Going green not just for the big brands - Trudi Donahue

Sustainability has been the word on everyone’s lips in 2021, from calls to build back better in the aftermath of Covid-19 to the international COP26 summit that brought world leaders to Glasgow. For consumers, sustainability has also become an increasingly significant factor when purchasing goods and services. More so than ever, people are looking to buy from brands that can prove their environmental and social impact.

Trudi Donahue, founding director of Wild & Kind CIC
Trudi Donahue, founding director of Wild & Kind CIC

For social enterprises and community interest companies, bringing a sustainable product to market could seem like yet another challenge to add to the day-to-day running of an organisation. However, those who are prepared to invest time and resources could benefit significantly from the rise of the green pound. After all, for most social entrepreneurs, social or environmental impact is already baked into their organisations’ DNA. It’s just a matter of making sure that unique selling proposition, or USP, is fully reflected in their brand.

Wild & Kind offers embroidery and garment printing services, from small-scale, one-off designs to mass-produced orders for the likes of workwear and staff uniforms. While the process is not totally waste-free, we are collecting and storing every last scrap of fabric from the production room floor and exploring the best routes for this to be reused or recycled by other industries or creatives.

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Our underlining value when it comes to sustainability and ethics is to be transparent and communicate our intentions - even if we haven’t managed to deliver on the plans just yet. The most important thing is to at least try and to show customers that you are beginning to take action and make positive steps in the right direction.

Embroidery Machine Technician Kerry Boyd at Wild & Kind, where they collect and store every last scrap of fabric from the production room floor and explore the best routes for reuse or recycling.

Displaying honesty and integrity can ultimately help to build a brand that consumers trust, and for organisations with purpose, like us, it means we can deliver greater impact for the communities that we work with. This Christmas, we have developed a new product range that reflects our values – including notebooks, writing sets and at-home print design kits. We have joined up with platforms such as eBay for Change and Green Wallet – a tech platform aiming to become the go-to ethical marketplace - to bring our brand to the widest possible audience.

Throughout the last 18 months, we have focused more than ever on business development, with financial support from various funding bodies such as First Port, The Corra Foundation and National Lottery, helping to keep Wild & Kind operating throughout tough times. We also joined this year’s SIS Ambitions programme which allowed us to join masterclasses focused on topics such as leadership, marketing, scaling up and sustainability.

Despite being forced to close our premises just weeks after opening a brand-new studio space, our revenue grew 600 per cent in 2020/2021. With sustainability high up on everyone’s agenda, customers are now looking for garment printers that offer a more eco-friendly service.

In hindsight, one small benefit to the pandemic has been the opportunities that it unlocked as we were forced to diversify and change direction. While we found that delivering our embroidery and craft workshops virtually did not have the same level of impact for our community, we carried on working towards creating a sustainable and independent business that will continue to deliver impact. To that end, we are looking forward to coming back with a bang in the new year with an events programme that aims to tackle loneliness and isolation for people with marginalised gender identities.

Risograph Technician, Lou Rowland.

Christmas is the season of goodwill, and with the growing popularity of brands and products with a greater purpose, it represents an ideal opportunity for shoppers to go beyond the high street when looking for gifts. For social enterprises and small businesses, it is often the case that sustainability goes hand-in-hand with community impact – being green might be more difficult for small traders, but it certainly isn’t just for big brands.

Trudi Donahue, founding director of Wild & Kind CIC


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