Cradle to Cradle collection can become a precedent to inspire brands to go at a slower and more sustainable pace even in a fast-moving world.

Wolford Chief Commercial Officer Silvia Azzali

Wolford has achieved gold level accreditation from Cradle to Cradle and closed its production loop on both a technical and biological level

Wolford is the world’s first and only company in apparel and textiles to hold two Cradle to Cradle Certifications at Gold Level. What systematic changes came into play that enabled you to close the loop of textile production?

We have been working on this collection for the past five years. It took a lot of effort because we had to rethink our entire production process, from supply chain to dyeing.

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.

In order to become Cradle to Cradle Certified, you have to consider five product standards: material health, material reutilisation, renewable energy & carbon management, water stewardship, and social fairness.

For this, we not only had challenges in the production and development phase, but also when planning the packaging, labels, and print colours. We wanted to have a 360° approach to sustainability, so it was important for us that both the packaging and the print on the packaging was biodegradable, and not harmful to the environment.

‘Looking beyond seasonal changes’: The biodegradable Aurora leggings and Aurora top are available in selected travel retail locations

What does the accreditation mean for you personally and for the company? How do you incorporate sustainable values and practices throughout every level of your business?

Sustainability is always at the core of our thinking. In fact, we’ve been sustainable since the very beginning. Our headquarters in Bregenz is based in a water reservation park, next to the shore of Lake Constance – so we have to meet very high environmental standards. We have our own water treatment plant that cleans and recycles our water after the dyeing process and ensures that no toxic substances are released to the environment.

In general, we also have also high expectations when it comes to our suppliers. We have close relationships with them and often visit their production facilities to make sure they meet our high ethical & environmental standards.

How do you balance your sustainability commitments with building a capacity and fulfilling product demands?

Sustainability is something that’s getting more and more important for our customers. The younger generation has grown up on a planet which has now been nearly destroyed by their ancestors. This type of consumer demands sustainability, because they realise there is no other option. There is no planet B.

Back in the 1960s or 1970s, nobody ever thought about sustainability. Nobody thought about CO2 footprints and water consumption, there was no awareness.

Nowadays, consumers can easily access information about the production conditions, and social fairness of any product. Everything can also be immediately shared on social media which changes everything. Our commitment to sustainability and our product planning need to work hand-in-hand to really make a difference.

The Cradle to Cradle Collection closes the loop on both the technical cycle (left) and biological cycle (right) of textile production

How are you communicating your vision to the customers, peers, and competitors? What has the response been like?

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.

How do you think travel retailers and airports approach the challenge of sustainability today and what should be the next steps?

These days, I don’t think it’s possible to plan anything without considering sustainability. Travelling has a huge impact on the environment, so we have to start making changes. The first step would be to change the packaging. For example, many airlines are moving away from plastic packaging on flights. Our new packaging concept for tights foregoes polyester bags. Instead, we use paper packaging with only a small plastic window. This minimises plastic use while still allowing our customers to see the actual product.

Can travel retail be a stronger voice for change within the wider travel world?

Absolutely. Change is necessary and every little step will bring us further. Communicating this message in airports is a good start, as you can reach so many people.

Azzali hopes the Cradle to Cradle collection will inspire other brands to close the loop and opt for a more circular economy. Pictured above is the brand’s travel exclusive Travel Active set.

What are the key opportunities here? Where does travel retail sit and how do you strike the balance between profits and maintaining a production cycle that runs ‘without any waste’.

We think it’s possible to change all different sections together. We don’t focus on one field first and then start with the other one. We change our product portfolio step by step, which affects all our clients and partners, from travel retail to wholesale.

Tell us about your partnership with the Cradle to Cradle Certified Product Standard. How do organisations like this help promote a circular economy — and what do you think is Wolford’s role?

Cradle to Cradle is a third party which educates consumers on the circular economy. Our partnership also tells our customers that we’re not just talking about sustainability but have already but actually put the principles into practice.

A lot of people still believe that Cradle to Cradle is a marketing tool to boost sales, but it’s absolutely not. It’s a huge investment for our company and has taken a lot of hard work to implement in the production cycle. For us ‘ability brings responsibility,’ and we are happy to take on a leading role in promoting a circular economy. We are the first company in the textile industry that is certified for both cycles (biological and technical) on a gold level.

This year, Wolford launched the first legwear styles made with Econyl yarn. What impact do you think this will have on your bottom line?

We have already launched the first tights made out of 100% Econyl yarn in June this year. We did a sneak peek on Instagram one week before the official launch, with influencer collaborations in all markets. All of them posted images in the Econyl tights on World Ocean Day to create awareness for the plastic pollution in the ocean.

Our first products for the biodegradable cycle launched on 18 September. Additionally, the first Cradle to Cradle Certified products with the Econyl yarn will launch this winter. We are very proud to have products on the market that are sustainable for both biological and technical cycles. The products have been very well received so far. The consumer is really curious about the system and development behind it — which is great!

Wolford aims to produce 50% of its entire product range under the Cradle to Cradle accreditation by 2025

Fashion is the second-biggest pollutant in the world. In your opinion, how can the fashion industry move at a more sustainable pace?

The whole industry has to change, and it has to change now. In my opinion, sustainability will be the key topic in the fashion industry for at least the next five to ten years.

The Cradle to Cradle approach is only one part of the whole movement. There are also other ways and ideas that a company can consider. For us, the future is the circular economy and keeping all ingredients in an endless loop. The ingredients on our plant are not endless, and we have to be more mindful of that. So far, the linear economy has been the most common system in the industry: Take. Make. Waste. We hope that every company rethinks their production process in order to guarantee a brighter future for the next generation.

What are your big priorities now?

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.

The Moodie Davitt e-Zine Duty Calls feature highlights environmental and socially responsible initiatives around the globe where people and the planet are the priority. If you have CSR projects, big or small, that you would like featured in Duty Calls, please contact Jason Holland at

The Moodie Davitt eZine

Issue 274 | 31 December 2019

The Moodie Davitt eZine is published 20 times per year by The Moodie Davitt Report (Moodie International Ltd).

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