Like outdoors enthusiasts, outdoor workers and businesses have a lot to lose when climate impacts bite into wild places. So far, 11 outdoors businesses have added their names to our joint business statement of concern, which recognises climate action as critical to continued business in the outdoors.
To explore how our community can help drive action to address the climate crisis, we'd like to better understand what environmental actions some outdoor businesses are already taking.
One of our supporting businesses, Norte, does things differently when it comes to outdoor apparel, so we asked Amy to tell us about what they do to pursue their 'Leave It Better' philosophy and what drives this passion.
Can you tell us a little bit about you and your business?
Our business is Norte, we’re a Victorian based outdoor apparel brand, with a mission to
‘Leave It Better’. Norte was founded and is operated by myself (Amy) and my sister, Casey.
We were lucky enough to have had a life lived in the outdoors and our fondest memories are
of long days chasing waves, out in our dad’s boat, camping and taking long trips on the road.
As the daughters of a park ranger and fire fighter, our childhood was full countless hours of
family time in nature, which included living a number of years in a ranger’s residence in one
of Victoria’s national parks, you can’t help but feel a little closer to all of the elements, to
nature and wildlife.
As adults, we were discussing a wild-wintery walk that Casey had taken along the coast with
her 4 young kids, which lead us to discussing the lack of suitable options available in kids’
There were kids jackets in the market, but they were either funky, but not functional, or
functional yet so high priced that they simply weren’t affordable or practical for many
families. We were also aware that many jackets are manufactured using animal down, which
didn’t appeal to us.
So that conversation planted the seed and we ultimately set out to create quality, cruelty-
free, durable and affordable gear for kids, to rug them up for their outdoor adventures. What
soon started to occur was that parents of kids started reaching out regularly, wanting the
same kind of products for themselves, so we started expanding our product range for adults
and different seasonal gear, accessories and eco-friendly products.
Did you have environmental and social responsibility in mind when you were first
creating your business?
We sure did, and it has continuously evolved over the years into a much sharper purpose.
When we started, we were committed to avoiding the use of animal products in the
manufacturing of our jackets as we had the belief from the outset, that there are so many
viable alternatives that it just wasn’t required.
We went about looking for alternatives and being very conscious in selecting our materials.
Once we had launched the business, we realised just how many environmental impacts are
associated with any kind of business activity, so we went on a sharp learning curve,
considering our environmental footprint and areas of improvement we could focus on.
At first, our environmental and social efforts were more of an organic reflection of our beliefs
and lifestyles, then as we grew and evolved as a business, we really felt an obligation to be
more overt about that commitment and to enshrine it in our mission. So the Norte name is
now synonymous with our ‘Leave It Better’ philosophy and we’ve continued working really
hard to reduce our environmental impact and invest in more sustainable practices.
How do you look after the climate and the environment in your business operations?
One of the biggest impacts associated with the fashion and apparel industry is the waste it
generates, so this is a huge focus area for us and we tackle it in a number of ways:
We’re really conscious of the materials we source for our products and use recycled products wherever we can. Our last range of jackets were made almost entirely from recycled products which includes our insulation which is made using 100% recycled PET plastic bottles.
This equates to roughly 10 bottles which would likely have ended up in landfill or our oceans and rivers, being diverted for a useful second life.
We also have a policy not to over-order, in that we would rather sell-out of a product than have large amounts of excess stock which just contributes to fashion industry waste.
With any end of season stock (which is usually very minimal), we donate items to organisations like Thread Together and community charities so that it can be distributed to communities and families.
We have eliminated all single use plastics from our shipping process and instead use
compostable and recycled packaging only. Its always very cool seeing a customer receive
their order and later on send pictures of their shipping satchel in their compost or worm farm!
We partner with a wonderful tree planting organisation called Trees for the Future, which we
carefully selected after doing some solid research on the models that bring the greatest
success. The Trees for the Future program is a replicable, and scalable approach which
involves a 4-year training program called the Forest Garden Approach where farmers plant
thousands of trees that protect and bring nutrients back to the soil. This helps farmers grow
a variety of fruits and vegetables. Forest Garden farmers gain subsequent increases in
income and access to food, all while improving the environment.
As a part of our support for the program, we plant 5 trees for every product sold and also
offset the carbon emissions associated with our business practices. Importantly, we always
focus on our own practices first, work to eliminate or reduce those impacts and then offset
those things that we can’t eliminate.
We undertake an annual audit of our environmental impacts which helps us understand and
evaluate our practices and assists us in identifying other areas of focus and improvement.
Our last range of jackets were made almost entirely from recycled products which includes our insulation which is made using 100% recycled PET plastic bottles.
Do you think businesses have a responsibility to take climate action? Why?
Absolutely we do! The challenges of climate change run deep and impact every corner of
society and the consequences for vulnerable people in our global communities are even
more dire. Business, the economy, quality of life and environmental sustainability are all
intrinsically linked, so it stands to reason that businesses need to play a lead role in taking
climate action. If we’re not all in this together, there simply won’t be enough horsepower to
make meaningful change.
Businesses have a responsibility to evaluate their own contribution to climate change and
match it with climate action. There are so many amazing groups, initiatives and solutions out
there and businesses can work hand in glove with them to provide important resources,
advocacy and most importantly, meaningful action!
How has the community and your customers responded to your eco-conscious
Our wonderful community and loyal customers have embraced our approach and are
active supporters of what we’re working towards. We have an incredible customer base
that are really invested in our ‘Leave It Better’ philosophy and its wonderful to see them
making conscious decisions about the products they purchase and the brands they get
Whilst it’s not why we do it, our approach does lead to increased sales, lots of referrals
and recommendations. The key message here is that investing in sustainability initiatives
as a business, can result in a range of positive results, both environmentally and
financially. We’re big believers in viewing environmental action as an investment in our
business, our planet and our future.
We’re big believers in viewing environmental action as an investment in our business, our planet and our future
Why did you sign up as a Supporter with Outdoors People for Climate Action?
We follow a lot of outdoor-lovin’ content so that’s how we first became aware of Outdoors
People for Climate Action. We were so impressed with the quality of content and resources
and the network of committed individuals, that we looked into it further. There is a line on the
OPCA website that states ‘Urgent action is needed to save the outdoors’ and that is really
what resonated most for us.
As outdoors people ourselves and with the added responsibility of being an outdoors
focused business, we felt really aligned with this message and we were really pleased to join
and sign on to the business statement.
Is there anything specifically you think outdoor businesses could be doing better, to
look out for the environment and the climate?
Across all walks of life, we simply need to do more! It’s incumbent upon all of us, particularly
businesses, to reflect on the impact we have on the environment through our business
activities, then take steps to reduce that impact. Given the depth and breadth of
environmental issues we face, it’s important that we all consider our end-to-end practices,
the materials we use, the emissions we create, the impacts on biodiversity and the
environments in which we operate.
Starting and running a business can be complex and you’re often wearing 10 hats at once.
And with that, comes a lot of learning along the way. Having the environment and climate as
part of a business plan, strategy, corporate and social responsibility efforts and in product & service development, is an opportunity to be embraced. With a continuous improvement
approach, and a mindset to keep learning, implementing new measures and actions and
engaging your customers and stakeholders in that journey, you can make incremental, yet
meaningful long-term improvements.
Tell us about your personal journey within the climate movement? Why are you
concerned? How have you participated in taking action?
I was fortunate enough to recently participate in the Global Climate Reality Corps, which was
founded and delivered by former US Vice President Al Gore. One of the exercises we did
through the course was to write down our own climate story. It was a fascinating and
valuable exercise as it forced us all to really connect to our own personal story with the
environment and with climate action.
For me, it comes back to childhood and the appreciation I have always had for the outdoors.
The pristine beaches, the hiking trails and the national parks - we would never walk by litter
without picking it up. We were always attuned to the extremes of the Australian summer and
the ferocity of our bushfire seasons which are growing in their length, and the magnitude of
the damage they cause.
Science tells us that the seasons are definitely changing and I’ve always recalled annual
holidays based on the weather patterns of the time. I remember Easter always being the
“cold” holiday at our house in South Gippsland, and the photos show us all really rugged up
for our outdoor adventures. When I think of Easter now, it feels almost like an extension of
summer and then it hits home just how much these seasonal changes will continue to have a
drastic and damaging impact on the climate.
Again, I reflect on how lucky we are to have access to these environments, and the joy and
memories derived from spending time there. Looking back at the 2020 summer and the
catastrophic bushfire season experienced across the country, it’s heartbreaking to think that
the next generations are at risk of not being able to experience a summer holiday the way
we were able to.
The ultimate driver is that vulnerable communities are the first and worst impacted by climate
change and other global humanitarian issues. If we judge a society and ourselves on how
we treat our most vulnerable, then this should jolt us into immediate and drastic action.
What did you think? I agree with Amy when she says that businesses need to play a lead role in taking climate action. It was great to hear about outerwear made from recycled materials, an outdoor business owner participating in the Global Climate Reality Corps and business carbon offsetting that benefits people and planet. Thank you to Amy for taking the time to share with us about Norte.
You can find Norte's website here: https://www.norte.com.au/
Do you know an outdoor business that's ready to pledge support for climate action? Learn more about becoming a supporter here.