ELK

TRANSPARENCY
REPORT 2020

A conscious design journey

"We see it as our responsibility to work with integrity, transparency and honesty. Our journey is not finite. It will continue on as an ever - changing quest for improvement and reduced impact."
Marnie Goding - ELK Co-Founder & Creative Director

Our Commitment to Transparency

This is our second annual transparency report. It details how we operate as a fashion business and highlights our ethical and environmental journey. It looks at our internal operations, our people and the culture that make ELK a unique Australian brand. It serves as a public statement around our commitment to running a business with transparency, honesty and integrity, and tracks our progress against our 2025 goals.

Download the full report Download the full report

ELK garment in production during a factory tour with Eastlink

ELK Co-founders, Marnie Goding and Adam Koniaras

From our founders

Eighteen months on from the launch of our first Transparency Report we have the chance to recap on what has passed and feel ready to now share what is to come. It is stating the obvious to say that since our last report, business and life for all of us has been tough, particularly as a Victorian based business.

The anxiety we felt before the launch of the 2019 report dissipated following an incredible reaction. In some ways, we were able to breathe a sigh of relief. Encouragement to push on was received loud and clear and our fear of total honesty was unfounded as the report was accepted without criticism.

The pandemic has thrown us challenges which have sadly set us back. We have lost time in what is already a slow journey and we are certain that business routines will never go back to the way they were. We have tightened the size of our collections and travel will be less frequent, forcing us to work remotely with our suppliers - something we never wanted to be limited to.

The simple reality is that change and finding solutions take time. So how do we balance this need for more time that in reality we don't have? The truth is we don't entirely know.

We will face the challenges that come our way and the pandemic has shown us that we are strong enough to get through, we have a united team with a great sense of purpose. So we will continue to do our bit and share along the way.

It is important to know that what we do today may change tomorrow... which is ok because it will always be change for the better.

Our Commitment to Transparency

2019/20 highlights

Materials

We have developed and published our preferred materials guide to support our design team in selecting fibres and materials with the least environmental impact. In addition, our organic cotton use has increased from 6% to 29% of our total cotton use and recycled cotton was used for the first time in our 2019 ranges.

Green Power

A 77kw solar system has been installed across three of our buildings, which will provide around 50% of the electricity for those sites. Additional electricity is certified carbon neutral and purchased from Powershop.

Tree Planting

We launched a long-term tree planting initiative working with TreeProject to support revegetation projects in Victoria. For every online order we are donating $2 to get a seedling in the ground.

Packaging

We joined the Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) and Canopy's Pack4Good initiative and are committed to improving our packaging. We have eliminated single-use plastic garment bags for our denim products and are switching to FSC certified paper bags for the bulk of our apparel.

Transparency

We have published a full, updated list of our tier 1 suppliers and significantly expanded our published list of suppliers from tiers 2 and beyond.

Recognition

ELK was awarded the inaugural Sustainable Innovation award at the 2019 Australian Fashion Laureate, and were finalists in the 2019 Banksia Foundation Awards.

From our Ethics & Sustainability
Manager

"From devastating bushfires to a global pandemic to widespread Black Lives Matter protests, the past year has been a tumultuous reminder that we need to take greater care of our planet and the people that live on it."

With estimates of up to 1 million species threatened with extinction, many within our lifetimes, the urgency to act is greater than ever, and requires everyone to play a part, including governments, businesses and individuals.

As existing linear models of take-make-waste drive increasing consumption, our focus remains on slowing down and becoming more circular, through our products and packaging, as well as how we operate our business.

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted our business and our team, as well as our customers, suppliers and local communities. There is a long road to recovery and uncertainty remains around the longer-term impacts.

Rather than reverting to business as usual, this is an opportunity to take stock and collectively reimagine how businesses and supply chains can operate more sustainably. We believe the UN Sustainable Development Goals provide a framework to achieve this and are more important than ever right now.

Erika Martin
Ethics & Sustainability Manager

Erika Martin during a factory visit with Wellsilk

Our ethical &
environmental
mission

To create products responsibly that are good for people and our planet. To support traditional trades and a circular economy whilst ensuring the creation of safe, fair and inclusive work. To operate ethically and transparently, minimise our environmental footprint and promote positive social practices.

Elk 2025 Goals

We will continue to review and add to these goals as we progress our strategy in various areas.

Carbon Footprint

We will be a carbon neutral and zero waste business1

Transparency

We will trace and publish 100% of our defined tiers 1 - 4 suppliers

Packaging

100% of packaging + printed materials will be either reusable, recyclable, or compostable

Supply Chain

100% of our core suppliers will have globally recognised social or environmental credentials2

Paper + Cardboard

At least 60% recycled or next generation paper fibre content, with all virgin paper fibres FSC certified3

Products

Our products will be made with at least 80% environmentally preferred materials4

Plastics

We will eliminate problematic single-use plastics from our packaging

Circularity

At least 20% of our fibres and materials will be from recycled sources5

1. This means 100% of waste generated from our direct business operations will be diverted from landfill.

2. Core suppliers are our direct product suppliers with greater than USD$50K annual spend. Acceptable social or environmental credentials include certifications such as SA8000, Fairtrade, Fair Wear Foundation, WRAP, and B-Corporation, as well as participation in Better Work or Sustainable Apparel Coalition HIGG Index programs.

3. This applies to packaging and printed materials, and includes post-consumer recycled fibres and fibres from agricultural residues.

4. As defined by our ELK Preferred Fibres and Materials Guide.

5. As percentage of total annual materials usage, by weight.

Material Matters

Our efforts are firmly focused on where we have the greatest environmental footprint, through our materials, and replacing what we can with more sustainable options. To do this we have created a material and fabric sourcing guide and a rating system to help our design team make preferred fibres choices.

Across every category all material choices are under review - from the leather we use to the thread we stitch our garments with. The key considerations for switching to a new material or trim are based on the material having the following:

  • A smaller environmental footprint
  • Transparency or clear provenance
  • Quality, performance and durability
  • Recyclability/circularity
  • Wearability
  • Affordability
  • Certifications

* This makes up 94% of our material consumption. This figure is based on unit purchases, product weight and composition. Where data was not available, we have used averages to calculate as accurately as possible.

MATERIAL MATTERS

These six materials make up approximately 94% of our total consumption by weight

2025 GOAL: 50% Environmentally Preferred Leather

This includes remnant leather, recycled leather or plant derived alternative leather. 100% of new leather will come from Leather Working Group (LWG) rated tanneries.

WE ARE 16% towards our Environmentally preferred leather goal

WE ARE 58% towards our LWG leather goal

2025 Goal: 100% Environmentally Preferred Man-Made Cellulosic Fibres (MMCFS)

This includes MMCFs from CanopyStyle Hot Button Report green shirt rated suppliers, closed-loop production systems and next generation options from recycled textiles and agricultural residues. 50% of MMCFs will come from innovative next generation and circular solutions.

WE ARE 33% towards our preferred MMCF goal

Due to long design to production lead times, the progress we have made with our MMCFs is not captured in this reporting period but will be reflected in our 2021-2022 buys.

2025 GOAL: 100% More Sustainable Cotton

This includes certified organic, Fair Trade, Australian, or recycled cotton.

WE ARE 35% towards our sustainable cotton goal

This is up from 6% in 2018.

2025 GOAL: 100% Responsible Wool

This includes certified Responsible Wool Standard (RWS), certified organic, recycled or wool from farms using regenerative farming practices. 100% of our new sheep wool will be verified non-mulesed.

WE ARE 0% towards our REsponsible wool goal

WE ARE 35% towards our Verified non-mulesed WOOL goal

Currently due to minimum order quantities we have not been able to work with RWS certified wools. We will continue to look for ways to incorporate responsible wool fibres into our ranges.

2025 GOAL: 100% Preferred Bast Fibres

All linen, hemp and jute fibres are considered preferred ELK fibres. Our stretch goal is for 50% of these to be Class A preferred (organic or naturally retted).

We are 100% towards our bast fibres goal

WE ARE 0% towards our stretch goal

More research is needed into the retting methods of our current bast fibres to understand whether they are Class A preferred fibres.

2025 GOAL: 100% Recycled Synthetic Fibres (Apparel)

We will keep our overall use of synthetics to no more than 10% of total fibres used (by weight). 100% of synthetic fibres used will be certified recycled.

WE ARE 4% towards our recycled synthetic goal

Most of our synthetic fibres are used in blends, where it is often harder to source recycled options.

Our overall use of synthetic fibres was 13%

Material Sourcing Guide

To guide our design team when fabrications are being sourced for our seasonal collections, we have put together an ELK Preferred Fibres and Materials guide which breaks down the materials that we work with by category based on their ethical and environmental credentials, as well as our approach to sourcing responsibly. The A & B categories make up our preferred fibres and materials, aligned with our 2025 materials goals. Our aim is that by 2025, ELK products will be made with a minimum of 80% ELK preferred materials.

Find out more about our sourcing guide in our full report from page 54 here.

elk preferred materials and fibres

Top Performer

These low impact materials are our first choice for ELK products, and include options that are renewable, biodegradable, recycled, as well as sustainably grown and processed.

2%

of our 2019 material buy by weight was rated top performer

elk preferred materials and fibres

Great Option

These materials have strong environmental credentials, and are a better choice than most. Where a top performer is not available, we consider these to be a great option.

23%

of our 2019 Material buy by weight was rated Great option

Could be better

We will continue our search for more sustainable or certified options for these materials.

23%

of our 2019 material buy by weight was rated could be better

Phasing out

We are working to phase these materials out, however if they are needed for performance and a better option isn't available, we will use them if less than 10% of the total composition.

49%

of our 2019 Material buy by weight was rated phasing out

We avoid

These materials are not produced in an ethical or environmentally responsible way, and we will not use them.

0%

of our 2019 material buy by weight was rated we avoid

Still researching

We are still researching these materials and will look to rate them in the future.

3%

of our 2019 Material buy by weight was rated still researching

A Global Family

Supply Chain

Hands

Our supply chain is global and complex, with materials often travelling across many continents and going through multiple suppliers and processes before they end up in ELK products.

We prefer to work with smaller, independent suppliers for our finished product, and work collaboratively to develop our designs with them matching products to each maker's skill set. Our approach is to form long term relationships with our makers, and we consider them to be part of our global family.

Each one of our suppliers is at a different stage of their sustainability journey, with some just beginning the process and a handful at the other end showing real innovation and leadership. We want to bring our makers on this journey with us, and work collaboratively with them to continue to source more sustainable materials and improve how our products are made.

Find out more about our sourcing guide in our full report from page 74 here.

Mapping Our Supply Chain

We are committed to mapping our supply chain and tracing our fibres and materials right back to their origin, and ensuring that our products are made responsibly, with regard for workers, animals and the environment.

By 2025, our goal is to have our supply chain fully mapped and published and 100% of our core direct suppliers with credible, globally recognised, social or environmental certifications.

Tier 1

Tier one suppliers are our product manufacturers who cut, sew, and assemble our products.

We have mapped

100%

of our tier one supply chain (manufacturers)

Tier 2

Tier two suppliers are our mills, dyehouses, printers, and tanneries.

We have mapped

68%

of our tier two supply chain (material finishers)

Tier 3

Tier three suppliers are our raw material processors including staple fibre producers, ginners and spinners and abattoirs.

We have mapped

31%

of our tier three supply chain (material processors)

Tier 4

Tier four suppliers are our raw material producers including farms and forests.

We have mapped

14%

of our tier four supply chain (material producers)

Supplier code of conduct

All suppliers that provide ELK with product must agree to and sign our Supplier Code of Conduct and undergo periodic, independent social compliance audits to ensure our standards are being met.

Key requirements include:

Our Mission

United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

The seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are at the heart of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015. They represent an urgent call to action and provide a blueprint for ending poverty, improving health and education, addressing inequality, sustainable economic growth, tackling climate change and preserving our oceans and forests. Achieving the SDGs requires action from everyone, including governments, business, civil society and individuals.

We recognise the contribution that ELK and more significantly the entire fashion industry can make towards achieving these goals. We must move quickly for these goals to be met by 2030. We have aligned our strategy to ensure we are supporting these collective goals.

Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls

  • Support equal rights and pay for women in our own business and supplier factories.
  • Promote family friendly work environments.
  • Support additional skills training for women workers in our factories and through social advocacy organisations.
  • Advocate for the representation of women in management.

Ensure access to water and sanitation for all

  • Reduce the water footprint of our products and our operations.
  • Support closed loop production models and improved water efficiency.
  • Ensure suppliers practice responsible water and chemicals management.
  • Ensure clean water, sanitation and hygiene in factories and support projects in their communities.

Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all

  • Invest in renewable energy by installing solar panels and purchasing green energy.
  • Improve energy efficiency in our own business and supply chain.
  • Preference suppliers with existing energy efficiency initiatives.

Promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment and decent work for all

  • Improve transparency and traceability in our supply chains.
  • Use life cycle analysis to improve the environmental footprint of our products.
  • Source more sustainable fibres and materials with credible ethical and environmental certifications.
  • Design products for minimal waste, durability and circularity and take responsibility for our products across their full lifecycle.
  • Ensure responsible management of energy, water, waste and chemicals in our operations and supply chain.
  • Shift away from synthetic fibres and single use plastic towards renewable and circular materials.
  • Become a zero-waste business.
  • Set ambitious, science-based targets for reducing our GHG emissions.
  • Report publicly on our sustainability impacts and progress.
  • Educate our team and consumers to reduce impact post-purchase.

Sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, halt and reverse land degradation, halt biodiversity loss

  • Improve transparency and traceability in our raw material supply chains.
  • Source our wood and paper-based products, including man-made cellulosic fabrics, from sustainably managed forest sources.
  • Source 100% more sustainable cotton and responsible wool.
  • Support regenerative farming practices and conservation of ancient and endangered forests.
Community

Giving Back

We are giving back to our local and global communities by donating to a range of charities both big and small and supporting the amazing work that they do. Some of these relationships are ongoing, and others involve one-off support of a campaign or fundraising event. We give to a broad range of not-for-profit organisations throughout the year, and do not limit our options for charitable partnerships.

ELK Co-founder, Marnie Goding

Our Carbon Footprint

Everything we do and everything we make leaves an environmental footprint. It impacts communities, people and the natural world. We are committed to reducing this footprint and through setting targets and measuring our progress, we will be accountable. We are offsetting our emissions through the Carbon Reduction Institute. It is not a short term plan, this is forever. We are redesigning a fashion business for the future.

Breaking Down Our 2019 Carbon Footprint:

Note - A correction has been made to our CY2018 total carbon footprint, which was overstated in our 2019 Transparency Report due to the waste footprint calculation being too high. Corrected total CY2018 carbon emissions for ELK are 211 tCO2e, with emissions from waste of 6.81 tCO2e (3%).

*This figure represents our partial organisational footprint, covering scopes 1, 2 and 3 emissions from our electricity and gas use, fuel consumption, waste, flights and staff travel.

Workplace

Our People

We are proud to have successfully established and maintained a flexible working environment, genuinely focused on work life balance. We are proud of the significant representation of women across our Senior Leadership Team, and our ability to role model flexibility across all levels of our business.

Our jewellery packaging made from remnant fabric

Better Packaging

While we recognise the important role that packaging plays in protecting ELK products during transport, there is a significant environmental cost in these items. We are working to reduce these impacts by continuing to review and improve our packaging and other printed materials.

Over the past year we have been concentrating on improving the bulk packaging that we receive our goods in from our suppliers. This project included a review of the individual packaging components and formats from each supplier and product category to identify opportunities for improvements.