Varusteleka’s goal is Total World Domination. Conquering the world is kinda tricky if there’s no habitable planet left. While we like to think we’re on the right side, we still have a lot of things to do before we get to call ourselves a sustainable business.
All our actions consume non-renewable resources and cause pollution. The climate crisis should have been solved like, yesterday, and that’s why we have begun our efforts to reduce irresponsibility from getting rid of our adverse climate effects and minimizing our other environmental effects. The toolpack looks like this:
- Material efficiency, i.e. using less destructive materials the most efficiently in products and packaging
- Responsible purchasing, taking the environment into account also in production
- Making durable products suitable for circular economy
- Figuring out, following, and minimizing the emissions from logistics
Our irresponsibility efforts are done the same way we do everything else: tackle tasks head-on, do stuff we can be proud of, share knowledge and experiences, and be on the side of the good guys.
Our efforts for reducing irresponsibility started with the launch of the Unethicality Program for 2019-2021. The theme was reconnaissance and we started to map out our unethicality and plan changes in order to reduce it. In this work we were guided by Ekokompassi-certification body, and we have reported to them about our progress and environmental measures every year.
- Operation Unethicality Program: Recon
- Operation Unethicality Program: On Our Carbon Footprint 2019
- Operation Unethicality Program: Carbon Footprint 2020
- Operation Unethicality Program: Carbon Footprint 2021
- Irresponsibility Report 2022
The target has now been locked, and we aim for the irresponsibility work to become a routine part of our daily work.
Since everything else is pointless if the planet becomes a fiery inferno, the key measure of our progress is the carbon footprint. Our goal is to achieve the so-called net-zero in 2030: we must at least halve the emissions from our own operations by 2025 and the emissions from our supply chain by 2030. The year 2021 works as a baseline. In addition, the emissions that we can’t get rid of will be offset as usual.
The Scope of Emission Calculations
We include in our emissions those clearly a result of our business operations, meaning:
- The energy use of our building, waste, business travel and commuting
- The manufacturing and transport of our brand products
- Shipping of all orders from our webstore as well as packaging
So, the things currently excluded are:
- Logistics emissions from the transport compensated by the transport company themselves, we have thus far included only those we compensate for ourselves
- The emissions from manufacturing and transport of products made by other brands
- Use and end of use of products
- In addition we have at the moment excluded the energy used by our webstore servers, since the service provider only uses renewables or compensates for the emissions if that is not possible
The point here is to not get stuck in fine-tuning the calculations, but using our finite resources on actually reducing the emissions.
Development of Company Emissions
Product Carbon Footprints
In addition, we have calculated the estimated product-level carbon footprints for the vast majority of the products manufactured for our own brands, in practice almost all textile products. The footprint is visible in the webstore. In the name of transparency, we have discussed in detail the calculation method that takes into account the used materials and the emissions from the energy use of the fabric and the final product’s countries of origin. The estimations have been made with the help of Compensate. The manufacturing of our brand products as a whole has been included in the company emissions baseline year 2021 retroactively.
Reducing Emissions: Energy Purchases
In 2022 we decided to start purchasing only Finnish wind power for the electricity needs of our premises. Prior to that, we were using nuclear power, which isn't much worse based on the lifecycle emissions and would therefore be a viable option. We did have a problem, however, with the energy provider that was making investments into fossil fuels simultaneously, so we decided to take our bucks somewhere else. In addition, there are solar panels on our rooftop, producing some 1-2% of the building's annually consumed energy.
Also since 2022 we’ve decided to purchase the corresponding amount of our district heating energy use in waste heat. Even though this waste heat does not technically heat our building, by buying our share of this recycled heat from the markets, it is supposedly incentivizing the production of more emission-free heating. The guarantees of origin ensure that no more waste heat is sold than is being produced.
If we may, a word on energy and emission calculations. We always calculate the emissions from energy according to the lifecycle emissions, instead of the specific emissions originating from the energy production. For example, even if no greenhouse gases are emitted from the use of solar panels, the production of the solar panels has caused emissions. These emissions are taken into account and that is why our emissions from the energy use are never going to be zero.
Reducing Emissions: Logistics
We know that our emissions are caused by basically two things: manufacturing products and shipping them to customers around the world. The latter is due to air freight, that we need to get rid of almost entirely. Right now we are looking into options to ship beyond the Atlantic in other ways.
Reducing Emissions: Production
Another big issue is the emissions from manufacturing. Since we are in charge of brand products that make up around half of our sales, we have a good opportunity to influence how they are made and do things a bit better. These products should be made with emission-free energy and from materials less nasty to the environment. In addition, our goal is to further focus the production to Europe, even though the transport from the factories to our warehouse is a fairly small amount of all our emissions.
From the beginning, we have in addition to calculating our emissions also started to offset them with Compensate. Some might call this self-deception, but we deemed it necessary to do something right away before our emission reductions become effective. This way we have a price tag to the negative externalities caused by our business, whereas ruining the atmosphere can be done free of charge in the current system. Getting a bill every year interestingly motivates us to reduce our carbon footprint. Compensate offers us an extensive report on where and how our money has been spent.
The biggest environmental effect in all sorts of production is related to raw material production and water-intensive processes, such as dyeing. In many cases, these raw materials are produced in the other end of the world, and we have little control over what happens in the process. That is why we continuously try to increase the share of less environmentally awful materials in our product selection, without having to compromise functionality.
Materials are a complicated matter, and both natural and synthetic raw materials have their pro's and con's. Even we do not have the Real Truth about the issue. Any material, when produced in massive quantities and then gotten rid of without recycling or re-using, is harmful. On the other hand, it is pretty dumb to create an item from materials that are in no way suitable for the desired use. When it comes to materials, there are many approaches to evaluating their sustainability. Regarding textiles, we have decided to concentrate on intensity of emissions from production and damage to the environment e.g. due to the use of water and chemicals.
In our wisdom and with some guidance, we have determined organic cotton, lyocell and linen, as well as the recycled versions of polyester, polyamide, cotton, and wool to be less awful materials. This means that the rest, conventional cotton, wool, viscose and all virgin poly-things, like polyesters, polyamides, polyurethane and polypropylene - the list goes on- have been deemed as less nice materials to use.
Mulesing-free merino wool
In our production, we only accept wool from merino sheep that are not put through the mulesing process. In addition, we use alpaca wool as well as recycled wool.
At its best, leather is an excellent, durable material that only gets better with time. Its production can be problematic, for example due to heavy chemical use, and that’s why we only accept European leather. In our Särmä shoes, we use vegetable tanned leather from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania as well as chrome-tanned leather from Slovakia and Slovenia. The leather in Särmä TST shoes also originates from Europe, from Germany and Italy. The belts made for us by Helsingin Olkain Oy are manufactured from Dutch leather. The sheaths for our Terävä-knives are made in Finland out of residual leather from moose and cattle sourced locally. The leather tag of our Särmä -jeans is from Turkey and made from recycled or surplus leather.
When it comes to coatings and other chemicals, there’s still a lot of ground to cover. We’ve made fluorocarbonated DWR treatments our first target, and we have managed to replace PFC in clothing with Bionic Finish. We still use PFC in rainwear and backpacks, but this is the so-called shorter-chained C6 version. It’s byproducts break down faster and are therefore less toxic. In addition, our customers can also choose to add a water repellent coating to their clothes, such as the Windproof items, with our clothing wax.
Ideally, we want to manufacture our products as close to Finland as possible, in countries, where workers’ rights are better monitored and environmental regulations more stringent. We look for partners that are also good guys.
We believe in long partnerships instead of chasing the cheapest option. For example, out of the clothing factories, 40% have been with us for over 5 years, which is quite good for such a young product line.
Our manufacturing is focused in Europe. Below you can see the production of all our brands in different countries based on the relative purchasing volumes in the year 2022:
|Country||Relative purchases, %|
Out of these countries, China and Turkey are considered as risk countries. We have been able to visit our factory in China before the plague in 2019. We conducted a successful recon mission and wrote a report about it. Turkey represents less than a percent of our purchases and the cooperation began in 2019. We have not yet had the chance to visit the factory.
We do not own or operate any factories. We have introduced our partners during the Fashion Revolution Weeks:
- Who made your clothes, part 1, Agtuvi
- Who made your clothes, part 2, M.A.S.I Company
- Who made your clothes, part 3, Zhenpu
- Who made your clothes, part 4, Laurin Metalli
- Who made your clothes, part 5, Jämä
- Who made your clothes, part 6, Sukkamestarit
- Who made your clothes, part 7, Utenos
- Who made your clothes, part 8, Omniteksas
- Who made your clothes, part 9, Kolmituote
- Who made your clothes, part 10, MD-Textil
- Who made your clothes, part 11, Top-Knit
Shoes and boots
Särmä TST shoes and boots are manufactured by Lowa in Slovakia, Italy, and Germany and by Alpina in Slovenia. Särmä shoes and boots are manufactured in Estonia.
To learn more about the leather used in our shoes, check the Materials section.
Terävä knives are made in Finland.
The origin of the fabrics
The "Made in" country on the care label only communicates the final manufacturing phase of the product.
We know the origin of the fabrics for about 86% of our products, so there’s still a ton of work to do since we want to untangle our production chains as far as possible.
Less crap and more circular economy
We think it is dumb to throw away stuff that’s still perfectly fine to use. That’s why we went into the army surplus business in the first place. Surplus still makes up 15-20% of our revenue and if measured in mere volume, we sell more of it than ever. Someone did emit crap while producing this stuff, but we at least extended the lifetime for which the emissions are allocated. However, in addition to army surplus we have a few other fiendish schemes to keep products in circulation.
Our own brands made up some 47 % of our sales in 2020. From the perspective of reducing irresponsibility, we have most power over these products and what kind of basis they are built on. Many things that have an impact on the environment are already determined during the design phase. We want to manufacture items that can endure both time and use.
We do not have weekly seasons nor do we follow changing trends. That’s why we don’t have to get rid of stuff after the made-up season is over. The items are designed to last, and they are only changed when they need improving, not because of fashion. The whole point is to be practical and useful for as many things as possible.
Size charts, adjustability, and sewing services
As the webstore is da shit, our size charts are carefully crafted. We want you to be able to find the right size even without trying anything on. This has resulted in a minimal return rate, only two percent compared to the national average, which is about a third of all purchases.
In addition, e.g. many pants have an adjustable waist, which makes it easier to find the right size and allows you to use the same pants even if the waistline changes. We also have tailoring services that can e.g. cut your pants into shorts and extend the lifetime a bit more. And with our Vaatelaastari Textile Repair Patches, you can repair torn stuff.
Durability and long lifetime
You can also extend the lifetime of items with proper care. We provide instructions on how to care for your purchases and have also compiled a few articles on the care of clothes and shoes.
To back up our durability claims, all our own products have a 12 month warranty. In addition, our Kierto program gives the products a kind of a lifetime warranty, since you can pass the gear that is in good condition to another user and be compensated.
Kierto is our way of stopping useful stuff from flooding peoples’ wardrobes or being incinerated. It also allows our customers to find the stuff they need second-hand. Or actually, multiple-hand, as some of the army surplus is also eligible for the circularity program.
Tunkio means a dungheap in Finnish. Sometimes an item headed to the shelves or a return from our customers has a small defect. It isn’t utter crap but we don’t want to sell it for a full price either. In that case, it ends up in the Tunkio corner in the store with a discounted price. In case we get loads of stuff like this, we organise a Megatunkio event.