THE PLANET, THE PEOPLE, THE PROFIT - ECOALF'S CIRCULAR 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 couldn’t be more excited to have spoken to Carolina Álvarez-Ossorio, Head of Marketing and Communications at ECOALF. We delve into this brand that is making waves through their Upcycling the Oceans Initiative, as they start to disrupt linear business models, and form more circular ones.
ECOALF was founded in 2009 by Javier Goyeneche who had a very clear mission and vision. The name “ECOALF” comes from the initials of his two sons, named after his sons, Alfredo and Álvaro - which ties into his vision of using resources more sustainably so that they are there for future generations to use. With this trans-generational frame of mind, he sought to create a new generation of recycled products with the same quality and design as non-recycled products. His unwavering commitment to this vision has resulted in ECOALF being a leading Spanish brand - especially when it comes to recycling.
It is well known that the fashion industry is one of the biggest pollutants in the world, and Javier realised that the fashion industry - as it is currently - just isn’t working. Carolina states that 75% of the fashion that is produced ends up in landfill sites, while 95% could have been recycled or reused. With these statistics in mind, there is a huge opportunity for more positive transformation to take place.
However, to do this, Javier realised that he needed to change the mindset of consumers who believe recycled clothes are of lesser quality than their counterparts. He spent the coming years travelling the planet, meeting different people, seeking out the innovation and inspiration to transform waste into recycled materials. His mission, quite literally, was to turn trash into treasure! Carolina shares: “Today we developed over 450 fabrics using waste such as plastic bottles from the bottom of the ocean with our Upcycling the Oceans project - using recycled tyres, cotton, wool, and recycled nylon. All this waste that some people regard as trash - we see as raw materials, we see their value. And, with a little investment, ideas and innovation, we can create high-quality garments. So for me, it’s not so much about what we do, but more about how we do it and the impact.”
Image by Ecoalf
"All this waste that some people regard as trash - we see as raw materials, we see their value."
ECOALF is going against the current linear model of fast fashion, says Carolina, sharing that: “For us, it has always been about going against the current business model. This business model doesn’t work.” Reinforcing this statement, she shares that every year they launch a campaign against Black Friday called Recycling Black Friday, where they showcase the impact of the fashion industry and urge people to drastically reduce their consumption, contrary to what other fast-fashion giants are promoting.
But we were curious to find out - how can businesses balance profitability and sustainability? Carolina is convinced that: “When we make decisions that are good for the plant, they end up being good for the business.” When you think of sustainability and profitability - you shouldn’t think of the imminent effects but rather of the short to long term effects. “We need new KPI’s to be integrated into profitability that are based on sustainability, because in the end - it’s the 3 P’s. It’s the people, the planet and profit. And at the core, we have the planet.”
“We need new KPI’s to be integrated into profitability that are based on sustainability, because in the end - it’s the 3 P’s.
It’s the people, the planet and profit.
And at the core, we have the planet.”
And for ECOALF, all decisions should be based on the core of your business. For example, fleece was one of their top-selling products until they discovered that fleece was one of the main microfilament polluters in the world. They immediately stopped producing fleece - putting the planet over profit. Their mindset and business model has resulted in ECOALF receiving B Corp Certification, which measures sustainability in companies across every angle - from how they work with partners, right through to how they do things. Carolina explains it is much more than just a certification, “It’s using business as a force for good. It’s basically certifying companies that don’t want to be the best companies in the world but the best companies for the world.”
“It’s using business as a force for good. It’s basically certifying companies that don’t want to be the best companies in the world but the best companies for the world.”
Image by Ecoalf
Indeed, as shared on WIPO, the company’s campaign featuring the slogan “BECAUSE THERE IS NO PLANET B” has become a mass movement that has garnered support from hundreds of people the world over, who all share the same message, increasing visibility of the need to protect the planet. The aim of the campaign is to mobilize people, unite them and act on behalf of the planet, because there is no planet B. With more than twenty-six thousand #becausethereisnoplanetb posts and hundreds of people joining the movement by signing the manifesto and sharing their photo, the campaign is giving a voice to all those who care about the oceans and who, like ECOALF, fight for solutions and help raise public awareness.
And while the good intentions of thrifting and renting clothing have become popular, recent insights have emerged to show that the transportation of goods in this new trend can have more of a negative impact than buying new clothes - not to mention that consumers don’t know where the clothing goes after they have given it away or sold it on. This perspective shows us how we, as humanity, really need to get into the roots of our impact. When asked about the true impact of recycling clothing, Carolina explained that: “Everything at the end has an impact. We try to make sure that everything has a minimal impact. And at the end, we need to think of circularity. It all starts with the design.” To elaborate on this, Carolina shares that 95% of the impact of the garment is done at the design stage.
“Everything at the end has an impact. We try to make sure that everything has a minimal impact. And at the end, we need to think of circularity. It all starts with the design.”
Highlighting the importance of exceptional design, the next part of making less of an impact involves the composition of your clothes and where are they coming from. Lastly, the material that is used needs to be of the highest quality possible. In a sense, the design has the end (or lack thereof) in mind to ensure that clothes can stay in the loop - essentially extending the life cycle of a garment.
Image by Ecoalf
While ECOALF is taking confident strides towards circularity, Carolina is clear to state that they haven’t closed the loop yet. This is why ECOALF aims to introduce a programme for when a garment has reached the end of its wearable life. She explains that ECOALF wants to: “Introduce the process of repair services to collect the products that you don’t want to use anymore and find a way to recycle them to give them another life. Which, for me, is closing the loop and bringing it back into the system again so it has an endless life cycle.” These are shared values that THE GUESTLIST’s Cashmere’s Spa wants to achieve - by offering professional services to repair high-quality garments, keeping the materials and resources in the loop.
While ECOALF is moving full-speed ahead towards a more circular future, Carolina says that: “We are still a small company although we are making a lot of noise. But we depend on the big players in the industry to really shift the way the fashion industry is going - and we need to shift it urgently.”
Read the second part of our conversation to find out more about ECOALF’s story - especially the far-reaching impact of their Upcycling the Oceans Initiative - crossing oceans and filtering into consumer awareness.