Aussie success story ettitude reaches eco-milestone after two tough years

ettitude CEO Phoebe Yu says B Corp certification was like doing an MBA. Source: ettitude

After a rigorous, time-intensive two-year application process, eco-bedding innovator ettitude is celebrating it’s recent B Corp certification, which sees the Australian sustainability success story following in the footsteps of big eco-hitters like Patagonia.

The Melbourne-born startup had to satisfy the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit-for-purpose in order to achieve the certification.

The value of going B Corp, ettitude founder and chief Phoebe Yu explains, is in the tools it provides a business — big or small — to take control of their sustainability aspirations and turn them into conscious capitalism.

As a small business sometimes you lack internal tools; you want to do good, you want to make more impact but you don’t know where to start, Yu tells SmartCompany.

That’s where B Corp certification comes in: it’s a framework, not a step, to help you to improve, not just to give you a score”, says Yu. Indeed, ettitude will be reassessed every few years to ensure the company remains true to the certification, not just on sustainability but also people policy, governance, and social impact, the founder explains.

The system is very well rounded to make sure our business really does the right thing and improves in all frontiers to be a more responsible business and make more impact.

Yu says she’s chuffed about ettitude’s high score too — companies need to score over 80 to achieve the B Corp certification, and ettitude’s final overall score was 102 — but it didn’t come easy, with nearly two years of work going into the rigorous application.

It’s almost like trying to pass an MBA, or doing a course, but the learning is invaluable.

Yu’s advice for business owners thinking of doing the same? Start early, she says.

The smaller the business, the easier. You’ll have more simple systems in place, and you can set up your infrastructure to follow [B Corp’s] framework, whereas a big international corporation would probably find it more difficult.

Yu says focusing on sustainability is no longer simply a moral imperative for SMEs and large corporations — it makes good business sense, she says.

There’s a price for not being sustainable moving forward, she says.

Increasingly there are legal and financial risks going forward in business if you don’t think of that responsibility.

In the US, where Yu is now based, a fashion label turning over $100 million in profit faces a 2% revenue fine if it cannot map its supply-chain mapping, reduce its carbon emissions reductions in line with a 1.5-degree Celsius scenario, and report wages as compared to payment of a living wage.

The B Corp certification was a natural progression for ettitude, which has also eliminated virgin plastic from packaging; donates 1% of its sales to environmental not-for-profits; is committed to becoming Carbon Neutral Certified; and is investigating textile recycling.

The company spent years refining and testing its textile to create an evolved and improved bamboo fabric, which is produced in a closed-loop system that recycles and reuses water.

Clean Agency, an American sustainability consulting firm, compared the carbon and water footprint of ettitude’s organic bamboo fabric with cotton and found an ettitude sheet set saved 52% in greenhouse gas emissions and contributed up to 500 times less water depletion.

Ettitude’s signature CleanBamboo sheet sets were found to have saved over 1 billion litres of water and more than 875,000kgs of C02 when compared to their cotton counterpart, the company’s Impact Report revealed.

And these efforts are paying off: the startup launched just eight years ago but now boasts offices in Melbourne and Los Angeles, with a total of US$3 million ($4.1 million) raised to help scale its innovative product offering.

These days, ettitude has over 300,000 customers from Australia and the US.

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