TORONTO — Since it first hit the market in 2012, Frank and Oak cofounders Ethan Song and Hicham Ratnani have gone from selling simple, affordable men’s dress shirts online to building a full lifestyle brand.
Now the Montreal-based company is embarking on a mission to tackle five sustainability goals by 2022 to reduce its impact on the environment.
“In the face of today’s climate crisis we realized that doing something about it in five or 10 years wasn’t good enough,” said Frank and Oak chief executive officer Song, whose company operates 21 boutiques across Canada.
“Though we have made significant strides and are reducing the use of plastics in our products right now in 2020, we see ourselves as part of a movement that demands we do more,” Song said.
To that end, Frank and Oak aims to eliminate all virgin plastic in its supply chain by 2022. The Canadian retailer, which moved to brick-and-mortar stores in 2014, has already begun to use 100 percent compostable, plant-based bags for shipping, while also removing excess shipping packaging from its daily operations.
Secondly, the brand will now only use recycled polyester fibers in the production of its labels, shell fabrics and trims, and eliminate all virgin polyester in its supply chain by 2022.
“As we move forward, our emphasis will be on utilizing recycled materials, so we need things to be plant-based and renewable. We’ve gone to suppliers old and new to get the job done,” said Song, whose company was certified as a B Corporation in 2019, making transparency, accountability and social and environmental performance a top priority.
Harnessing renewable energy sources and carbon offsets is also on Frank and Oak’s 2022 agenda. That includes increasing collaborations with local and international partners to achieve a 100 percent offset of greenhouse gas (GHG) scope 1 emissions.
“What GHG scope concerns is the shipping from us to our customer,” Song said. “To realize that offset we are now working with partners that have a higher concentration of low-emission vehicles in their fleet to reduce logistics mileage,” he explained. “We then work with our partners to measure the CO2 emitted and offset that.”
Moreover, by 2022 Frank and Oak’s headquarters, warehouse and retail stores will run on 100 percent renewable energy. “We are not rebuilding all our buildings, but we want to be selective and do everything possible to achieve usage that is 100 percent renewable,” Song said.
Finally, in two years’ time Frank and Oak will enforce a “zero-waste” philosophy company-wide. That will include training employees on everyday practices like better sorting waste and working with local partners to use furniture that is either second-hand or sustainably crafted in the brand’s stores and headquarters.
“Our office is Fair Trade certified. So everything from the coffee to the sugar we use is also Fair Trade certified. We try to lead by example,” Song said.
That mind-set also applies to future product development, which, according to Song, will be driven by these sustainability goals.
Take, for example, Frank and Oak’s newly released “Drift” sneaker for men and women. Making its debut on Jan. 28, the light-weight shoe handcrafted in Portugal is made from “Bio-leather,” a durable, plant-dyed leather that is chrome-free. The “Drift” also uses many recycled materials, particularly in the construction of its lining, rubber soles, cork-covered insole, hidden metal eyelets and laces that are both unbleached and undyed.