What began as a small jewelry line designed by Isabella Pennefather in the resort town of Byron Bay, Australia, turned into a boho lifestyle brand when her sister, Elizabeth Abegg, joined the company in 2009. As the company grew, it began to adopt sustainable manufacturing processes and is now close to its goal of being a 100 percent ethical supply chain. “The elephant in our sustainability room has without a doubt been viscose as it almost makes up a large percentage of our total production. To be honest, we were shocked when we understood the negative impacts conventional viscose was having on our communities and our planet,” Abegg said. Spell has replaced conventional rayons with Lenzing EcoVero, which generates up to 50 percent lower carbon and water footprints and is produced via a closed loop system that generates 95 percent less waste. Its target is for 35 percent of all viscose to be sourced sustainably by the end of 2019. This means that all the beechwood would have to be sourced from certified sustainable forests, which are responsibly managed.
Key achievement of 2018: “One of our key sustainability achievements has been our progress within sustainable fibers,” said Abegg. Over the last 12 months Spell has directed all its resources into this area and in 2018 it was able to transition its T-shirts to GOTS certified organic cotton and its swimwear to ECONYL, an Italian fiber made out of 100 percent recycled post-consumer nylon waste such as discarded fishing nets. This month, it published its first “Sustainability Impact Report.”
Third-party plaudits: “We strongly believe in the importance of third-party audits,” Abegg said. Spell suppliers are required to have an audit to show that they are meeting all principles as outlined in its code of conduct. These audits are conducted by an independent, accredited, third-party certification body, like Sedex, WRAP, Fair Trade, BSCI and SA8000. But SA8000 is the only international standard, which effectively deals with Living Wage, an issue that’s very important to the brand.
Biggest challenge to overcome: “The complexity of the supply chain. We’re lucky to have suppliers who are very keen to join us on this sustainability journey, but still the supply chain is so fragmented. Even if our tier-one suppliers were all environmentally accredited, that’s really only a drop in the ocean because so many of the impacts within the textile industry happens at a raw materials level.”
If you could wave a magic wand: “I would totally redesign the entire textile sector, so from Day One it was based on a circular model. No more negative environmental impacts at any stage of the supply chain. That would be pretty cool not only for us, but for the whole sector.”