Little Yellow Bird wins supreme award

Eco-ethical apparel label Little Yellow Bird had two wins at the 2019 NZI Sustainable Business Awards, including the Supreme Award. Find out who won the other top spots, too.

Wellington apparel company Little Yellow Bird has won New Zealand’s top sustainable award at the 2019 NZI Sustainable Business Awards – winning the Supreme Award, plus ‘Hardwired for Social Good’ category.

Little Yellow Bird’s founder Samantha Rae Jones says she is thrilled with the awards and to be recognised for their sustainable uniform and fashion label that set out to prove that producing ethically made clothing is not only achievable, but it can be successful.

“We strongly believe that business can be used as a force for good, and that you can make a profit without compromising people or planet. We are minimising negative social and environmental impacts and communicating those impacts to clients and the public to raise awareness and ultimately transform the way consumers think and interact with the fashion industry,” says Jones. “We hope to promote and be a catalyst for transforming the industry into a transparent and circular economy model.”

Little Yellow Bird has faced challenges that are typical of the garment industry but has worked hard to overcome them. Worker exploitation is rife in the sector, from low pay to unsafe working practices and child labour. Little Yellow Bird works exclusively with fair trade and Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) certified factories in India, that also have a minimum working age of 18. In New Zealand they have been accredited as a Living Wage Employer since April 2019.

The impact of the textile and clothing industry on the environment is another big challenge facing the sector. Little Yellow Bird source only 100 per cent rain-fed organic cotton to make their garments and conserve water when dying fabric.

The judges were impressed by the integration of sustainability throughout the business; from cotton farming, manufacturing, logistics, packaging, recycling, through to waste management in the head office.

Little Yellow Bird work with cotton farmers that use natural farming techniques and operate under a cooperative model. Their ginning is a zero waste process with the seeds later used to make cotton seed oil. They use azo-free, non-toxic, GOTS certified dyes to colour their fabrics within a closed loop water treatment system. And they use sea freight as much as possible to minimise their carbon footprint and have eliminated plastic packaging by 90 per cent across the organisation in the last two years.

The company composts, recycles, uses energy efficient lighting in their Wellington office and have chosen an electricity provider that uses only renewable energy.

They are currently experimenting with some recycling schemes for plastic and end-of-life clothing.

Jones is clear about the company’s vision. “We want to see the fashion industry transformed into a circular economy – from ethical production to conscious consumption. I’m very proud we can craft exceptionally made garments that are transparently made and fair for all.”

Winners and Commendations for 2019 NZI Sustainable Business Network Awards

Sustainability Superstar

Sponsored by Toitū Envirocare

Winner = Andrew Fisher – Managing Director, EcoStock Supplies

Commendation = Janette Searle – Managing Trustee, Take My Hands

Commendation = Marty Taylor – Founder & Chief Sustainability Officer, Papa Taiao Earthcare

Communicating for Change

Sponsored by Cadence Communications

Winner = Tauranga City Council

Commendation = BLAKE & New Zealand Geographic

Commendation = Ethique

Hardwired for Social Good

Sponsored by Alsco

Winner = Little Yellow Bird

Commendation = ecostore

Partnering for Good

Sponsored by Ministry for Primary Industries

Winner = Auckland Council, TROW Group & Green Way Demolition

Commendation = BNZ & Salvation Army

Going Circular

Sponsored by Auckland Council

Winner = Medsalv

Commendation = Stone Arrow Jewellery

Commendation = The Formary

Efficiency Champion

Sponsored by Ricoh

Winner = Sudima Hotels

Commendation = Iplex Pipelines NZ

Commendation = National Steel

Smarter Transport

Sponsored by NZ Transport Agency

Winner = Fisher & Paykel Healthcare

Commendation = Blue Cars

Revolutionising Energy

Sponsored by EECA

Winner = AUT University

Commendation = Auckland District Health Board

Commendation = Camp Glenorchy

Transforming Food

Sponsored by Yealands Wines

Winner = Chia Sisters

Commendation = Breadcraft

Restoring Nature

Sponsored by Department of Conservation

Winner = Te Whangai Trust

Commendation = AgriSea NZ

Commendation = Rotorua Canopy Tours

Millennial on a Mission

Sponsored by The Spinoff

Winner = Fraser McConnell – Co-Founder, Squawk Squad

Commendation = Grace Glass – Co-founder, Natural Paint Co


Winner = Little Yellow Bird

Finalist = Auckland Council, TROW Group & Green Way Demolition (partnership)

Finalist = Tauranga City Council

Finalist = Te Whangai Trust

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