Much progress has been made, but there is more to be done. The fashion industry remains one of the highest in its production of pollution, after electricity, heating, agriculture, and transportation.
For more than 140 years, Botto Giuseppe has supported and innovated the development of some of the most luxurious fibers in the world. And today, the company holds sustainable practices as a prerequisite in creating luxury products.
“[Sustainability] is not a choice, it’s a must,” said Silvio Botto Poala, chief executive officer at Botto Giuseppe.
In 2016, Botto Giuseppe became one of the first companies to develop a sustainable collection named Naturalis Fibra. It was certified Cradle to Cradle with a circular economy concept that was not only considering the animal welfare but also the renewable energy used in the production, the reduction of CO2, the water stewardship and all the chemicals used during the dyeing process.
With the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals in mind, Botto Giuseppe has committed to progress in all ethical practices from production to people and workplaces. Every year, Botto Giuseppe has grown the Naturalis Fibra collection and increased sustainability by adding new farms. The company has reached 100 percent production of renewable energy with its hydrometer plant in Tarcento and the collection is now 50 percent sustainable. Further, in 2019 Botto Giuseppe joined the ZDHC protocol, which aims to totally eliminate the trace of chemicals in the water discharges of the textile industries.
Here, Botto Poala discusses the importance of sustainability at every stage, ongoing innovation, and consistent transparency.
WWD Studios: Why is it important to establish and maintain ethical practices?
Silvio Botto Poala: Moral and ethical values are principles that guide us through our lives. We want to improve society together with our families and friends. The sustainability strategy considers all the stakeholders at the same level and thanks to our partnerships with our customers and suppliers, we can aim to improve our products.
Due to our company’s great sensitivity to environmental issues, Botto Giuseppe has financed some mountaineering expeditions with important scientific-environmental implications including the Antarctic Expedition in 2020 and TransLimes in 2017 in the western Karakoram.
WWD Studios: How does Botto Giuseppe’s sustainability work align with the United Nations’ SDGs? What still needs to be done?
S.B.P.: Many of the Sustainable Development Goals are aligned already with Botto Giuseppe sustainability strategy. We promote quality education with scholarship prizes. The company also places an emphasis on gender equality. Currently, 53 percent of workforce at the two Botto Giuseppe plants are women.
The company promotes good health and well-being by cleaning all waters that are used in production and further use 100 percent renewable energies. Botto Giuseppe also works toward promoting decent work and economic growth by respecting all strict laws and rules and improving working conditions year by year.
WWD Studios: What can you tell us about the Naturalis Fibra collection that Botto Giuseppe is using? What attributes make these yarns and fabrics a more sustainable choice?
S.B.P.: Naturalis Fibra is a sustainable collection produced with natural fibers only, selected from the more sustainable farms in the world that follow three main principles: farm best practice through animal welfare and land management, production with renewable energy, and selected chemicals in the dyeing and finishing processes with low environmental impact, certified with Gold Level by Cradle to Cradle.
WWD Studios: What differentiates natural wool from other fibers?
S.B.P.: Wool is an intelligent fiber that adapts to all weather conditions. It is ductile, resistant, hygroscopic and biodegradable: it is the ultimate sustainable fiber. What makes the difference is where it grows and how it is kept and shorn. The farmer has to take all precautions to avoid giving any pain to sheep and the environment.
After the shearing, our partner farms use a tested Cradle to Cradle spray to avoid the spreading of dangerous flies that infect mortally the sheep. Farmers, by using a holistic management approach by moving sheep from one paddock to the other every three to four days to improve the quality of the grass and to avoid the risk of desertification.
WWD Studios: How does Botto Giuseppe ensure that fiber production is done ethically and sustainably?
S.B.P.: We work very closely with the farms that have a similar heritage and philosophy. Congi farm, located in New South Wales, is the best example. They are a third-generation grower and are very attentive to animal welfare, including the adoption of mulesing-free practices. The farm also prioritizes land management, with cattle rotation through paddocks, and ethical practices. The farm reached the RWS certification in 2018.
Botto Giuseppe has always been committed, through its own internal policy, to the reduction of waste produced internally, as well as in the management of its differentiation. In 2019, the company purchased a series of containers to increase the percentage of recyclable waste. Overall, both plants produced around 179 tons of waste in 2019, recording a decrease of almost 30 percent compared to 2018. Reassuring data also derives from the quantities of hazardous waste (dyes, oils, and packaging containing dangerous substances) sent for disposal, which account has been reduced to 4 percent of the total.
WWD Studios: How is Botto Giuseppe working toward greater ethical practices?
S.B.P.: Transparency and traceability in all production processes, from raw materials to the final product, Botto Giuseppe aims to give to the consumer a sustainable product. SLOWOOL certified by Cradle to Cradle with Gold Level and RWS, a superfine merino, is the main quality in the collection that represents perfectly this philosophy. The company’s priority is doing better every year and contributing to a more friendly environment. In fact, today 50 percent of the collection is sustainable. Our target is to try to reach full sustainability by 2025.
WWD Studios: How has the consumer demand for traceability and sustainability changed?
S.B.P.: Our textile sector has seen an unprecedented demand for sustainable products from consumers. One of the major concerns is the complex supply chain network, by creating an efficiently traceable system that monitors all sustainable aspects. Botto Giuseppe with its vertical production from scouring, spinning, weaving, dyeing, and finishing can satisfy the requests and so we can create a sustainable supply chain.
To reach a high grade of sustainability, we need a different consumer approach. Sustainability has a cost that the consumers rarely want to afford. Sustainable clothes are more expensive, so buying less but better should be the behavior. Sustainability doesn’t match with fast fashion which has a lower cost for the consumer but much higher for the environment. We state: Sustainability is the new luxury.