Photo of Sebastien Jacques, Vice President of Sales and Business Development, Attraction.
By Diana Foxall
A proudly Canadian company since its inception, ethica’s origins date back to 1980. That’s when, in rural Quebec, founder Jean-Marc Gagnon and his three brothers created ethica’s parent company, Attraction.
“It started really at a small scale, where initially it was a small sports shop that gradually evolved to manufacturing its own garments and doing the embellishment of its own garments for multiple types of companies and a few networks of distribution,” Sébastien Jacques, Vice President of Sales and Business Development, says.
Then, nearly 30 years after Attraction was created, ethica began. What started as a nod to environmental sustainability grew and evolved, with other aspects like social responsibility and local production helping shape how ethica exists today.
"Initially, it was positioned on the market for its content -- for the fact that it was made out of organic cotton, and soon after, the poly cotton mix addition we know today," Jacques says. “It was an opportunity that arose where it was the beginning of the organic cotton discussion."
All of ethica's products are made in Lac-Drolet, Quebec. The brand's parent company, Attraction, employs more than 100 workers from the village of roughly 1,000 people.
Sustainability has been a big part of ethica since day one. And Jacques says the company has big plans -- with the goal of having the manufacturing process become zero waste over the next few years.
"Right now at ethica we will be manufacturing close to half a millions garments this year. And although we use the vast portion or percentage of the raw material, there is always left over," Jacques says.
He estimates that means there's more than 20,000 kg of potential waste looking for a new purpose. And now they've found it.
"We've been searching for a way of adding value, creating something that is great with this material and we finally have a project that is close to reality, where we will use that fabric to stuff cushions and poufs," Jacques says.
"With this initiative, we believe we'll be -- at the end of 2022 -- the manufacturing operations related to the production of ethica will be close to zero waste generation," Jacques says. "This is major and has tons of potential impact, potential positive impact for the planet in our share that we want to do for sustainability and our beliefs in every sustainability project we can put in place."
And that's not all. Boxes used in the shipping of garments from Attraction's other line, Initial, are being reused, and the money saved is being used to fund the switch to LED lighting for the entire shop floor. There's also a garden outside the company's headquarters, which Jacques says regularly produces great tomatoes and lettuce.
And while ethica's manufacturing process and garments are becoming ever more sustainable, the company is also giving back to the community in other ways.
It's launched a partnership with the Group for Research and Education on Marine Mammals, a non-profit organization studying whales in the St. Lawrence River and promoting marine conservation. 25 cents from every ethica t-shirt sold at the Centre d'Interpretation des Mammiferes Marins in Tadoussac goes towards the goal of adopting a beluga whale -- a project that should be complete within a few years. Greta Thunberg visited the Centre while she was in Canada in September.
"We thought that it would be a perfect match with everything we do with ethica," Jacques says. "The sustainability is great by itself, but in addition, if we can use a portion of the profit that is generated to support a cause the is important for the planet, it's a double win."
Additionally, ethica has partnered with Lendemain de Trole -- a group of award-winning filmmakers and photographers putting fishing in the spotlight. The two parties collaborated on Lendemain de Trole's merchandise collection, 4FISH -- with $10 from each item sold going towards the conservation of aquatic fauna.
And on top of using environmentally friendly fabrics, consistently increasing the sustainability of the manufacturing process and planning to go zero waste in the near future, ethica is continuing to expand its collections -- including launching a new range of fleece products next year after finding a supplier that meets its standards for both quality and eco-friendliness.