REDUCE. Everything we create, consume and discard has a direct impact. Buy well and less frequently. This is the most fundamental issue.
REUSE. Use what you have for longer. Wring the maximum use out of your things then pass them on to others who can get even more out of them. Break the cycle of throwing good things away and buying new.
RECYCLE. When something has genuinely reached the end of its life, recycle the components.
OFFSET. This is a new one. We understand that everything we do has an environmental cost. Could this cost be partly repaid through a self-imposed, voluntary tax - "carbon offsetting" - or does this just weaken the motivation to do less harm in the first place?
Amongst other things Rohan stands for:
1. Quality: the higher the quality the longer things last.
2. Classic design: clothes that don't date.
3. Versatility: so you get a broader range of uses from any one piece of our clothing.
What are we saying? Buy fewer clothes, but buy good ones.
We admit we've changed our range pretty frequently over the last few years. This was partly because we've been trying a lot of new things, and partly because we are "hard-wired" to keep pushing for improvements.
But now, because we believe in REDUCE, we have started to scale back on new garments, launching only when we believe we have made genuine progress.
REDUCE also means reducing packaging. Some packaging is necessary - we need to get the good stuff to you without it being covered in dust and dirt. However, we're halfway through a fundamental review of all our packaging, from cartons to collar-cards. Expect to see some substantial changes over the next few months.
You may well find that the Rohan garment you bought for one particular activity has become a favourite for everyday wear - a perfect example of re-use.
But what happens when you feel you have wrung the most you can out of your trusty Rohans? Then give them back to us. We will pass them on to a selection of development and support projects where people can benefit from the special properties of our clothes.
For example, we have been contributing worn but serviceable garments to the International Mountain Explorers Connection and the IPPG who pass garments on to poorly equipped mountain porters. See www.hec.org and www.ippg.net for more information.
Please return garments in a clean, freshly laundered state (they may be stored for a while before distribution and it's only polite to those who handle them).
We suggest you drop them off in store when you next visit. We can then return them back to our warehouse in the re-usable crates we use for deliveries.
We've been looking at the issue of recycling and recycled fabrics in some detail. It is a complex subject and this is what we've learnt so far: A lot of energy and water is required to recycle materials (transport, processing etc). No one can tell us the true environmental cost of recycling man-made fibres. Opinions differ widely, including a credible view that the load is higher than using new materials.
There is very patchy policing of what constitutes "recycled" fabrics (especially where they are mixed with virgin fibres). This makes it difficult both for us and for you to be sure what we're buying.
When we have better information we will act on it. In the meantime, we continue our search for what is for the best - not just what looks good on the label.
However, we are already changing our garment bags from polypropylene (which is nice and shiny) to low density polyethylene (which isn't - but is much easier to recycle).
We try to reduce our carbon footprint by the way we run our business:
- Building our clothes to last as long as possible and ensuring they need as little energy as possible to get them clean and dry.
- Always trying to ship rather than fly. Shipping from Vietnam, for example, has a lower impact than trucking from Portugal!
- Introducing lower energy lighting in our shops - and turning off the computers at night.
But whatever we do - and we all still have a way to go - there is always a residual impact.
Offsetting is the current popular solution to this. It is a kind of self-imposed tax to help pay for our sins - for example, paying for trees to be planted to offset energy pollution.
We've looked at various offsetting schemes but the jury is still out. Apart from whether it's the right thing to do in the first place, some schemes are poorly regulated and of questionable merit. A lot of it looks rather like box-ticking to us.
What we have decided to do instead is to spend the same money supporting the work of practical, relevant organisations. We don't see this as box-ticking. We see it as basic good sense.
Everything that each of us does has an impact on the environment. How could it not?
How can we as a business act intelligently and responsibbly?
We can ensure our business functions according to the mantra:
REDUCE: reduce our impact by insisting on better quality goods and scrutinising our business practices.
RE-USE: encourage our customers to use our goods as long as possible and to redistribute them when they think that use is exhausted.
RECYCLE: investigate recycled materials and recycle everything we can.
OFFSET: Not through conventional routes - but by supporting organisations that we believe provide human development in an intelligent and sustainable way.