"We are engaged in and committed to continual change and improvement. Our goals and roadmap are clear and so much has already been achieved. Together with our team we will continue to push forward with positive change. Better products and a better business for a healthier planet."
Our Commitment to Transparency
This is our third annual transparency report. It details how we operate as a fashion business and highlights our ethical and environmental journey. It looks at our internal operations, our people and the culture that make ELK a unique Australian brand. It serves as a public statement around our commitment to running a business with transparency, honesty and integrity, and tracks our progress against our 2025 goals.
From our founders
Dr Martin Rice from the Australian Climate Council once said, “we have the power and the creativity to design the solutions”. Now, the fashion industry has more solutions available than ever before and there is no reason for any brand to resist improvement. At ELK, our decision over 7 years ago to drive change has seen us make great progress on the journey to reduce our environmental impact.
The last 12 months have been tough on everyone. Globally there has been a real reckoning of priorities which has seen a solid shift towards more measured consumption; be it food, consumer goods, travel or fashion. Happily, many people have made positive, life-changing alterations looking for a simpler, more considered existence. This is true for us as we have seen greater engagement from our customers and an eagerness to learn more about our products, materials and makers.
More broadly it is brilliant to see that sustainable fashion has become a normal conversation. The spirit of industry collaboration is stronger than ever and we need to make sure that there is just as much action as there is talk. We need to offer honest, transparent information, avoiding greenwashing at all costs. There are still some major industry challenges that we face – a lack of recycling solutions, access to materials and consumer education amongst other things.
This, our third annual transparency report, provides an update on our progress as we continue transforming our products and operations into better versions of themselves. We offer an inside view into what makes us tick, detail our goals, highlight our wins and lay out the challenges ahead. There is so much opportunity for positive change and that’s what we are focused on.
Marnie Goding and Adam Koniaras, ELK Co-founders
Our Commitment to Transparency
We generated 71 MWh of clean, renewable solar power on-site through 2020. Additional electricity is certified carbon neutral and purchased from Powershop.
We successfully applied for a $20K grant under the Australian Government Energy Efficient Communities Program. We are using these funds to improve the energy efficiency of our warehouses.
In March 2020, ELK, along with over 350 other groups and businesses – signed an open letter urging Premier Andrews to set strong Victorian climate targets for 2025 and 2030.
Pack 4 Good
In June 2020 we joined the Canopy Pack4Good initiative, committing to ensure all paper-based packaging does not come from ancient and endangered forests.
81% of all ELK packaging and printed items used in 2020 was made from recycled materials, with 99% either recyclable or compostable.
Our plastic garment bags have been replaced with a certified, sustainably forested paper bag. This will reduce our single-use plastics by up to 1,500kg annually.
Our 2020 buy was made up of 39% preferred materials, up from 25% in 2019. Class A preferred materials increased to 8% of our 2020 total, up from 2% in 2019.
Certified organic cotton made up 41% of our total cotton use in 2020, up from 29% in 2019. We have also made progress toward incorporating Australian cotton into upcoming ranges.
66% of our man-made cellulosic fibres (MMCFs) in 2020 came from CanopyStyle ‘green shirt’ ranked producers, an increase from 33% in 2019.
In 2020 $76K was donated to a range of inspiring organisations and causes. An additional $9.3K was raised for UNICEF through the support of our generous customers.
The ELK community raised over $28K for a range of bushfire relief initiatives, including $11K for the Kangaroo Island Glossy Black-Cockatoo Recovery Program.
From our Ethics & Sustainability
After a difficult year that saw severe drought, bushfires and floods across Australia as well as a global pandemic, we want to focus on the positive and are pleased to share our achievements over the past 12 months and progress against our 2025 sustainability goals.
The greatest progress was made within our own operations. We have significantly reduced our electricity use and we are extremely proud that 81% of the packaging we used in 2020 was recycled, with 99% either recyclable or compostable.
The results of the past two years of re-thinking the materials we work with was evident in our 2020 ranges, with more ELK preferred fibres used. We also continued to give back to our communities with donations to charity partners more than doubling in 2020.
Whilst we want to celebrate our wins, we don’t want to overlook the challenges of the past 12 months. Our retail stores were closed for 6 months, production volumes were around 50% less than the previous year, and most of us had to adjust to working remotely. This has slowed progress in some areas, but as our business is recovering from the COVID disruptions we are able to take stock and prioritise these projects again.
Our commitment to setting ambitious targets and transforming our business to be a force for good remains strong. There is still much work to be done, but we believe that being a responsible, purpose led business is more relevant than ever to ensure that ELK is resilient and sustainable into the future.
We look forward to a future where responsible business is the norm rather than the exception.
Ethics & Sustainability Manager
Our ethical &
To responsibly create products that are good for people and our planet. To support traditional trades and a circular economy whilst ensuring the creation of safe, fair and inclusive work. To operate ethically and transparently, minimise our environmental footprint and promote positive social practices.
approach to the SDGs
The United Nations have developed a set of 17 goals for ending poverty, improving health and education, addressing inequality, sustainable economic growth, tackling climate change and preserving our oceans and forests. We have aligned our 2025 goals and actions with these UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Although our strategy touches on many of the SDGs, we have identified the goals that as a fashion business we believe we can contribute to in a meaningful way.
Elk 2025 Goals
We will continue to review and add to these goals as we progress our strategy in various areas.
We will be a carbon neutral and zero waste business1
SDGS 7, 12, 13, 14, 15
We will trace and publish 100% of our defined tiers 1 - 4 suppliers
Packaging + Printing
100% of packaging + printed materials will be either reusable, recyclable, or compostable
SDGS 3, 12, 14, 15
100% of our core suppliers will have globally recognised social or environmental credentials2
SDGS 5, 6, 8, 12, 13, 17
Paper + Cardboard
At least 60% recycled or next generation paper fibre content, with all virgin paper fibres FSC certified3
SDGS 3, 12, 15, 17
Our products will be made with at least 80% environmentally preferred materials4
SDGS 6, 12, 14, 15
We will eliminate problematic single-use plastics from our packaging
SDGS 3, 12, 14, 15
At least 20% of our fibres and materials will be from recycled sources5
SDGS 6, 12, 14, 15
1. This means 100% of waste generated from our direct business operations will be diverted from landfill.
2. Core suppliers are our direct product suppliers with greater than USD$50K annual spend. Acceptable social or environmental credentials include certifications such as SA8000, Fairtrade, Fair Wear Foundation, WRAP, and B-Corporation, as well as participation in Better Work or Sustainable Apparel Coalition HIGG Index programs.
3. This applies to packaging and printed materials, and includes post-consumer recycled fibres and fibres from agricultural residues.
4. As defined by our ELK Preferred Fibres and Materials Guide.
5. As percentage of total annual materials usage, by weight.
Products + Materials
With our greatest environmental footprint coming from our products and the materials that we choose to work with, we are working hard to redesign our products and transition to using more environmentally preferred fibres and materials.
Our preference is to work with natural materials that are renewable and biodegradable, and where synthetic is required we are seeking out certified recycled options.
We are mapping our supply chain to better understand where our materials come from and how they are produced, so that we can identify opportunities for improvement.
Total 2020 material use by weight* across all product categories
*Figures based on 2020 unit purchases, product weight and composition. Where data was not available, we have used averages to calculate as accurately as possible. Data excludes trims and hardware. ^MMCF: Man-made cellulosic fibres
Material Sourcing Guide
To guide our design team when fabrications are being sourced for our seasonal collections, we have put together an ELK Preferred Fibres and Materials guide which breaks down the materials that we work with by category based on their ethical and environmental credentials, as well as our approach to sourcing responsibly. The A & B categories make up our preferred fibres and materials, aligned with our 2025 materials goals. Our aim is that by 2025, ELK products will be made with a minimum of 80% ELK preferred materials.
elk preferred materials and fibres
These low impact materials are our first choice for ELK products, and include options that are renewable, biodegradable, recycled, as well as sustainably grown and processed.
of our 2020 material buy by weight was rated top performer
elk preferred materials and fibres
These materials have strong environmental credentials, and are a better choice than most. Where a top performer is not available, we consider these to be a great option.
of our 2020 Material buy by weight was rated Great option
Could be better
We will continue our search for more sustainable or certified options for these materials.
of our 2020 material buy by weight was rated could be better
We are working to phase these materials out, however if they are needed for performance and a better option isn't available, we will use them if less than 10% of the total composition.
of our 2020 Material buy by weight was rated phasing out
These materials are not produced in an ethical or environmentally responsible way, and we will not use them.
of our 2020 material buy by weight was rated we avoid
We are still researching these materials and will look to rate them in the future.
of our 2020 Material buy by weight was rated still researching
A Global Family
Supply Chain: Responsible Sourcing
We are committed to mapping our entire supply chain and tracing our fibres and materials right back to their origin, ensuring our products are made responsibly, with regard for workers, animals and the environment.
We work with a range of makers across different product categories and production countries. Our preference is to work with suppliers who are going over and above compliance and implementing responsible social and environmental practices.
Each of our suppliers is at a different stage of their sustainability journey, with some just beginning the process and a handful well advanced and showing real innovation and leadership. We want to bring our makers on this journey with us and work collaboratively with them to support the workers who make our products and reduce environmental impact.
Mapping Our Supply Chain
We are committed to mapping our supply chain and tracing our fibres and materials right back to their origin, and ensuring that our products are made responsibly, with regard for workers, animals and the environment.
By 2025, our goal is to have our supply chain fully mapped and published and 100% of our core direct suppliers with credible, globally recognised, social or environmental certifications.
Tier one suppliers are our product manufacturers who cut, sew, and assemble our products.
We have mapped
of our tier one supply chain (manufacturers)
Tier two suppliers are our mills, dyehouses, printers, tanneries, and trims and hardware suppliers.
We have mapped
of our tier two supply chain (material finishers)
Tier three suppliers are our raw material processors including staple fibre producers, ginners and spinners and abattoirs.
We have mapped
of our tier three supply chain (material processors)
Tier four suppliers are our raw material producers including farms and forests.
We have mapped
of our tier four supply chain (material producers)
We value diversity, and will promote inclusiveness through our employment practices, product design and marketing.
Diversity is a broad and complex area, and we recognise that we still have a lot to learn about how we can be a truly inclusive business. We will take the time to ensure we are implementing meaningful and sustainable change in our business; we do not want our efforts to be token.
We are proud of the significant representation of women across our Senior Leadership Team, and our ability to role model flexibility across all levels of our business.
The models and influencers we worked with through 2020 represented a range of ages, cultural backgrounds, and sizes. A highlight was working with Elizabeth for our Jardin range and upcoming Collector range, who was modelling for the first time at age 89.
2020 key charity partners
2020 TOTAL DONATIONS
We continued to support UNICEF as a Platinum contributor to their Champion for Children program. With the support of our generous customers, we donated just over $20K to UNICEF in 2020. In June 2020 we were also extremely proud to reach the milestone of having raised more than $225K in total for UNICEF since 2011.
2020 ELK donation = $11,300
ASYLUM SEEKER RESOURCE CENTRE
In response to government guidelines to wear face coverings in public to help reduce the spread of COVID-19, we have produced masks from our remnant fabric. These are being sold through our stores and online, with 100% of the profits donated directly to the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC). We are pleased to have raised $3,900 for the ASRC through the mask sales in 2020.
2020 ELK donation = $3,900 (paid in 2021)
We are donating $2 from every online order to Victorian not-for-profit TREEPROJECT to support their revegetation work. Every $2 donation supports the planting of a seedling, and the donations from our 2020 online orders will assist in planting more than 26,000 seedlings across Victoria over the coming year.
2020 ELK donation = $33,664
AUSTRALIAN RED CROSS
From November 2019 to January 2020, we ran an online fundraiser for Red Cross Australia, with all contributions from staff, customers, and the broader ELK community matched dollar for dollar by ELK. Together we donated $12,000 to support the essential work that Red Cross Australia are doing to provide affected communities with immediate emergency relief and support their recovery over the coming months and years.
2020 ELK donation = $6,015
The 2020 summer bushfires had a devastating impact on our native animals with so much forest and bushland destroyed. To support the tireless work being done by Wildlife Victoria to rescue and rehabilitate injured wildlife in the aftermath, and longer term to restore and protect their habitats, the ELK team raised $240 during a morning tea bake-off with an additional $5,000 being donated by ELK.
2020 ELK donation = $5,000
To support rehabilitation efforts for the critically endangered glossy black cockatoo in the aftermath of the extensive bushfires on Kangaroo Island in South Australia, we teamed up with local illustrator Meeri Anneli to create a limited-edition tee. Meeri took her inspiration from photographer Jan Wegner who photographed this beautiful bird in its native habitat. 100% of profits earned from the sale of the tees were donated to the Kangaroo Island Glossy Black-Cockatoo Recovery Program via the Nature Foundation SA. The response to this initiative was overwhelming, and we raised over $11,000 to support this unique and beautiful bird.
2020 ELK donation = $11,817
We are taking action on climate change by investing in renewable energy, installing energy efficient lighting and equipment, increasing our recycling and composting our organic waste. We are also redesigning our packaging and printing to have a lighter environmental footprint.
Carbon emissions for our energy, waste and travel are 100% offset through a combination of purchasing carbon neutral electricity through Powershop and carbon credits from China Wind Projects.
*This figure represents the partial carbon footprint for ELK operations, covering scopes 1, 2 and 3 emissions from our electricity and gas use, fuel consumption, waste, flights and staff travel.
Elk electricity 2020
(ALMOST) PLASTIC FREE
Our online packaging has been redesigned to eliminate single-use plastics and increase recycled content. It is now almost entirely plastic free, using a combination of 100% recycled cardboard cartons, perforated recycled kraft wrap and home compostable mailing satchels.
We are incredibly proud that two of our 2025 goals have already been met based on our 2020 results and we will continue to work on improving our packaging and introducing more reusable options and Next Generation materials.