Ace & Tate is now an official B Corporation. But let’s be real here — it didn’t come easy. There’s been a few bumps on the road to becoming a B CORP and we’re taking accountability for our actions by sharing the bad moves we’ve made. Hopefully, paving the way for a more transparent eyewear industry. Grab some popcorn, this is going to be juicy.
Whilst becoming a B Corp, we realised that social impact wasn’t something we prioritised enough. For one, we didn’t have Corporate Social Standards (CSR) for our suppliers outlined in a clear policy.
We became more aware of the responsibility we have towards our stakeholders, from our customers to the people working for our Supply Chain partners. On a larger scale, we aim to positively impact the communities and societies we engage with, from improving our value chain to looking after our employees and customers.
In 2019 we created a Code of Conduct — based on the 10 UN Guiding Principles and the International Labour Organisation (ILO). A Code of Conduct is a document in which we as a company describe our corporate responsibility and expectations of our partners in terms of social compliance (Health & Safety, No Child Labour, Fair Wages and Overtime Restriction etc.). We now ensure that our Supply Chain partners share our values by complying with our Code of Conduct before working with them. Tier 1 and Tier 2 Suppliers will sign the renewed code of conduct by the end of 2021.
With the development of our hard case, we wanted our sustainable choices to be tangible and visible in the design. We chose to produce a glasses case from Polyphenylene Ether (PPE) and bamboo fibre. It turns out, that’s not as sustainable as we thought. We realised that by adding bamboo fibre to the product, the recyclability would significantly decrease.
We take responsibility for the impact our actions have on the environment and strive to reduce that impact. We’ve now changed the material to 100% RPP — a Recycled Polypropylene, a type of commodity plastic. One of the key learnings for our team is to focus on making good changes rather than changes that just look good. To do so, we implemented a process for material and supplier decisions that involve our Environmental and Social Responsibility team more closely.
In our quest to decrease our products’ environmental footprint, our teams are constantly looking for the best materials to work with — on all fronts.
After announcing a Climate Emergency and committing to take action, we set ourselves a goal aligned with the B Corp Climate Collective: reach net-zero emissions by 2030. We’re not afraid of a challenge, but our teams now realise that net-zero in 2030 is practically impossible for Ace & Tate. Looking closely at our carbon inventory and considering our growth and expansion rate with store openings in our existing markets, this goal is no longer feasible.
If you’re thinking, why don’t you stop growing and stay on track for the 2030 goal? Well, as our founder Mark puts it, “The bigger we are, the more positive impact we can make. People will always buy glasses (because they need corrective lenses), so if we can increase the availability of eyewear that has a less negative environmental impact, I’d say we’re doing a good job.”
When it dawned on us that our goal was unrealistic, we decided to set reduction targets in line with the latest climate science, guided by the Science Based Target Initiative. These targets put us on track to reach net-zero by 2050, something we can achieve.
We understand the urgency of the climate crisis; that’s why there’s a strong focus on reducing our environmental impact, particularly our carbon footprint. We are already making significant steps. Take our 96% renewable energy, yearly carbon footprint reports, more sustainable materials and processes — all reducing our carbon footprint. However, the overall reduction for a fast-growing company is easier said than done.
So, in addition to these reduction targets, we compensate for our carbon footprint by offsetting our emissions. Think of it as our emission tax. We do so with our partner, Trees for All, and by supporting sustainable forestry worldwide. This means we can say we’re Carbon Neutral, but we still have a long way to go on the journey towards becoming net-zero.
Our 2018 LCA showed us that our packaging was the main culprit of our CO2 emissions. We decided to take some action but made a bad move in doing so: creating water-based PU cases for our glasses. While it did significantly decrease our CO2 emissions, the water impact had a more considerable negative impact on the environment than our previous case. That wasn’t the plan.
On a larger scale, we promise to create innovative solutions to ensure our output on all frontiers is kinder on the environment. We learnt that it’s always necessary to investigate the environmental footprint of materials before production thoroughly. We cannot just focus on fossil fuels and CO2.
In 2020 we created a responsible retail concept. It ensured that store rollouts were flexible as well as modular, allowing us to respond fluidly and sustainably to future retail challenges. We lost our brand identity in doing so, and the impact on the environment wasn’t reduced significantly enough for it to be worth the loss of creativity.
Back to the drawing board. Instead of focusing on design-based interior solutions such as store fittings and furniture, our new retail concept will focus on real impact drivers. Structural changes such as electricity, the infrastructure of the building and how we use water will create the most impact, and they won’t make us compromise on our identity either.
So, there you have it. We f*cked up. We’re not where we want to be. We’ve made some bad moves — but we’re learning. Sharing our bad moves is just the start of what we’d like to be transparent about. Check out our Responsibility Report for more on the goals and initiatives we have in place to make ourselves a more responsible business each day.