Entretien avec Antoine Joint, client Hast et directeur chez Utopies®

Interview with Antoine Joint, Hast customer and director at Utopies®

Read time 6

At a time when climate issues are increasingly permeating general policies from one country to another, brands are striving to rethink their processes. This is the case with Hast. These issues are our priorities. In order to improve our impact on the environment, we recently collaborated with the French agency Utopies© whose studies make it possible to develop tailor-made environmental strategies. Before revealing the precise content of the work carried out with Utopies in a future post, Antoine, consulting director of the agency, spoke to our newspaper.

The Utopies agency has been affiliated with the B Corp community since 2014. What does this mean precisely?

B Corp is at the same time a community, a label and a reference launched by Americans which makes it possible to clearly certify the social and ecological impacts of a company. More concretely, it is a demanding, comprehensive questionnaire which contains two hundred questions in order to analyze the effects that a company has on its surroundings. It’s about knowing whether a company’s business is inherently positive or not. Ultimately, this helps companies direct their activities in such a way that they can do good around them in some way. Doing business is not a dirty word. We can do it well.

Is the textile industry considered polluting?

The textile industry is the fourth most polluting sector in the world. It's first and foremost a matter of components. To make clothing, we use raw materials that are extremely polluting. These are materials that are of animal origin, such as leather or wool. There are always brands that are surprised to find that they are polluting because their products contain this kind of material when we usually think that this is something noble. If we focus for a moment on wool, it is a polluting material because large-scale sheep farming is a polluting activity. The transformation of matter is also polluting. When we weave wool, when we tan leather, when we wash fabric, we consume a lot of energy, electricity and water. According to a study by the Quantis agency, dyeing represents 64% of the CO2 emissions involved in the production of a t-shirt. Thirdly, a brand that organizes the transport of its collections by plane does not, in fact, have a very positive impact on the environment. Some brands can have 20% of their greenhouse gas emissions linked to the fact that they integrate aircraft a lot into their activities, because there are always new prototypes, new collections to transport, but also delays on the production line which require delivering to stores at once, more quickly, thanks to the plane. In these cases, transport is a very polluting moment in the work of a brand. Flying is a concern that people are increasingly aware of. It's not always easy to stop air logistics, but it's still easier to do that than to start making a product with vegan leather or any recycled fabric.

As part of a strategy to reduce a fashion brand's greenhouse gas emissions, are there any surprising issues?

The relocation of production activities is not necessarily synonymous with improving a carbon footprint, for example. If you move a textile factory located in Taiwan to Poland, you have to be careful. In Poland, electricity consumption will be very coal-based and therefore there will be a lot of carbon emissions. And then, to bring the product from Poland to France, we will not be able to take the boat: we will have to use the plane or road transport and much more than if it were only a question of rolling trucks from the port of Haven, for example. But if one day we institute a real carbon tax at the borders of the European Union, it might be more financially interesting to resettle in Poland, yes.

What summary can you give us of the study work you carried out for Hast?

We managed to collect data for every type of product, from formal shirt to classic shirt . For each product, we have listed the type of fabric and the yardage of fabric needed to make it. We wanted to know if it was linen, cotton, organic cotton. We took into account what this implies in terms of production, with spinning and manufacturing, but also in terms of distribution to storage sites and then sales. We were interested in washing and ironing each product, too. Until the end of their life, when they are nothing more than waste. We can therefore conclude that Hast produces, for example, 178 tonnes of Co2 per collection. We also know how this figure is distributed according to the products. We really go into detail. For the production of a formal shirt, for example, we know that there are 10 kilos of Co2 released into the air. Of these 10 kilos, 6.3 come from factory manufacturing and 3.6 come from the use of raw materials. We know that shirts which are 100% cotton have a weight of 13 kilos of Co2. 11 kilos for the one that is 90% cotton and 10% linen. We also know that socks and underwear have a greater impact on the environment than other items because these are products that are washed and rewashed. In this survey, something surprised me: I did not expect that the use of organic linen would reduce greenhouse gas emissions so much compared to cotton. Linen production requires less water than cotton, so there are fewer treatments in agriculture. And then it's a lighter material - weight is a factor that counts in calculating emissions. But we still have a problem to solve: in the textile industry, it is still difficult to precisely identify the origin of classic raw materials. We don't know precisely where the cotton comes from. Many brands buy their fabric from wholesale sellers who, in turn, buy it on markets where fabric comes from all over the world, with a whole bunch of intermediaries. Impossible to know where all this comes from. To be able to trace the origin of materials as best as possible, certain luxury houses integrate the entire chain: they buy cotton fields, they develop partnerships with specific producers. But only the big market players are capable of doing that.

What are the main levers that must be activated in order to improve your carbon strategy?

For some brands, reducing their carbon footprint simply means finding an alternative to the main fabric of their collection. For a shoe brand, for example, it's about using something other than leather and, obviously, it's not that simple. We can review our logistics chain, fly less, but we will also have to make an effort in research and development to test new materials, such as vegetable leather. It's something that takes time. This is a real difficulty for certain brands. In the case of Hast, to develop a less carbon-intensive offer, it will be necessary to identify suppliers who will offer organic and recycled fabrics. But it will cost more and more because these are products in high demand. There will be tension on supplies. At a simpler level, we can also set up contracts with renewable electricity suppliers for logistics warehouses. This is already a first step towards reducing its carbon footprint.

Is carbon neutrality achievable in fashion?

The climate problem is first and foremost an energy problem. When China commits to achieving carbon neutrality in 2050, it is not trivial at all. The Chinese want to close coal-fired power stations to replace them with hydraulic or nuclear power. As a result, suppliers of French brands who work in China will necessarily be less carbon intensive. And the carbon footprint of these brands will drop immediately. They will benefit from initiatives that they could not implement on their own. It's complicated to change the Chinese energy mix when you're a small brand. If this really happens, it would be an extremely positive step. I don't think we'll be able to achieve carbon neutrality anytime soon, but I'm pretty optimistic about the future. We consume more and more second-hand products, we buy better and better, uses change.