FISHING FOR A MORE CIRCULAR FUTURE - UNEARTHING ECOALF’S JOURNEY
GUESTS FOR CHANGE
WITH CAROLINA ÁLVAREZ-OSSORIO
Within the Guests for Change series, thought leaders, pioneers, visionaries, and game-changers are interviewed to give us more insight into the world of sustainability and circularity. We are excited to continue our conversation with Carolina Álvarez-Ossorio, Head of Marketing and Communications at ECOALF. This pioneering brand has received B Corp Certification by using business as a force for good. ECOALF is breaking linear boundaries to enter a more circular economy. As a leading Spanish brand, ECOALF seeks to create a new generation of recycled products with the same quality and design as non-recycled products - shifting the perspectives of what was once thought possible, placing the planet at the core of all their decisions.
Image Design by Two Fellas Media
Images of the horrific impacts of single-use plastics on our sea-creatures circulate our social media feeds. And while we are encouraged to swap out our plastic straws to save the turtles, Carolina outlines that the reality is far more stark: “75 percent of the waste is at the bottom of the ocean, so you don’t actually see it. But fishermen are collecting it.”
Upon realising that we are not even close to comprehending the tip of the ice-berg of the severity of the pollution in our oceans, ECOALF saw a huge opportunity to place the planet at the core of their business model. Approaching fishermen to start to collect the trash in the oceans, ECOALF realised that they could recycle it in a way that feeds into a more circular model. The brand embarked on their Upcycling the Oceans Initiative in 2016 with the support of the HAP Foundation. Through this initiative, ECOALF feeds into a more circular economy, collecting the trash, classifying it and then reintegrating it back into the loop by developing a sneaker or a garment.
Image by Ecoalf
Carolina dives deeper into the project, sharing the three objectives that it tackles - primarily eliminating the debris from the bottom of our ocean, promoting a more circular economy by transforming waste into top quality yarn, and educating people on the global problem posed by marine litter. Not only does this project have three action points - it also filters deep into consumer awareness - from the fishermen to the consumers. “For us, it's about story-doing and finding cutting proof. That's another thing - sustainability is about responsibility and it's about little steps and improving, improving every season or every day,” Carolina shares.
“The project started with 3 fishermen in the south coast of Spain,” Carolina shares. “Today it has expanded across the whole coast of Spain, the Mediterranean coast, to more than 40 ports. We have replicated the model in Thailand, Greece and Italy. We have collaborated with more than 3000 fishermen and we have already collected more than 700 tonnes from the bottom of the ocean.”
"We have collaborated with more than 3000 fishermen and we have already collected more than 700 tonnes from the bottom of the ocean."
Image by Ecoalf
Today, ECOALF has managed to develop over 450 fabrics using waste such as plastic bottles from the bottom of the ocean, recycled tyres, cotton, wool and recycled nylon. “We are not so much a storytelling company, we are a story-doing company. We want to tell you about the problems in the ocean, but we want to tackle that problem. And give you solutions on how to tackle that problem. So I think for us it’s about being very honest, very humble and very transparent,” she says.
But this is not something that can be accomplished in isolation.
Carolina goes on to reinforce that she believes that governments still have a vital role to play in stimulating more sustainable and circular business models. This would be instrumental in forcing brands to rethink their current business models by placing the planet at the core while accelerating projects such as ECOALF’s Upcycling the Oceans Initiative, and THE GUESTLIST’s Cashmere Spa and Wool Recycling Initiative. Carolina shares, “You cannot just have one department called Corporate Social Responsibility or the Sustainability Department. It needs to be integrated across everything that we do. Furthermore, it is a responsibility of all of us. Not just in the industry, in all the industries in our lives. So I think we are stakeholders but we have different levels.”
Image by Ecoalf
As a brand, ECOALF also focuses on consumer education - through initiatives such as Recycling Black Friday where the brand urges consumers to buy less but buy better, and to understand what’s behind a recycled product. Consumer’s choices have far-reaching impacts - extending across industries. Consumers also have a responsibility to never stop asking questions. Carolina believes transparency, in this regard, is crucial. It facilitates a positive cycle - pushing companies to improve internally while further educating consumers. Carolina encourages business owners to help consumers to understand, and seek to answer the questions such as “Where is this coming from? How is it being made? What does it mean? And how much impact are we generating with this?”
In light of the current pandemic, Carolina believes that one of the positive things that came from it included the benefits to the earth, as well as our mindsets. We were forced to reflect and slow down. She shares, “These amazing images have emerged when we stop. So I think it has made us reflect on how we are doing things, how we are in a very fast-paced environment, how we need to value time, what we do and how we do things. And how everything has an impact. And we only have one planet so we need to take care of it, especially for the future generations.” Despite the positive imagery during this period of reflection, Carolina believes that there is still an existing gap between consumer’s mindsets and habits. This further motivates ECOALF’s aims: to tackle this approach by not just telling people of the multiple problems that exist but actually showcasing solutions - feeding into their story-doing approach.
It is ECOALF’s story-doing approach that extends across oceans, industries, and into consumer’s mindsets. It makes this pioneering brand a positive force in the fashion industry. Coupled with their business model that places the plant at the core, ECOALF is creating a space for tangible change.
To discover more about ECOALF's business model read the first part of our interview with Carolina.