How Sustainable and ethical is my business?


















I am looking at how sustainable and ethical my business is. There can be nothing more pressing than making sure we are not damaging the planet even further… I want to be able to look my children and grandchildren in the eye, say sorry for contributing to the mess and that I am now making changes at home and at work to try to protect the environment. It’s easy to believe one person’s efforts don’t matter, but if we all made some small changes we could make a huge difference.

NO more flights for me, I have vowed never to get onto another aeroplane…to research switching to an electric car… no more shopping wrapped in plastic…try to stop eating fish, beef and lamb…to buying local organic produce…try to switch to almond milk….stop mowing the garden except for a little place to sit and try to love nettles and cleavers (great for wildlife).. try to stop buying new things….no more Amazon Prime…etc.

For the business, luckily our printers and weavers are all in the UK which keeps our carbon footprint down, except for our hand-loomed woven fabrics from Kerala in India.

I have asked all my suppliers about their sustainable and ethical practice so I can be transparent about the provenance of my products.
All our base cloths (100% Linen and Linen Unions) are woven in Scotland and the yarns come in from Belgium and Turkey. With all this cloth production, no chemicals are involved and the only wet processing done is starching the yarn which is done with a food water-soluble starch.

















100% Linen

Linen comes from Flax, needs 5 times fewer fertilizers and pesticides and much less water than cotton. It’s processing flax into fabric fibre has minimal impact on the environment. I use this beautiful cloth for most for my designs.

All the inks and dyes we use are water based and do not contain any ingredients considered to be harmful to the environment. Most of our fabric softening is carried out by a process called sanforizing, this uses no water or chemicals to give the a soft handle to the fabrics.  Bleach unfortunately is used in the production process, which has to be disposed of carefully in consultation with Thames Water.

Linen combined with organic cotton

Non organic cotton is a dirty and dangerous crop needing insecticides and pesticides to grow. These chemicals directly harm the cotton pickers and also have serious adverse effects on biodiversity and contaminate local water supplies. The high cost of the pesticides frequently puts farmers into debt and results in a huge number of suicides. Both non-organic and organic cotton require large amounts of water to grow and tend to be grown in countries where there could be serious water shortages.

The more people who buy only organic cotton, the more will be produced and hopefully this terrible situation will improve. I ONLY BUY ORGANIC COTTON and combine it with linen to create a strong cloth called Linen Union.

Ethical Trading

I believe that the fair and ethical treatment of employees is fundamental and expect my clients and suppliers to attain the same ethical standards, and am committed to meeting the principles of ethical trading as defined in Ethical Trading Initiative Base Code.

At Vanessa Arbuthnott we strive to reduce the environmental impact of our production and work processes on a continuous basis. Our goal is to develop the best in functional design whilst ensuring a profitable sustainable operation, long lasting products and a minimum impact on the environment.

My least environmentally friendly product is my oilcloth… I need to find a process which gives a similar ‘feel’ but does not involve PVC…if I can’t find an alternative coating  I will stop selling these wipeable tablecloths soon.


This is our biggest challenge. I presently use 100% recyclable plastic, but need to source a biodregradeable plastic which can be organically recycled or composted, for my packaging… this I am looking into presently.

This year I sent out my brochure wrapped in a compostable plastic … maybe next time I will print less brochures and send them out unwrapped…any suggestions are welcome!