We introduced the very beginnings of our sustainability journey a couple of months ago. Well, there’s still a long way to go but we’re holding ourselves accountable to transparency and sharing all our wins, progress, challenges, and ambitions so far.
At a time when so many people are also starting on their own path towards more sustainable living, we hope sharing our way forward can inspire or encourage in any way – it’s a group effort.
Native Union started as a desire to offer beautiful, high quality alternatives in the tech accessories market. Within an industry that too often revolves around seasonality and cheap materials, our design philosophy puts quality first.
All our teams work really hard to make sure our products are built to last with a premium finish so you can enjoy them for years to come. The next step for our design process is starting to design for circularity or disassembly, doing better at keeping the entire product lifecycle in mind right from the very first steps of ideation.
It’s not an area that’s been deeply explored within our industry, so our Design team is excited to learn and innovate.
The go-to sustainability move for too many brands has been materials. ‘Compostable’ phone cases, ‘biodegradable’ plastic, and ‘sustainable’ leather are just a few we’ve seen flying around. Though it can seem like the better choice, we’ve found that it’s often a shortsighted one.
Our approach is to study and test more ‘sustainable’ substitutes wherever we can. In the end, however, we’ll always choose the option that proves to be the most durable and long-lasting – even if it’s not the most eco-friendly option on the surface. Buy less, but better.
It’s a trial-and-error process, and we’re learning lots as we go:
- All our leather comes from a LWG Gold and Blue Angel certified supplier, ensuring responsible practices and minimal impact
- While some faux options are marketed as eco-friendly, none of them satisfied our quality or durability standards. The more responsible choice for us was to opt for an industry-leading supplier that holds themselves fully accountable
- All our canvas products are transitioning to 100% recycled polyethylene terephthalate (rPET) made from plastic bottles
- Our team was able to source an alternative that’s just as strong, retaining our original premium look and feel
- All our charging cables are made with a reinforced Kevlar® core
- On the surface not an eco-friendly choice, but through testing, we’ve found them to be the most long-lasting by far (you shouldn’t have to buy a replacement cable every few months)
Some of our categories like wireless charging or power sources are naturally harder to improve, and we’ll always prioritize quality. Still, we’re busy sourcing new, innovative materials for our upcoming pipeline and look forward to sharing more with you when we can.
Packaging is a tricky one. On paper, it should be a quick and easy fix. In reality, there’s more to take into account than even we expected.
As a brand with significant retail presence and many B2B partners to consider, it’s been challenging to find solutions that’ll work across the board. Printing several versions of packaging for a single product just isn’t feasible on a logistical level.
But we’ve been able to make a lot of small, yet important changes to keep moving forward:
- Replaced plastic hook with a retractable paper option. This lets us fulfill commercial requirements in a better way, and also reduces packaging variations: a win-win!
- Replaced all insert cards with a QR code to reduce paper usage. Easier for you to get your warranty or product info, better for the environment
- Removing PET film window in cable packaging (from Desk Cable, to be implemented for all future cable restocks). From a retail point of view, the window was great for enhancing in-store product experience. After revisiting, it just wasn’t worth all the extra plastic
- Minimizing size and materials wherever possible. A given. For our upcoming AirTag gear, we’ll be trying an option with no inner tray as the products are less fragile
- Developing paper pulp trays to replace plastic for wireless range. Our wireless chargers require more support since they’re heavier, but our teams are exploring and testing different options for our fall launches
All packaging for our Native Union Paris line, Private Label, and brand collaborations are already 100% recyclable. And for our recent Amazon exclusive Belt Cable XL, we landed on a 100% recyclable and 100% recycled material option.
There’s still a lot of improve, like reviewing alternatives for the lamination finishing, better printing ink options, using more recycled materials…it won’t happen overnight, but we’re hopeful about the pace we’re moving at.
OUR PARTNERS & SUPPLIERS
Supply chain and logistics are areas in which interdependencies make implementing change both extremely complicated and time-consuming.
We’re proud to say that most of our suppliers already prioritize sustainable practices in accordance with various certifications or initiatives. However, it’s also true that we don’t currently work closely enough with existing partners to conduct regular audits or hold new partners to strict requirements.
This is certainly a long-term process with multiple stages, and we hope to make more progress in the near future.
OUR LOGISTICS & TRANSPORT
Since 2020, we’ve been working on localizing our warehouses. Helping our products get to you more efficiently while also drastically reducing our overall emissions impact, we believe it’s a big step in the right direction.
Our Supply Chain team is also actively exploring various shipping routes and delivery transport options to further lessen our impact throughout the cycle.
OUR INTERNAL EFFORTS
Hong Kong, our HQ city, isn’t known for its sustainability efforts. It’s still not as easy as it should be to recycle, and the environment just isn’t a big consideration in people’s consciousness when making decisions.
We’re trying to sprout positive change where we can – in our own office:
- Installed a proper recycling station in pantry. Our partnership with LoveRecycling ensures our waste is properly processed, sorted, and recycled. It may not seem like a big change in many other countries, but with only 14% of plastic in HK being recycled, we’re hoping it’s a step forward
- Reducing commute via ‘Flex’ working initiative. Our entire team now works remote two days a week, not only empowering flexibility but also lessening our overall emissions as a group
- Digitalized internal paper-heavy processes. We’re encouraging less, more considered printing to reduce office paper usage
OUR GOALS & BEYOND
There’s a fundamental inconsistency between sustainability and an industry reliant on new gadgets, the latest tech, and an ever-growing number of devices. However, we know that our evolving relationship with technology is here to stay and ultimately believe it to be a positive force for a liberating and flexible modern lifestyle.
Our central goal is to bridge that gap as much as possible. To offer quality essentials that will last, designed and created in a way that has least impact on the environment. It’s a challenging mission but one we’re excited to take on.
Stay tuned for some new initiatives from us.