Ecoalf Recycled Fabrics S.L.

Our goal is to create the fist generation recycled products with the same quality, design and technical properties as the best non-recycled products. That way we show that there is no need to use our world’s natural resources in a careless way

Sunday 11 June 2017

A. The main facts about the activities of the company.

Ecoalf is a Spanish sustainable fashion company created in 2012 by Javier Goyeneche. They are situated in Madrid and operate online throughout European countries. Ecoalf proudly title themselves as conscious clothing brand that recycles waste such as discarded fishing nets, PET plastic bottles, used tires, coffee, postindustrial cottons and wool to turn it into high quality yarns and components for clothing, accessories and footwear. Along with 14 joint ventures Ecoalf collects waste from the oceans and land from the Mediterranean coast to recycle them to create products that promise to be of highest design and quality.

The HAP foundation which focuses on restoring the damaging effects of plastic pollution has partnered up with Ecoalf and is currently funding restoring projects in our oceans. The recycling processes that Ecoalf uses to convert waste into manufacturing materials are such that it reduces water consumption by 20%, energy by 40%, CO2 emissions by 50% and natural resource consumption by 27%, while significantly reducing marine pollution. Additionally, Ecoalf recycles coffee beans to create high quality fabrics that provide UV protection, fast dry and odor control. This recycling is handled by Ecoalf Foundation, a non-profit organization whose primary goal is to promote the selective recovery, recycling and revaluing of waste in order to prevent its adverse impact on the environment through the development and application of new scientific and technological advancements regarding plastic waste products.

B. The Ethical challenges this company is addressing.

Ecoalf was created to address the issues behind the fast fashion industry and to offer an ethical alternative. Almost all current brands use disgustingly large amounts of natural resources when producing current clothing. Consumers also now go through clothing faster than ever, constantly changing styles by season. Such is the impact of this linear production model, that the fashion industry has been rated as the dirtiest one second only to oil (EcoWatch.com, n.d.).

Therefore, Ecoalf took the initiative to give customers a more sustainable alternative with this clothing line. They are tackling the moral quandary of sacrificing the ability to have cheap resources and instead spend time harvesting trash from the ocean to convert into fashionable clothing. Beyond what Ecoalf is currently doing to create a sustainable product line with renewable resources, their process is also consequent with this vision:

  • The company has approached over twenty eight ports to collect all the trash that fishermen encounter in the ocean.
  • Instead of throwing their unwanted nylon nets into the ocean, as well as other trash they may catch in the sea while fishing with their nets, they give it to Ecoalf at the end of the day.
  • Ecoalf takes the time to sort through these waste products and utilizes recyclable products for their clothing while properly disposing of the other trash.

In this way, Ecoalf is cleaning up Spain’s oceans while fulfilling their social responsibility. However, theirs is not charitable business model: their circular economy approach allows them to maintain their profits as a company through the reduction in input cost and price volatility, as well as to attract a certain type of customer that cares about ethical fashion.

C. What makes you believe this company is really ethical and why you trust it?

Companies like Ecoalf that apply circular economy approaches generally generate very positive impact in terms of sustainability. We really think Ecoalf tries to apply a holistic approach that takes into consideration different societal issues, and is not only looking for the perks of ‘greenwashing’:

  • Regarding the environment, they are committed to reducing ocean waste by using recycled plastic; and whenever necessary, using other sustainable materials like used coffee beans. This is at the core of their business model, not an added aspect of it.
  • Regarding society, they are improving the quality of the Mediterranean sea as well as exporting the business model to Thailand. Their production is kept local so labour practices are overseen by Spanish law, which shows commitment to a fair supply chain.
  • Regarding their philosophy, Ecoalf has an ethical code that we as concerned students share in terms of how the fashion industry works. We have moral concerns regarding fashion industry because of the extreme resource depletion that it causes, and how easy it is for us to ignore the consequences of our purchases. Ecoalf acknowledges these issues, and serves as an example for other young entrepreneurs that share the same values and may now realise sustainable fashion is a viable option.
  • Ethics and transparency go hand in hand. Ecoalf makes an extra effort to educate and inform about their processes and materials via their website and blog, and while this does not necessarily imply good practices, they have received numerous awards that vouch for their savoir-faire, including: “El Confidencial-KPMG” Award for the best initiative in eco-efficiency, Acotex Award for “Best Fashion Shop”, Bid_14 “Fashion Design” and “Design and Sustainability” awards; and “Best Product for Sustainable Development in the Category of SMEs” at The European Business Awards for The Environment. These awards further establish the Ecoalf as a trustworthy company.

D.The possible challenges facing the company in the future and how you think this company may improve.

According to their corporate website, their objective for the future is making sure “everything from manufacturing to raw material, through transportation, is as coherent as possible with [Ecoalf’s] principles”, which means maintaining a limited production but at the same time keeping up with trends in fashion. While Ecoalf is a reputed brand within the sustainability sphere, it is still relatively unknown as a fashion brand.

There is plenty of scope for growth within the sustainability sector, though, as the global market for recycling is expected to increase its value to 35 billion euros by 2020 (Statista, n.d.). Given this business model, one of the challenges is to create pieces that attract regular consumers the same way it attracts environmentally conscious ones. Focusing on timeless pieces and basics as they have been is a good strategy for the core business, but more frequent collaborations with reputed designers or artists (like the 2017 Sybilla collection) could bring more attention to the brand from the fashion industry, which would be needed to a) increase revenue; but also b) create awareness of responsible brands. This would be a big improvement for Ecoalf as a brand.

Therefore, the main challenge for Ecoalf is to keep expanding its brand while maintaining sustainable sourcing and production processes. Manor Group, a long term investor in the field of natural resource efficiency, has recently acquired 65.9% of Ecoalf in February 2017. This will surely increase Ecoalf’s capacity to expand and develop. Due to Manor Group’s reputation, there is more than enough reason to believe they will maintain their Upcycling the Oceans model and keep sourcing plastics from the Mediterranean coast for local production. The company has already agreed to replicate this model in South East Thailand during the next 3 years in collaboration with the local Minister of Tourism, Mr. Yuthasak Supasornha, and the CEO of PTT Global Chemical, Mr. Supattanapong Punmeechaow. This scheme to implement a circular economy could then be continued by the locals thanks to the transfer of skills, creating positive long-term social and environmental impact. Besides, they are also planning to increase the partnerships with Spanish ports to extend the recycling to Southern Spain as well.

Thus, it seems that this company is making substantial efforts to increase its activism and involvement in the promotion of the circular economy, while striving to empower those communities most affected by ocean waste and lack of labour opportunities. As rightly stated by Ecoalf, we need to act because there is no planet B”

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Bibliography

Ecoalf.com. (n.d.). ECOALF | Ropa y complementos elaborados con tejidos reciclados | ECOALF. [online] Available at: https://ecoalf.com [Accessed 26 May 2017].

EcoWatch. (n.d.). Fast Fashion Is the Second Dirtiest Industry in the World, Next to Big Oil. [online] Available at: https://www.ecowatch.com/fast-fashion-is-the-second-dirtiest-industry-in-the-world-next-to-big--1882083445.html [Accessed 26 May 2017].

Manor Group. (n.d.) Manor Group acquires sustainable clothing company Ecoalf Recycled Fabrics SL - News and Articles. Available at: http://www.manor-group.com/en/news-and-articles/news-and-articles/ [Accessed 28 May 2017].

Statista (n.d.). Projected size of the global recycling market from 2011 to 2020 (in billion euros). [online] Available at: https://www.statista.com/statistics/239662/size-of-the-global-recycling-market/ [Accessed 25 May 2017].

Location: Madrid (Spain)

Sector: Wholesale and retail trade

Official website: http://www.ecoalf.com

Key figures:

As a limited liability company, financial information is not publicly available.

They have a physical store in Madrid (Spain), and ship to Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Vatican City, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Gibraltar, Greece, Holland, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, San Marino, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine and the United Kingdom.

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