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What are the main values leading your business?"Read answer
How can you be sure your wool comes from animals who are treated humanely?"Read answer
What measures do you take to ensure a balance between the sheep’s grazing needs being met, while protecting the natural ecosystem existing in each region?"Read answer
What breed of working dogs are used on your grower stations?"Read answer
I would love to know who is making my icebreaker products? What kind of conditions are they working in? Are they paid a decent wage? Are they all adults? What is icebreaker doing to ensure these things?"Read answer
Do you think we’ll one day be able to track from farm to garment? It’d be great to see where the wool from a purchased garment originates and the factories that contribute to its manufacture."Read answer
What will change in your internal culture now that icebreaker is no longer a New Zealand-owned company?"Read answer
The report is great but why are you made in China instead of in New Zealand?"Read answer
Why does icebreaker use some synthetics?"Read answer
I love icebreaker and know you love nature, but what are you actually doing to protect the environment?"Read answer
How do you protect worker’s rights?"Read answer
How are you different from the rest of the industry THE REST OF THE INDUSTRY?"Read answer
Do you have a favourite sheep?"Read answer
What does entrepreneurship mean to you?"Read answer
What are the main values leading your business?"
"At icebreaker we explore the relationship between people and nature. Nature is our hero. Our purpose is to offer our customers a natural alternative to synthetics and to lead the outdoor industry towards sustainable solutions. Our three guiding principles are adaptation (the ability to adapt to an ever changing environment), symbiosis (living things working together for mutual benefit) and sustainability. You can find out more about our values and principles here.
How can you be sure your wool comes from animals who are treated humanely?"
"We are committed to working closely with our merino growers; in some cases, these relationships span over 20 years. This is how we know that we work with some of the best merino growers in the world. Growers who share our values for producing sustainable, ethically sourced merino fiber. icebreaker sources from the ZQ grower accreditation programme. This programme has been developed to provide customers with certainty that product quality, animal welfare and health, environmental, economic and social values are positively addressed and provides further assurances through an independent third party on-farm audit process. icebreaker growers are committed to a strict animal welfare code, that also applies to the sheep dogs working on the stations.
What measures do you take to ensure a balance between the sheep’s grazing needs being met, while protecting the natural ecosystem existing in each region?"
"We source our ethical wool through the ZQ accreditation program, which independently audits and regulates for best practice environmental sustainability. Sheep are grazed in some of the world’s most beautiful and remote grassland areas and are free to roam throughout the year. Each farm is geographically diverse and located within a wider regional ecosystem, therefore, we take an individual approach to environmental management. Each of our growers must complete and maintain a land environment plan, focused on the protection of their landscape. Many growers have generational knowledge and care for the environmental systems unique to their property. The land is further protected through local regulation, governing the management of land, air and water natural resources.
What breed of working dogs are used on your grower stations?"
"There two types of dogs typically used on New Zealand sheep farms, Huntaways and Heading dogs. Huntaways are a New Zealand breed of dog that is used for general sheep tasks, including helping to move sheep in and out of sheep yards during shearing time. The other type of dog is known as a Heading dog, these have been bred from a Border Collie and they position themselves around the sheep to move them in certain directions. New Zealand doesn’t have predators such as foxes or wolves, so we don’t use dogs for the ‘protection’ of sheep, only to muster and move sheep.
I would love to know who is making my icebreaker products? What kind of conditions are they working in? Are they paid a decent wage? Are they all adults? What is icebreaker doing to ensure these things?"
"Great questions, and this is something that is very important to us. We take a very diligent approach to our supply chain management systems. This includes a robust supplier on-boarding process and arranging third party ethical audits before we start working with a new supplier. All of our suppliers must agree to our Supply Chain Code of Conduct which outlines our human rights policy and is founded on the International Labor Organization (ILO) Declaration on the Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work. If you would like to know more, we have outlined the full details of our approach in our 2017 Inaugural Transparency report which can be downloaded from our website.
Do you think we’ll one day be able to track from farm to garment? It’d be great to see where the wool from a purchased garment originates and the factories that contribute to its manufacture."
"Currently we are able to trace the source of all components of our product from fiber through to trims at each stage of our supply chain. Each of production has a unique set of compliance and quality checks. The challenge with linking a specific garment right back to an individual sheep station is that during the wool tops process, our wool which comes from multiple stations is blended together many times over during the cleaning, carding and combing process in order to achieve a homogenous and consistent level of quality, appearance and performance.
What will change in your internal culture now that icebreaker is no longer a New Zealand-owned company?"
"In April 2018 icebreaker was acquired by VF Corporation because they believe in our product and our ethos. Our partnership with VF provides us with the largest platform in the world to tell our story, access new markets and reach new consumers at an accelerated pace. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for our global brand and for our wool suppliers to introduce new consumers to the benefits of sustainably farmed, ethically sourced Merino wool. icebreaker was built on the foundations of sustainability and tractability. We want to be global leaders in transparency and inspire other companies to do the same. We will continue to look for opportunities to engage and collaborate within VF Corporation and our broader industry.
The report is great but why are you made in China instead of in New Zealand?"
Jeremy Moon, Founder
"The report is great but why are you made in China instead of in New Zealand?" Well, we used to be made in New Zealand right at the beginning, but because we’re a global brand the manufacturing here is really, really small. We’re not actually like a clothing manufacturing company; we’re really, really good at growing the fiber. So, I went on a quest in 2002 and I was trying to find the best place to manufacture. We were looking for the cleanest technology and the most innovative partners. I went all around the world. I went through North America, through different parts of Europe and different parts of Asia; and, actually the best technology was all based in China. So, when I think about our supply chain, it's like, there’s a French company based in china, there’s a German company based in China, there’s a Japanese/Chinese joint venture based in China. It's more like a United Nations. And, what I learnt is, it's not actually where things are made, it's how they’re made. So, our partners are really long term trusted partners. All the incredible technology we’ve unveiled, or there’s new uses of merino, has come directly from that decision. So, I’m really proud of it; I really stand by it and it was a tough call.
Why does icebreaker use some synthetics?"
Jeremy Moon, Founder
"Why does icebreaker use some synthetics?" Yeah, a bit of a trade-off right? Because we’re all about natural performance, yet some of our fabrics, like our underwear, for example, has a little bit of lycra in it. So, what we’re trying to do, is we’re trying to… I think of synthetics only as a structural element, like a skeleton; and we only use them to try and bring out the natural performance properties of the merino. So, for example, this tee-shirt has a very, very fine filament of nylon that we wrap the merino around. That means I’m getting all the benefit against my skin, against my body of the merino, but the reason we wrap it around is because it's now about three times stronger than the version without it. So, it's kind of like a trade-off right? It's less pure, but it's going to last two or three times as long. So, we just kind of go through our garments and we think, “Right, can we make this better, by adding a little bit of synthetic, and then some outer wear in some of our lighter weight fabrics?" That’s the case, and if that what it takes to make the best fabrics we’re okay with that.
I love icebreaker and know you love nature, but what are you actually doing to protect the environment?"
Jeremy Moon, Founder
Our approach here is a bit different to the rest of the outdoor industry. So, typically, the kind of traditional way is you use synthetics, you’ve got a synthetic layering system, and then you use the profits from that to donate back to environmental causes. So, our thinking is totally different; it's more like, how can we minimise environmental impact in the first place. Plastic is everywhere, right? There’s so much, and now we’re reading about the impact when washing synthetics, in terms of how all those microfibers are getting into the waterways and ultimately into the animals that live in the sea. So, starting right with the question of how do we have less synthetics in our life, is a really, really good way to start thinking about reducing our environmental impact. So, it's not just clothing; you know, like our philosophy is really about nature has got all these answers and how do we understand that; and, then turn those into solutions from nature. So, we’re not trying to just make natural products here; we’re trying to impact the lives of our customers, we’re trying to have a positive environmental impact on the whole industry to demonstrate that there are nature based solutions, to reduce our reliance on petrol chemicals, and ultimately the impact, that we’re only really understanding now, of those petrol chemicals; not only on our body, but on waterways and on the environment. So, it's a more holistic approach. You know, we support different courses and we sponsor a lot of people, but it's more root cause thinking about trying to have an impact on people and their environment.
How are you different from the rest of the industry THE REST OF THE INDUSTRY?"
Jeremy Moon, Founder
It's a great question. So, let's think about how the traditional outdoor industry works. They buy synthetic fabrics, they make a synthetic layering system, and then from the profits of selling that they then can donate to environmental causes. But, you know, this is just perpetrating more and more synthetics and more and more plastics into the world. Our mission is to think about this completely differently, right? Why do we need all of this plastic around us? It's because there aren’t enough alternatives. So, we’re totally passionate about creating a natural alternative to synthetics; about learning from nature. So, when we start with our merino fiber, we’re building long-term contracts, up to ten years, to secure on-farm environmental sustainability and profitability with our growers; and then taking steps all the way through is having a massive environmental impact on the clarity of the impact in our supply chain. Then ultimately, having a product that over 85 percent of the fibers that we use is pure merino wool; so having this as the finished product, as a consequence we’re having less impact on waterways. There’s so much evidence now, that every time synthetics are washed there’s the microfibers which are coming off into the waterways, into the sea and impacting sea life. So, for us to have a really positive environmental impact, we need success and momentum around getting traction around this idea of natural alternatives to synthetics. And, it's not just about clothing, it's about the furniture that we have and the materials that we bring into our life. And, that’s what we’re passionate about; asking people to think differently and to behave differently, so then collectively we are all having a major impact on the environment positively.
Do you have a favourite sheep?"
Jeremy Moon, Founder
Yeah, there’s a sheep I’m very fond of in Mt Nicholas Station called Bevan who’s 11. Often he’ll come running up to me and I’ll have a special meal prepared. He can speak six languages, which is very unusual for a sheep; you know, one or two at the max. So, I always think of Bevan when I think, about questions like that.
What does entrepreneurship mean to you?"
Jeremy Moon, Founder
When I think about entrepreneurship; for a start it took me three years to work out how to say the word, right? I’d never heard of it. And, for me, starting icebreaker was more about learning to trust my instincts; trust my intuition, follow my dreams, and also kind of counter that dream state and that vision of what’s possible, with a really big learning quest. Who can I learn from? I’m not from a textile background. I did a degree in cultural anthropology; I was working as a researcher. But, by finding people that could help, that kind of taught me that when you’ve got a strong idea of something that you believe in you can really achieve anything; and there’s so many people around us that want to help. So, if you do have an idea write it down, nurture it and then ask for help and you’ll be amazed at what you can achieve.
Dominic, Hong Kong
How do you protect worker’s rights?"
Greg Smith, CEO
When it comes to human rights and working with factories in particular, we have a human rights policy which is part of our on-boarding process, and what that means is we vet all of the factories that we work with based on the UN Declaration of international human rights. And, I think it's important to understand that when we’re entering into a relationship, as part of that on-boarding process, what we’re looking for is a narrow and deep partnership and relationship for a long term. So, many of our factories we’ve worked with for over a decade and we continue to work with those businesses because they provide the best conditions for everyone in the factories.