WORKING TOWARDS A SUSTAINABLE FUTURE

Fashion is a force for good – delivering confidence, positive vibes and enhancing the livelihoods of millions of people, but it also has a significant impact on the Planet. Universal Store is committed to responsible practices and we want to take action where we can to accelerate our journey towards a sustainable future.

OUR JOURNEY SO FAR

We are progressing and accelerating our journey to a sustainable future.

OUR TARGETS

Universal Store adopted a set of sustainability targets aligned to the UN Sustainable Development Goals to provide direction and guidance to our teams and partners.

FASHION THAT MAKES A DIFFERENCE

WE ARE PROUD TO WORK WITH MANY OTHER MINDFUL BRANDS WHO SHARE OURVALUES AND WORK TO DELIVER BETTER OUTCOMES FOR PEOPLE AND THE ENVIRONMENT.

Some examples of how we work with our partner brands' on sustainability initiatives:

OUR COMMITMENTS

OUR SUSTAINABILITY FRAMEWORK IS BUILT AROUND FOUR COMMITMENTS.

TREAD LIGHTLY

Reduce our impact. Preserve our resources. Restore the planet.

TRANSPARENCY

Put an end to poor working conditions and improve lives of workers in our supply chain.

CLIMATE ACTION

Reverse climate change and take action to end the climate crisis.

AMPLIFY OUR ACTIONS

Work together as a team with our community, suppliers, and customers to deliver impact.

TREAD LIGHTLY

REDUCE OUR IMPACT. PRESERVE OUR RESOURCES. RESTORE THE PLANET.

Let’s be honest, fashion has a big impact on the planet. We can change that by choosing fibres that have less impact on the planet, choose natural dyes and design our garments so they can be enjoyed for longer and recycled easier.

FIBERS WE PREFER

Organic fibres such as cotton grow with less water and less harmful chemicals than traditional fibres which contributes to soil health and conserve biodiversity.

Choosing recycled fibres avoids growing and manufacturing virgin fibres which reduces water use, energy use and emissions in comparison with virgin fibres but also diverts waste from landfill.

Linen comes from the fast-growing flax plant that requires minimal use of fertilisers and pesticides. The flax plant also improves soil health due to its high rate of carbon absorption.

Hemp is considered a sustainable fibre due to the plants fast growing ability and limited use of pesticides and fertilisers. Hemp also improves soil health by restoring pH levels and preventing erosion.

Did you know viscose is derived from wood or plant pulp? Viscose is a manmade cellulosic fibre. Viscose production relies on forestry products but also heavy chemical processing. We seek alternative viscose made from FSC or PEFC certified materials that are sourced from sustainably managed forests. We also like Lyocell, TENCEL™ Lyocell or Modal as alternative choices to traditional viscose. Lyocell uses a closed-loop process that recycles the chemicals in production

The Responsible Down Standard (RDS) aims to ensure that down and feathers come from animals that have not been subjected to any unnecessary harm.

The Responsible Wool Standard is a voluntary standard that addresses the welfare of sheep and the land they graze on.

Free from animal-derived materials or by-products including but not limited to - fur, angora and other rabbit hair, cashmere, mohair, wool, leather, feathers and down.

ANIMAL FRIENDLY

Universal Store firmly believes animals must not suffer for fashion. We are committed to investigate the raw materials used in products we stock and take steps to procure responsibly harvested and certified animal products. Animal products are rarely used in our range, when we do we will only stock products that meet the principles of our animal welfare policy.

Our Animal Welfare policy is based on international standards and the widely accepted Five Freedoms for animal welfare. The policy also states our expectations and bans the use of certain materials that are often produced in questionable conditions.

CERTIFICATION & PRODUCT CLAIMS

We seek to obtain certification of organic and recycled products so they are traced and verified at each stage of the supply chain.

Sourcing products responsibly is important to us. We even think it can transform fashion. As a brand and retailer of youth fashion, we have a role to play to inform and encourage others to adopt fibre standards that deliver meaningful change towards better fashion.

We do not have all the answers and there is so much more we need to do, but we are certainly learning quickly and partnering with key brands to accelerate our journey towards a sustainable future.

Where are we heading

By 2025, we will procure at least 50% of cotton from certified sources, and 50% of polyester from certified recycled sources

We think this is quite ambitious as there is limited amount of certified cotton or certified recycled materials out on the market. We are excited to play our part in making these fibres more mainstream and we are working hard behind the scenes to make sure certified fibres land in our collections.

Why is Certification Important?

Certification demonstrates a strong commitment at each stage of the supply chain to meet high environmental and social standards. It ensures strict standards have been met at each step of the garment production process, from the fibre preparation to the manufacturing of the finished product.

Product certification provides certainty to customers that product labelled as ‘organic’ or ‘recycled’ actually contains fibres of organic or recycled origin.

Doing Things Differently

We believe in challenging current practices, rethinking our processes to create the change we want to see in the world. That’s why we have engaged our key supply partners to lay out our expectations regarding certified products. We have set up simple processes, including documentation requirements so that each transaction gets us closer to achieving our commitment.

Step 1

Suppliers must provide a valid Scope Certificate – either for their brand or for the manufacturing facility assembling the certified finished product.

Step 2

Suppliers must provide a Transaction Certificate for the finished product once the product has shipped.

Step 3

Universal Store checks that certified product claims meet the requirements.

SUSTAINABLE PACKAGING

Universal Store is committed to seek sustainable packaging options and work with our business partners to adopt more responsible packaging practices. Packaging must help protect the products so our customers enjoy their purchases, but we want to make it reusable, recyclable or compostable.

The Problem
  • Plastic is widely used in fashion. From Polyester found in clothing, to plastic involved in shipping products, to labelling and shopping bags or online mailers.
  • 40% of plastic produced globally is used for packaging applications. Plastic is made from non-renewable petrochemical resources. Its production requires significant amounts of energy which generates carbon emissions.(Source: APCO)
  • 12% of the 5.4 million tonnes of packaging placed on the Australian market in 2017-18 is not recyclable through conventional waste and recycling recovery facilities.
  • Another 32% recyclable packaging is not adequately sorted and collected in a way that facilitates recycling and reuse.
Our Strategy
  • Use less – reduce the amount of plastic packaging we use.
  • Shift to better packaging – work with our partners to identify better packaging for our products
  • Target zero waste in our distribution centre – we can achieve this by reusing existing packaging and redirecting packaging from landfill to recycling.
Our Initiatives
  • We have joined the Australian Packaging Covenant to keep ourselves accountable to our targets and report annually on the amount of packaging we use and our progress in transitioning to sustainable packaging.
  • We have set targets to eliminate waste – i.e., achieving zero waste to landfill from our distribution centre activities by 2030 and shifting all shopping bags and mailers to reusable, recyclable or compostable options by 2025.
  • We are in the process of transitioning to recycled and recyclable swing tags for our private label brands.
  • We procure hangers from Arch & Hook, a material engineering company dedicated to using only sustainable certified materials. By using Arch & Hook FSC®-certified wood hangers and GRS®-certified Blue® hangers, we prevent deforestation, enable the restoration of carbon absorbing natural forests and prevent plastic waste from entering our oceans
  • Working with factories, providing specifications to avoid unnecessary packaging and use recyclable and compostable packaging.
  • Working with brands, discussing the importance of sustainable packaging practices
  • We use compostable mailers for our premium brands made of PLA which is made of plant material such as regular field corn and wheat straw. PLA takes 65% less energy than regular plastics to produce. It is non-toxic and generates 68% less greenhouse gas. These bags are safe for worms as certified for home composting too! For more information see noissue's Website
Our Partners

Universal Store works closely with key partners, other brands and our waste management services partners to continue seek innovative solutions to packaging and waste challenges.

  • The Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) is a not-for-profit organisation leading the development of a circular economy for packaging in Australia.
  • noissue was founded to provide makers, brands and businesses of all sizes access to custom, sustainable packaging.
  • Arch & Hook’s mission is to eliminate the use of non-sustainable materials within fashion and retail.

TRANSPARENCY

IMPROVE WORKING CONDITIONS AND THE LIVES OF WORKERS IN OUR SUPPLY CHAIN.

We seek to build long-lasting relationships with our global suppliers and brands - based on trust, collaboration and transparency. Together we work to align on ethical and social standards to provide workers in supply chain with a safer and more supportive working environment.

Universal Store is committed to responsible practices including the identification and management of social, environmental, and ethical risks and impacts in its supply chain. We expect our suppliers to share this commitment and to assist Universal Store in addressing known issues through a practical and collaborative approach.

Our code sets Universal Store’s minimum expectations regarding human rights, working conditions, business integrity, bribery and corruption, transparency, compliance, environmental protection, and animal welfare. We expect all suppliers to develop oversight of their supply chain demonstrated by auditing and certification systems. Our Supplier Code of Conduct is translated in the local language of the supplier country of operation.

The 11 minimum requirements to be observed by suppliers:
  1. No Child Labour
  2. No Forced Labour
  3. Respect Freedom of Association and Collective Bargaining (where legal)
  4. Promote Workplace Health & Safety
  5. Pay Fair Wages
  6. No Excessive Working Hours
  7. No Harsh or Inhumane Treatment
  8. No Discrimination
  9. No Bribery or Corruption
  10. Commit to Environmental Protection
  11. No banned Material, Substances or Practices

Once per year, our factories are audited against strict social accountability standards to ensure adequate health and safety systems are in place, conditions are fair and human rights are respected. Our preferred auditing methodology is the Sedex Member Ethical Trade Audit (SMETA) audit as it provides information on various aspects of factories operations such as health and safety, gender diversity, pay level, hours and overtime, complaints mechanisms etc.

SMETA audits use the ETI Base Code, founded on the conventions of the International Labor Organization, as well as relevant local laws. The SMETA audits are always carried out by an independent accredited verifier.

100% of our Tier 1 private label factories were audited during the year* (*as at 30 June 2023)

We use Sedex, an online platform and industry community, which allows us to monitor risks and issues in our supply chain.

This platform allows us to connect with our suppliers and access their factory information. We can onboard new suppliers on the system which helps getting to know them quicker.

Most importantly, we use the system to track their ethical and social performance in real time and quickly identify how to improve their practices when issues arise.

We monitor the ethical and social performance of our suppliers closely and engage with them regularly on potential improvements. All our private label suppliers have endorsed our Supplier Code of Conduct. The brands we sell also need to agree to our principles or have superior policies to ours.

The effects of the Covid19 pandemic were felt by our partners in our supply chain. Impacts included restrictions on employees movements, reduced workforce capacity, factory shutdowns, raw materials supply chain disruptions, shipping delays but also restrictions for independent third parties to access factories to conduct social audits.

Universal Store has reached out to suppliers to provide support during the restriction periods. In certain situations, we negotiate extended timelines for production, variations in transportation routes or new timelines for completion of the audit

CLIMATE ACTION

REVERSE CLIMATE CHANGE AND TAKE ACTION TO END THE CLIMATE CRISIS.

The challenge of keeping global warming below 1.5 degrees and achieving net zero by 2050 is massive. The production of raw materials and yarn, the manufacturing of fabrics and transportation of garments have significant climate impacts. Even after clothes have left our stores, clothes washing and disposal has negative climate impacts

Key things we can do - work with suppliers to reduce emissions in production activities – that may involve making sure the factories have access to renewable energy. We also need to use less energy in our stores and switch to renewable energy for our offices and warehouse operations.

We are excited to share our plan to measure our emissions and respond to the climate crisis, which will form a first step towards climate action:

Step 1:

Develop an inventory of our emissions by sources across our supply chain, our own operations, and use and disposal of our products by customers.

Step 2:

Identify the areas of opportunity for Universal Store to reduce emissions in our operations and in our supply chain.

Step 3:

Develop a climate action plan to outline the initiatives that will most contribute to reduce our emissions by 2030, and review our targets to ensure we remain aligned with international commitments and industry ambitions.

We are excited to share our plan to measure our emissions and respond to the climate crisis, which will form a first step towards climate action:

  • Much of the lighting in store is LED energy efficient lighting across our network of stores*. (*78 stores as at 30 June 2022)
  • Our new warehouse has some environmental design features. The purpose-built facility will make use of carbon neutral concrete. The ECOPact concrete by Holcim is a low carbon solution that can be made carbon neutral by offsetting residual carbon emissions. By procuring this product for its new warehouse, Universal Store conserved precious natural resources, reduced the environmental impact of the project, reduced its carbon footprint and demonstrated that a sustainable future is within reach.

AMPLIFY OUR ACTIONS

WORK TOGETHER AS A TEAM WITH OUR COMMUNITY, SUPPLIERS, AND CUSTOMERS TO DELIVER IMPACT.

There’s no doubt that if we want a more welcoming, just and sustainable community we need to work together and with others, to deliver meaningful impact and create a better future for all.

PARTNERING

At Universal Store we are passionate about improving our own practices but also helping others see how we can create even bigger impact by working together. We see each interaction with our partners and our customers as an opportunity to raise awareness on things that are important to us such as mental health, diversity and inclusivity, climate action or waste reduction.

We have some exciting plans in this space so stay tuned.

HOW WE ARE TRACKING SO FAR

We partner with Upparel to avoid textile waste going to landfill. In the last year*, we have diverted 3.6 tonnes of clothing materials from landfill with the help of Upparel (*as at 30 June 2023).

HOW YOU CAN HELP

We provide customers with clothing recycling drop off facilities in the following stores:

  • Highpoint
  • Melbourne Central
  • Bayside Frankston
  • Chadstone
  • Southland

You can find them in our Store Locator page!

PRODUCT CARE

We can all make a difference just by caring for our clothes better. Here are our top tips to love your wardrobe for longer, save money and make better choices for the planet:

WEAR FOR LONGER

Using your clothes until they are completely worn out is the best environmental statement you can make. We recommend our basics range to mix and match and get the most use out of your wardrobe.

WASH LESS

Try not to wash your clothes after one wear; spot cleaning can work a treat for small spills and stains. Less washing saves energy which means reduced electricity bills and more time to enjoy the things you love.

WASH COLD

Washing clothes with cooler temperatures is gentler on your clothes and is more energy efficient. We recommend 30 degrees but always follow the instructions on the care label to extend the life of your clothes.

LINE DRY

Hang drying is energy free, preserves the shape of your clothes and extends their life. Studies show that tumble-drying can damage your garments by causing shrinkage and uses five times more energy than washing.

MEND & REPAIR

Extend the life of your clothes by altering, mending or re-styling. Whether you’ve changed size or just want to add some personal flair, always consider altering your garments before finding them a new home.

DONATE OR RECYCLE

If you no longer want to wear your clothes, please don’t throw them away. Here are some ideas on how to give your clothes a new life: Give to family or friends, donate to charity or sell on a secondhand marketplace.

No longer in wearable condition? Recycle with us! We have partnered with Upparel to ensure your clothes become something new*. (*VIC participating stores only)

POLICIES & REPORTS

FOR MORE INFORMATION ON OUR SUSTAINABILITY EFFORTS PLEASE DOWNLOAD OUR SUSTAINABILITY REPORTS:

If you have any questions or comments about our sustainability practices please email sustainability@universalstore.com.au

SUSTAINABILITY APPROACH ANNUAL REPORT FACTORY LIST SUPPLIER CODE OF CONDUCT PRIVATE LABEL SUPPLIER CODE OF CONDUCT THIRD PARTY BRAND ANIMAL WELFARE POLICY APCO REPORT FY22 MODERN SLAVERY STATEMENT FY21 MODERN SLAVERY STATEMENT FY20 MODERN SLAVERY STATEMENT EMISSIONS BASIS OF PREPARATION