In Sync With Nature: Woodland’s Unswerving Commitment to Sustainable and Eco-Friendly Practices Through Innovation and Technology

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Harkirat Singh

Woodland’s parent company, Aero Group, is a well-known name in the outdoor shoe industry since the early fifties. Woodland is a leading manufacturer and supplier of apparel and accessories, and is a strong supporter of sustainability in the fashion and apparel world. Founded in Quebec, Canada, it entered the Indian market in 1992, and has become a leading outdoor brand today. The launch of its first hand-stitched leather shoe took the footwear market by storm, cementing the value of Woodland brand in India.

Environmental impacts have always been a major concern for us at Woodland. We strive to continually become more aware of, and be sensitive towards environmental impact of our business practices. We evaluate our processes and continually implement new strategies to improve efficiencies and minimise our ecological footprint.

We design and construct products to perform better and last longer and believe that a high quality product that retains its performance properties and aesthetic appeal for many years is more environmentally responsible than one that must be replaced frequently due to inferior materials or poor workmanship.

As our brand grow, we have become more capable of working towards tangible, positive changes in our environmental practices. We have already taken strong steps in the right direction and have continued to explore new means to become better stewards. We also encourage our customers to adopt eco-friendly practices. We continuously try to balance the carbon amount that is released from our factories by planting trees and use eco-friendly raw materials and techniques in manufacturing and packaging. We believe in using business to inspire solutions to environmental crisis, and it is with this belief that we strive to discover new ways and also increase awareness for creating sustainable solutions in India.

PROPLANET

We realise the importance of eco-consciousness and have embraced it as one of our key objectives. In other words, we are pro planet, and we constantly work towards keeping our environment safe.

Proplanet is a community that is committed to make our planet a better place to live in. We wish to share with the community our passion for social causes which defines us as a company. Our ultimate goal is to inspire the next generation and increase their participation in the conservation of nature.

In keeping with our eco-conscious philosophy, we have always tried to make eco-friendly products which are made through processes that cause minimal harm to the environment. We wish to share this philosophy and involve our customers in exercising the same. In today’s world where globalisation and staying connected is crucial, we are working towards creating an interactive platform where we can discuss issues related to nature and the environment around us.

Proplanet Initiatives
Sustainable and Environment Friendly

We are a strong supporter of sustainability in the fashion and apparel world. We believe that every brand is responsible towards the society it operates in and must give back to the community as it grows and succeeds. We have always looked at different ways in which we can contribute to the society, as building value for our communities is as satiating as generating profit for our shareholders.

We support our mission to stand out asan eco-friendly brand and also realises the importance of eco-consciousness, with an aim to keep the environment clean. Our efforts are in line with inculcating values of eco-friendly conditions amongst the new generation, to save the environment and create awareness among them to conserve nature.

As part of our CSR initiative – Proplanet – we have introduced products made from materials and process that are free from all harmful substances, reflecting the eco-friendly philosophy. In apparel, there are organic cotton t-shirts which are made of pure cotton and are free from all toxins and pesticides. The brand’s pure green t-shirts are made from recycled plastic bottles that are sterilised and processed into fibre strands knitted together to create a fabric that is 100 percent recycled.

“As a commitment to sustainability, we have initiated a process under which all our retail stores are steadily converting to carbon-neutral stores. The initiative includes accurate accounting of the carbon footprint of each store in order to attain zero carbon emissions from stores spread across the country”

In footwear category, the leather used for making shoes is mostly vegetable tanned,using harmless natural chemicals, and comes from the company’s tanneries in several countries. Leather outsourced from other tanneries is also vegetable tanned. We have installed technologies which recycle the waste to a large extent. As a result, effluents (water mixed with used chemicals) from our tannery are passed through a series of pits where the water is treated with chemicals like ferrous sulphate and lime mixed with poly-electrolytes to precipitate and separate the clearwater and sludge. The process helps it clean up to 25,000 litres of discharge every eight hours.

In addition, the biodegradable collection of summer sandals and slippers are made from vegetable tanned leather and recycled rubber with antibacterial lining material to keep the feet dry. They are manufactured with minimal amount of pressure on the environment.

As a commitment to sustainability, we have initiated a process under which all our retail stores are steadily converting to carbon-neutral stores. The initiative includes accurate accounting of the carbon footprint of each store in order to attain zero carbon emissions from stores spread across the country. A German company specialising in eco-friendly architecture and design has been designing these stores where the wooden flooring and cash counters are made of reclaimed lumber while the wall fixtures are made of recycled fibres, and lights are energy efficient. This drive began with the Bangalore store, and has been on since.

In addition to reducing the retail carbon footprint, we intend to encourage customers to use green products across all categories by providing incentives for every carbon credit earned by the customer. The campaign was introduced to encourage customers to pledge their emission reductions for every solar water heater they use. Upon pledging, each customer using a solar geyser was gratified with Woodland e-vouchers, which they claimed after authentication. It was initiated to propagate the message of adopting an eco-friendly lifestyle to the masses.

Use of Eco-Friendly Raw Materials, Packaging and Processes

We always use environment-friendly products like organic cotton, recycled rubber, etc. to manufacture our products along with designing and constructing products to perform better and last longer. Every product’s hangtags, as well as our business cards, are printed on certified 100 percent post-consumer recycled paper. To reduce the total amount of paper used in the marketing materials of our brand, and the energy consumed to make and recycle them, we have consciously made a decision to move towards more electronic billing, publishing and communication.

We recognise the importance of sustainable development and we also encourage our customers to adopt eco-friendly practices. We continuously try to balance the carbon amount that is released by planting trees and using eco-friendly raw materials and techniques in manufacturing and packaging.

Initiatives undertaken in association with environmentally-conscious NGOs and partners to promote eco friendly initiatives in the community:

· Supporting local communities in the areas of the brand’s operations

· Communicating, educating and motivating them to seize the opportunities to reduce environmental opportunities: We engage in multiple initiatives and campaigns right from in-store experiential activities to online campaigns, associations with like-minded organisations, educational institutes and NGOs for tree plantation with schools, bicycle rides with local communities, encouraging people with discount/gift as an acknowledgment to increase the use of solar products.

· Continuously improving the manufacturing process to reduce our water consumption and preserve natural resources: We undertake multiple educational campaigns and innovative ideas to promote an eco-friendly world. We partnered with Asia’s largest musical festival – Sunburn – for Leave No Trace’ campaign, to spread awareness on preserving eco balance. The campaign ensured to spread the message of a pollution-free environment and the Proplaneters ensured that all waste items were collected and transported for recycling processes, leaving no trace behind. We aim to spread awareness and contribute to the society through as many mediums as possible. We are very happy and proud to help the society in as many ways as possible. We created an installation from reused material and collected vast amount of plastic in the form of plastic bottles. The same plastic was used for our eco-friendly collection of t-shirts.

· Reducing energy consumption and GHG emissions for manufacturing and transport: Striving to optimise modes of transport used towards low carbon-emitting options, each Woodland factory is monitored for water resource to ensure that any preventive action to protect the source is put in place.

· As a team, we also encourage a work culture that looks after eco-consciousness and ensure employee participation in eco friendly activities.

Association with UNICEF

We have been associated with UNICEF since 2011 with an aim to raise resources for improving access to basic sanitation, drinking water and hygiene for school-going children in India. The main aim for this partnership with UNICEF is to contribute on programmes related to Water, Sanitation and Hygiene(WASH) reaching out to 115 million school-going children in India. This is aimed to ensure that every school in India has well-maintained water, sanitation and hygiene facilities. The partnership complements national priorities set out in the mission and contributes to achieving the national goal.

This partnership has benefitted 682,000 boys and girls in over 6200 schools by providing them access to quality water and safe sanitation, improved hand-washing infrastructure and ensuring regular hand-washing practices by all the school children before their mid-day meals.

Association with WWF

We have supported the WWF India Conservation initiative previously as well where funds were raised to donate solar lanterns to over 120 household in three villages in Central India’s Satpuda Maikal landscape. Patwahi, Chiklabadi and BanglaDadar are some of the small villages situated in the most remote parts of two wildlife corridors providing passage for wildlife to move between Kanha and Pench Tiger Reserve and Kanha and Achanakmar Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh.

To increase awareness about renewable energy, we demonstrated the concept of generating renewable energy by individuals through pedalling stationary cycles where the bicycle’s rear wheel is attached to a dynamo which generates electrical charge when the cyclist pedals. The charged energy is stored in the batterybox. This generated electrical charge by natural human cycling is used to light up Woodland stores. More than 18,000 people joined this initiative and pledged to support the same.

Earth Hour is the largest grassroots movement started by WWF with the mission to unite people to protect the planet. This movement that has spread to 172 countries across the globe has achieved massive environmental impact, including legislation changes by harnessing the power of the crowd. As nature lovers, we at Woodland understand that protecting the environment is the primary need of the hour; which is why it took up the cause to bring about a change. Among the many environment projects we are associated with, Lights4Stripes is one of the most important and recent ones.

Understanding the challenges that the people of the Sundarbans are facing, we partnered with WWF India to support their Earth Hour crowdfunding project- Light4strips. The areas were massively underdeveloped and exposed to numerous hazards ranging from snake bites to tiger attacks. This project was launched in an effort to improve the conditions and to protect the people and tiger at the Sundarbans. The aim was to provide solar streetlights to villages located near wildlife reserves. From the collected funds, 33 streetlights were installed at the borders of Sajnekhali Wildlife Sanctuary, Sundarbans Tiger Reserve, which impacted the area that has a population of approximately 13,000 people. This initiative also replaced 24 older installations in the same line which were converted into solar streetlights.

Association with GHE

As a brand, we believe in the philosophy of sustainable mountain development and ecology preservation of higher altitude areas. This incited the brand for a partnership with Global Himalayan Expedition (GHE), an initiative focussed towards providing clean energy and education access to remote Himalayan communities.

Annually, GHE unites willing adventurers to go out in the Himalayan wilderness and create a tangible difference to the communities there. We have helped and supported their vision of providing experiential education and sustainable rural livelihood through setting up of solar home stays and advocating use of adventure gear as means of safety and livelihood for local people.

Woodland will maintain an unwavering commitment to innovation, sustainable business practices and keep its tradition of promoting outdoor and adventure sports worldwide while reinforcing the Woodland brand mantra, Explore More. The goal is to substantially reduce the amount of materials used over time and the energy consumed to manufacture and distribute those materials and products.

Harkirat Singh is Managing Director, Woodland