One Year | 500 Trees Planted | Over £60,000 donated to Charity
We believe our blankets are symbolic of our mission statement - share warmth - and we mean it in every sense of the word. As small business owners, we want The Tartan Blanket Co. to be a force for good, and to always be bettering people’s lives and our planet.
A Note from Emma & Fergus
To our community,
Welcome to our first Positive Impact Pledge report! From the moment we started TBCo. back in 2014, we knew we wanted our business to have real heart and soul and somehow make the world a little better. We soon realised that to achieve this, we needed to take our good intentions and actually build them into how we do business.
So this past year, we decided to commit to making a real difference and pledge to donate 2% of our revenue to charity- and what a year it was! Like many other small businesses, 2020 was full of difficult challenges, yet also silver linings. We expanded our team, introduced our brand new kids scarves, celebrated our second year in Liberty of London, had some pinch-me press features like The New York Times and Vogue and launched a sell out collaboration scarf with Zeena Shah.
Amidst all of the excitement of our 2020 accomplishments, we remain most proud of our Positive Impact Pledge. It created the opportunity for us to donate over £60,000 to humanitarian and environmental charities in efforts to increase the positive impact of our small business.
Whilst this huge achievement felt like part of the reason we began the The Tartan Blanket Co, it is you, our wonderful customers, who made it possible. Thank you for believing in us, shopping with us and helping us give back. We are so grateful for the trust you put in us, and want to share some of the amazing and impactful causes we have donated to thanks to your purchases. It has been such an overwhelming and challenging year for so many, but love and kindness have also been more present than ever and we hope to have helped share warmth just a bit further this year.
Love and warmth,
Emma & Fergus
Our Positive Impact Pledge
Our Project: 1% for the Planet, 1% for the People
2% of our annual revenue is donated to charities that help care for our planet and charities that help those most in need. Choosing to base our donation on a percentage means that with every order, every new product, every hour spent growing TBCo, we will create a bigger, more positive impact on the world and use our business as a force for good. Already, we have partnered with NAACP, Cool Earth, Changing Faces, The Trussell Trust and Choose Love, and look forward to sharing this journey with many other meaningful organisations.
As a family-run business, we’re very aware of the future we’re leaving for our children. It wasn’t enough to just neutralise our environmental impact; The Tartan Blanket Co. is dedicated t creating a positive handprint and leaving a little more love in our wake.
Our Environmental Charities
In 2020 we gave 1% of our revenue to Cool Earth. This environmental charity works alongside rainforest communities to halt deforestation and its impact on climate change. From setting up an in-country team to working directly with communities and local NGOs to develop their capacity, their partnerships are community-led and adaptable to each location.
“It’s supporters like The Tartan Blanket Co. that ensure Cool Earth continues to develop, share and scale-up the best ways to protect the rainforest through community-led conversation. This is an incredibly challenging time for international charities, and the donation TBCo. gifted is particularly welcome.”
- Magda Pieta, Business Development Coordinator at Cool Earth
Through partnerships with amazing apps like Treeapp, we are able to contribute towards offsetting our carbon footprint and fight against deforestation through planting trees. Treeapp is a mobile app enabling anyone to plant a tree for free every day in less than a minute. The trees are funded by eco-conscious organisations who advertise their products and services on the platform. The planting is performed by their global NGO partners, who make sure every single tree they plant benefits endemic species and local communities.
Not only does deforestation lead to the loss of habitats and the extinction of tens of thousands of species worldwide, it also destroys sources of carbon capture, soil stabilisation, and water regulation. There are lots of different approaches to this problem. But it's only by planting trees that we can increase carbon capture, revitalise species and provide social and economic benefits to local communities.
Sustainability is woven into the partnerships we share a mutual respect and trust with; the wool for our entire collection is sourced from animal-first farms in India and Inner Mongolia – even our Recycled Wool range is made from 100% recycled articles of clothing (with at least 70% wool content). We’re dedicated to only working with natural materials that are good for the environment.
Lambswool & Cashmere
Did you know that wool is natural, breathable, insulating, hypoallergenic, temperature regulating, moisture wicking, odour resistant, recyclable, renewable, biodegradable and sustainable? Let’s just say, sheep and goats really know how to dress themselves.
On top of all of these amazing properties, wool is known for its durability and long lifespan. Fibres can bend up to 20,000 times before breaking (as a comparison, cotton can only bend 3,000 times).
This got us thinking- how can we take advantage of this amazing feature, especially since recycling wool can be a challenge as the fibres are often too short to respin? Our solution is to blend recycled wool with longer mixed fibres saved from landfill to create a soft and durable yarn, which means we can take things like sweaters and socks and repurpose them into super cosy blankets. We call this turning pre-loved into re-loved.
In 2019, we began thinking about whether we could further use any leftover fabric and offcuts that came from creating our Recycled Wool Blankets. We also began to notice just how much our pets were stealing and loving our Recycled Wool. So in 2020 we introduced pet blankets, utilising twice recycled wool offcuts that mills would otherwise discard; and it’s safe to say our furry friends love them too!
We’re strong believers that every little bit counts - sometimes the biggest impact comes from the smallest changes. That’s why we’ve been thinking about and taking the best actions we can to deliver a positive impact from within our internal structures.
- We ship all large orders by sea, avoiding air freight. Although this is a slower alternative, it is much more environmentally friendly and is definitely well worth the wait.
- We print all our new design gift notes on 100% recycled paper and we designed our cashmere sock bands using recycled paper. We have started to phase out older notes which are made from virgin materials. We are also now looking to make some of our gift notes using seed paper.
- We began the redesign process of our signature packaging gift boxes, swing tickets and product labels which will all be made from FSC materials and repurposable where possible.
- We introduced the use of paper tape to seal all our outbound shipments, and moved from plastic to paper bubble wrap.
- We’ve improved our warehouse cardboard and plastic recycling system.
- As a company, we use very little paper. We are working with all suppliers to email invoices rather than include a paper copy with deliveries.
- We are encouraging conscious purchasing behaviour with our customers and clients. For example, when hotels have bought our blankets to replace older ones, we have helped them locate recycling centres for textiles, encouraged upcycling and opened up discussions on slow fashion.
Our Humanitarian Charities
This past year, we donated 1% of our revenue to charities that focus on helping those in need. We’ve always been focussed on sharing warmth, not only to our local communities, but to the world around us. This year we were honoured to partner with:
- Choose Love does whatever it takes to provide refugees and displaced people with everything from lifesaving search and rescue boats to food and legal advice. They elevate the voices and visibility of refugees and galvanise public support for agile community organisations providing vital aid to refugees along migration routes globally.
- The Trussell Trust supports a nationwide network of food banks and provides emergency food and support to people locked in poverty, and campaigns for change to end the need for food banks in the UK.
- Sewadham Ashram is an integral part of the community for our Indian partner mills who weave our Recycled Wool blankets. It is an inter-faith non-partisan voluntary organisation providing lifetime shelter and rehabilitation with due love, care and compassion for the homeless, helpless, differently able, mentally ill, dying and destitute people coming from across India without any discrimination of caste, creed, region, age and gender.
- The mission of the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) is to secure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights in order to eliminate race-based discrimination and ensure the health and well-being of all persons.
- Changing Faces provides advice, support and psychosocial services to children, young people and adults with a scar, mark or condition on their face and body that causes a different appearance. They challenge discrimination and campaign for Face Equality: a world that truly values and respects people who look different.
“The pandemic has had a catastrophic effect on the Charity sector and I wanted to let you know how much your donation means to our organisation and to those we support. Please accept my heartfelt thanks and know that your gift has given us a tremendous boost!"
- Angela, Head of Scotland Changing Faces
Even though wool itself is natural, biodegradable fibre, not all man made practices around the wool industry are sustainable and that’s why our suppliers matter. Before we started this journey, we thought all wool was ethical, especially since there seems to be so much of it in Scotland. We’ve learned a lot since then, and now recognise that the way that wool is collected and sheep are reared varies hugely around the world and, therefore, where our wool comes from is incredibly important to us. For example, New Zealand has outlawed mulesing (removal of easily infected skin around the buttocks of a sheep) but Australia has not. So if we’re sourcing wool from either of these countries, it’s important for us to understand the full traceability of how those sheep are treated - even down to the farm.
We’ve refined our supply chain to work with partner mills who we truly believe in, and who also believe in us and our mission in return. We’ve chosen to focus on animal-first farming methods and using recycled materials. We decided to discontinue manufacturing in places where traceability became a bit too blurred or the wool sourcing was unclear, and focussed on a more transparent route where the visibility is straight-forward and easy for us (and you!) to access.
All our recycled wool comes from India. There is a huge textile recycling industry in India where countries around the world, including the UK and US, ship their unwanted textiles. We’ve not been able to find anything comparable anywhere else in the world. Old clothing and textiles are sorted by colour, broken down and respun into new yarn which can then be woven into blankets. By sorting the items into colours the amount of dying required is significantly reduced. Blue jumpers become blue yarn, which is woven into blue blankets. Some colours (whites and blacks) are not dyed at all. If any additional dying is required, safe AZO free dyes are used to ensure vibrant, long-lasting colour. When the recycled woollen fibres get broken down for respinning, they become quite short which can be difficult for weaving. Mixing them with other recycled fibres, such as polyester from the production waste of synthetic spinning plants or unwanted recycled clothing add strength, allowing for a dense and durable weave that is even machine washable.
By working closely with our trusted partner mills in India, where 50% of the population earn less than $400/month, we are able to create a large positive impact. For example, one order of 1,000 blankets may provide work for, say, 50 people for a month in India, while in the UK it could provide work for 5 people for a week as we rely more heavily on machines and automation. Our partner mills in India employ a large, primarily female workforce to hand finish the fringing on our blankets, and it’s not because it’s faster or better. In fact, it’s slower and results in a few more irregularities, but relying on people instead of efficient machinery allows us to support a community in need of female work opportunities.
All of our lambswool and cashmere comes from Inner Mongolia. We chose to work here because the climate and breeds of sheep create luxuriously soft wool. We also tap into not just great wool but a whole community process. The farmers who rear the animals, the spinners who spin the yarn and the weavers who create the blankets are all part of a single interdependent community - often part of the same family. By having everything happening in one place it’s much easier for a small company like us to visit and have visibility into the whole process. Their people-led traditional farming methods not only support the community’s primary industry, it also means that the sheep and goats get much more individual attention and are cared for better as a result.
By partnering with communities and farms which keep production at the wool source, there isn’t far to travel from farm to mill for TBCo.’s scarves and blankets, reducing the carbon footprint associated with logistics. The Tartan Blanket Co. has also avoided air freight and opted for the slower, but significantly more sustainable, sea freight travel.
As always, but especially in 2020, we are overwhelmed with gratitude for the way our community came together in challenging times. Sometimes we get so caught up in grandiose visions of what it means to have a positive impact that we forget the more simple versions. In the midst of uncertainty, we found our customers seeking the comforts of home.
Thousands of natural wool blankets and scarves were wrapped up and sent with care as loved ones looked for a way to feel close to another from afar. We’re lucky to handwrite our gift notes as we were strengthened and encouraged by all the messages of compassion that accompanied our TBCo. parcels to front doors around the world. We were reminded again and again that it’s not just a blanket, it’s a hug made of wool.
If you’ve ever perused our website, you’re looking at pictures of our community. From family friends to aunts and uncles, our pictures are real people that really love TBCo. We’re proud of this- the visual symbol that TBCo. is a group effort, a coming together of people and families to create something bigger than ourselves.
For the first time, our office team is working from home, which has significantly reduced our carbon production by cutting out our commute. We asked our team what else they got up to in 2020 whilst considering their positive impact.
- Kelsie, our assistant buyer, started composting food & other waste, and donating to Ecologi to plant trees.
- Ray, our merchandising assistant, reduced plastic packaging by switching to plastic-free brands like Smol and WGAC for household goods.
- Amelia, our content team leader, bought a bike and waved goodbye to commuting to work by bus.
- Jade, our product & graphic designer, switched from single use plastic deodorants to a refillable, plastic free and natural ingredients brand. Being able to work from home has also cut out her 70 mile round trip car commute to work
- Jess, our creative marketing assistant, started being a more conscious shopper and investing in items created to last.
- Laura, our finance manager, walked and cycled whenever possible and reduced her single use plastic, especially on fruit and veg. She also went palm oil free and swapped to biodegradable bin bags.
- Fergus, our co-director, cycled to work. He also took a moment to consider the wider breadth of what it means to have a positive impact. He shared that he is continuing his personal development to be a better human and working to transfer that impact to those around him. “My feeling is that mental health is not often talked about but how we are within ourselves impacts how we are with others. How good a leader I am. How empathetic I am. How self-aware I am. All of that impacts those around me.”
Looking forward to 2021
Now that we’ve had a look back at all we did in 2020 to consider and create a positive impact, let’s look forward to some of the goals we made for 2021.
Our 2021 Goals
- Working with partner brands to remove plastic packaging within gift boxes.
- Seek out greater diversity, inclusion and visual representation.
- Make TBCo. packaging from FSC materials with at least 70% recycled content.
- Make our Recycled Wool Picnic Blanket backing from 100% recycled materials.
- Eliminate all plastic in our outbound shipping process.
- Recycle 100% of our inbound shipments packaging.
- Champion closing the loop and providing education about the circular economy.
- Consider ways we can encourage our customers to live and shop more sustainably and responsibly.
Something we believe will help hold us accountable for our actions and also help ensure that we have the correct tools and resources to fully achieve our mission is to become a B-Corporation. Being a B-Corp means that as a business you balance purpose and profit, and use your business as a force for good. It is a long and challenging process (as it should be) and not something that can be achieved overnight, but we believe anything truly worthwhile is not about being easy. Our journey to becoming a B-Corp has begun and we can't wait to deliver updates to you about our progress.