Added: Sep 22, 2022
Last edited: Sep 22, 2022
ABOUT MUD JEANS
‘Sustainability rockstar’ MUD Jeans is a circular denim brand that is focused on eliminating waste and creating positive environmental and societal benefits. MUD Jeans’ incentive to revolutionise the fashion industry was driven by the fact that jeans—one of the most beloved wardrobe staples—are also one of the most polluting items. Globally, with over 200,000 million jeans being sold every year, the impact of recycling jeans and using organic cotton can be enormous. Currently, the jeans in MUD Jeans’ standard collection use fabric that consists of up to 40% post-consumer recycled fibres and organic cotton. As a result, its production uses 93% less water and emits 74% less CO2 compared to industry-standard jeans.
MUD Jeans is one of the first Dutch companies with a B Corporation Certification (a business that assesses the balance between purpose and profits). Its trademark Lease A Jeans model, which began in 2013, is an annual Product-as-a-Service (PaaS) model with a monthly rental fee. For the first year, customers pay €9.95 per month, after which they have a choice to either own the jeans, return the jeans or swap them for a new leasing pair. For the second pair of jeans, customers pay €8.95 per month. The Lease A Jeans service includes free repairs for the year. If jeans are returned—depending on their condition—they are either recycled into a new pair of jeans or sold at special events.
In 2016, the Lease A Jeans model was temporarily halted due to the complicated administrational processes that came with this new business model. However, customers expressed their continued interest towards leasing so a few months later, the Lease A Jeans model was reinstated. Currently, close to half of MUD Jean’s customers lease their jeans.
Aside from its Lease A Jeans model, MUD Jeans has a short and transparent supply chain and works closely and collaboratively with supply chain partners. As of 2021, MUD Jeans had sold 47,000 pairs of jeans in total in 330 stores in over 28 countries.
OPPORTUNITY FOR HRM IN MUD JEANS
1. As MUD Jeans continues to grow, having a knowledge management system that allows for employee-specific knowledge to be recorded and retained in the company will be key in ensuring the company’s goals are achieved and furthered.
2. As MUD Jeans is a circular economy industry frontrunner, it has the opportunity to be convenor of best practices and learning experiences within the wider industry and advocate for the larger public by setting up interest-based coalitions/platforms.
MUD JEANS’ CIRCULAR JOURNEY
MUD’s sustainability strategy is based on three pillars:
1. Circular economy: Circularity is at the core of its business model design, production and sales.
2. Fair production: MUD Jeans only works with selected manufacturers that ensure worker wellbeing. Its jeans are made with Global Organic Textiles Standard (GOTS) certified cotton.
3. Positive activism: It is committed to amplifying the voices of people and projects that benefit the planet. They promote knowledge sharing through monthly zoom calls about being a circular business
In 2019 Mud Jeans began their most ambitious company goal: The ‘Road to 100’ journey, which aimed to create the first pair of fully circular jeans. After almost two years in development, in June 2022 MUD Jeans introduced the world’s first completely circular pair of jeans, in partnership with Saxion University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands. These jeans are made from 100% post-consumer recycled (PCR) cotton; combining mechanically recycled fibres with chemically recycled fibres. While the PCR jeans are more expensive than the rest of the company’s product line, the objective is to scale it into a commercial product and price them similar to their other jeans. The company is working with industrial parties to bring innovation into bulk production with the goal to have it ready for the market by 2023. Alongside commercialising its circular jeans, MUD Jeans plans to actively share key lessons from its circular jeans journey with the industry and public, advocating for more circularity in the wider textile sector.
“We are circular pioneers and take full responsibility for waste. We also aim to be radically transparent and show our customers exactly where and how their jeans are produced. This is possible because we have a short supply chain with four main suppliers with whom we have a close relationship”
- Lea Landsberg – CSR and Communications Officer
HRM SPECIFIC OPPORTUNITIES AND CHALLENGES IN THE CIRCULAR JOURNEY
- Who sparked the idea of a fully circular pair of MUD Jeans? Eske, an intern at MUD Jeans at the time, co-developed this groundbreaking idea! As part of the “Road to 100” Journey”, Eske’s research thesis at Saxion University and personal interest contributed to the development and conceptualisation of the idea. Later on, this developed into a partnership between MUD Jeans and Saxion University. This highlights the open, transparent and bottom-up management approach in MUD Jeans. The enabling culture promotes creativity, knowledge- and network-sharing within the company.
- The strategic selection of supply chain partners who also share the company’s vision of circularity and who have experience in the circular fashion industry has enabled the company to co-develop and implement novel supply chain solutions. Thus, knowledge of new techniques and technologies also takes place in their supply chain, where a culture of sharing and learning between them and their suppliers has been fostered organically without having to rely on extensive training and development—both internally and among their suppliers.
- Partnerships with key organisations have encouraged synergies that have been critical for MUD Jeans’ success. For example, in April 2021, the company launched the IKEA KLIPPAN Collaboration—making IKEA’S iconic Klippan sofa out of circular denim. This unique collaboration highlights the value of sharing knowledge in driving circularity at a large scale, despite MUD Jeans being a small company.
- MUD Jeans built customers' trust by promoting localisation and building flexibility into its business model. For example, the company partners with a local business to offer free repair for the Lease A Jeans service to customers. Customers can ship and receive their repaired jeans for no cost. However, as an alternative, MUD Jeans also offers customers the option to repair their jeans locally and receive reimbursement for the repair cost.
- Although the MUD team is small (as of 2022, 10 employees and 4 co-owners), there is one person responsible for the company’s HR functions, though it is not her primary responsibility. That said, MUD Jeans is still able to easily attract the right talent for their circular ambitions owing to their strong positive reputation within the industry. That said, because of its small size, these employees possess a set of knowledge covering business models, textile technologies, and marketing, all with a high interest in sustainability. As a young workforce, most of the employees have gained much of their industry knowledge and skills through a learning-by-doing approach. While some valuable employee-specific knowledge is kept in instruction manuals, i.e. relating to task executions, there does not seem to be a systematic approach to record and retain knowledge within the company. Such a shortcoming can pose a substantive challenge to MUD Jeans' operations if an employee leaves as well as ensuring lessons are learned throughout the company’s journey.