Merchants Label Pty Ltd T/A Merchants of the Sun
ABN: 62 645 535 673
ACN: 645 535 673
Merchants of the Sun subscribes to the idea of a pre-destination, a final concentration of our impact as makers, wearers and collaborators. It's up to us to be proactive, and ensure our footprint is as minimal as possible.
We believe that fashion, art and expression do not need to come at the expense of our people and planet.
As a key player in our industry, both local and abroad, we cannot underestimate our role in raising the standard of ethical practice in the fashion landscape, and we don’t take that position lightly.
Merchants of the Sun operates as a sustainable business - a term we will define across various categories. In the process of creating an ethical brand, we actually haven’t looked to industry standards for inspiration. What is normal to the fashion landscape is dire, and we are committed to not just doing better, but also setting the standard for other brands to follow.
Sustainability can be measured by assessing the performance of social, environmental, and economic principles. To cover each pillar, here’s what we’re focusing on:
2 SUPPLY CHAIN
4 SOCIAL SUSTAINABILITY
5 SLOW CREATION
7 TRANSPARENCY AND ACCOUNTABILITY
Our framework and targets are set according to various measures of sustainability, including:
- Agenda for Sustainable Development. Each of our operations has been designed with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in mind. Developed by the UN, the Agenda prioritises people, planet and prosperity in the process of eradicating poverty. Each of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) comprise a roadmap that speaks to social opportunity and justice. In the interests of cohesion, we have adopted the SDGs in our sustainability questions.
- Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) Criteria. The ESG provides a set of standards to assess an organisation’s ethical impact. Criteria covers both direct and indirect factors, including employee treatment and pay, working conditions, carbon footprint, energy consumption, prospective impact, and waste. While it’s typical to see larger corporations using the ESG Criteria, we have taken it into consideration to ensure our definition of sustainability aligns with what other industries and large companies are working towards. A streamlined definition is a step in the fight against green washing, hence our consideration of various other standards.
- B Corp Impact Assessment. Please note: we are not yet B Corp Certified, however we are working to meet the standards of the sustainability assessment (application submitted November 2022). A B Corp company is one that meets extremely high standards of ethical performance, covering governance, community, workers, environment and customers. Our sustainable objectives have been created to match the criteria of transparency and accountability required of social enterprises and sustainable businesses.
Our manufacturer is located in Denpasar, Bali. Indonesia is a huge global player in the fashion industry as textiles and accessories contributing over 18% to Indonesia’s creative economy, making it crucial to establish an evolving and ethical ecosystem of workers and businesses.
All Merchants of the Sun operations are contained to one workshop, headed by Natry and his team of 45 metalsmiths and jewellers. We share our team and production space with three other retailers, and we totally occupy production systems at least 40% of the time. Our buying cycle follows a regular schedule to ensure consistency and predictability for our production house.
All metal products are created using the lost-wax casting method, which uses limited water quantities and produces immaterial waste water amounts. Any leftover materials (925 sterling silver, 18k gold and wax) are recycled for use in product creation.
As we purchase product directly from our production house, which services other labels, we do not cover their total wage costs and instead purchase each individual piece. However, all products are appropriately compensated to cover labour, materials, design collaboration, mold construction, experience, taxes, business operations and admin. Working conditions are monitored as we work extremely closely with all workers on a regular basis to ensure job satisfaction and above adequate factory conditions. Our Founder and Director Matt lives in Bali and maintains a personal relationship with Natry and the team, working directly with the team on a weekly basis. The gender balance of the factory is 75% male and 25% female, with strict procedure as to enforced breaks and overall safety and wellbeing.
A living wage implies financial remuneration that provides workers with an adequate standard of living. It is the minimum income necessary to enable workers to afford their basic needs, including shelter and food. We are committed to ensuring all staff have the capacity to be financially independent, and provide for themselves and their families. In the Merchants of the Sun production house, all workers receive above a living wage.
We are well aware of industrial abuse in overseas factories, and are proud to advocate against such malpractice in our industry. We will, however, continue to raise awareness for those working in unethical conditions across the world to manufacture the goods we enjoy.
Our production house and suppliers share our same approach to ethical self expression. Natry and his team are artisans above all else, creating quality designs and pieces that do not cost the world.
Supply chain traceability is a warranted expectation of sustainable conscience. Investing in our supply chain is key to ethical production and retail of our products, particularly in an industry reeling on limited resources.
Our current business model follows a cradle-to-grave approach, which considers waste as the ultimate end of life process for our products. We are working to amend this lifecycle to become circular, diverting Merchants pieces from disposal through our Close the Loop program, inviting customers to return their unused items to be recycled. These pieces are then provided to our production house to be melted down and used in future collections.
Most of our products use recycled 925 sterling silver, sourced ethically by our production house. 1-2% of our total silver use is virgin, to create the chains of our pendants and Dusk Chain products. All other chains use recycled materials. The emissions factor of virgin silver is 21 times that of recycled silver. Our goal is to move towards 100% recycled silver by 2024, sourced ethically and recycled by our production house. For all gold pieces, recycled silver comprises the base metal while virgin 18k gold is added. Any solid gold products are made using 100% recycled computer parts, sourced by our Director.
RETAIL AND HEAD OFFICE
Based in Miami, Gold Coast, the House of Merchants store is home to our head office team and brick-and-mortar retail site.
Merchants operates out of a leased office space, which is not considered a green facility as we use grid power and city-wide water supply. We are yet to implement energy and water efficiency improvements, however we ensure our waste is kept to a minimum. We have a paper-light office, and use as little packaging as possible.
Our packaging is sourced from China, ABL Distribution and Burleigh Print, comprised of drawstring storage bags, cardboard boxes and branding cards respectively.
Currently, the studio is 50% male and 50% female (5 men and 5 women). We occasionally contract local creatives based in either the Gold Coast or Sydney for additional services. Such services include business development, paid advertising, photography and modelling.
Our office does not use solar power, nor does it have water tanks. This is something we are currently working with our landlord to rectify.
Environmental stewardship is one with social sustainability, as true sustainability considers all areas of impact. Merchants of the Sun is a social enterprise as much as it is an accessories trader, meaning we value our workers and community in equal measure, from those who manufacture our pieces to those who may purchase secondhand products.
Jewellery has a significant global history, amounting to convoluted ecosystems and chains of trade. In the interests of ethical practice, we are working to simplify our own system of production and retail to ensure we know exactly how our jewellery was created and where it is going.
Both our head office and House of Merchants are based in Queensland, Australia, which is subject to the Modern Slavery Act 2018. Our ethical obligations go beyond legislation to ensure we are meeting and exceeding the social requirements of sustainability. We are in the process of developing a code of conduct to implement in our production house, in conjunction with the current physical visits of the factory by our Founder and Director, Matt.
Racial diversity, genuine representation and gender inclusion are important to the overall wellbeing of our brand, beyond visual appearance. We are committed to incorporating people of various backgrounds in our campaigns, imagery and marketing strategies, in the form of models and influencers. Our motive is to represent our community of customers in a way that is socially and culturally appropriate.
A key facet of our sustainable plan requires us to create as little as possible. This entails rejecting the typical seasonal approach of fashion and refusing to drop collections too frequently and without care.
Each Merchants of the Sun product and collection is extensively deliberated over before being physically manufactured and sold. Haphazard creation and retail has become an expectation of fashion businesses, which perpetuates an unsustainable ideology.
We restock bestsellers twice annually, and release collections up to four times per calendar year. Drops typically sell through completely, but anything leftover is able to be completely recycled by our production house without waste. Product is shipped from the Gold Coast to Bali once it is taken off the website. We have previously hosted an 'Archive Sale', providing these pieces at a discount to our customers. We have not ruled out holding such an activation again, however we rarely have enough excess product to justify regular sales.
By producing with consideration and slowly creating our pieces, we hope to rewire our customers to understand that we are not inherently entitled to consume. For as long as our actions leave a trail of impact, we cannot take more than our planet can afford.
We can always do better and will continue to innovate each structure of Merchants indefinitely. Written goals are all fun and games unless we are wholly committed to meeting exceeding them, which is our exact objective. Other goals include:
- Become waste-free by the end of 2024, across all areas of production and retail.
- Produce pendant chains made of 100% recycled silver.
- Source alternatives to recycled plastic ring sizers and reduce coinciding waste. We have created an AR-powered sizing app, which is currently in the final testing stages before rollout.
- Implement a supplier code of conduct by July 2023.
- Publish a full impact report by December 2023.
- Change packaging to 100% biodegradable materials. We currently use no plastic, however not all materials are biodegradable.
- Release a full Modern Slavery Statement. We have audited our supply chain and are currently in the registration stage.
- Continue source reduction to ensure minimalist production, supply and retail.
TRANSPARENCY AND ACCOUNTABILITY
In 2022, we conducted our first environmental audit, assessing our output of carbon emissions and the impact of our supply and retail chains.
Since this time, Merchants of the Sun has become certified carbon neutral by Climate Active Australia, recognising our business operations and product standards. This is not a one-and-done certification, as it requires annual review and continually upheld standards. This is something we are wholly committed to, and understand that purchasing offsets is not the end goal. We are constantly looking at ways to reduce our emissions across all areas of practice, and the next goal is to be carbon positive.
We have various areas to improve the sustainability and impact of Merchants of the Sun.
This includes reviewing our packaging materials, which include a microfibre jewellery cloth and plastic ring sizer. These items have the largest GHG emission factor of our transport and retail materials, however the weight of our cardboard packaging boxes has a significant carbon footprint. We are currently redesigning our packaging and ring sizers to reduce their impact while still providing practical and protective products to our customers. Watch this space for updated packaging, sourced ethically and made from recycled materials where possible.
Further, our GHG footprint considers the total amount of greenhouse gases (including carbon dioxide) generated by our business operations. For FY2021, the Merchants of the Sun footprint was 37.51 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, or an average of 5.87kg of CO2e per piece. This is over five times the annual footprint of the average person, which is completely offset.
Freight is also a significant contributor to global GHG emissions. We use Australia Post and DHL delivery services, both of which offer carbon neutral options. We purchase the available carbon offsets from both providers to establish a baseline emission level across all business operations.
We are just one cog in the nonstop fashion machine, a beast that churns out millions of products daily. As an independent designer and retailer, we have a platform to inform and educate our audience about the need for ethical fashion practices. We need to engage the fashion industry in productive conversations, and cut our unsustainable losses before any more harm is done.
By reporting on our impact, we are looking to inform our audience about the value of conscious consumption and how to use fashion as self expression without a substantial ethical price tag. We use our social media platforms, website and blog to discuss sustainability while also calling out to our peers to follow suit.
Our action also takes place through social initiatives, including our annual Anti-Black Friday campaign and mental health awareness. These initiatives educate our community, while also servicing the industry and highlighting the importance of social ethics in supply chains as well as corporate offices. Keep an eye on our blog and social media for information regarding social initiatives, and get involved by donating, reassessing your own habits and keeping the conversation going.
One of our major areas of education is the impact of deceptive marketing. Our industry and fashion consumers are hugely disadvantaged by the impact of greenwashing, the process of conveying false information about a product or business being sustainable or environmentally sound. Misleading claims as to sustainability are frequently used by retail giants to convince us that they are doing what they can, and we are subsequently consuming ethically. This action ultimately damages the environment and continues to hide the reality of supply chains and sourcing. Using our platform, we refuse to greenwash and we are committed to supporting our community to decipher sustainability marketing.
In the interests of sustainability and transparency, we want to leave no questions unanswered. Please direct all queries to:
Sustainability Liason: Courtney Hutchins & Emily Coogan, Pland Studio
2084 Gold Coast Highway, Miami QLD 4220