Looking back at 2023: Our year in review

Looking back at 2023: Our year in review

2023 has been a busy year for Untouched World, so as we head into the winding down period ahead of the new year, we’re taking a moment to look back at what we’ve achieved over the last 12 months. We’re proud to share some of the new steps we’ve taken, the ways in which we’ve supported our community, and the progress we’ve made in reducing our impact even further.

Tackling waste head on

Reducing waste is nothing new to Untouched World. Our established waste-reducing actions include turning offcuts into fun, zero waste kids’ collections and teeny beanies for babies in neonatal. This year, we added some more waste-busting methods to our repertoire. First up, we partnered with local artist Ari Terehova to create our Botanica Scarf. Each wonderfully soft, 100% wool scarf is expertly hand dyed with waste powder generated by the health and beauty industry during fruit extract processing. These powders would otherwise go to waste and, as they’re totally natural, they leave no harmful chemical traces in their wake.

Next up, we wanted to make even more progress towards our goal of creating zero textile waste by 2024, so we devised yet another way to use our leftover textile scraps. Behind the scenes, we’ve been collecting the small knitwear scraps which are created during our production runs, cutting them down into smaller pieces and sending them onto our Wellington spinner. From there, the scraps are shredded, turned into new yarn and transformed into our Rubbish Socks. The recycling process is entirely mechanical so there is no water or dye involved. Not only is this good news for the environment but it means the colours are totally unique, derived purely from the colours of the scraps.

Last but not least, we’ve partnered with UPPAREL to turn some of our harder to recycle scraps such as linen and cotton into UPtex, a material made entirely from recovered textiles that can be used to make everything from bags to wine cases.

Mending Mondays

Our clothes are designed and made to be passed down through generations, but even the highest quality clothes need a little TLC from time to time, so we expanded our circularity efforts by launching Mending Mondays. On the first Monday of every month, our talented Production Manager Fi is on hand in our flagship store in Christchurch to mend, repair, and offer care advice for Untouched World garments.

Positive change at Untouched World

We like to lead by example, so we practise what we preach at the Untouched World HQ and stores. This year, we installed two 7kW electric vehicle chargers at our flagship store and café in Christchurch, making it easier for our customers to travel sustainably. Meanwhile, we’ve continued with our single-use coffee cup ban at Untouched Word Kitchen. To date, we’ve kept over 16,000 paper cups out of landfill.

Supporting our local community

Early in 2023, cyclone Gabrielle tore through parts of the North Island of New Zealand, taking lives and leaving destruction behind. The clean-up efforts were immense, not only due to the loss of homes and buildings, but also because of the silt that was left behind. As it dried it became dust, posing a serious health hazard, so we reached out to the affected communities and donated thousands of reusable face masks to protect people from inhaling the dust.

To support aspiring businesswomen in Christchurch, our CEO and founder Peri Drysdale joined Mentor Walks. The brilliant scheme partners mentors and mentees according to experience and interest, providing vital connection, expert insight, and an experienced voice to call upon for career advice.

In addition to the active work we’ve done in our community, this year we’ve also supported a number of local charities in various ways including One Mother to Another, NZ Flying Doctors, Canterbury Charity Hospital, Girls who Grow, and Love Wanaka. And, at Christmas we gathered our community of staff and customers to donate children’s storybooks to Women’s Refuge to help make a child’s Christmas that little bit brighter.

Supporting the global community

While we are proudly locally focused, we also believe in supporting the wider global community. In 2023, we continued to expand our efforts in this area. Via our partnership with B1G1, for every CoolTree™ garment purchased or coffee purchased from our UW Kitchen, we give a family in Ethiopia access to lifesaving clean water.

We also sold 1,886 Project U t-shirts this year. Project U is a not-for-profit, Fairtrade certified organic collection made in Kolkata, India. The t-shirts are made by women who were once marginalised and trapped by poverty and prostitution, and the income received and support provided is a next step for them towards freedom and a fulfilling life. In addition, the profits from t-shirt sales supports the Untouched World Foundation and helps more students participate in our UN-recognised Untouched World Foundation Leadership for a Sustainable Future programmes.

Looking after our team

Ethical fashion must include everyone, so we continuously look for ways to ensure our team is happy and healthy. For instance, we offer our makers extra sunshine breaks throughout the day as well as an extended paid lunch break that can be used to go for a walk to boost mindfulness. In addition, we’ve also implemented an Employee Assistant Programme - a system which is designed to boost our team’s health and wellbeing by providing a confidential way to receive support across all aspects of life - from physical and mental health to social and financial help. It’s a supportive platform to help our staff stay happy and healthy. The results of our staff survey, taken in October, show that 91.3% are proud to work at Untouched World and 86% have a great relationship with their co-workers.

Moments of joy

There have been many moments of joy scattered throughout the year here, so allow us to share just a few. In February, Untouched World received a visit from Princess Anne (president of the UK Fashion Textile Association) and her husband Sir Timothy Laurence; in March Untouched World was shortlisted for Brand of the Year at the Drapers Sustainable Fashion Awards; in November, Peri served as a judge for the first ever Mindful Fashion Circular Design Awards; and the same month she was named as a finalist in the New Zealand International Business Awards in the Inspiring Women Leaders category and was awarded the UN Pioneering Women Entrepreneurship Day Award for 2023.

Turning towards 2024...

While it’s important to reflect on what we’ve achieved, we never stand still. In fact, we’ve already got our eyes on 2024. Our plans include introducing a new animal welfare policy, introducing new recycled denim products, working on removing nylon from our socks, continuing to reduce our waste to landfill, and assessing areas where we can save water.

Check back in next year to see how we got on!