I stumbled across the futuristic-looking BOTTLETOP store, the parent company of the #TOGETHERBAND, in London a few years ago and was intrigued. I loved the story behind the #TOGETHERBAND; a company that creates bracelets/bands composed of recycled ocean plastic and repurposed decommissioned seized illegal firearms in Central America. They create a band for each of the 17 SDGs and donate 100% of the profits from each band to a certified charity which works towards that goal. I also like that with the purchase of each band, you are actually given two – one for you and one to give to a friend in order to pass on the message! After taking a deeper look into their sustainability practices, I think that #TOGETHERBAND is doing some great things in reusing materials and employing human trafficking victims from Nepal and providing them with employment. I think that #TOGETHERBAND can improve by providing more transparency about their dyes and their energy usage.
The #TOGETHERBAND Goal 13 bracelet consists of rope made from recycled plastic and a clasp made from Humanium Metal which is “repurposed from decommissioned seized illegal firearms in Central America.” #TOGETHERBAND is owned by the parent company BOTTLETOP, a sustainable fashion company based in London; BOTTLETOP says that their goal is to “fuse innovative sustainable materials, artisanal production, and technical innovation to have a positive impact on people and planet.” This is certainly what they are doing with the materials used to create the bands. The simple design means that the band is not composed of many different materials which all need to be transported and have their own environmental footprint, but instead is made from two materials, both of which are recycled.
One thing that does stick out to me is the color of the band. Each of the 17 SDG bands are a different color to represent that goal, however, there is no mention of the dyes used to create the colors. Normally in the fashion industry, synthetic dyes are one of the most harmful components of the garments as they can release toxic chemicals. I’m inclined to imagine that #TOGETHERBAND uses a sustainable and natural dye given their commitment to sustainability and the effort they put into ensuring all other parts of their product are environmentally-friendly, but it’s impossible to know with certainty. The company doesn’t share information about their dye on their website; albeit, the band is not very large and would not use a lot of dye, but it is still important to use a sustainable and natural dye to minimize environmental impact. I think #TOGETHERBAND should be much more transparent about this.
One novelty about the #TOGETHERBAND is their flagship store in London. I have personally visited this store before and thought it was extremely interesting! I didn’t know it at the time, but their store is “the world’s first zero-waste retail location” because it was created using “3D printers and recycled ocean waste.” The shelves of the store are made from certified zero deforestation leather, the consoles are made from repurposed sheet aluminium, and the flooring is made from recycled rubber tyres. There’s no information that talks about the energy usage in the building; perhaps BOTTLETOP and #TOGETHERBAND could consider powering their store on renewable energy or offsetting their emissions in the future.
Given the initiatives the company is currently running to ensure that not only their product but also their store has a small impact on the environment, I’m awarding the company a 2.75 for this category. I think their design is extremely innovative and the materials have a small impact on the environment, but I would like to see more information about their colors and dyes.
The Goal 13 #TOGETHERBAND is a relatively simple design; the majority of the energy used for production would be to melt down the decommissioned firearms, create the rope, and to transport all the components to the workshops. The bands are assembled in Nepal, with the help of two organizations who the #TOGETHERBAND partners with. These organizations, Maiti and ROKPA are both organizations that support and provide training and employment to women who are survivors of human trafficking. The company says that the production of their bands “generates sustainable employment for Nepalese artisans, and 100% of the funds generated go towards projects that further the advancement of the Global Goals.” It seems as though this stage of production has a relatively low impact on the environment and a positive social impact.
The area which I am more unsure about is the transportation and the production of the metal clasps and rope. The decommissioned firearms are melted down into the clasp shape which are then used in the bands, however, there is not much information about where this is done or how much energy this takes. I am assuming that this is done in a BOTTLETOP factory, as the clasps are a key part of all their products, however there is not much information on this. The clasps are made of stainless steel which has a melting point of 2500-2785℉, and would take a large amount of energy. Furthermore, #TOGETHERBAND is not 100% clear about their transportation emissions. They say the plastic is collected from coastal areas in Costa Rica and the decommissioned firearms are from Central America. The decommissioned firearms are melted down in Sweden, but there is no word about where the ropes are manufactured. Furthermore, these components then go to Nepal to be manufactured and then to London to be sold, and potentially shipped to other countries for delivery. This is a significant amount of transportation which I think the company should address. Most companies which claim to be sustainable offset their emissions or use renewable energy, but #TOGETHERBAND is not clear about either of these; they say they plant a tree for each product bought, but it’s impossible to know if this actually offsets all the energy used. This is why I’m awarding them a 2 for this section; in the bigger picture, their production is not extremely unsustainable, and they are on the right track to going above and beyond, but there are definitely some areas to increase transparency.
#TOGETHERBAND says they provide jobs to Nepalese artisans which helps their local economies develop. As previously mentioned, they partner with two organizations who train and employ females who are victims of human trafficking. I really admire this, as instead of just saying that their products help other people and offering a donation, #TOGETHERBAND actually invests into these local economies and provides jobs.
#TOGETHERBAND is also partnered with UBS who help to power some of the #TOGETHERBAND’s campaigns. On their website they say that “UBS leads the finance industry in sustainability, sustainable and impact investing, and smart philanthropy. It mobilises private wealth and funding towards helping to achieve the SDGs.” #TOGETHERBAND works specifically in conjunction with the UBS Optimus Foundation which engages in “impactful philanthropy.” It is impossible to assess UBS for sustainability as a whole, as we do not know the details of each of the companies they invest in. However, in general UBS seems to have a dedication to investing in sustainable endeavours through their philanthropic foundation. Additionally when I looked at oil and gas investments from the bank, I saw that they are leaning towards more sustainable and renewable energy investments. Therefore, I think that this partner is genuinely looking to make a positive impact, and they seem to be providing #TOGETHERBAND with opportunities for campaigns with famous names such as David Beckham, Lewis Hamilton, Alessandra Ambrosio, Jameela Jamil, which help grow the brand.
One more thing I appreciate about #TOGETHERBAND is their commitment to diversity and inclusion. All throughout their website they showcase their products on a diverse group of models, which in my opinion is extremely important. The company also says that they “help amplify campaigns such as UNF’s #EqualEverywhere for International Women’s Day 2021” which I think is so important and makes me admire the brand even more!
I’m awarding them a 3 for this section as I think they do go above and beyond in ensuring that all their partners and employees are actively working towards social and environmental goals, and because of their commitment to diversity and inclusion.