We are not a sustainable company

*Disclaimer: I stole the above title from this excellent post over at Noah.

Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard writes in his book Let my people go surfing, the education of a reluctant businessman:

“Everything we personally own that’s made, sold, shipped, stored, cleaned, and ultimately thrown away does some environmental harm every step of the way, harm that we’re either directly responsible for or is done on our behalf.”

I am ashamed to say that I believed that actively taking care of the environment was treehugger bullshit. Perhaps that’s a bit strong, but I can’t say that I took it too seriously either.

Over the past 5 years, my perspective has gradually changed. Since starting Ace & Tate, I came across companies who actively diminish their product’s environmental footprint. I discovered Reformation, whose raison d’être is “Being naked is the #1 most sustainable option. Reformation is #2”. I witnessed Noah’s great work on explaining the dangers of single-use plastics. But, to be honest, it wasn’t until Yvon Chouinard’s fascinating book about starting and growing Patagonia that the penny — finally — dropped:

The harsh reality finally hit me — for every pair of glasses we make, Ace & Tate does harm to the planet. Every frame we produce, every lens we cut and every package we ship: everything is connected to natural resources. Every happy customer comes at an environmental cost.

One could argue that the obvious solution would be to simply stop selling things. I choose not to. For one, because I love the work we do: making our customers happy with great products. Second, there is a lot of ground to cover in our industry in terms of reducing environmental harm. Ace & Tate can be a positive force.

My ambition for Ace & Tate is to become a driver for change in our industry. I won’t state that we are a “sustainable” company. We are not. We are, however, a company, that will actively and steadily work towards reducing the footprint we leave behind.

Since educating myself on the topic I have learned that there is no magic bullet to becoming “sustainable”. No end-state, no shortcuts. Instead, it’s an ongoing effort of measuring, improving, sharing, and learning throughout the bumpy process towards being sustainable. Reducing our impact will be the result of many steps — some small, some major.

Most of these will be invisible until we share what happens behind the scenes.

So, taking a page from the book of Patagonia, we will share our learnings with you. Successes, failures — warts and all. We hope others in the industry will join us in prioritising action over intent. This is not about Ace & Tate. It is our collective responsibility, as brands, companies, entrepreneurs, team members, citizens to get our shit together. Learn with us.

Leaving you with yet another Yvon Chouinard quote, who bluntly but eloquently explains what’s what:

“I don’t really believe that humans are evil; it is just that we are not very intelligent animals. No animal is so stupid as to foul it’s only nest, except humans.”

Mark de Lange
Ace & Tate

‘We’re working on it’ is a new platform we’re trying out, committed to openness and self-reflection.

As we move forward, we’d like to let our walls down and take you along on our journey, wrong turns and all, whilst covering some fundamental questions: why we exist, who we are, what we hope to become and our game plan to getting there. Thanks for reading, we’re so glad you’re here.

Get in touch, we’d love to hear from you: workingonit@aceandtate.com