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Icebreaker gets closer to plastic-free goal in latest transparency report

By Danielle Wightman-Stone

1 Jul 2021

Business

Image: Icebreaker Facebook

New Zealand-based natural performance apparel company, Icebreaker, has released the fourth instalment of its annual Transparency Report that states the brand has reached 91 percent progress on its ambitious plastic-free by 2023 target.

Icebreaker provides natural, high-performing outdoor clothing as an alternative to plastic-based synthetic apparel and has revealed that in 2021, 91 percent of Icebreaker’s total fibre composition is now merino or plant-based, with 65 percent more styles, compared to 2020 made with 100 percent merino or plant-based fibres.

In 2021 alone, Icebreaker forecasts that it will sell more than 1.3 million units of 100 percent merino or plant-based apparel. Including its Tech Lite tee, Quantum mid-layer and ZoneKnit hoodie, all made from 100 percent merino.

Jan Van Mossevelde, Icebreaker brand president, said in a statement: “Like many consumers around the world, we found ourselves facing the creep of plastic into our lives and our product line. So, in 2019 we made a bold commitment.

“By 2023, our aim is for all our clothing to be made from merino wool or plant-based fibres. For the very small amount of petrochemical synthetics that cannot be removed, we’re working on alternatives, including using bio-based fibres for now.”

Icebreaker forecasts it will sell over 1.3 million units of 100 percent merino or plant-based apparel in 2021

Icebreaker adds that it is more important than ever to become plastic-free as the pandemic has seen the use of single-use plastic consumption skyrocket as more consumers shop online, purchase disposable protective gear, and opt for bagged or wrapped produce.

Other plastic-free initiatives noted in the report include the launch of plastic-free swing tags in 2019, saving more than 2 million units of plastic per year, and the introduction of plastic-free full-body mannequins, made from non-toxic paper pulp in 2020.

When it comes to the last 9 percent, Icebreaker states it is “doubling down” on its commitments but admits that it does face “some specific challenges”. The synthetic fibres that remain in the range and that are still derived from petrochemicals include elastane in underwear for stretch, nylon in socks for strength, and polyester in jackets for lightweight strength.

Icebreaker looking to pioneer plant-based fibres and bio-based elastane and nylon

Icebreaker has also announced several initiatives to push forward on its sustainable journey, including a focus on regenerative agriculture by working with growers to conserve and rehabilitate the ecosystem, with the goal of 100 percent of contracted growers joining its programme by 2023.

It is also looking to continue its partnership with Finnish start-up Spinnova, first launched in 2020, to pioneer yarn blending merino and cellulosic fibres, as well as develop bio-based elastane and nylon by collaborating with leading yarn producers and bio-feedstock suppliers.

The apparel brand will also replace back neck and pip labels of new styles with ones made of 100 percent natural fibres by August 2022 by opting for organic cotton fabric printed labels versus synthetic woven labels.

Icebreaker launched its inaugural transparency report in 2017 and has been detailing its progress to becoming a truly sustainable business. Other highlights from the reports include the removal of 59 synthetic-heavy styles, with a retail value of 7.9 million US dollars, alongside the innovation of its natural dye using renewable, plant-based dyes, and making its clothing PFC-free and acrylic-free in 2019.

The natural performance apparel band was founded by Jeremy Moon in 1995 and is now part of the VF Corporation. Icebreaker is sold in more than 5,000 stores in 50 countries through wholesale, Touch Lab retail stores and e-commerce platforms.