Nukleus CEO CW Tan opens his heart on the learnings and challenges that come with growing a sustainable brand.
“At the beginning even we didn’t fully understand how to deal with a sustainable brand,” he admits. “Our idea was just to use organic cotton and then give some money away to charities like WWF(Worldwide Fund for Nature). It was fairly shallow.”
But a meeting with WWF Malaysia changed that. WWF Malaysia explained the principles of sustainability: that it was an end to end process, from conceptualising the product, sourcing the materials, manufacturing, packaging, transportation and product disposal. “Every part of the value chain has implications for the environment, and that’s what we attempt to address with Nukleus,” observes Tan.
Following the meeting with WWF Malaysia, which happened just before Nukleus was due to launch, and with his head spinning with new concepts like ‘end to end’ and ‘cradle to grave’ sustainability, CW went back to the drawing board.
“We decided to make an effort to understand all the environmental implications along the value chain. We delayed the launch by nine months because we’d decided to do it the right way,” he recalls.
CW’s journey of understanding sustainability was mirrored in Nukleus. Everything from selecting materials to production, had environmental implications. Nukleus is guided by the Global Sustainability Criteria laid down by WWF worldwide. “We’re not 100% but we’re close. For example, we’re organic but not Fairtrade certified, because of the cost for getting Fairtrade auditing...”
CW sees his brand’s journey to sustainability as one of continuous learning and improvement. “We’re not perfect, but we’re committed. We comply with Oeko-tex Standard 100 because it has the highest standard for human ecological safety for many processes. All our components comply with this, from fabric dyeing, to the elastic, to the labels. All the issues that are raised in the Greenpeace report, Toxic Threads...if brands adhered to this standard, the toxicity problems would not be an issue. ”
He cites the SGS test report carried out by an independent Taiwanese test centre, which has audited Nukleus products in order to demonstrate in a transparent and non-partisan way, that the claims made about the products, are, in fact true. “One of the main issues is azo dyes, and Greenpeace is highlighting that.”
“Our packaging is Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified, the highest global standard for responsible forest management, which, among others, takes into account whether the tree cutting is harming the environment, biodiversity, what kind of chemicals are used. It’s a German standard and very stringent, universally accepted as the gold standard.”
All the printing on the boxes is done with soya ink, so the packaging is free of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which produce fumes detrimental for health and which also contribute to ozone depletion.
“There’s still more that we can do,” observes Tan, “like transportation and the carbon footprint. The key is to be honest. We’re not perfect. We’re learning all the time, but we are committed. I guess that’s the main difference between us and other players. We apply the sustainability concept as an end to end process. It’s a lifecycle process to create a truly green and sustainable brand.”