How ODLO, a premium performance sportswear brand, is becoming more sustainable

by Dheeraj Tagra

16-January-2019  |  9 mins read


ODLO, one of the respectable names in premium performance sportswear, has come up with its interesting Sustainability report 2017/2108. The company was founded over 70 years ago and is continuously growing. With many big and small but important steps and initiatives, the brand has done remarkable work as far as sustainability is concerned. Apparel Resources explored the report and brings some of the most interesting things done by the brand.

Exploring the Brand

Market: Its products are available in over 8,000 sales outlets around the world. The brand, sold in around 35 countries around the globe, also runs 17 brand stores and 17 outlets across Europe. Switzerland, Germany, France, Belgium/Netherlands, Austria, UK and Norway generate the majority of its turnover.

Product: ODLO follows one Spring/Summer collection (around 920 styles) and one Fall/Winter collection (around 940 styles) with a total production volume of approximately 6.8 million items.

Sourcing: It has 13 own production sites across Europe and the Middle East, which contribute 51 per cent (value wise) and 63 per cent (value wise) of brand’s total supply. Rest of its sourcing is totally from Asia. As far as India is concerned, only Right Sports Apparels, Valsad (Gujarat) and Usha Garments, Umbergaon (Gujarat) are the vendors for the brand and have a share of 1.3 per cent and 1 per cent value and volumewise, respectively, in total supply.

Sustainability Strategy: The sustainability strategy of the brand is built on three pillars – social, ecological and product responsibility, while sustainability management system follows the membership principles of Fair Wear Foundation (FWF) and Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC). The ODLO’s supplier code of conduct (most restrictive code) on the market is based on the conventions of the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Sustainable Initiatives: The brand introduced the use of dry dye technology, relying more on sustainable wicking finishes as well as on the increased use of Lyocell. Furthermore, to ensure resource efficiency, it implemented a 3D sampling project. Due to this, it was able to reduce the total amount of its salesman samples by 30 per cent so far. Through its partnership with My Climate (Swiss non-profit organisation dedicated to climate protection), it feels proud to label the Ceramicool articles as climate-neutral. The company supported the ‘Community Reforestation’ project with 1 per cent of the turnover generated from the entire Ceramicool collection for the seasons Fall/Winter 2017 and Spring/Summer 2018. In total, a compensation for 50,000 tonnes of CO2 was raised by the project.

Goals & Achievements: ODLO has FWF leader status which is one of the major achievements for the brand. Regarding the implementation of living wages, after an in-depth analysis in 2016/17, goals were agreed on and the starting point was set for January 2018. The project started in its own factory in Romania, where 35 per cent of its production volume is produced. An independent third party executed a detailed study on living wages, calculated a living wage gap and accordingly, ODLO implemented a ‘bridge the living wage gap’ strategy. From January 2018 there would not only be a new minimum wage of 1,900 RON but also a significant shift in social contribution from employer to employee, the implementation plan had to be adjusted. It was also insisted that review of the benchmark on a regular basis is a necessity.

The company increased the involvement of the local quality control team with regard to social compliance monitoring. To increase staff awareness, all its new employees receive a detailed introductory training on sustainability at ODLO, including the FWF Code of Labour Practises. More refresher courses are also planned for 2018/19.

Sustainable Material: It works with material suppliers who are Ökotex and/or bluesign-certified, have their own certified testing facilities or work very closely with an independent laboratory. Not only the materials, but also the entire range of the company’s underwear and base layer ranges are certified with Oekotex Standard 100. ODLO uses sustainable sources like Lyocell, where the entire production chain is transparent and highly environment-friendly. Regarding animal welfare, ODLO is committed to ensuring that these natural products are obtained using fair production methods. Practices such as mulesing are strictly forbidden when it sources wool. The down used is a by-product of the meat production industry and is guaranteed not to involve live plucking or force-feeding. Wherever possible, it avoids the use of PFOA/PFOS in water-repellent finishes. 95 per cent of ODLO products with a durable water-repellent finish are treated using a fluorocarbon-free product. It is further working to ensure to achieve the 100 per cent FC-free mark. Leftover fabric donation and clothing donation are also some of the initiatives of the company.

Logistics Initiatives: Focusing on recycling, the brand’s central distribution center in Brüggen (Germany) reused 70,000 units of inner cardboards by exchanging between the central warehouse and own production. To save energy, the warehouse is equipped with a geothermal heat pump and a lighting system which can be regulated independently by workplace division.

Sustainability for Team ODLO

In its sustainability report, the brand published interviews (with same questions) of its many employees from different departments. They were also asked – What does sustainability mean to you?

“To act consciously and be aware that everything you do has an impact.” Julia Krämer, Sustainability Manager

“To use long-life products, be it in textiles, electronics or otherwise. ODLO, as a high-quality brand, fits perfectly with my personal values.” Regina Goller, Head, Material Management

“A sustainable product means for me that it is high quality and will last a long time so it can be worn for many years.” Monica Pricope, Quality Control

“It is all about saving resources. Trying to use less energy is also very important.” Horst Römer, Facility Operation

“To save resources and reuse things. It would also be good to bring sustainability more into our packaging. The green dot is an important step, but we can do more. Sustainability also means avoiding returns in the first place.” Ulrike Wolf, Team Lead Returns

Using high-quality products; this can be clothing but also products of daily life. I try to stay alert on this topic. There is a lot of mass production and this is one of the reasons I’m very proud of our brand.” Lemco van Dam, Country Manager

“Sustainability is a lifestyle. It starts with each of us and should end with the thought: less is more” Barbara Hösli, CHRO, ODLO

Bike to work: For more than a decade now, ODLO International AG takes part in the national ‘bike to work’ initiative organised by the association ‘Velo Schweiz’. For one month, employees commute to work by bicycle, in combination with a team competition about the longest distance taken as a team. Here, its five teams cycled 6,511 km, making not only a positive contribution to their own fitness, but also to the environment; saving a total of 938 kg of CO2.

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