Moleskine is known for its iconic brand of talent, creativity, authenticity, and tradition, all summarized in its iconic notebook. It has a strong identity and a wide customer fanbase because of its association with prestige, culture, design, and travel. Certainly, the brand is devoted to environmental impact and sustainability. Its code of ethics proclaims Moleskine paying close attention to sustainability issues and footprint by carefully choosing its materials and production methods.
On its code of ethics, Moleskine also lists the environment as being a primary stakeholder stating: “The environment is a primary good that Moleskine is committed to protecting and, for this reason, when planning its activities it seeks a balance between economic initiative and environmental protection, developing its business with the utmost respect of current environmental regulations, and always bearing in mind the rights of future generations.”
While its commitment is strong on paper, in practice, there are still some red flags. In terms of outsourcing its production to China, not a lot of information can be found on who it outsources to and how they treat its workers and the environment. It also still lacks completely reusable materials with non-recyclable paper and a hardbound cover that is not completely organic.
As a consumer, I feel that the $14 price acts as an economic incentive not to throw it away. Its quality and durability mean it will last forever. As someone who saves his Moleskine for special ideas and notes, I feel that the purchase of Moleskine over a regular $1 notebook will slow the sustainability treadmill down.
Moleskine notebooks are famous for its simplicity: it has rounded corners, a ribbon bookmark, elastic page-holder, and an expandable rear pocket much like the historic version made decades ago.
According to the website, Moleskine notebooks are made from acid-free, ivory-colored paper that is FSC of Forest Stewardship Council Certified. FSC certification ensures that products come from responsibly managed forests that provide environmental, social, and economic benefits. Beyond that, it is made of pigmented pulp perfect for pens and pencils.
With regards to the hardcover surrounding the notebook, in contrast to the name, they are not actually made from moleskin but from polypropylene (PP), a common material for book carvings and Covestro’s advanced INSQIN® waterborne polyurethane (PU) technology for textile coating with partially bio-based raw materials. PP is a thermoplastic polymer plastic and, as with any packaging, is toxic to the environment, but said toxicity is among the lowest of any material - synthetic or traditional. The same is also true for PU which doesn’t consist of any chemicals that affect endocrine and hormone systems, and it does not contribute to the PH change in soil or water. This coating is what makes the Moleskine notebook cover achieve its smooth, velvety look and feel.
After some concern about the pollutant PVC in the covers, they have now been declared PVC-free and are compliant with California Proposition 65. As a pre-law student, I found this to be one of the most stringent regulations in the world regarding the safety and environmental impact of materials. Proposition 65 requires businesses to provide warnings to Californians about significant exposures to chemicals that cause cancer, birth defects, or other reproductive harm. These chemicals can be in the products that Californians purchase, in their homes or workplaces, or that are released into the environment. They may include a wide range of naturally occurring and synthetic chemicals such as additives or ingredients in pesticides, common household products, food, drugs, dyes, or solvents, all of which are not included in the hardcover.
As a long-time user of Moleskine, I can argue that it is durable. My Moleskine notebooks have lasted me 10 years and the fact that it is specifically designed for creative works or life notes means that it is meant to be stored rather than thrown away. I believe, as a result, that it does not encourage much consumption and waste, slowing the ecological treadmill.
Nevertheless, there are some drawbacks. There is still an environmental impact with the company not listing any percentage of its notebook as being made from recycled paper. It is not clear how much is made from post-consumer paper. It is still not recyclable. According to the website, it still contains synthetic materials like polypropylene and polyurethane. There is no doubt Moleskine is a beautiful product but it still has an environmental impact to be considered.
Moleskine items are designed in Italy yet are printed, stitched, and assembled in China. Since 2008, other components have also been outsourced such as hardcovers in Turkey, watercolor paper in France all of which require transportation and logistics. The fact that it is made overseas means there are pollutants in logistics and transportation to be considered.
In terms of outsourcing, many websites I found show that Moleskine mostly outsources to China. While this could be a red flag, I was also able to find information on its code of ethics page stating that it selects suppliers based on environmental and social commitment as well as economic viability. It has a strict code against working with businesses that conduct child labor or provide inadequate working conditions for employees and respects human rights and the environment to the highest degree. Nevertheless, there are no certificates from what I can see to verify this code of conduct so this may not be entirely true.
The Company also reserves the right to make regular inspections with a view to assessing the quality of and the compliance with contractual clauses. In relationships with its suppliers, Moleskine reiterates that any behavior or action that could be linked to an offense of criminal conspiracy is absolutely prohibited.
Nevertheless, since I was not able to find exact information on their website regarding their suppliers, as a consumer I would prefer Moleskine to be a little bit more transparent specifically regarding suppliers in China especially with regards to workers’ income, labor practices, and environmental standard.
Moleskine notebooks are based on the notebooks sold by Parisian stationers and used by artists like Hemingway and Van Gogh with rounded corners, ivory notepaper, an expandable pocket, ribbon markers, and an elastic closure. In the modern-day, the notebooks were resurrected by a small company called Modo and Modo in 1997 who trademarked the name Moleskine and today is associated with a culture of memory, creativity, travel, imagination, and personal identity.
Moleskine was founded with the belief that taking notes by hand is the best way to spur creativity and generate ideas. It is widely regarded as one of the most elegant, well-designed writing tools in the stationery industry and used by creatives, artists, and writers all over the world.
It also works on being transparent, providing a whistle-blowing channel for any stakeholder, customer, or employer to hold Moleskine accountable and a proclamation on its Code of Ethics of being transparent to regulatory bodies.
Furthermore, the company does engage in charitable activities. True to their mission and ideology, Moleskine has a non-profit organization that is independent of the rest of the company– the Moleskine Foundation that aims to improve access to creativity and education as a way to produce systemic social change. The organization focuses on African youths and uses art and creativity to provide grants to cultural organizations, projects, and local communities.