DeliveryX World speaker Ben Dreyer, strategy, sustainability and operations director at Boden, spoke to Katie Searles about how the British clothing retailer is putting its sustainability achievements “front and centre”.
Dreyer has been with Boden for 25 years, and while ensuring products were both designed and made to last since the late 90s, the retailer has previously shied-away from shouting about its green credentials.
“The one real area that frustrated me was – we did a whole lot of good on the sustainability front and we just weren’t talking about it because of that fear of being accused of greenwashing,” he explained.
“We are definitely not perfect. Let’s just be clear. But we are trying to do the right thing.”
Boden aims to design and create pieces that can be worn hundreds of times. “That has to be at the core of a good sustainable brand,” noted Dreyer.
He explained that the UK has an issue with how little each garment is worn. He estimated that UK consumers wear items between eight to 10 times maximum, which is adding to the huge amount of clothing sent to landfill – 93 million tonnes worldwide.
Dreyer proposed that the “real cost” of a garment should be calculated by dividing the price by the number of times worn.
“If you buy something for a tenner, you wear it twice and throw it away that costs you £5 every time you wear it. Buy something for £50, wear it 100 times, that’ll cost you 50p – that is the real cost!”
The fashion retailer has worked to clean up its operations, with solar panels on its UK warehouse roofs, and clever lighting to ensure no energy is wasted – resulting in a carbon footprint saving from 2,400 tonnes in 2019 to approximately 800 in 2022.
Boden also looked to reduce its plastic packaging, firstly comparing the pros and cons of recyclable bags and compostable options – favouring a closed looped recycling approach.
Both its carbon reduction plans, and packaging changes, highlight an important fact about becoming more sustainable – it doesn’t just help the planet, it also has financial benefits for retailers.
“We have reduced our carbon footprint, and we have seen our power bills go down. No one is complaining about that. With packaging we have stripped out lots of packaging. What does that do? That saves money. There’s a real key message behind what we’ve been doing – it is for the good of the planet, and good business sense” explained Dreyer.
The brand will now look to ensure all the fabric it uses is sustainably sourced. By 2025, 80% of their products will be made this way. “Just to be clear, we still design clothes that are wonderful,” he noted, but with extra attention on their supply chain to “do the right thing.”
Ben Dreyer will join a panel session at this year’s DeliveryX World, held in London on 12 October. Boden will be joined by the likes of Asda, Deliveroo, Joseph Joseph and Lego. Registration is open now, with more information available here.