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The Iconic unveils ambitious sustainability targets

The Iconic has launched its inaugural progress report on the steps it is taking to become a more responsible retailer. The report includes updates on the baseline sustainability goals the e-commerce company set for itself two years ago, as well as new goals to be achieved over the next five years in four key areas: ethical sourcing, the environment, community engagement and diversity, inclusion and body positivity. 

The tagline of the report, launched at the online retailer’s summer runway show at the Calile Hotel in Brisbane last Thursday, is “progress not perfection”, and the 48-page document does not shy away from some of the less flattering facts.

For instance, in 2018, after compiling a full list of the factories where its private-label brands were made, The Iconic discovered several violations of its supplier code of conduct, including locked fire exits, extreme overtime, accommodation in the same building as production and false records being shown in the audit process. 

Despite working with the factories to develop a remediation plan and setting clear deadlines for resolving the concerns, the retailer ultimately had to sever ties with four factories.

The company’s senior leadership team at the event last week, including CEO Erica Berchtold, CMO Alexander Meyer and chief sustainability officer of Global Fashion Group, The Iconic’s parent company, Jaana Quaintance-James, acknowledged that being transparent about such issues could result in the company being named and shamed.

“People who are maybe less aware of the complexity of the issues and see things in a very black-and-white way will do that. But we have a role to play in educating people as well,” Quaintance-James told Internet Retailing. “That’s part of the reason we [produced] this report.”

The Iconic isn’t alone in its effort to become more transparent. Country Road and David Jones are just a few of the established retailers that have made their supplier lists public in recent months. At the same time, many more retailers are in the process of reporting on modern slavery risks in their supply chain for the first time since the passage of the Modern Slavery Act 2018

The Iconic won’t be required to submit its modern slavery report until the beginning of 2021, since the deadline is based on a business’s first full financial year after January 1, 2019, and The Iconic follows the calendar year.

For Quaintance-James, these are signs that sustainability is no longer a “trend” in retail, it’s a permanent movement. 

“I don’t think we really have an option anymore. We have to find a way,” she said. 

Here’s an overview of The Iconic’s commitments to make its business more sustainable. The retailer will continue to update customers on its progress towards these goals in a new report each year:

Ethical Sourcing: 2025

  • 90 per cent of private-label units will be made from more sustainable materials
  • 75 per cent of private-label factory management will be engaged in training programs
  • 50 per cent of workers in private-label factories will be engaged in training/community programs
  • 50 per cent of the entire product assortment will meet at least one Considered credential

Environment: 2022


  • 100 per cent of customer-facing packaging will be made of recycled content
  • 70 per cent of private-label poly bags will be made of recycled plastic
  • 100 per cent of private label primary packaging materials across all categories will be fully recyclable in Australia
  • 80 per cent of private-label paper and cardboard packaging will be made from verified recycled pulp
  • 80 per cent of private-label product SKUs will have on-pack communication about their packaging sustainability or recyclability

Carbon & Energy

  • 80 per cent of energy from green sources and warehouse solar operations
  • 100 per cent carbon offsetting of own operations and deliveries

Waste & Recycling

  • 80 per cent of waste diverted from landfill across all sites, with 100 per cent of waste diverted at the FC
  • 50,000kg of textiles diverted from landfill via a takeback scheme

Community Engagement: 2022

  • $150,000 raised for charity partners
  • 70 per cent of employees engaged in volunteering
  • 100,000 people supported via charity partners

Diversity, Inclusion & Body Positivity: 2022

  • Create and execute a ‘new designers’ incubator program to train three new designers in 2020 with a specific focus on empowering Indigenous designers, designers of ‘new wear’ (modest wear) and up-and-coming designers from disadvantaged backgrounds.
  • Influence and collaborate with at least 20 of the top 50 brands to implement size extensions within their fashion assortment.
  • Implement size extensions in all private-label products by 2020.
  • Create a Modest Edit on site to surface brands with modest silhouettes in 2020, and provide better representation in the e-commerce catalogue.
  • Enable a fashion assortment for differently-abled people by engaging external consultants and deeply researching the true needs and wants of this customer group by the first half of 2020, and provide better representation within the e-commerce catalogue.

This story originally appeared on sister site Inside Retail.

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