Every time the second hand completes a full lap of your watch face, over a million plastic drinking bottles have been purchased around the world. The majority of these bottles will end up lost at sea, deep in landfill or en-route to harmful incineration. Outdoor accessory brand, BUFF®, is on a mission to make sure as many of them as possible do not.
They’re more than just talk – BUFF® go above and beyond when it comes to all things sustainability. Alongside their commitment to becoming a B Corp by the end of this year, the brand has recently opened its own tailoring school in Igualada, Spain, where more than 90% of its products are developed. The institute gives an opportunity to individuals who have traditionally struggled to enter local labour markets.
BUFF® refuse to operate in half measures. As part of their Do More Now initiative, they have repurposed more than 35 million bottles into their catalogue of high end adventure wear. What’s more, BUFF® uses 100% renewable electricity and as of 2021 have implemented enough solar panels to produce up to a third of their own energy too.
BUFF® have applied their forward thinking mantra to everything they do, and we’re delighted to introduce them as our latest partner at Blue Earth Summit ‘22. You can read more about the great work they’re doing here.
As part of this year’s summit, BUFF®’s invaluable Sustainability Manager, Marta Torner, will be joining us as part of our ‘Brand Authenticity and Ethical Business Challenges’ panel talk.
Before joining BUFF®, Marta spent the last six years working in sustainability teams across a number of FTSE100 and Fortune500 companies within the tech, finance and fashion space, with her most recent position being manager of Burberry’s climate and energy agenda.
Marta graduated with honours from Maastricht University with a Masters in Sustainability Science and Policy, skills put to immediate use since her arrival at BUFF® earlier this year.
We caught up with Marta to gain a deeper perspective into the work that goes on behind the scenes.
Can you tell us about BUFF®’s sustainability mission and what makes it so unique?
Shared value as a business action strategy has been part of BUFF®’s essence and philosophy since our foundational beginnings 30 years ago (it’s nothing new – and we’re constantly evolving and building on the journey to date!)
Our ‘Do More Now’ sustainability strategy is more than an initiative; it is a mantra and a philosophy. It is our way of manifesting our intention to doing more things now, not tomorrow. It’s a call to action for all of us – internally, our employees – and externally, all our stakeholders including our consumers.
We aren’t able to do it alone so we need as many people as we can on board. We believe we are in a position to inspire and bring others on board so our programme also aims to inspire those around us.
You’ll be sitting on the ‘brand authenticity and ethical business challenges‘ panel. What would you say are some of the greatest ethical dilemmas facing businesses today, with relevance to BUFF®?
There’s a whole handful of ethical dilemmas that companies like BUFF® are currently facing, including…
Higher standards: Brands like BUFF® are being held to increasingly high standards and information demands, both about our products and broader impacts; by consumers, clients, investors, and other stakeholders, who are increasingly informed and in corporate sustainability criterion in their decision making.
We have never received so many information requests from clients before and what I have experienced is that we need to find the balance between putting our energy into reporting, being transparent, and responding to these requests thoroughly. Also, moving forward and accelerating our programme through projects and innovation and finding new sustainable solutions (I am talking circularity, biodegradability, etc) that really work and that are commercially viable. We need both and it’s a balancing act.
Good vs perfect: According to science, we’ve now got less than 8 years left to prevent irreversible harm to both people and planet. Predictions also show that we won’t be able to meet the targets set in the Paris Agreement. We’re seeing first hand the accelerated urgency of the climate crisis in a way we have not seen in the past – recent extreme weather being a key example.
In my experience there are very few perfect solutions, and we also don’t have time for perfect. So when faced with doing good versus doing perfect, brands should strive to do all the good they can – now – while looking for better solutions. That is a direct reflection of ‘Do More Now‘.
Supply chain: A lot of BUFF®’s impacts and those of the apparel industry lay in the supply chain, and some of the related ‘science’ is still a bit new. Companies also don’t have as much control over their supply chain operations as we do of our own, so it’s more challenging to drive change beyond our four walls.
It is key for BUFF® to build and keep good and long-lasting relationships with our supply chain, both to monitor practices and to move forward towards building a better industry together. One thing to highlight is that at BUFF®, around 90% of our products are manufactured in-house in our Spain HQ, so we have enhanced control over many of our processes in which we account for a broad scope of environmental and social considerations, such as fair labour practices and renewable electricity.
We also have plans to bring further production to our HQ, which will mean more control over our social and environmental practices, alongside lower transportation emissions, but it’s also a great challenge. In Europe it’s hard to find young people from the new generations who are interested in working in the textile manufacturing industry.
“Do More Now” are the three words sitting at the heart of BUFF®’s CSR agenda. What do these mean to the brand and what can other businesses take from them?
At BUFF® we are convinced that we have both the opportunity and the responsibility to actively contribute to the protection and regeneration of the environment, and to a more inclusive and respectful society.
Acting responsibly, ensuring the highest quality of our materials, manufacturers, and products, to reduce our environmental footprint and create positive impact. Protecting the things and places we believe in. Caring for our community and sharing value with our people. All based on the premise that actions have the power to shape the world: to create, build, improve and truly make a difference.
We believe that by applying this philosophy to the way we think about people, projects, and processes, we will not only make a better world for today, but can also help elevate our tomorrow.
We would like to share our call to action to act more, protect more, care more and share more beyond our internal circle so that we can reach as many people as possible. We’ve already done it through different external communication channels and collaborations and of course through platforms like the Blue Earth Summit.
We love getting to know our speakers beyond the workplace. What do you get up to in your spare time?
In my free time you are most likely to find me in the outdoors hiking and finding new ways to connect with the planet and its people (from language learning to learning how to sail!). I love art too (both consuming and creating it). It helps me connect with the world.
Finally, can you take us through the next steps on BUFF®’s sustainability mission?
Buff® is currently working towards B Corp certification. Certified B Corps are businesses that meet the highest standards of social and environmental performance, transparency, and accountability, balancing profit and purpose.
B-Corp will corroborate BUFF®’s long-standing commitment to leading significant changes in both the community and nature, and to create a positive impact as a company, while providing new frameworks to frame social and environmental criterion in its business value proposition, daily actions, supply chain management and culture.
We’re also working to embed within the company our renewed Sustainability Action Plan including some new objectives and KPIs across various internal teams so that we can take the agenda to the next level.
You can meet Marta and the rest of the BUFF® team at this year’s Blue Earth Summit! Book tickets now for early access to workshops and activities and join the conversation on LinkedIn or Twitter.