pact founder and CEO Brendan Synnott is not one to shy away from the shortcomings of sustainability. “If we all want to be perfectly sustainable, we can just close shop,” he says sarcastically.
It’s a harsh reality for brands making a product: there will inevitably be an impact on the planet. So it’s juggling balancing the positives and negatives of production and moving all that cargo around the world.
Specializing in organic cotton basics, Pact has followed a host of ethical and sustainable practices since the company’s inception. But there was one problem Synnott knew they had to solve: the packaging material.
“We received constant feedback from customers about the use of plastic bags for our organic cotton underwear, especially when they ordered a 6-pack and received six individual bags instead of just one. I totally get it. I know plastic is a problem. Packing an organic product in a plastic bag is not okay. That is not the message we want to convey,” he says.
But the problem, he explains, wasn’t as easy to solve as he’d like because their products are delivered overseas to their partner facilities in India (where the organic cotton comes from and is made into clothing).
Early on, the company experimented with a recycled polybag that Synnott said didn’t work for them; it did not hold up in the long overseas transit. Now he notes that the material has improved, but when they tried it, it didn’t work and fell apart leaving the products exposed.
That is why this year Pact decided to opt for Vela bags, made of paper, because they meet many criteria: transparent, which means it is easier to fulfill orders, durable enough to make the international journey and for to remain on the shelves for a longer period of time. time, weather resistant and manufactured with materials that are 100 percent recyclable.
The Vela bagsa product offered by packaging company Seamen Paper, are actually made with 60 percent post-consumer recycled waste and are an FSC-certified, paper-based solution to plastic.
Synnott admits that this move is achievable for them because they have a streamlined supply chain and work with a select few manufacturing and fulfillment partners. “There is a certain usability in our supply chain that allows us to make this change, while it may be more difficult for another brand to work with multiple partners in different countries. But even we were slow to move forward with this,” he admits.
So this has been a long journey for the sustainably minded brand to solve a problem that many consumers believe is a quick fix. Other environmentally conscious companies such as Mara Hoffman, Outerknown and Faherty have also turned to the same product to reduce their plastic consumption.
“Plastic, let’s get it out of the system. It’s a chemical, and if we could get it out of the system as much as possible, that would be great. As a brand we say ‘carry plants, not plastic’. Plus, I don’t think consumers recycle it very well. It’s not about reuse, it’s about reduction, in my opinion,” he adds.
Over the years, Pact has moved from selling in retailers across America to largely one national chain: Whole Foods. Usually, Synnott’s approach is now direct-to-consumer. He says this allows the company to be more streamlined, tell better stories about their supply chain and eco-practices (like this one), and as a result the brand doesn’t rely on limited floor space in chain stores.
That’s why this holiday season Synnott is asking consumers to “gift smarter” by supporting brands taking steps toward sustainability, especially with apparel. “It’s one of the most popular gift items,” he notes. That’s why Pact has teamed up with Give Back Box to give consumers a way to return used clothing if they choose to replenish their wardrobe with new items.
“No one is perfect on this journey. But we’re trying, and that’s important,” he says.