Design & Style


Homewares brand Kip&Co on the long road to going green.

28 October 2021

When popular Australian lifestyle label Kip&Co announced it had achieved carbon neutral status late last year, it marked a major milestone on the long road towards becoming sustainable. Co-founder Alex McCabe talks social awakening, going green and why they’ll never stop pushing themselves to be better.

Design & Style


Homewares brand Kip&Co on the long road to going green.

28 October 2021

When popular Australian lifestyle label Kip&Co announced it had achieved carbon neutral status late last year, it marked a major milestone on the long road towards becoming sustainable. Co-founder Alex McCabe talks social awakening, going green and why they’ll never stop pushing themselves to be better.

 A profile shot of the three founders of brand Kip&Co

Hayley Pannekoecke (left), Kate Heppell (middle) and Alex McCabe (right) launched the Kip&Co brand back in 2012. Image: Kip&Co.

Sometimes it isn’t enough to build Australia’s leading cult homewares brand. On its journey from start-up to fashion frontrunner, Kip&Co’s Alex McCabe has come to the realisation that a truly successful business must have sustainability at its core.

“When we started in 2012, we did have elements of sustainability in our DNA, with things like sustainable packaging,” says Alex, who founded Kip&Co with her friends, sisters Hayley Pannekoecke and Kate Heppell. 

“But as we grew, we started to formalise each element of the business – and we came to realise that sustainability was central. It’s been a learning curve understanding the social, ethical and environmental issues in our supply chain – and how to manage them in a responsible manner. And that’s why each year we have committed to bigger ambitions in that area.”

Chasing carbon neutrality

Their snowballing awareness peaked with their commitment at the start of 2020 to turn their business carbon neutral by the end of the year. They achieved their goal with flying colours: in November they posted proudly on their website, “We. Are. Carbon. Neutral!”

A table setting with colourful linen by brand Kip&Co

In November 2020, Kip&Co achieved a major milestone on its sustainability journey, proudly posting on its website “We. Are. Carbon. Neutral!”. Image: Kip&Co.

The decision had been precipitated by the devastating bushfires that engulfed much of Australia’s eastern seaboard in the summer of 2019–20. “Everyone was just so desperate to do something meaningful; what we were doing didn’t feel like enough anymore,” says Alex. “We wanted to do something that would totally change how we operated.”

 

Carbon neutrality has captured the zeitgeist, but it’s not so easy being deep green. Shaking up the Kip&Co business model at a molecular level meant a steep learning curve for the trio. 


Calling in the environmental experts

Implementing a carbon offset strategy began with calling in independent consultants to perform a full audit of their carbon footprint. The consultants then helped them find the best verified carbon credit projects to offset that footprint.

“Finding the right agency to partner with really was the hardest part because it’s a really complex area. It’s not just something where you can make a decision, follow it up with an announcement and it’s somehow done,” Alex says. “But doing the full audit was important in helping us realise that most of our footprint is occurring in our manufacturing countries.”

Making steps towards ethical manufacturing

The insight into the manufacturing process saw Kip&Co partner with the Kamuthi Solar Power Project in India (where most of Kip&Co’s captivatingly colourful bedding and other homewares are made), which helps to reduce reliance on fossil fuels. Their second project partner is closer to home for the Melbourne-born brand: a native reforestation project known as the Yarra Yarra Biodiversity Corridor that helps protect endangered native animals in the region.

A close-up shot of bedding by brand Kip&Co

Kip&Co has partnered with the Kamuthi Solar Power Project in India, which is where most of the brand’s captivatingly colourful bedding and other homewares are made. Image: Kip&Co.

The process and the cost – Alex estimates that the initial audit cost $5000 and offsetting takes well over one per cent of the business’ annual profits – were certainly worth it, thanks to the ongoing structural change their commitment represents. “There are lots of ways to give back, but this felt like the option that would drive internal change in our decision making as well. Ultimately, we’re incentivised to reduce our footprint because we’re paying to offset it,” she says. 

Ethical business decisions

Carbon neutrality was one giant leap for Kip&Co, but it was only the latest in a series of steps the company has taken to reduce its environmental impact and honour its social license. A long-term partnership with the Indian charity Goonj has seen them donating all cotton offcuts from the Indian supply chain to be turned into sanitary items for women or made into products such as backpacks to raise money for the Indian victims of disasters such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

A colourful children’s bedroom with textiles by brand Kip&Co

As part of an effort to become more sustainable, Kip&Co inspected the supply chain for their textiles closely. Image: Kip&Co.

An artistic collaboration with Australian First Nations artists at the Bábbarra Women's Centre in Arnhem Land saw 50 per cent of profits from the range going back to the centre. The Kip&Co supply chain is independently audited every two years under the terms of the Ethical Trading Initiative base code. The company also donated $100,000 worth of products to people who lost their homes and belongings in the “Black Summer” bushfires. 

Practicing what you preach

Even Kip&Co’s Fitzroy office leads by example. It runs on green power and donates any material scraps to local kindergartens – plus it’s a disposable cup-free zone, where every new team member is given a ceramic cup to use (“so much better to sip your espresso or chai from!”).

For all the good they have achieved so far, Alex is keen to point out that she and her business partners aren’t strutting around thinking they have it all figured out. “We’re well aware of the pinch between being a business that produces a product and being environmentally sustainable,” she says. “What we’re trying to do is provide a better alternative. We know our customers want it. It’s incumbent on us to step up and keep pushing ourselves to find more ways to improve what we do.”

By Larissa Dubecki