Sustainability Glossary

So what exactly is sustainability?

You’ve learnt more but still aren’t quite sure around the terms in this area. Fear not, our glossary is just the thing you’re looking for to become a sustainability guru

A product that can break down and blend back in with the earth, ideally, leaving no toxins behind. For a piece of clothing to be fully biodegradable it needs to be made of materials that are capable of being decomposed by bacteria in nature. Synthetic fibres won’t do this but most natural fibres will. MMCFs such as bamboo viscose are nature based and biodegradable.

Carbon avoidance projects prevent carbon that would otherwise have been released into the atmosphere. These projects sell carbon credits equal to the amount of carbon emissions being avoided. An example of a carbon avoidance project would be building or fixing a water borehole to provide fresh drinking water to a community, meaning they would no longer have to burn wood to purify water.

Carbon dioxide emissions account for the largest proportion of what are known as greenhouse gases which are the gases associated with global warming. They come mainly from burning fossil fuels and the manufacturing of cement.

The carbon footprint of a person, activity or organisation is the total carbon emissions (or emissions of greenhouse gases) over a period of time. You can reduce your carbon footprint by reducing the activities you do that emit carbon or by offsetting the carbon emissions you contribute to.

A process or product that is carbon neutral has balanced its carbon emissions. Balancing your carbon emissions usually means buying the equivalent amount of (independently verified) carbon offsets. Offsetting is the process of buying credits to support projects that replace carbon. The requirements for a company or project to be carbon neutral are less stringent than those to be Net Zero. For neutrality, the carbon footprint simply needs to be offset – there’s no commitment to reducing that footprint. Additionally only the scope 1&2 emissions need to be offset.

An activity is carbon positive if it reduces, removes or offsets more carbon emissions than it creates. Because it results in fewer carbon emissions it can also (confusingly) be known as Carbon Negative. And more confusingly can also be known as Climate Positive.

This means removing or capturing carbon from the atmosphere and storing it. For example, when you plant trees they take carbon from the air and turn it into carbon in their roots. Many offsetting projects involve planting more trees.

One of the reasons we champion bamboo is that it sucks CO2 out of the air and stores it in the soil, roots, forests and the fibres that we use. By working with bamboo we are already more effectively removing carbon from the atmosphere than if we worked with other crops.

A circular economy means one that results in no waste or pollution, keeping existing products and materials in use and allowing nature to regenerate. A truly sustainable business is a circular one using renewable resources, cultivated responsibly. Products are designed to last, be reused, be recycled or naturally returned to the soil. Materials, resources and the natural world are valued and conserved.

As part of our Impact Positive mission, we have a Nature Goal to create a circular range which conserves natural resources, protects biodiversity, eliminates harmful pollution and closes the loop at the end of use.

Historically our economy has been linear, that is, we take, make and waste. In the clothing industry this has resulted in 73% of clothing ending up in landfill or incinerated. But that’s not the only waste of a linear model. The years spent growing and harvesting the crop, the energy and raw materials spent making the fabric, the human expertise invested at every stage are all lost.

Action that tackles climate change and its impacts. When we talk of climate action, we usually mean action to reduce carbon emissions. As part of BAM’s mission to be Impact Positive, our carbon goal focuses on:

  • Reducing our carbon footprint
  • Offsetting the carbon we cannot avoid (until the world moves away from burning fossil fuels for energy)
  • Promoting carbon removals with the use of natural raw materials such as bamboo.

This highlights the benefits of cross-sector coordination to achieve large-scale change.

One of the major challenges BAM encountered creating our 73 Zero outerwear was that while we could make a garment that was recyclable in principle that didn’t mean it could be in practice. Collaborating with Project Plan B, a ground-breaking recycling processing plant allowed us to ensure every element of our jackets could be recycled. In fact, we went back to the drawing board and designed them with that in mind.

A material that, in the right conditions, breaks down completely into non-toxic components that can support plant growth. Our packaging is 100% compostable and you can find out more about how to dispose of it in our Sustainability FAQs.

Consumers have power. By choosing to buy circular, biodegradable and/or responsibly made clothing they can ensure the growth of those sectors.

Where a company addresses social and environmental concerns as part of their business operations.

This means avoiding investment in activities considered unethical and unsustainable, and instead choosing those that are less harmful or socially and environmentally positive.

An increase in the world’s average temperature due to human activities, such as burning fossil fuels, that release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

These are gases that trap heat in the atmosphere. They include carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and water vapour.

Greenwashing is when a company persuades consumers that their products are doing more to protect the environment than they really are. The Green Claims Code is designed to prevent companies from doing this but it is still in its infancy.

This simply means having a positive impact. BAM has a goal to be Impact Positive by 2030 – this means we’ll eliminate all negative impacts to ensure we only have a positive impact on people, nature and the climate.

Measuring the environmental impacts of a product or service from conception to disposal. BAM worked with LCA experts Green Story to measure every one of our environmental impacts so you can see for every garment how our clothing compares to others on the market.

A company that is net zero means is one where Scope 1 & 2 emissions are zero and Scope 3 emissions are as close to zero as possible. Where there are unavoidable emissions, they are offset using removals offsets.

A legally binding international treaty on climate change adopted by more than 190 countries in 2015. Its goal is to limit global warming to well below 2°, preferably to 1.5° Celsius, compared to pre-industrial levels.

This is the idea that business should take responsibility for the environmental impact of the products they make, sell or buy. This involves all stages of the product’s life cycle, including end-of-life management. This is why when BAM became Climate Positive we didn’t just look at the impact of our business but for every stage of our clothing lifestyle from the harvesting of the crop right through to the impact of our customers washing their clothes up to fifty times. We then work with Sharewear to find solutions for our clothing at the end of its life.

Recycling means turning materials that would otherwise be thrown away into the same or different reusable material. Recycling means keeping things at a high value so it can be recycled many times over. An example is our 73 Zero jackets which are recycled back into fibre grade polyester. This is quite different from downcycling where things are turned into something less valuable that cannot be recycled again. Often when people talk about recycling, they mean downcycling.

A product or material that can be collected, processed and manufactured into a new product. Whether a product can be recycled is dependent on two key factors – whether the product itself can be recycled and whether the recycling plant has the processes in place to carry out the recycling (think about your recyclable cup that still has to go into landfill). Surprisingly often, the second piece of the puzzle is not in place. When we created our circular range we worked with the recycling processor Project Plan B to ensure that they could recycled our clothes. And then we invested up front with them to ensure the cost of recycling was covered. This is all part and parcel of our Product Stewardship.

A business’s emissions are categorised into Scope 1, 2 and 3 as follows:

  • Scope 1 – All Direct Emissions from the activities of an organisation or under their control. This includes fuel combustion on site, from owned vehicles and fugitive emissions.
    Examples include fleet vehicles, gas emissions from boilers and air-conditioning refrigerant leaks.
  • Scope 2 – Indirect Emissions from electricity purchased and used by the organisation. Emissions will be created during the production of the energy and eventually used by the organisation.
    Includes electricity from energy supplier to power computers, heating and cooling.
  • Scope 3 – All Other Indirect Emissions from activities of the organisation but occur from sources that they do not own or control. This is usually the largest share of the carbon footprint, especially for office-based companies, covering emissions associated with business travel, procurement, waste and water.
    Examples include plane travel, shipping of goods and waste disposal.

This is the chain of sellers (and buyers) who work together to produce and distribute a product to the end user. There are often many stages in a supply chain. Most clothing manufacturers have relationships with their immediate suppliers. BAM has traced right the way back to the bamboo forests to ensure we can take responsibility for our impacts at every stage.

Sustainability is about long-term resilience. But when it’s used as a generic term it has little meaning and can be a sign of greenwashing.  The Green Claims Code requires businesses to back up their use of the word ‘sustainable’ or ‘sustainability’ with specific details.

A business that is focused on long-term resilience economically, socially and environmentally.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015, provides a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future. At its heart are the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are an urgent call for action by all countries - developed and developing - in a global partnership.

This means the business makes buying decisions that include social and environmental factors along with price and quality. BAM has traced our supply chain back to the growers so that we can take responsibility for our impact at every stage.

A product or service that creates no CO2 or greenhouse gas emissions when it’s made or used.

A product or service that results in no waste when it’s made or used.