What is Sustainability? | BearMade

What is Sustainability?

Sustainability in 30 seconds

The definition of sustainability is incredibly vague and open to interpretation. This has been used by many companies to mislead their customers. This is the last thing we want to do. 

To us, sustainability means:

Sustainability is a journey of constant progression, honesty and questioning of all that we do. You can never be fully sustainable, but you can try hard to get close. 

Sustainability in 5 minutes

What does sustainability mean?

The Dictionary defines sustainability as "the quality of causing little or no damage to the environment and therefore able to continue for a long time". 

Oddly enough, there is no globally agreed consensus on the exact definition of 'sustainability'. If we take just the above example, there is so much that is open to one's own interpretation: what determines "quality"? Does this mean the quality of our actions, quality of materials, quality of finished product, quality of legacy, or none or all of the above? The same questions can be asked of most the other words in the definition too.

As a team of conservationists and outdoor enthusiasts, we are hyper-conscious of our impact on the natural world. At BearMade we’ve always had an issue with the word ‘sustainability/sustainable’ it is often used by companies as clickbait: to mislead, misinform and provoke behaviours that are in fact more detrimental to the goal at hand – an eco form of ‘fake news’, if you will. Because of this, we have chosen to use the word sparingly. However, the word is being used everywhere right now, so we need to use and include it, so people land on our website having been driven to buy more sustainably. Our aim in doing this is not just to sell bags, we are growing a community that appreciates our honesty, and education on the topic of sustainability and getting outdoors, a community that can have a positive impact on the planet. 

We believe sustainability is about companies making themselves accountable for their direct actions and using more of their profit margins on ensuring minimal impact. Sustainability is not the ability to sustain the way we are doing things now. That isn't working: 250 years of industrial revolution has pushed our one and only planet to breaking point. Sustainability is about refocusing and reframing the parameters of what harm we deem acceptable when producing things, and how we can remedy these harms (or minimise them) as much as possible. Sustainability is a never-ending journey. 

We believe the journey to sustainability starts with transparency, honesty and constant questioning. 

Transparent supply chain 

Too often it is unclear where the things we use every day come from, who they are made by and the environmental impact of what they are made from. Whilst we are already open about all of these things, we are developing something which will give our customers the ability to drill down into each area of our supply chain and understand even more about what their bag is made from and where it comes from. We make all our bags in the UK, and source as many of our materials as possible here too. 

Something that is often brushed under the carpet is what happens to an item at the end of it’s life, most of the time it ends up in landfill. That is the last thing we want to happen to one of our bags and through our BearReMade program we are trying our absolute best to ensure that doesn’t happen. 

As an industry, we need to strip back what we do and move from a historically linear approach of material production and use, where we keep, according to Hannah Simpson "taking, making, and wasting resources and instead head towards closing the production loop" to more circular regenerative systems that reflect nature's own natural processes of sustainability and balance. We must look to renewable natural materials, and ones that can be endlessly recycled and reset the parameters of our business models to look at what value really means to us. As companies across all industries, resetting our parameters first and foremost, will allow us to sustain something good for the planet, instead of simply sustaining the practices that are currently destroying the planet. 

Transparent pricing

Making things sustainably is expensive, so you should expect to pay more for anything that uses that term. Whilst we try and make our products as affordable as possible, we believe it is better to spend more on something that will last a long time as it is often cheaper in the long run and definitely better for the planet.

We want our customers to understand the costs of making our products, and why the price you pay is more than what it costs to make – and what this extra money goes on. Most businesses marked up their products three to four times what it costs to make. We don’t believe in that. We expect people to ask us where our profit goes. That’s why we break it down on our item pages.  

Honesty

We, as companies, need to be honest with ourselves, and then in turn with you. Why are we doing what we are doing? Why are we making what we are making? What impacts do our actions (and products) have right now directly, but also indirectly over time – on our suppliers and their livelihoods, and our shared natural environments. We believe sustainability is a duty to consider the wider elements of every single thing we make: such as carbon footprint of energy and water used (and how to minimise and offset this) the predicted longevity and support we can expect on prolonging the item's life as much as possible, and then take full responsibility for the things we have made when they reach their end of life. 

There is no getting away from the fact that everyone is now using the terms ‘sustainability/sustainable’. It is a buzzword synonymous with climate change, across multiple industries. We are marketing bags. That’s what we make. We sell them to fund our wider missions: firstly to get people outdoors more, and secondly for research and development of products and materials to move toward being a truly earth positive business.

Constant questioning

Throughout our sustainability journey, we will continue to question our impacts on the natural world and the people we work with. We are pleased with where we are currently, and the progress we’ve made in a few years, but sustainability is never about an end result or a pat on the back. It is a journey with no specific end: a journey of constant improvements, education and discussion. If you want to join us on this journey then you can sign up for our newsletter at the bottom of this page or if you want to be a part of it you could always buy a bag!