To get by in post-war Finland, you had to be a doer, not a talker. A good example of this is the Svala family from Kärsämäki, in the Northern Ostrobothnia region of Finland. They used the old greatcoats in the attic of their home to make warm clothes for the men of the family, who worked as drivers. Word soon got round, and soon enough the family were making clothes for other families in the area as well. It wasn’t long before this enterprising spirit led to the founding, in 1955, of the company that is now Finnsvala Oy.
Finnsvala Oy remains true to its roots, manufacturing thermal wear sold under its Svala of Finland brand. The company is proud of its history, and maintains its long tradition of doing things honestly and to the highest standard. Our factory is in Kärsämäki, in the Northern Ostrobothnia region of Finland, and each item is manufactured by hand. The design is Finnish to the core: practicality and functionality take pride of place. Svala’s clothes stand up to the weather in even the most demanding conditions. Just like the Finns themselves, really.
What does sustainability mean in practice?
Our operations have always been guided by our love of the great outdoors and all kinds of outdoor activities. It goes without saying that we care about everything that’s truly important – the environment, animals, suppliers, employees, the wider community, and our customers. This is our way of life.
Sustainability is not a jumble of isolated projects – it requires a holistic approach. The reason why this is so is simply that everything in the world is interconnected.
Svala is constantly striving to become better and better as a business. Here are the five principles of sustainable development that guide us in all we do:
- Buy less – repair and recycle
- Respect the environment
- Treat animals well
- Work with the people you believe in
- Develop your business
1. Buy less – repair and recycle
We believe in the circular economy as a way to reduce resource use and waste by keeping all products and materials in use for as long as possible: the principles of repurposing, repair and recycling are part of our daily lives.
The degree of domestic origin of Svala of Finland products is extremely high. The design and manufacture of our products in Finland, use of reliable suppliers, and only the best raw materials ensure the unmatched quality and long product life we are so well known for.
- We buy the yarn we use from our long-term, selected suppliers in Italy, Germany and Switzerland.
- The design, knitting, finishing, cutting and stitching of merino wool products are carried out entirely in Finland.
- The mesh is knitted in the UK, and all other steps in its processing are carried out in Finland.
- Polartec Power Stretch Pro clothes are made in Finland from the supplier’s ready-knitted fabric.
Our renewed product packaging is made from recyclable material, and we also encourage our customers to reuse the packaging for other purposes.
Recycling of cutting waste
Instead of producing seasonal collections, we believe passionately in timeless basic design. All materials are used efficiently, with almost no waste. Where possible, materials left over from cutting are used in the manufacture of smaller items. Any pieces of material that are not suitable for manufacturing clothing are given away for use by sewing and handicraft enthusiasts.
Our repair service
We are wholeheartedly in favour of extending the life of old clothes as much as possible. It is for this reason that our factory has a repair service in addition to manufacturing new clothes. You can send clothes that are in need of repair to us regardless of their brand and manufacturer.
Our sustainability goals
We are constantly increasing the proportion of recycled and recyclable materials used in manufacturing our clothing, and we are working to speed up this process and also increase awareness of our repair service.
2. Respect the environment
We humans spend much of our free time enjoying nature, so have an undeniable moral obligation to protect it.
Although Svala is a single, small-scale operator in the outdoor and clothing industry, we make bold decisions and set a good example.
What do we do?
We only use raw materials from suppliers that are audited. We make our products in Finland out of principle – it’s as simple as that. And in addition to providing local employment, it’s good for the environment.
High-quality and long-lasting products are best for the environment. In designing our clothing, we rely on well-proven basic designs instead of following the fast fashion business model. For that principled reason, we do not create new patterns or cuts for each season.
Fewer washes. One of the many benefits of the state-of-the-art technical properties of Svala of Finland clothing is that the clothes do not need to be washed anywhere near as often most other outdoor clothing. Even if a merino wool garment or polypropylene mesh underlayer outfit becomes very sweaty, airing is usually enough to make it fresh again. Clothes that need to be washed less often are good for the environment, as less washing chemicals are used.
Slow freight means less harmful emissions. The raw materials for our products are always transported by sea, and we choose non-air freight whenever possible when dispatching our finished products.
Renewable energy. The electricity used in our factory is produced exclusively by hydropower, and the factory heated by geothermal energy. We have maximised the recycling and reuse of waste, and small pieces of fabric and other surplus materials we cannot use are given away for use by various hobby groups and daycare centres in handicrafts.
We participate in the Miljoona puuta (One Million Trees) carbon farming project, which is making a valuable contribution to combating climate change by planting trees in Tanzania. Afforestation in Tanzania is a relatively quick and efficient means of sequestering carbon, as the trees grow to full size in 5–20 years, depending on the tree species. In addition, we make an annual donation to the Finnish Natural Heritage Foundation to protect virgin forests.
We will continue to improve the recyclability of our products through material innovations.
3. Treat animals well
All the merino wool Svala uses comes from healthy sheep that are not subjected to mulesing.
Mulesing is a painful procedure in which the tail of the sheep is cut short and strips of skin are cut from the buttocks. It is used as a means of avoiding infections caused by flies and parasites. The procedure causes severe stress and pain to the sheep for a long time. No animal should be subjected to such suffering.
Fortunately, due to the public outcry and campaigning against mulesing, more humane alternatives have been developed. These impose additional costs on sheep farmers, making ethically produced, mulesing-free merino wool slightly more expensive than it would otherwise be.
4. We work only with suppliers we can trust
Small and medium-sized businesses like ours face major obstacles in ensuring that the people who make the materials we use are treated fairly and taken care of.
However, our situation is considerably better than the average, as our first-stage supply chain is entirely located in Finland and our second-stage material suppliers are entirely located elsewhere within Europe (Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Slovakia and Austria).
Our minimum requirement is that all our suppliers have undertaken to abide by the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) code of practice. The ETI code is intended to combat discrimination, the use of child labour and forced labour, and to provide support for trade unions and help ensure better living standards and impose an upper limit on working hours.
We are aware of the likelihood that materials that pass through foreign supply chains have involved the use of modern slavery, and we always strive to investigate the origin of raw materials in order to eliminate this likelihood.
As a relatively small company, it is not possible for us to commission independent supply chain audits. However, this limitation does not stop us from always choosing factories that have been used by leading companies in the industry and whose auditing practices we can rely on.
Our sustainability goals
As we grow, our ability to make independent assessments of the first and especially second stage of our supply chain will improve, and will enable the origin of materials to be traced back all the way to primary producers.
5. A better business means a better future
Unlike many outdoor brands, we invest heavily in local manufacturing. We manufacture about 100,000 clothing items a year in Finland. This may not seem a big deal, but we take workplace safety, waste management and energy use seriously.
What we do
We work hard to remain a good employer and provide a safe work environment. We are a company with only 15 employees, where everyone’s safety and wellbeing are at the heart of all we do.
Eco-friendly waste management. We recycle all our office waste.
Renewable energy. The electricity used in our factory will be produced exclusively by hydropower, and the factory heated by geothermal energy.
The little things matter, too. We use only recycled paper in our offices and stores, and all lighting uses LED lamps for lower energy consumption.
A firm financial footing. We have been in the business since 1955, and we are determined to keep going far, far into the future by designing and manufacturing great products, providing jobs and promoting environmental responsibility. That is why we must constantly maintain our financial viability through sound business planning and strategic management.
Taxpaying is caring. We see very clearly how tax revenue contributes to maintaining critical infrastructure and supporting the disadvantaged in our society. So we are proud to play fair and pay our taxes.
Diversity. We have zero tolerance for bullying and discrimination. When recruiting, we take diversity into account.
No political donations or lobbying. Our mission is to make the best possible clothes for outdoor activities and keep people comfortable in any weather. We do not fund political parties.
Our sustainability goals
We have ambitious expansion plans, but will continue to manufacture all our products in Finland. We also want to further improve working conditions and the job satisfaction of everyone in the company.
We will continue to maintain a high standard of business ethics and to be open to making further improvements.