Sustainability isn't Skin Deep

by

Alyson Gessner

Excuse me. What?

July 20, 2021

What do you think makes a product sustainable?

I bet some of the first ideas that popped into your mind were plastic-free packaging, use of recycled or scrapped materials, a biodegradable product. Maybe you thought of efficient production practices with renewable energy and low carbon footprints. All of these are great features for a product to have, but creating a sustainable product also means looking past the obvious innovations and addressing every aspect of the product’s production.

Vissla’s More Mate Less Hate Boardshorts are a prime example of a company not challenging themselves to look beyond the “easy” fixes. Over two-thirds of the shorts are made from unusual materials like Cocotex and Repreve: two fabrics that make use of recycled materials and diverts waste from landfills. While the last third is still made up of spandex and cotton, these shorts are still less harmful than many of their competitors. Voiz Sustainability Analyst Natalie Nguyen rated their materials a 2.2/3 planets. So how come their overall rating is only 1.25/3?

It’s because they stopped there.

Vissla is incredibly vague about their production processes, suggesting that they don’t stray far from the status quo, although they do ship their products in reusable and recyclable bags made out of recycled materials. And then they are equally vague about who is making their products and whether they value ethical practices. Considering the product is called “More Mate Less Hate,” I’d like to see them actually commit to the kind narrative they want to spin with their product’s name.

Sustainability isn’t skin deep, and it extends beyond the materials that go into a product. It also means making sure that the product is produced in a safe factory where workers are treated fairly. It means updating the supply chain to be as carbon efficient as possible. It means a commitment to doing good for the planet, not just the atmosphere but the species that live here as well.

While it’s still certainly a good thing to see companies make efforts to include any sort of sustainable material, they cannot become complacent with the solutions that are becoming more and more common. So they use upcycled materials, great! Now it’s time for Vissla to take the next steps to transform their production processes, labor standards, and company core values in order to truly progress their sustainability. 

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