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Mulberry asks “can a bag save the world” with a new sustainable manifesto

By Danielle Wightman-Stone

20 Apr 2021

Fashion

courtesy of Mulberry

To mark its 50th anniversary, British heritage brand Mulberry has launched its new ‘Made to Last Manifesto’ an ambitious framework to transform its business into a regenerative and circular model, encompassing the entire supply chain, from field to wardrobe by 2030.

The brand is committed to switching to a hyper-local and circular model to create bags made out of the world’s lowest carbon leather as it takes inspiration from the food industry’s “farm to table” concept, but for handbags from “field to wardrobe”.

To achieve what it is calling “bold commitments” for the future, Mulberry has identified six key actions for change, including achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2035, pioneering a “hyper-local, hyper-transparent” ‘farm to finished product’ supply chain model, and creating a network of environmentally conscious or regenerative farms to develop “the world’s lowest carbon leather”.

In addition, Mulberry will also be continuing to extend the life of its products through repair and restoration, as well as introducing a new “buy-back, resell and repurpose” initiative for any Mulberry bag, and extend its commitment to being a real living wage employer and working with its network of suppliers to achieve the same.

Mulberry pledges six key actions to change in ‘Made to Last Manifesto’

During the virtual launch, Mulberry’s chief executive officer Thierry Andretta said: “2021 marks our 50th anniversary and as we all know landmark birthdays naturally lead to reflecting on the past, and also what our future legacy may be. I’m extremely proud to be part of a team that since its very beginning has always had the philosophy of responsible innovation, and still today, this is the foundation of everything that we do.

“At Mulberry, we talk about ‘Made to Last’ as this is the perfect phrase to describe every element of our business and indeed what influences every action that we take for the products that we make, our resources, how we repair, and how we embrace circularity into our product.

“Ultimately, it also describes our vision for the future. One in which regeneration, renewal, reimagination allows us to make a difference in the world. This morning we are making a series of bold commitments for the future that we believe we can build a truly sustainable legacy for the next 50 years and beyond.”

courtesy of Mulberry

Charlotte O’Sullivan, global marketing and digital director at Mulberry, said at the press event: “The reality is that despite a proliferation of industry initiatives, several of which we are a part of, the fashion textile sector is still estimated to produce 10 percent of annual greenhouse gas emissions, and the change needed to reverse this is simply not happening fast enough.

“We believe that in order to be part of the solution to be a relevant and thriving business for our next 50 years, radical change is needed across our industry, and there is an urgency for businesses such as ours to ask difficult questions that we may not have all the answers to.”

Mulberry to pioneer “hyper-local, hyper-transparent” ‘farm to finished product’ supply chain model

This new bold vision for the future, to be the leading responsible British luxury lifestyle brand, centres around the concept of regenerative agriculture to push the boundaries of sustainable production, alongside local manufacturing, building upon the fact that 50 percent of its bags are made in the UK.

Mulberry acknowledges the environmental issues associated with cattle farming, which has been well documented as significant drivers of deforestation and climate change. But the luxury label added that it also believes that farming can also offer a solution to the problem it creates through organic and regenerative farming practices, where rotating farm livestock can play an essential role in maintaining soil health allowing the soil to draw down and store carbon from the atmosphere.

“Our 50-year association with leather is both our greatest challenge and our greatest opportunity,” added Mulberry in the manifesto, and it believes that by developing a hyper-local, hyper-transparent supply chain through a network of regenerative and organic farms to supply the hides to create its leather products across the UK and Europe, it can achieve full traceability from “farm to finished product”, while also creating the world’s lowest carbon leather.

courtesy of Mulberry

The British heritage brand has pledged to ensure that its entire leather supply chain will adhere to this new transformative sourcing and production model by 2030, and it will launch its first ‘farm to finished product’ British bags in 2021. A collection it states “represents the future of the business” as part of its commitment to reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2035.

Leather goods are the foundation of Mulberry’s business and currently makes up approximately 90 percent of its collection, and the label added that by 2022 all leather in its collections will be sourced from Leather Working Group accredited tanneries. Leather from environmentally accredited tanneries currently makes up 80 percent of its collections.

This sustainable approach to leather sourcing will also be reflected throughout the business, added Mulberry from integrating recycled nylon and regenerative organic cotton into its products to “continuously assessing” and reducing the environmental impact of its packaging and its physical store network.

O’Sullivan added: “Our starting point for setting the vision, the next era of mobile was quite simply, how do we create a business that gives back more than it takes that actively contributes to the people, communities and planet that we are a part of, and leaves it better off for his interactions with us.

“We are launching the Mulberry Made to Last Manifesto, which lays out our vision for the next 50 years. It is an ambitious commitment to transform our business to a regenerative and circular model that will encompass the entire supply chain, from field to wardrobe by 2030.”

Mulberry commits to circularity economy with new sustainability manifesto

As well as committing to sustainable practices for new products through the way it designs and manufactures, Mulberry is also pledging to extend the life of every Mulberry product through repair, renewal, and repurposing. Currently, the brand restores more than 10,000 bags a year.

courtesy of Mulberry

It is also making resale a core pillar of Mulberry’s circularity strategy by extending its Mulberry Exchange programme online later this month. The initiative launched in-store in March 2020 to allow consumers to sell pre-loved Mulberry bags in exchange for credit, allowing Mulberry to restore and sell on. This will run alongside a recently launched partnership with Vestiaire Collective.

If the day comes that a Mulberry bag has reached the end of the line, Mulberry adds that it will still buy it back to use in an innovative energy reclaim system, unique to its strategic partner Muirhead, a member of the Scottish Leather Group, to power the production of a new bag, “ensuring that the line never ends, it just becomes a circle”.

“At Mulberry we have already taken significant action to embed sustainability across our business, but today we offer our commitment to a programme of transformative change, embedding principles of regeneration and circularity across our entire supply chain,” added Andretta. “We are committed to creating a hyper-local, hyper-transparent ‘farm to finished product’ sourcing model and whilst we are at the beginning of this transition, I am immensely proud of my colleagues and the work done to launch the Made to Last Manifesto. We look forward to the challenges ahead.”

The manifesto will launch alongside a dedicated campaign from April 22 featuring imagery and interviews with internal and external advocates for the regenerative and circular approach that the manifesto promises including craftspeople from the brand’s Somerset factory, chef, restaurateur and soil activist Gizzi Erskine, artist Wilson Oryema and sustainability advocate Shaway Yeh.

Mulberry hopes by asking questions including ‘Can leather ever be sustainable?’, ‘Can you make a blue bag green?’ and ‘Can you teach an old bag new tricks?’ it will be able to highlight its manifesto pledge and engage in conversations with consumers and the wider industry.

courtesy of Mulberry