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Carl Nettleton headshot

Volcom’s Sustainability Initiative Turns Fishing Nets into Bikinis

By Carl Nettleton



For decades now, the tragedy of lost fishing nets has been known to environmentalists, scientists and fishers. These nets have the ability to continue fishing long after they have been lost, killing not only fish, but marine mammals, sea turtles and other types of marine life that become entangled in their webs.

Now Volcom is contributing a solution by sourcing a new yarn made from these fishing nets and other types of nylon. Called Econyl, this upcycled product will be used in the company’s Simply Solid Swim collection.

The introduction of Econyl is part of Volcom’s commitment to Strong Oceans, Stable Climate and Smart Society, a component of the firm’s sustainability initiatives. Volcom has developed a New Future roadmap to guide the firm in reaching sustainability targets, identifying where the company causes impacts and how to address them.

“Econyl fiber allowed us to create a collection with deeper meaning and purpose,” said Lindsey Roach, Head of Women’s Business in a statement. “We wanted this collection to be more than beautiful patterns and functional pieces, so the fact that it is made with recovered fishing nets creates a natural connection to surf culture, which fully understands the value of keeping the ocean clean.”

" ,,, when our oceans are weak, we do not thrive as a species. Plus, we like surfing!" -  Volcom website

While the garments made from Econyl fiber will contain 78 percent of the material, the fiber itself is made from 100 percent regenerated nylon waste. Econyl is created by Aquafil, a firm with headquarters in Trento, Italy, and facilities around the world. The fiber is created by diverting waste from landfills and oceans through the recovery of abandoned fishing nets and other discarded nylon waste materials. Aquafil says its cutting-edge regeneration system is a pioneering example of the circular economy in action – offering the same quality and performance as traditional nylon, but with the ability to be regenerated an infinite number of times without any loss in quality.

Upcycling nets helps achieve sustainability goals

Upcycling the fishing nets and other nylons will help Volcom reach a key sustainability goal to “increase both the amount of recycled material in our polyester and nylon as well as the usage of organic, recycled and/or better* cotton in its products.” The firm says better cotton “might consist of organic, recycled, or other cotton sources with an improved environmental and social impact.”

Volcom claims Econyl fibers are durable, lightweight, breathable and environmentally friendly, making them ideal for the Simply Solid swimwear collection.  The products in the collection will include board shorts, rash guards, halter tops, a tankini (a two-piece resembling a one-piece swimsuit), and a variety of mix-and-match bikini tops and bottoms.

Other elements of Volcom’s sustainability initiatives include:

  • Integrating a New Future sustainability program across all facets of Volcom’s consumer marketing.

  • Creating an internal Volcom employee and leadership New Future sustainability certification program with at least 90 percent of employees completing certification.

  • Developing a program that resembles the firm’s “Give Jeans a Chance” program so that used Volcom products can be collected, processed and either donated or kept for closed loop manufacturing in the future.
Sustainability is Good for Business

The business benefits of sustainability are not lost on Volcom. The firm believes meeting its 2020 targets will help to lower its environmental profit and loss (E P&L) by focusing on raw material sourcing and processing. Volcom’s analysis concludes that 75 percent of the firm’s environmental impacts lie “deep within our supply chain.”

Sustainability has been a key part of the organization’s mission since 2012. Some of the accomplishments since then include:

  • Eliminating polyvinyl chloride (PVC) from all Volcom products.

  • Sourcing paper and packaging material from recycled sources and/or responsibly managed forests.

  • Increasing the amount of sustainable material and processes in Volcom’s product mix.

  • Certifying Volcom’s major surf events as “Deep Blue” activities that offset carbon emissions through verified programs such as Wildlife Works REDD+.

Time will tell if these swimsuits are a hit with consumers, but Volcom is on the right path to ensuring oceans remain a renewable resource.

Image courtesy Volcom

Carl Nettleton headshot

Carl Nettleton is an acclaimed award-winning writer, speaker and analyst. He heads Nettleton Strategies, a public policy firm specializing in oceans, water, energy, climate, and U.S. Mexico border issues. Carl also founded OpenOceans Global, an NGO solving ocean crises by unifying and empowering global communities. Carl serves on the national and California advisory councils for Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2), a national, nonpartisan group of business owners, investors and others who advocate for policies that are good for the economy and good for the environment. He is co-chair of the San Diego Water Conservation Action Committee (CAC) and a member of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, Lambda Alpha, South County Economic Development Council, Otay Mesa Chamber of Commerce and U.S.-Mexico Border Philanthropy Partnership.

Read more stories by Carl Nettleton