For Ettitude, it’s been a time of fast-tracked growth and expansion. Now, with vaccinations in the US hitting a critical mass, we’ve been able to operate on a more even keel, with hybrid work arrangements and even the hope that we can begin to carefully plan small events again. With more people spending their time and discretionary income outside of the home, as a business, Ettitude is working harder to stay top-of-mind and interact with customers when they are in the home buying mindset.
IR: How would you describe the past year for Ettitude and what are your plans for the next 12-18 months?
PY: As a pure play online business focused on at-home comfort, we were well-equipped to adjust to the changes we faced in 2020. Our rapid growth last year has validated that our customers are seeking eco-friendly brands that align with their personal values. This goes to show that growth doesn’t have to be compromised by a commitment to conscious living. As a business, we’ve always been grounded in a sense of purpose, but the past year has only spurred us further on our mission to make the world a more comfortable place.
We’ve taken that and expanded our social responsibility efforts, sustainability targets and metrics, and really honed in on accountability on numerous fronts. This has happened alongside a strong focus on our branding, our imagery, our messaging and expanding our product range. In the middle of 2020, we raised $1.25 million, which has helped us be more ambitious about what the next year holds for us. We’ve recently become Climate Neutral certified. We’ll continue to expand our product offering in the most sustainable way we can, grow our team within critical functions, develop new and innovative sustainable textiles and carry out strategic brand partnerships.
IR: Ettitude launched successfully into the US a few years ago. How is the global expansion of the business going and what are your plans for 2021? Do you see the business launching in other parts of the world?
PY: Expanding into the US was a huge catalyst for growth for Ettitude as we were able to unlock more efficient logistics and deliver a better customer experience for both AU and US customers. We don’t see any limits on where Ettitude is capable of expanding. For the short-term, we’re focusing on innovating to meet growing demand, and on delivering the best possible customer experience in our core markets.
Over the next 12 months, we’ll also be looking at trialling partnerships with omni-channel brands to increase that touch-point for customers and grow further brand awareness in physical settings.
IR: Tell me about Ettitude’s CleanBamboo fabric and the development process behind it.
PY: CleanBamboo is a unique textile that took years of research and refinement to get right. While many companies offer bamboo bedding using toxic rayon or viscose technology, CleanBamboo is made without the use of any harsh chemicals or solvents. This bamboo is spun into CleanBamboo textile using a non-toxic, closed-loop system that saves 98 per cent of water. In 2020, we had our CleanBamboo tested by third party research group Clean Agency to conduct a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) comparing CleanBamboo to cotton. The report revealed that, compared to a cotton sheet set, the manufacturing of a CleanBamboo sheet set uses 500 times less water and creates 52% per cent fewer carbon emissions.
IR: Ettitude started off in bedding but has now expanded into sleepwear and homewares. Do you see the business becoming a lifestyle brand in the future and what does that look like?
PY: Definitely! We never want to be seen as just another bedding brand. We would like our brand to stand for sustainable comfort and be the leader in the sleep wellness industry.
We will continue to develop new, functional products that bring comfort to all while further enhancing sustainability, circularity or social impact.
For example, we’re investing in ongoing research and testing to find new sustainable materials including plastic-free elastic and threads. We will conduct further auditing processes in other areas of our supply chain including fibre, yarn and weave factories. We will continue to design seasonless items made to outlast short-lived trends.
IR: Ettitude has experimented with physical retail in the past. Is that something that you’re continuing to look into?
PY: We had a pop-up store in Los Angeles just before Covid-19 hit. It taught us a lot about IRL merchandising and customer experience. It’s definitely something we would explore again in the future, but it depends on how we can format it to deliver a really engaging retail experience for our customers. So much of our selling point is in the softness and quality of our signature CleanBamboo textile, so we’re certainly not averse to bringing that touchpoint back when it’s safe and appropriate to do so.
IR: What do you find most frustrating about the retail industry, particularly when it comes to greenwashing? If you could change anything about it, what would you change?
PY: Too many brands approach sustainability as a selling tool rather than a fundamental business value. This is what leads to misleading communication. In the end, these brands are doing themselves and the rest of their cohort a disservice, because consumers are increasingly (and rightfully) demanding stats and facts from brands and businesses to back up their claims. If I could change anything, it would be greater transparency from retailers and a willingness to engage authentically with consumers.
IR: Where do you think the future of sustainability in retail lies?
PY: Circularity. We need to adopt circular models of consumption to avoid the tonnes of waste we’re pouring into the earth’s oceans, land and air. Last year, we launched our pilot recycling program Loop in partnership with Upparel. Loop saw 254.2kg of textile waste diverted from landfills, preventing 1016.8kg of greenhouse gases in just two months. We’re working on ways of expanding this program into our US market and further developing it here in Australia too. Circular consumption is a huge challenge, but it’s definitely the next stage of responsible retail.
IR: A lot of brands now are trying to put more focus on sustainability in their businesses, but it’s hard turning a ship around. What is your advice to those businesses?
PY: There is a lot to nitpick about how sustainability is approached in 2021, but provided it’s done with authentic intention, it can only be a positive for your business and of course for the planet. The concept of sustainability is huge and can be overwhelming because it encompasses all manner of responsibilities, from environmental to social.
As a leader, I recommend starting with the basics. What is most important to you and your business? Once you’ve got that, you can make decisions based on purpose instead of pressure. I also strongly recommend setting goals against a framework such as the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs), as they provide a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, both now and into the future. At Ettitude, we’re looking to track our future impact against these goals.