SwimAware, swimming with impact by SwimAware
Creating swimsuits made out of 100% recycled plastics, preserving marine biodiversity and connecting swimmers with the natural environment.
SwimAware is a start-up company that has the vision of providing customers with swimsuits made out of 100% recycled plastics, including waste from the oceans (Econyl®, 2017), and create a connection between swimmers and their natural environment. This will be achieved by devoting 2% of the company’s revenues to marine conservation projects.
According to a report, by 2050 the oceans will contain more plastic particles by weight than fish (Ellen McArthur Foundation, 2016). At least 267 species are affected by ocean waste, especially sea turtles (Jean-Michel Cousteau, Ocean Adventures, 2014). Moreover, it has been calculated that the clothing industry accounts for approximately 3% of global CO2 emissions (Greenpeace, 2016). Negative social impacts, such as unfair labor conditions, are also part of the picture. SwimAware wants to provide customers with a sustainable alternative to conventional swimsuits that will constitute a powerful statement of ethical lifestyle, while positively impacting the environment and society.
The company’s focus will be on branding and marketing the swimsuits. Production and manufacturing will be outsourced: the raw material (Econyl®, 100% recycled plastics) will be acquired by SwimAware, who will then provide it to an Italian manufacturer. SwimAware will market its products through offline and online channels, focusing its initial activities on Southern Europe, which constitutes the biggest proportion of the European swimwear market. SwimAware will target local stores and engage with the local community through design-creation competitions: SwimAware wants to provide a platform for young, locally-based designers, to showcase their work and see their designs made into products that can better align with local taste and needs.
Therefore, our proposal aims to be at the forefront of conservation efforts to preserve ocean environments while building consumer awareness within communities.
Is this proposal for a practice or a project?
What actions do you propose?
SwimAware is a brand producing environmentally friendly swimwear, created with the purpose of building awareness on the effects of plastics in the ocean among swimmers, while reducing the environmental impacts of the fashion industry.
Our swimwear is made from Econyl®, a fabric created from 100% recycled plastics, helping to reduce the waste in the ocean. Econyl® is designed to last longer than other textiles, is pilling resistant and soft (Econyl®, 2017). Furthermore, SwimAware’s designs offer comfort and the perfect fit for everyone regarding body size and shape. Most of our bathing suits are double faced so that our customers can have two bathing suits in one. Furthermore, our customers will receive advice on how to preserve the swimwear to last longer and optimize the washing schedule to save more water.
The originality of our brand relays not only on the materials we use but also on the promotion of biodiversity conservation. Our customers are activists, since on every purchase, SwimAware will donate 2% of our revenues to environmental organizations protecting different species in the ocean. This percentage is chosen based on the words of Lord Stern (Jowit & Wintour, 2008). Furthermore, we will establish collaborations with educational institutions to create long lasting impact. SwimAware is conscious of its natural environment. Therefore, during periods of environmental disasters, we will create a special edition swimsuit of which 100% of the profits will flow to campaigns that contribute to the aid of its victims globally.
SwimAware will maintain strong and transparent relationships with suppliers, NGOs and customers. To buy SwimAware means to become part of a strong community sharing knowledge, values and commitment to a better ocean environment.
SwimAware is a startup company that wants to launch its operations in the garment industry. SwimAware operates in the middle of the supply chain having relations with key partners such as the raw material suppliers, fashion designers, clothing manufacturers and eventually the store managers and NGOs. Most of the processes will be outsourced. Our key activities will be maintaining close contact with our key partners, design, sales, marketing and branding.
To facilitate the design, SwimAware will organise local design competitions in order to engage with local and new talents and create different sets of products. To do so, we will engage with local fashion designing schools to create opportunities for young practising designers. Furthermore, some of our collections will be created with the help of our customers. Through our website, we will offer a space where our customers can vote for their favorite designs. With this initiative, SwimAware will only produce the designs that were most voted, avoiding overproduction.
After the design model has been established, our own designing team will take great care by considering all the different stages in the design process, such as the materials, production and usage of the swimwear in order to produce it in the most sustainable way. After these control processes, the materials for our products will be bought.
Each one of SwimAware’s collection will be named after a marine endangered species. Two percent of the revenues of the collection will be donated to the protection of said species.
(The image represents what a SwimAware product would resemble, however it is not our known design)
The production of the yarns for our SwimAware swimsuits will be outsourced to a supplier such as Econyl®’s producer, because their “regeneration System is the world's most efficient industrial system for the production of Nylon 6 from 100% regenerated waste materials.” Econyl® yarn is produced by the Aquafil group located in Italy. They create the yarn from discarded fishing nets, industrial plastic waste and recycled PET bottles (Econyl®, 2017).
After the production of the Econyl®, the yarn will be transported to our manufacturers located in Italy to ensure labor rights and sustainable water and energy usage. We will establish a contract with a swimwear manufacturer who will take care of CMT (cut-make-trim) that fits with our designs. The statement and qualities that SwimAware bring will be valorized and will improve the self-confidence of our consumers. To be sure our body acceptance message is heard, our models will reflect every type of women and men concerning body shapes, ethnicities and cultural identities.
SwimAware will maintain strong relations with the manufacturing partners in order to ensure that the swimwear will be produced in a sustainable and transparent manner. We will choose the suppliers and manufacturers that follow fair labour conditions and we will make sure that transparency is respected. In other words, we are as naked as our customers. Therefore, the manufacturer needs to ensure adequate labor conditions and follow European environmental standards regarding the materials they use in the process. We will also apply for certifications such as Cradle2cradle in terms of material usage and Fair Wear Foundation for improving labor conditions. Other activities such as becoming B Corp member and part of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition will be a key part of our practices.
Distribution. After the production of the swimwear, the products will be distributed to our warehouse and selling points. Transportation in the garment industry usually accounts for a large part of the climate impact. Therefore, to SwimAware it is essential that the distribution of our swimsuits is done by trustworthy distributors that score high in environmental performance. One of our key partner in the longer term for this task will be a transportation company that SwimAware already met, named Imagine Cargo. Imagine Cargo use a Bike-Train-Bike strategy to deliver their packages which release less CO2 (Imagine Cargo, 2016).
In order to distribute swimsuits, agreements will be made with local concept stores and retail outlets. Furthermore, the swimsuits will be sold directly through our website and fashion trucks. In order to ensure sales, special effort will be made in the marketing and branding to connect swimmers with the natural ocean environment.
The process of approaching our selling points will include the following steps:
- Compile a list of fashion buyers, media editors, merchandisers and boutique owners in the local area targeted;
- Develop a look-book for our collection that can be both physical and online;
- Participate at fairs, fashion shows and other relevant local events;
- Organise pop-up fashion shows through our Fashion Trucks;
- Approach the local selling points directly with prototypes and acquire Letters of Intent.
Our online advertising strategies will include:
- Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), e-mail marketing and Content marketing on our website;
- Advertisements on social media;
- Establishing contacts with fashion bloggers and leading influencers that are particularly involved in either fashion, sustainability or biodiversity conservation.
Our brand's entry target market is women’s swimwear because it comprises 70% of the global market share (Statista, 2012). Specifically, our target market are women between the ages 15 and up, although our marketing will be focused on women between 20 to 35 years old as they spend the most on bathing suits (SwimAware Survey, 2017) . The whole market of swimwear comprises different types of swimwear using different materials and designs. Therefore, in a later stage, SwimAware will also produce men's swimwear and expand our product lines to other beach accessories. This product differentiation will contribute to reach out to a broader target market in order for SwimAware to achieve higher sales.
Another way of marketing and branding will come from collaboration with biodiversity conservation programmes such as Aquafil’s Healthy Seas Programme or biodiversity protection schemes. To support their projects of ocean wildlife preservation and cleaning oceans of plastic waste, we will donate 2% of our revenues. Our brand will then benefit from our collaborators’ branding.
How do we take care of our products at end of life?
Finally, we take great care of the products we produce. At the end of the products’ life, we offer a special take-back scheme, with which our customers can return their old bathing suit for a 10% discount on their next bathing suit. This enables a circular economy for our swimwear. The fast fashion industry is currently all about take-make-waste process in which production quantities are regarded as most important. By setting the trend, we show our customers that there is a value in waste streams in order to promote less consumption and waste of clothings. Customers can either bring their old swimsuit to the local stores or use local mail systems to send it back and receive their discount through a digital code. From the local stores, we will make use of reversed logistics to gather back discarded swimwear after delivery of new swimwear. The old swimwear will either be refurbished by our manufacturer or recycled by Aquafil depending on the status of the returned swimwear following the steps of the circular economy.
As awareness is in our name, SwimAware will engage in special collaboration with marine environmental programmes in universities and high schools. With these collaborations, we will establish special educational programmes on the effects of plastics and in particular microplastics to the marine environment to establish long term knowledge that may contribute to more fundamental solutions to plastic waste in the ocean. A pilot educational project, Argo, is already being carried out by a member of the team in her hometown with the aim of engaging high school students with current affairs, which include a specific focus topic on environmental issues.
Other Specific actions to be taken
Approach Investors: The company’s financial health will rely in the first years on the money that will be raised from investors. Therefore, from the beginning we will approach different business angels’ networks and other forms of funding in order to secure the amount of money needed.
Creating prototypes: Since the very beginning, we will manufacture different textile prototypes in order to have a more tangible product to let investors and local shops understand us better. This process will end when SwimAware has its first product in the market.
Branding & Advertising / Customer’s relationships: Our branding campaign will start in the beginning of SwimAware’s creation and will have a continuous non-stop process. Throughout the years, different channels to approach our customers will be used.
Web page improvement: Using different statistical tools to analyze our webpage and social media, we will be continuously updating different material to make our web page easier to use and thereby increase our visibility.
Design Competition: One of our main interests is to include local communities to our brand and make it more interactive. Therefore, we will create different Design Competition Calls: Events focused mainly on university design students who will be designing different swim garments according to our requirements. The winner will have the chance to develop it further and create an industrial design for the mass production of the swimwear and receive a financial price.
Manufacture (Sampling): This is the trial and error phase, where our product will be produced and tested in different conditions and improvements will be made accordingly. It will last approximately 1 month.
Manufacture (Bulk Production): In this phase, the industrial design will be solid and ready to be produced and manufactured. Our first 5000 units will be created within the March-April months in order to deliver in time for the season.
Who will take these actions?
Our team :
Jonah (The Netherlands) will be responsible for setting up the sustainable supply chain and design using his network in the fashion industry of Amsterdam and experience within the field of the circular economy. Francesca (Italy) focusses on the financial prospects of SwimAware and will ensure that we will maintain competitiveness in order to scale up our operations to create an environmental and social impact in the garment industry. Cristina (Mexico) will focus her work on the marketing and communications with our customers in order to ensure that the message that our brand tries to bring gets delivered to them. Karim (France) also has a network of value within the fashion industry in France therefore, he will be responsible for the public relations with our key partners such as the manufacturer and NGO’s that we will collaborate with. Furthermore, due to his background in geology he will be head of our environmental impact and making our LCAs. At last we have Nil (Catalunya), our business developer. Nil has been active in different councils and associations, mainly from the healthcare and human rights sector, working as a volunteer, coordinator and/or group leader. He is responsible for protecting the values of SwimAware by monitoring our progression and growth reflecting on our activities in order to ensure we remain on the right track within our core values.
Key partners :
Our most important partners will be the producers of raw material. The production of the yarns for our SwimAware swimsuits will be outsourced to a supplier such as Econyl®’s producer, because their “regeneration System is the world's most efficient industrial system for the production of Nylon 6 from 100% regenerated waste materials.” Econyl® yarn is produced by the Aquafil group located in Italy. They create the yarn from discarded fishing nets, industrial plastic waste and recycled PET bottles.
In order to progress from the planning stage to the operational stage, SwimAware will continue to develop our already existing partnerships with Warwick Consulting Society, who are providing us with student-led pro-bono consulting services, and with Warwick Incubator, a student-run accelerator for start-ups in-the-making that will allow us to broaden our network within the European start-up ecosystem.
Another key actor involved in the process is the manufacturer. We will establish a contract with a swimwear manufacturer who will take care of CMT (cut-make-trim) that fits with our designs. SwimAware will maintain strong relations with the manufacturing partners in order to ensure that the swimwear will be produced in a sustainable and transparent manner.
At last we will work closely with different NGO’s that can assist us in our goal to protect the marine environment. Furthermore, to ensure sales we will collaborate with specialized agencies that know how to target the right stores that are fit with our values who will be responsible for the sales of our swimwear.
Where will these actions be taken?
SwimAware’s target market is Europe. During the first years, the company will start working in the coastal areas of southern Europe, where the three largest markets are: Italy, France and Spain (Euromonitor, 2016). In the following years, the company will expand to other countries in Europe. Furthermore, the Econyl® yarn will be produced at their location which is based in Italy. To ensure our impact of logistics will be kept to a minimum the manufacturing will be outsourced to Italian based companies. Working with italian manufacturers gives our brand the good name of italian fashion and quality and will contribute to the highest labor standards globally.
Picture of Women’s swimwear sales in EU countries (bar chart)
Figure 2. Women´s swimwear market, Europe (Euromonitor, 2016)
In addition, specify the country or countries where these actions will be taken.
No country selected
No country selected
What impact will these actions have on greenhouse gas emissions and/or adapting to climate change?
Our goal is to decrease the amount of virgin feedstock of plastic which include the making of the regular fabric and to increase the 14% plastic collected after use for recycling (Ellen McArthur Foundation, 2016). Following the efficiency of Econyl®, approximately 90% of the weight of plastic can be converted into Econyl® Yarn (Econyl, 2017). Therefore, we can produce 4 bathing suits for every kilogram of plastic waste. Based on this, after 5 years of production we can save up to 156.200 Kilogram plastic from incineration, landfills or leakage in the natural environment. This equals the amount of 7.810.000 PET bottles with an average weight of 20 grams per bottle (SwimAware Business Plan, 2017).
During the production of the raw material, the process of oil extraction and processing is replaced by the depolymerisation of recycled plastics. A minimum percentage of 50% of these plastics comes from consumers and a maximum of 50% comes from the industries (Econyl®, 2017). The production of the Econyl® fabric is then 100% decoupled from oil extraction. Furthermore, as mentioned before, we will include a special take back scheme to either refurbish old bathing suits or recycle them by bringing them back to Aquafil. Aquafil can then process the material back into Econyl® yarns that can be used for our bathingsuits. According to Aquafil, 10.000 tons of Econyl® saves up to 70.000 barrels of crude oil for the production of nylon 6. Within 5 years, we can save up to 1000 barrels of crude oil using Econyl® instead of nylon 6 from virgin materials.
By 2050, the plastic production industry contributes to 15% of the Carbon budget in a business as usual scenario (Ellen McArthur, 2016). The main greenhouse gas included in the production of the regular nylon fabric is CO2. However, the emissions of CO2 can be mitigated by using the Econyl® fabric. This fabric is using a regenerative process in the last part of the production of its raw material that emit only 42% of the emission of virgin yarn, which means that the CO2 emissions are reduced by 58% compared to nylon from virgin yarn. After 5 years of production, we save 1493 tonnes in CO2 emissions (SwimAware Business Plan, 2017). Our positive impact on climate will increase and become major through the years as SwimAware diversifies and takes other markets in the fashion industry. The swimwear sector is a little door to enter the industry. Once our brand is developed, the impact we have on the carbon footprint will be major.
Helping to preserve Biodiversity
Our 2% policy enables us to collaborate with NGOs that are engaged in marine biodiversity programs. For instance, Ortiz et al. (2016) calculated that 34 USD is enough to save 1 sea turtle from fishing nets using LED lighting as a warning signal. According to these statistics, we can save approximately 16.000 sea turtles with our policy within the first 5 years of sales.
What are other key benefits?
Fair labor conditions
Our impact on society will begin on the basis: inside our company. SwimAware will apply and promote fair labor conditions to create a dynamic and positive movement around our brand. We will choose the suppliers and manufacturers that follow our social requirements and we will make sure that transparency is respected. To apply this, our website will provide every information from raw material production to sales including the benefits given to NGO’s. By collaborating with the Fair Wear Foundation, we can identify the hotspots in terms of labor conditions in order for us to improve the wellbeing of the manufacturer's employees.
Furthermore, our brand is made for every woman and man, of every size and body shape. SwimAware is inclusive and will make sure that everyone’s shape has a place in our lifestyle. The statement and qualities that SwimAware bring will be valorized and will improve the self-confidence of our consumers. To be sure our body acceptance message is heard, we will make sure that our models reflect all ethnicities and cultural identities.
By organising local design competitions, we create positions for young creative designers from different areas thereby contributing to their local area and creating employment. Every design will be assigned to a new young creative. Furthermore, by selecting Italian manufacturers, we contribute to local economic growth as for most clothing companies the manufacturing is outsourced to Asia.
Our product makes our consumer aware of the biodiversity loss due to the release of plastic waste in the ocean. Indeed, the act of buy a SwimAware will become a commitment and educate people about the subject. The swimmer will be an activist as showing our brand in every location she wears it.
Above all, SwimAware stimulates the circular economy and introduces consumers with this concept. The fast fashion industry is currently all about take-make-waste process in which production quantities are regarded as most important. By setting the trend, we show our customers that there is a value in waste streams in order to promote less consumption and waste of clothings.
Since we depend much on our key partners, it is essential that we maintain a dialogue with our stakeholders. What can we expect from our partners? What can they expect from us in return? Improving our environmental and social impact depends on the continuous learning cycle of SwimAware and our suppliers. To do so, collaboration, communication and transparency is required over the whole supply chain of SwimAware.
What are the proposal’s projected costs?
SwimAware will start with initial investment coming from crowdfunding, relatives or own equity to survive until investors are found. SwimAware will start looking for investors immediately, and continue to do so throughout the first years.
A total of €50,000 will be needed to cover initial investments. These include trademark, production of samples, bureaucratic costs and purchase of fixed assets (Fashion Truck, Website Development).
An additional €210,000 will be needed to cover Cost of Sales and operating expenses for the first two years of operation.
The Cost of Sales comprise the purchase of the raw material and the outsourced manufacturing costs. The operating costs are the following: salaries, design & sizing, travel & participation at fairs, advertising, storage, logistics, office expenses...
Assumptions underpinning a 5-year financial plan:
The company starts with the sales of 5,000 swimsuits in Year 1 and end with sales of 400,000 swimsuits in Year 5. Revenues are projected at €16 million in Year 5, which will allow SwimAware to capture 0.5% market share in the 11 EU largest markets.
We are planning to hire a professional designer starting Year 3.
Travel & Fairs costs will cover team members’ travel expenses associated with our marketing strategy (i.e presence at fairs, fashion and surf competitions, startup contests…)
Advertising costs include Search Engine Optimisation, Email Marketing, Advertisement on social media; since we plan for a rapid expansion, a considerable percentage of our operating costs will be assigned to Advertising.
Sales persons will be employed starting Year 3 to support SwimAware’s expansion to other countries in Southern Europe.
Challenges associated with implementing the proposal include several risks as detailed below:
“Recycled fabrics may not have the same fit and performance as conventional swimwear fabrics”: this risk will be addressed through constant prototyping and fabric testing.
“Trends in the fashion industry are evolving quickly over time”: mitigation will involve producing new designs every year in order to keep up with the industry will mitigate this risk.
“Actual sales won't match projected sales”: SwimAware will work on diversifying the selling points and creating new products to receive income from different sources, such as moving into men’s swimwear.
“Insufficient experience in the fashion industry on the part of the team members”: mitigation will involve establishing a network of fashion advisors and experts as well as team capacity building on the topic.
“SwimAware´s manufacturer does not comply with the environmental and labor standards of our company”: this risk will be addressed through constant oversight on the manufacturer to ensure transparency and reliability; certifications coming from third parties will also be requested.
(All the figures mentioned have been computed by SwimAware and taken from our business plan)
SwimAware will have an impact from the first bathing suit we will create. Indeed, our brand does not see little impact as not important. We will see the first bathing suit that we will create as the first drop in the ocean of the long lasting change we want to drive in the industry.
In the short term, our impact will be attributed and proportional to the development of our sea linked products, the bathing suits as a first step but also wetsuits, surfboard and other equipment concerning sea related activities (we keep an open mind and stay flexible in our future choices). The production of our SwimAware products will increase the use of recycled plastics. Its visibility, on beaches, sea-related sport competitions, social media pictures, fashion shows, movies, and other locations that we will target depending on the opportunities we have, will make people aware of the problem we try to solve and drive their behaviors concerning the use of plastic. The other indirect impact will be the empowerment of people buying our bathing suit, it will create a sense of activism and will make them actors of our cause. Since our product have the same price as conventional ones in the market, it will change the expensive image that environmentally-friendly products generally have. The 2% policy will change the way biodiversity NGOs harvest their money, and indirectly we will influence other brands to follow our lead.
In the medium-term, SwimAware will have gained a market share greater than 0.5% in all of the Southern European countries taken into consideration, and established itself as a unique brand with a strong association to biodiversity protection and ethical lifestyle. This will allow SwimAware to create a movement around these two core values, and generate a positive social impact as well as a continued environmentally conscious production process.
Finally, in the long-term, the strength of the SwimAware brand will be a potential driver of change in the fashion industry.
About the author(s)
Jonah. The Netherlands. Sustainable supply chain & Design. He is a Master's student in Sustainable Business & Innovation at Utrecht University and specialized in social sciences and the circular economy.
Francesca. Italy. Finance. She is studying Economics and International Relations at the University of Warwick (UK). She has worked for an environmental think-tank focusing on green economics.
Karim. France. Environment. He has a bachelor with high honors in Geosciences and a Master’s in Continental Environment and Hydrosciences at UPMC, Paris.
Nil. Catalunya. Business development. He is a Medical Physician from the Pompeu Fabra University (Barcelona) and Master’s student in General Management at Vlerick Business School. He has specialized in entrepreneurship and business and he is the founder of SILLAPlus.
Cristina. Mexico. Marketing & communications. She is a Master’s student in Environmental Management and Policy at Lund University. Cristina has experience building social awareness campaigns on climate change and sustainable consumption.
The GreenLine: You shop. We reduce the impact.
Salvation from plastic - Recycling minds along with waste
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