Episode #56 - The bamboo boxers making cotton look pants

Buddha Boxers founder Jason Spitkoski

Buddha Boxers founder Jason Spitkoski

A show title likely to get completely and utterly lost on our North American listeners, we appreciate….this time we’re with Jason Spitkoski, a man that has left his background as a tech developer behind to chase the dream of running a successful underwear business. He is the proud owner of Buddha Boxers, a company that is getting seriously comfortable that its raw material of bamboo is capable of blowing cotton out of the water as a sustainable material of choice in the 21st century.


Show notes

Consider the fashion sector for a moment, and specifically one of the backbones of the industry: cotton.

As the most widely used natural fibre used in clothing today, it is a hugely important crop. And more than 100 million smallholder farmers and their families rely on cotton for a living, with 90% of those farmers living in the developing world.

But cotton faces significant sustainability risks and challenges, not least its reliance on water and the impact of climate change. For every t-shirt made, around 2,700 litres of water is used in the agricultural process – the same amount of water the average human drinks in three years; it is certainly a thirsty crop.

As the World Economic Forum notes, water security is “one of the most tangible and fastest-growing social, political and economic challenges faced today”. The world is likely to face a 40% global shortfall between forecast demand and available supply of water in the next 15 years.

It is also worth pointing out that, although cotton uses just 2.4% of the world’s cultivated land, it accounts for 24% of global insecticide use and 11% of global pesticides, making it the most pesticide-intensive crop grown on the planet.

NGOs and non-profits like CottonConnect and the Better Cotton Initiative are working hard to support smallholder farmers, with basic interventions, such as training and education, which can help farmers dramatically save water by adopting more sustainable agricultural practices.

However, many farmers do not have access to basic information when it comes to best practice for water use and conservation. Educating and empowering farmers and helping them gain access to finance are barriers to progress that need to be addressed urgently.

The global textile and garment industry is worth some $3 trillion. But the ephemeral nature of fashion – where what’s hot and what’s not can change in the blink of an eye – poses a series of formidable sustainability challenges, not least in the supply chain of brands everywhere.

So, as we so often pose on the The Better Business Show: what if there was a better way?

Well, this week, we caught up with Jason Spitkoski (top right), founder of Buddha Boxers. He went in search of ultimate comfort for his underwear brand, landing on bamboo as the perfect material of choice. But as he told me during our conversation this week, he got plenty more than he bargained for in setting up a business designed to get people thinking about the clothes they buy.

Enjoy the show.

Episode #54 - What's up with Ivanka Trump's clothing line?

Show notes

Take a look down at the shirt, or top, or t-shirt you’re wearing RIGHT now.

Do you know where it was made? Or by whom?

Can you tell me if it was made safely, and by workers who were paid fairly? And that its production doesn't harm the environment?

No, didn’t think so.

But these are some of the questions our guest this week desperately wants people like you – and your friends and family members – to start asking themselves, and of the businesses that sell and make our clothing.

There has been a plethora of reports and analysis done into the changing consumer habits of the new generation of shoppers.

One of the most compelling is Forum for the Future’s consumer futures 2020 report which imaginess four plausible scenarios for tomorrow’s consumers: ‘my way’, ‘sell it to me’, ‘from me to you’ and ‘I’m in your hands’. These are based on two trends – whether society will be prosperous or not, and whether consumers will take the initiative, or expect brands to do it for them.

The ‘my way’ mainstream consumers of 2020 are keeping it local, in a climate where vertical farming is the norm and personal energy micro-managers make sustainable living high tech and easy. If you open the fridge, you’ll find packaging that refrigerates and changes colour if the food has gone off. Brands and businesses are the ones making it easy in ‘sell it to me’, where smart products and services replace unsustainable products. 

Hyper local is the name of the game for ‘from me to you’, with products sought as directly as possible. Good exchanges, recycling and re-use are common place, as is selling surplus food and growing your own hemp. Say goodbye to brand loyalty. The leasing model champions in ‘I’m in your hands’; retailers and brands not only lease goods, but also provide heat, water and nutrition. You won’t own your washing machine; you’ll lease it.

Yes, the four scenarios look quite different. But there is one common theme running throughout: sustainable consumption is mainstream.

This week, I’m in conversation with Natalie Grillon, co-founder and co-CEO of Project JUST, an online community looking to help consumers change the way they shop for clothing by raising awareness of a number of key issues that leave the fashion sector on the verge of straying into territory a new generation of shoppers just won’t tolerate

And Project JUST will also call companies out that are just not doing enough to be transparent about how their clothes make it from farm, factory, store and into people’s wardrobes. The big investigation Natalie and her team have been working on to shine a light on Ivanka Trump's clothing line is testament to that spirit.

As ever, let me know what you think of the show.

Natalie Grillon, co-founder and co-CEO of Project JUST

Natalie Grillon, co-founder and co-CEO of Project JUST

Episode #47 - The fashion brand run by knitting grandmothers

Show notes

In the US, where the number of senior citizens in the workforce has nearly tripled since the 1970s, older workers are also increasingly working full-time instead of part-time. Seniors now working full-time are more common than those working part-time.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the percentage of those working who are older than 65 will reach 23% by 2022. In the last decade, the average age of the US labour force has increased by about five years.

Now, of course, there’s nothing wrong with this; working lives are being extended as life expectancy rises and public health improves.

And employers are starting to value older workers more.

In the UK, Barclays and National Express have both recently announced apprenticeship schemes designed to cater for older workers and to broaden the age diversity of their workforces.

The National Express scheme aims to recruit people for whom age and extended career breaks can pose a barrier to finding employment, including the over-50s and women coming back to work after having kids.

Company’s are starting to realise the value of having a diverse workforce, reflecting as it does their broad customer base and the wide range of skills and experience on offer.

No better is that being realised than at the DIY store B&Q, which has long championed employing older staff that have the real knowledge about doing stuff round the house that the new generation just can’t be bothered with.

Fast food chain McDonald's and pub chain JD Wetherspoons are two other notable companies now getting in on the act in encouraging older people to apply for jobs.

But imagine a company whose sole reason for existing is to give jobs to older people.

This week, Vikki Knowles meets Faustine Badrichani, the co-founder of Wooln, a New York-based business making high-end beanie hats and other knitted goods, entirely handmade by older ladies in the community.

If you want to find out more, head to www.wooln-ny.com.

Faustine Badrichani and Margaux Rousseau, co-founders of Wooln (Credi:  Aude Adrien)  p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.8px Arial; color: #232323; -webkit-text-stroke: #232323}
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Faustine Badrichani and Margaux Rousseau, co-founders of Wooln (Credi: Aude Adrien)

Faustine and  Margaux with the grandmas (Credit: La Femme Collective)

Faustine and Margaux with the grandmas (Credit: La Femme Collective)

Wooln's grandmas working on a new pattern together

Wooln's grandmas working on a new pattern together

From the new Wooln collection (Credit:  eakphoto)

From the new Wooln collection (Credit: eakphoto)


Also, this week...

Gareth Kane

Gareth Kane

I know we have many sustainability practitioners listening to the show – those working within businesses whose task it is to rally the troops, set goals, make improvements, sell the concept of sustainability to the board, and so on.

Well, we have a special segment of the show just for you this week.

Gareth Kane gives you his 10 Worst Sustainability Ideas – and how you can learn from them.