Our Sustainability Self Audit

Sustainability is a huge topic and although it is a term that is bandied around quite a lot, the various branches and nuances of what 'sustainable practice' means, particularly in the fashion industry, are more complex than they may at first appear.

Louisa, our director, has been attending a Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership course to learn more about the topic from an academic and industry perspective and has done a mini sustainability audit for Studio Courtenay using what she's worked out from her first week of lessons and workshops.

Operational Challenges

Harmful fabric Usage

How are we doing? 4/10

We need to cut down on the virgin raw materials we use and find a way to source more deadstock or environmentally certified fabrics that are affordable for our stage of operating. 

Resource intensiveness

How are we doing? 7/10

Upcycled Fabric Floral Notebook

For our larger studio offcuts we work with a London-based company to repurpose them into notebooks and stretch headbands. We make our padded headbands in-house and our scrunchies are made by a friend in Sunderland in her home. We do need to find a way to more frequently recycle our fibres/smaller offcuts as we currently bring them to a textile recycling scheme about once every few months and they are sitting in our studio until then.

We think we will reach out to Enviroclothes to see if they have a solution to suggest. All of our buttons are from a bulk donation of deadstock pieces so we do not need to source any of these for the foreseeable future.

Opaque Supple Chain

How are we doing? 6/10

We work with a local maker who has a small number of staff and operates from premises in both Whitley Bay and Wallsend. However we are not always on-site when garments are being made. We make some items in-house in our own studio, for example the collars and padded headbands. We also do some sampling in-house with deadstock fabrics (sometimes even old duvet covers)

We need to do more research into where some of our larger orders of fabric come from, as our deadstock vintage pieces are all individually sourced from markets/shops/auctions etc. 

Labour Standards

How are we doing? 10/10

The Alicia Knitted Cropped Camisole

We are confident with our supplier that we have pre-existing relationships with that the work undertaken is done so in clean, safe premises adhering to the necessary COVID-19 safety standards. We pay our suppliers promptly every time they invoice us (within 72 hours most of the time).

Mindset Challenges

Short Termism

How are we doing? 6/10

As a small self-funded business, it is difficult to not do things for the sake of bringing in money NOW and focussing on longer term visions without compromising on sustainable values. We have taken out a bounceback loan this month to secure our rent on our premises for the next few months, so this will give us a degree of freedom with any capital we generate.

Pandering to the Trend Cycle 

How are we doing? 10/10

Although we create our garments with seasonal needs in mind, we sell and market them as year round products that are not to be worn once and discarded. 

Garments made from end-of-line fabrics

What next?

Overall, the aim is to become neutral in some areas and net positive in others in terms of how we are meeting our responsible practices. At the moment we are doing very well in some areas (worker wellbeing, resource recycling) and less well in others (resource intensiveness, supply chain transparency).

We might make this mini sustainability audit a regular blog post in future so it forces us to sit down every month and assess our performance, until we scale to the point of being able to bring in a third party to do the same! A big thank you is due to Shaunie Brett of Sussed Consulting for a really interesting and activating first workshop.