There are certain values that are integral to the Kiwi identity, and these are values we prioritise in our own business too: honesty, integrity, trust and pride are the foundation of our relationships with our customers, suppliers and colleagues.
We think it’s important to embrace change and responsibility, so we’re looking at our impact on the environment, and working towards improving this wherever we can. Nothing happens overnight, but every small step takes us forward. Supply chains are an important part of improving sustainability too, so we work closely with all our suppliers. The conditions of the factories are a priority for us, especially how this affects the people that work for them, so we monitor these constantly.
We know our customers share many of our values (that’s why you choose Barkers right?) and like to make informed decisions. We’ve been asked a few questions lately, so we thought we’d share some of these with you to give you a clearer idea of what we do and how we do it.
How are you working towards improving sustainability?
Strong relationships are at the heart of our business. We intentionally have a very small supplier base and only work with suppliers who have exceptionally high standards. It’s important to us that we know exactly where our products are being made, so we make sure there is no outsourcing or middle men. Twice each year (sometimes even more) our product team visits every factory to oversee our manufacturing and check first-hand that our suppliers are maintaining our standards. When securing a new supplier, the first thing we do is visit for an inspection.
To maintain these standards we have a strict code of conduct that all of our suppliers are required to sign. This binds them to both the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, and the Conventions of the International Labour Organisation. This code of conduct ensures our suppliers have strict standards for human rights, fair wages, good working conditions, no forced, prison or child labour, and no use of things like AZO dyes etc. We make sure they continue to work to these standards and check in regularly.
Because our suppliers are offshore we ship our product to New Zealand, which has a lower carbon footprint than airfreight. To reduce our carbon impact further, we consolidate our freight containers to maximise use of space and reduce the waste of empty shipping containers.
Packaging is a necessity for retailers like us, however we work constantly to minimise the amount we use and integrate sustainable solutions. We have removed as much packaging as possible coming from our suppliers, and we use starch-based poly bags for our garments that is then recycled by our stores. At our Distribution Centre we have full recycling of all cardboard and plastics, and at our Head Office we have recycling and an organic waste station to ensure a very limited rubbish output.
We’ve been working to improve the power we use across all parts of our business, so we recently changed all of our store lighting over to LED - these reduce power consumption. Our head office also has LED lighting and is 100% solar powered, something we’re pretty proud of.
Is there much leftover stock, and what happens if it doesn’t sell?
Minimising waste is a key part of creating a sustainable business, so we actively focus on smaller product runs. Our aim is to sell everything - that’s where our customers come in, your support helps us limit waste, so we try and make everything you need and nothing you don’t.
Our best styles will sell out completely, and even be repeated several times a year. Every single week we review our sales and decide if there’s anything we need to do if a style is lagging. Our Outlet stores are an important part of ensuring product sell-through and preventing waste. They receive styles around 12-15 weeks after they first appeared in our main stores, and sell them at a discounted price.
We deliver product to ours stores weekly instead of seasonally. This enables us to be more reactive to demand, weather and the market, and helps us achieve a 100% sell through of all styles. In the summer and winter we sell seasonal items like coats, however we make sure these items arrive when they’re needed and the weather is right. We work hard to make sure what’s in store is suitable to our customers needs and wants.
We know that faulty or damaged stock is a reality in retail (ours is less than 1% of our total product). We never dump any garments. Everything we make is sold or donated to local charities such as the Salvation Army, and fabric is donated to craft users, rather than destroyed like other businesses do. We also encourage our customers to invest in the life-cycle of the garments they buy from us - prioritising mending and charity donations.
Sustainability is a constantly evolving process with ongoing room for improvement. We love a challenge, so this is something we continue to work on. We’ve identified key areas to focus on and have put plans in place to implementing these in our future road map.
● We are beginning to source more organic and sustainable fabrics and are developing future strategies to increase the amount of sustainable materials in our garments.
● We are working towards accreditation with Child Labour Free to certify all Barkers factories through independent audits.
● We will continue to work with our supply chain to review fair wage living standards, and improve these if and where required.
● We have future plans to delve into second tier supply chains, to understand and improve the sustainable and ethical sourcing of raw materials (like BCI cotton) and components (zips, buttons, threads, dye stuffs).
● We are working toward supply chain transparency with our customers (whilst protecting commercially sensitive information).
● We will be collaborating with textile waste recyclers to reuse off-cuts in blankets and insulation.
● Closing the loop is important to us, so as new fabrics innovations such as waterless textiles and reclaimed fibres come onstream to a wider base of suppliers, we will begin to incorporate these into our product ranges.
● We will be collaborating with other apparel retailers and manufacturers to work together on other initiatives and technologies that can positively impact the environment and people.
● We’re working towards increasing our CSR and carbon offset. Last year we worked with the Thames Coromandel District Council to plant 1000 native trees near Cathedral Cove and would like to build on these initiatives further.
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