Portlantis

overall rating:

0.25

planets

Olivia Bowen
2/13/2022
No items found.

Portlantis is a company offering services of customisable branded logos, whereby customers can choose between either an embroidered or printed design of their choice onto a selection of apparel. Established relatively recently in 2005, they offer services to a variety of customers who range from university sports teams to builders requiring high visibility attire. Their motto is “because appearance matters,” and this is certainly true regarding sustainability. While on the surface, Portlantis appears to be environmentally friendly in their “grow green” pledges, upon deeper inspection this company falls short. A lack of sustainable ethos regarding the recyclability of their materials and transparency over the chemicals used is also troubling and requires additional specification. Many of the so-called environmentally friendly companies which provide the accreditations of Portlantis are themselves guilty of greenwashing and not upholding companies to the correct standards of sustainability. Finally, the ambiguity in their goals for becoming more sustainable leaves us with no specific action to be taken in the future. It is for these reasons that I have given Portlantis a rating of 0.25 planets.

What it's made of:

0

The business model of Portlantis is based on the demand for branded products, whereby they sell garments from well-known brands like Dickies and American Apparel for the customers to put their own design onto. While this company also offers unbranded garments for sale, their emphasis on ‘in’ brands mean that their model is inherently unsustainable as it encourages customers to buy for short term fashion trends as opposed to unbranded and longer- term wearable items of clothing.

 

It is clear that to gain a better understanding on if this brand is environmentally friendly, we must examine what their products are actually made from. For example, Portlantis only uses Maidera thread in their embroidery option for customer designs. However, Maidera thread is made from polyester, a material which does not biodegrade and can result in carcinogenic chemicals being released during production and environmental destruction if released into the environment or water supplies. Moreover, although polyester uses less energy than nylon in its production, it is still more energy demanding compared to alternatives such as cotton. As it is synthetic as opposed to a natural fibre, these Maderia threads are produced from non-renewable energy resources; upon further research, I discovered that more than 70 million barrels of oil are used to make polyester each year. Furthermore, while Portlantis boasts that up to 15 different coloured threads can be used in any one design, there is no mention of the environmental impact of these threads or how they are dyed. This clear lack of transparency indicates that both the production of the threads and potentially the dyeing process both involve harmful chemicals and products which do not biodegrade.

Moreover, there are alternative options to embroidery that Portlantis offers to its customers, such as heat sealing and screen-printing customers’ designs onto their garments. While I will discuss the process of this method later on, the focus in this section remains on the material used in these process. For example, the method of heat sealing uses rolled vinyl to press the design onto the item of clothing. Significantly, vinyl is synthetic and technically plastic; it is produced from ethylene and chloride. Ethylene is obtained from crude oil, a non-renewable resource which has clear environmental issues in both its collection and its processing.

How it's made:

0.45

Signed up to an initiative entitled ‘Grow Green,’ which entails companies to follow a list of rules: recycle waste where possible, limit plastic consumption and consumption, use renewable alternatives, encourage and/or reward green commuting, allow remote working where possible, give local companies an opportunity to tender for business, reducing paper use, more effective ways to work online and finally reducing water consumption. However, even Portlantis acknowledges these are quite basic, and upon additional research I discovered that

Moreover, the company uses numerous processes for its method of logo transfer onto the garment. They include embroidery, heat sealing, screen printing, and direct to garment printing. Regarding embroidery, Tajima machines are the way of conducting this method. As Tajima is a Japan- based company, all their machines are manufactured there, and therefore high amounts of carbon is produced when shipping these machines to Devon, England where Portlantis are based. However, they claim to still be running the first machine that they bought when the company was founded in 2005, which could offset the environmental cost of shipping the machines.

Portlantis has a ground source heat pump managed by their local provider Southwest Heat Pumps. In this sense, they do not use gas or oil due to the energy gained from the heat obtained from the ground in their production methods. However, as previously mentioned, rolled vinyl is used in the process of heat pressing. Vinyl is not biodegradable, but it can be recycled. Nevertheless, vinyl is more difficult to recycle than other plastics as the usual method of breaking down material via heat produces toxic chlorine gas. This results in less recycling centres accepting vinyl, and some centres that use mechanical recycling do not remove the toxic materials from the product. Additional digital methods of printing uses “child-safe inks” to directly transfer the designs, but there is no mention of what chemicals used, nor transparency on what transfer papers are used in this method either. In this sense, the recyclability of their products (waste and usable) is questioned. Also, the only information provided by Portlantis is on the process of logo transfer, not the garmets they operate on- they need further transparency on what happens in processing the original clothing and the materials used in manufacturing it. Having examined Portlantis’ website closely, I managed to find their terms and conditions. Clause 19 states “Unless specified on the contract, no guarantee is given or implied as to the quality, washing stability, colour-fastness, wearability, or making up quality of the goods supplied, nor as to their fitness for any purpose expressed.” It is therefore clear that unsustainable material usage is integrated throughout Portlantis’s product line.

Who makes it:

0.3

Portlantis sources garments from manufacturers accredited by WRAP (Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production), which operates by ensuring safe and ethical production across the globe. Initially, this appears very sustainable. For example, they only certify individual production units through in person visits, with certifications requiring renewal. They declare a zero-tolerance policy whereby factories shown to not be following their 12 ethical guidelines lose their certification permanently. However, this ‘zero tolerance’ policy has been shown to not be as stringent as appears, where some WRAP accredited factories that have violated their principles through issues like child labour and unpaid wages have continued to benefit off their certification as it was not removed. Significantly, there has been no response by Portlantis to this.

 

Moreover, every January Portlantis employees choose their “Charity of the Year” – 10% of sales from designated promotions are then donated to the charity. However, the only example of this was in 2019 where they donated to The Calvert Trust Exmoor which supports disabled people in accessing outdoors activities and initiatives. As they haven’t updated this charity since, I assume no other charity been donated to since as no alternative information provided.