Ideas

Sustainability for small business- Independent retailer Soulland

Sustainability and an eco-minded focus is tough for any business, even those with huge teams and budgets. How do you therefore approach sustainability as an independently owned business with limited resources? Danish fashion pioneers Soulland take it one step at a time.

Danish streetwear pioneers Soulland recently sat down with Highsnobiety to discuss sustainability for small business, and their efforts to become a more sustainable fashion retailer, highlighting a number of key issues facing all smaller, independent businesses.

Soulland store Copenhagen, Denmark clothes rack. Sustainability for small business.

“People are afraid of actually taking a stand,” Adler explains. “Me and Jacob were feeling the same for a while, but at some point we realized if you’re not talking about it, then you’re not creating a focus for your consumer. You’re not pushing the boundaries of how people think about clothing.

In the corporate world, with multi-million dollar profits and staffing budgets to match, employing a “head of sustainability” to lead a corporate responsibility team is becoming commonplace. Even then companies, due to the complexity of sustainability and the tunnel vision focus on financial growth, can often write off these roles within the marketing budget, rather than pushing them to actually make any serious impact on the companies environmental impact.

Now step into the shoes of a smaller, independent business like Soulland with a total team of 10 people. How do you balance sustainability with the everyday fight to survive? The key is to break things down into small gains towards a long-term environmental strategy.

“Whenever we looked into it, it became such an overwhelming issue,” says creative director and co-founder Silas Adler. “Every time we had a meeting on it, our ideas would be killed by logistics.” The key for Soulland was to take things step-by-step, with small wins slowly improving the overall eco objectives of the business.

Soulland mat with writing no future new culture. Sustainability for small business.

Initially focusing solely on the Jersey fabric, Solland were unable to work with specialist eco-focused manufacturers as the minimum order quanties were too restrictive. Instead they sourced Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) certified cotton themselves, and supplied this directly to existing manufacturers. Whilst this might not seem like much, this ability to adjust and be flexible is one of the key strengths of a lean, independent business, and is just one of many reasons why small businesses are leading the way when it comes to sustainability.

“People are afraid of actually taking a stand,” Adler explains. “Changing the way we produce will not make a difference to the bigger picture, but there is a chance we’ll inspire people to think differently. The world isn’t only changed by politicians and legislators. Are we gonna wait for some old skeptical idiot to do it because they’re afraid of losing votes, or should we just do it ourselves?”

“People are afraid of actually taking a stand. The world isn’t only changed by politicians and legislators. Are we gonna wait for some old sceptical idiot to do it because they’re afraid of losing votes, or should we just do it ourselves?”

Silas Adler, Soulland co-founder

Next up for Soulland is to focus on recycled polyester for beanies and swimwear, and then focus on the recycled packaging, with company-wide improvements planned for later this year. These small steps quickly add up, so whilst the initial complexity of sustainability seemed impossible, taking small projects one at a time has made a huge impact.

Now more than ever consumers are looking to smaller retailers for eco-minded products not available through traditional companies and brands. As large corporate businesses take years to adjust and face up to becoming more eco-friendly, independent businesses have a clear opportunity to take the lead on sustainability and claim an increased market share.