Entrepreneurship as a way to tackle societal issues, that’s the motto of Impact Noord. As part of a series of lectures, they invited Bert van Son, the founder and CEO of MUD Jeans, to talk about sustainability in an industry that’s anything but.
The fashion industry is one of the major polluting industries in the world and jeans are the most polluting fashion item. Over 16% of pesticides is used for the production of cotton, around 8.000 litres of water is needed to make a single pair of jeans, dyes are toxic and workers and farmers are forced to work in appalling conditions. Fashion shipping accounts for 10% of carbon emissions and there is little to no recycling.
MUD: a silver lining
These facts may sound depressing, and they are, but there is a silver lining. MUD Jeans is setting a trend and the company is completely circular, with all parts of production done in the most sustainable way possible.
Founder Bert van Son has been working in the fashion industry since 1982. “I saw the industry change in the course of those years and fashion became something you buy cheap and is not made to last. That needed to change.”
A different business model
The standard business model in the industry is based on mass production with little regard for the demand side of the equation. “Just last year, a fashion company in Sweden had $4.3 billion worth in unsold clothes. That’s insane. It’s not going to be recycled, it’s going to burn up.”
“We focus on the demand and don’t produce more than we need to. If the stores that sell our jeans get left with a surplus, they send them back. Consumers can lease our jeans or send back their old ones and get a discount.”
“Our jeans consist of 60% biologically farmed cotton and 40% recycled cotton”, says van Son. “We make sure that less water is needed by creating new ways for production, we don’t use toxic chemicals and we make sure that employees at the production facilities like the one we work with in Tunisia, work in the best conditions possible.”
Setting a trend
MUD Jeans very recently landed a €1 million investment and the company is making a profit since the last two years. ““When you create a sustainable product, the expectation is that the quality needs to be higher than the industry standard too. We want to show the rest of the industry that sustainable, circular production is not only possible, but that it’s also profitable.”
Want to join one of Impact Noord’s lectures? The next one is September 17th, with the founder of the Dutch Weed Burger.