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Circularity 101

  • by Admin
  • 26th June, 2020

A circular system is defined as one that eliminates waste, reduces associated externalities (such as GHG emissions, water usage and toxicity) and encourages the reuse of resources, and is in stark contrast to mainstream linear models of "take-make-waste".

Many institutions are embracing circularity, from individual fashion companies to entire countries –according to Circularity Gap, the Netherlands is already 25% circular and even has the potential to go to 70% circularity!

But fragmented industries, the cost of building circular systems, and now the fallout from COVID-19 are all serious barriers to “closing the loop”, however there are some fashion companies that are embracing circularity despite the difficulties. Brands like Patagonia and Puma have introduced circular initiatives and clothes resale sites like Depop and Vestiaire Collective have seen huge successes.

The power of circularity cannot be understated. The World Economic Forum has published thought-provoking articles highlighting sources of value creation for the circular economy. Institutions can embrace their inner circle (i.e. the less a product has to be changed in reuse, refurbishment, and remanufacturing, the faster it can return to use), circle materials for longer, cascade use across multiple industries, and work on purifying and detoxifying inputs and designs.

So it seems that with industry effort, circularity has the potential to go from fad to trend!

Core is now a member of the Green Business Bureau!

  • by Admin
  • 21st of May, 2020

The Green Business Bureau is the trusted authority in green business. Their EcoAssessment™ and EcoPlanner™ tools enable businesses to understand, prioritize, implement and certify green initiatives and sustainable business practices. They provide businesses with an official seal to validate and promote their green commitment and accomplishments, and you can click on the Green Business Bureau Seal on Leaf’s homepage to see our sustainability progress, or visit greenbusinessbureau.com for more information about the organisation.

Transitioning towards more sustainable business practices can be a daunting and complex task, and Green Business Bureau has given Core (UK) Ltd some guidance with their clear, concise initiatives and easy to understand points system. This has allowed us to prioritise important initiatives and hone in on areas of improvement for our company. Moreover, GBB has allowed us to share our progress and commitments with our clients in a public and open way.

Since Core is an SaaS provider, one of the most important initiatives has been to ensure that our servers and web-hosting services are optimised. The data centres that we use have a multitude of eco credentials: their electricity is backed by Renewable Energy Guarantees Origin Certificates, they provide carbon neutral cloud services through carbon offsetting, and have won various awards for their energy efficiency. Before quarantine, our office was arranged so as to take advantage of areas with natural sunlight, and we will design future spaces with natural lighting opportunities in mind. Furthermore, all of our office printers have duplex functions so as to minimise paper waste, and we have drinkable tap water to minimise the plastic waste from bottled water. Finally, using a virtual office has been very valuable not just as a way to respect social distancing measures during the COVID-19 crisis, but also as a way to reduce CO2e emissions that usually come from employees commuting into work. We look forward to continuing the use of virtual offices in the future.

We look forward to establishing office recycling programmes that include paper products, glass, plastic, and metals, and we will explore food waste composting as an alternative to putting food in general waste. This will mean that food waste can be used to create biofuel rather than going to landfill. Core will also ensure that we purchase copy paper, folders, paper towels, toilet paper, and other office paper products that are 30-100% post-consumer recycled materials. Additionally, since commuting constitutes a substantial portion of Core’s carbon footprint, we will strive to purchase carbon offsets for the travel emissions that cannot be avoided.

toxic chemicals

The ABCs of fashion’s toxic chemicals N-Z

  • by Admin
  • 6th May, 2020

Welcome to part 2 of the ABCs of fashion’s toxic chemicals. Here are some more profiles of dangerous chemicals that are best to avoid when manufacturing clothes. Our last post addressed A-M, and now here’s N-Z. Let’s go…

Nanoparticle Silver is used to give fitness clothing anti-odour properties and has been linked to hormone disruption and DNA damage.

Organotin compounds are anti-odour chemicals and are commonly used in gloves, socks, synthetic shoe insoles and sports clothes. TBT and DOT build up in the body and can affect immune and reproductive systems and cause breathing problems. Products containing more than 0.1% of TBT and DOT compounds have been banned across the EU since January 2012.

Petrochemical fibres include nylon, polyester, acrylic, acetate, and triacetate. Not only do these synthetic fibres restrict your skin’s toxin release, they also require fossil fuels to make and contribute to microplastic pollution.

Quinoline is a chemical used in dying textiles. According to a 2014 study, tests involving acute exposure of mice have demonstrated quinoline and some of its methylated isomers to induce liver cancer. Polyester clothing is more likely than other fibres to contain quinoline.

Flame Retardants, especially polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), have been linked to thyroid disruption, memory and learning problems, delayed mental and physical development, and reduced fertility. At the same time, recent studies suggest that the chemicals may not effectively reduce the flammability of treated products!

Halogenated Solvents are used as finishing/ cleaning and printing agents and for dissolving/ diluting fats, oils and adhesives. They are on the ZDHC’s Restricted Substances List.

Triclosan is added to athletic and outdoor clothing and is used to stop the growth of bacteria. Studies have shown that it penetrates the skin on contact and enters the blood stream.

Urea resins are used in many formulations to increase the solubility and are banned by the ZDHC.

VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) are a combination of compounds including formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, toluene and benzene. They can have long-term chronic health effects, such as liver and kidney damage, nervous system and cancer risk.

Water repellents like PFCs have links to reproductive problems in animals, according to laboratory studies. PFCs can also last indefinitely in the environment and find their way into the animal food chain, thus polluting the natural environment.

4,4-OXydianiline is a type of azo dye that can produce dangerous substances called aromatic amines. These substances are carcinogenic for humans and can also cause allergic skin reactions. They are also toxic for ecosystems and cause neurosensory damage and metabolic stress in animals.

Disperse Yellow 39 and 1 are water-insoluble and are used in synthetic fibre. Restricted disperse dyes are suspected of causing allergic reactions and should no longer be used for dyeing of textiles, according to the ZDHC.

Zinc salts are metal pollutants characteristically found in wastewater from viscose production. Inadequately treated wastewater can is a high hazard for acute aquatic toxicity.

Sources: Breast Cancer UK (n.d.). Andrea Plell (Jan, 2018). Jill Richardson (Jul, 2017). Lisa Gross, (Apr, 2013). Changing Markets Foundation, (Jun, 2017).

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The ABCs of fashion’s toxic chemicals A-M

  • by Admin
  • 16th April, 2020

From Azo dyes to Zinc Salt, these are the ABCs of fashion’s toxic chemicals. Here are some profiles of the main chemicals that lurk in the fibres of our clothing. This post will include A-M, and next week we’ll post N-Z. And now we begin…

Azo dyes are used to dye clothing and can produce dangerous substances called aromatic amines. These substances are carcinogenic for humans and can also cause allergic skin reactions. They are also toxic for ecosystems and cause neurosensory damage and metabolic stress in animals.

Benzothiazole can be released from textile materials, penetrate through the skin, and further enter the human body, which can cause health risks like endocrine disruption.

Chromium is used to tan leather. Workers in tanneries can experience everything from rashes, permanent skin bleaching, nosebleeds and respiratory problems to lung cancer and the alteration of genetic material as a result of exposure to this chemical.

Dioxins - Chlorine reacting with “organic” compounds forms dioxins-a potent carcinogen, reproductive and developmental toxicant. It alters the immune and endocrine system and is also known as PBT’s (persistent bio- accumulative toxicants).

Esters of ortho-phthalic acid (phthalates) are added plastics to increase flexibility. They are on ZDHC’s Restricted Substances List. Phthalates can damage the liver, kidneys, lungs, and reproductive system.

Formaldehyde is used in fabric processing and is known to cause cancer, skin ulcerations, heart palpitations, eczema, asthma and many other serious health conditions.

Glycol Ethers have a wide range of uses including as solvents for finishing/ cleaning, printing agents, and dissolving/ diluting fats, oils, and adhesives and they’re on ZDHC’s MRSL.

Hexa-chlorobenzene and other chlorobenzenes and chlorotoluenes can be used as carriers in the dyeing process of polyester or wool. They can also be used as solvents. In animals, exposure to high concentrations affects the brain, liver, and kidneys. Unconsciousness, tremors, and restlessness can also occur.

Isomers of Alkylphenol (AP) and Alkylphenol Ethoxylates (APEOs) can be used in dying processes and de- gumming for silk production. APEOs are very persistent and bioaccumulative.

Benzo [ j ] fluoranthene 3,4 is a type of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbon (PAH) used in the outsoles of footwear and in printing pastes for screen prints. It causes mutagenic toxicity in S. typhimurium TA98 and TA1000 which can ultimately lead to cancer.

Michler’s Ketone is used to create blue and violet pigments and dyes for textiles and leather.

Leuco base, specifically C.I. Basic Green 4 Leuco Base, is used to make green dyes.

Metals, specifically heavy metals like mercury, cadmium, and arsenic, are associated with leather tanning. Michler’s Ketone, Leuco base, and heavy metals are all listed as restricted substances on ZDHC’s MRSL.

Join us next week for N-Z of our toxic chemical list!

Sources: Andrea Plell (Jan, 2018). Greenpeace (Jul, 2018). Organic Clothing Alliance (2016). REWE Group (n.d.). Tsvetina Grigorova (Nov, 2018). ZDHC (2019), “MRSL”. Francesco Iadaresta (Jun, 2017).

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Organic cotton is great. Here’s why.

  • by Admin
  • 3rd April, 2020

First of all what is organic cotton? Organic Cotton Plus defines it as cotton that is grown using methods and materials that have a low impact on the environment. These production methods replenish and maintain soil fertility, reduce the use of toxic pesticides, herbicides, and synthetic fertilizers, and build biologically diverse agriculture. Organic cotton warp fibres are created using nontoxic corn-starch and whitened with safe peroxide. Third-party certification organisations verify organic cotton, and some federal regulations prohibit the use of GMO seed for organic farming. Manufacturers are also socially screened to ensure no child or forced labour. These cotton workers operate in safe, healthy, non-abusive environments and are paid living wages.

Cool. So what is conventionally farmed cotton? It’s basically anything that’s not organic. Conventional methods treat cotton plants with herbicides, fungicides, and insecticides, and it’s worth noting that 9 of the most commonly used pesticides are known cancer-causing agents. Conventional farming methods also use synthetic fertilizers, intensive irrigation, and mono-crop culture that erode the soil and decrease its fertility. Conventional cotton is also bleached white with chlorine, dyed with heavy metals and sulphur, and sometimes finished with formaldehyde, all of which produce toxic chemicals that pollute the environment and water systems.

And we’re not done yet with singing the praises of organic cotton! Let’s just dump a few statistics in here courtesy of Textile Exchange.

Compared to conventionally farmed cotton, organic cotton has:

  1. 46% reduced global warming potential (GWP);
  2. 70% reduced acidification potential (AP);
  3. 26% reduced eutrophication potential (EP, also known as soil erosion);
  4. 91% reduced blue water consumption;
  5. 62% reduced primary energy demand (non-renewable).

Wow! Organic cotton certainly sounds way better than the alternative! But how viable is a transition from conventional to organic production for farmers? Well, a case study of cotton supply chains in Mali gives us very promising insights. This comparison of organic and conventional cotton found that switching to organic production may offer a range of potential advantages to cotton farmers, including:

  1. Mid- to long-term increase in farmers’ profits because of the 20% premium price for organic cotton;
  2. Safer working conditions for farmers and their families since they will avoid exposure to toxic products;
  3. Lower expenses for farm inputs;
  4. Healthier soils.

And the fun doesn’t end there! Customers are becoming more and more interested in buying organic, ethically sourced clothing. The fashion search engine Lyst produces a Year in Fashion report every year. In their 2018 report, they stated how they’d tracked hundreds of millions of searches on their shopping site and found a 47% increase in searches containing sustainability-related keywords like “organic cotton”, “vegan leather”, and “sustainable denim".

Now is the time to switch from conventional to organic cotton. Your customers will thank you. Cotton farmers and their families will thank you. And the planet will also thank you.

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The value of environmental initiatives: a closer look at UK Plastics Pact

  • by Admin
  • 24th March, 2020

IPCC. ICAP. UN’s FCCC. ESA. GOTS. Do all these initials ever make your head spin? It is fantastic that there are so many environmental initiatives and panels out there, but it can be difficult to navigate them all. Which one is right for my business? And why sign up for initiatives anyway? What value do they bring? Well, let us tell you with a closer look at UK Plastics Pact by Wrap.

This collaborative initiative is bringing together businesses from across the entire plastics value chain with UK governments and NGOs to tackle the scourge of plastic waste. By 2025, The UK Plastics Pact aims to transform the UK plastic packaging sector by meeting the following four targets:

  1. 100% of plastic packaging to be reusable, recyclable, or compostable.
  2. 70% of plastic packaging effectively recycled or composted.
  3. 30% average recycled content across all plastic packaging.
  4. Take actions to eliminate problematic or unnecessary single-use packaging items through redesign, innovation or alternative (reuse) delivery models.

They’ve gotten so many big brands (Coca-Cola, Sainsbury’s, McDonald’s) to sign up and publish regular reports on how they’re meeting these targets. It’s so great to see all this action being taken to stop plastic pollution.

UK Plastics Pact is also a great way for these companies to communicate their sustainable values to their customers, who are becoming more and more environmentally conscious. In fact, the 2015 Nielsen Global Corporate Sustainability Report found that 73% of global millennials said that they’re willing to pay for more sustainable products.

It’s a fact that consumer goods brands that demonstrate commitment to sustainability outperform brands that do not. A bespoke Leaf report not only shows you the details of your environmental impacts, but also relevant initiatives that you can sign up for. This way, you can communicate your environmental commitments in a more public and open way. We’re here to take the chaos out of understanding your climate footprint.

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Drapers Sustainable Fashion

  • by Admin
  • 18th March, 2020

It was so great to showcase Leaf Sustainability at the Drapers Sustainable Fashion Conference 2020 last week, 11 March. We learnt so much about the next decade of action in the fashion industry. It’s time for companies to embrace sustainability!

There were many excellent speakers sharing their sustainability journeys with inspiring case studies and industry insights. It was interesting to learn from one industry insider that the first stage of a climate neutral journey is always the material assessment. But this is a huge challenge that can take months to accomplish – capturing, organising, and analysing data is no easy task! Luckily software solutions like Leaf can make this daunting task much easier. Once you know your environmental impacts, you can then work on reducing your products’ footprints.

Lots of talks at Drapers 2020 also had a supply chain focus. We learnt how supply chain optimisation is the best way to make sustainable products with a fashion sensation while reducing carbon emissions, waste, and consumption. We were exposed to facilitators, non-profit companies, and public sector organisations committed to working with brands to accomplish their sustainability goals.

One final takeaway from the conference: the future is technology and circularity. The old linear model of production, consumption, disposal, and pollution is outdated and not in keeping with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs.

Moving towards a circular economy requires supply chain traceability; verifiable visibility and transparency at all stages of a product’s manufacture.

So, is your company aligned with the UN’s SDGs?

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Sustainability and the importance of transparent supply chains

  • by Admin
  • 11th March, 2020

Fragmented departments, unreliable data collection, and difficulty interpreting data all contribute to low supply chain network visibility. This is a huge barrier to companies understanding their environmental impacts and embracing more sustainable practices. How can you become more sustainable when you do not even know how sustainable you currently are?

Lucy Siegle sums this up in an excellent article for The Guardian about the environmental costs of fast fashion’s disorganised supply chains:

“Much of the waste in the fashion industry is hidden along a chaotic supply chain and doesn’t make it into the environmental accounting that underpins a Wrap report”.

And there’s data to back her up. McKinsey & Company, a consultancy, states that the typical consumer company’s supply chain creates far greater social and environmental costs than its own operations, accounting for 80+% of GHG emissions and 90+% of the impact on air, land, water, biodiversity, and geological resources! More shocking figures reveal that specifically retail firms’ supply chains account for more than 11x each company’s impact! So for every 1Mt of CO2e a retail company produces, its supply chain has already produced 11Mt of CO2e.

The clear conclusion is this – companies can significantly reduce their environmental footprints by focussing on their supply chains. Sustainability experts and consultants are increasingly playing more important roles in helping companies develop detailed insights on the advantages of improving sustainability across supply chains, articulates André Gonçalves

High functioning supply chains = good news for sustainability.

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