No more dirty denim


MUD Jeans proves jeans can be more sustainable


The Congolese doctor Denis Mukwege has been an international ambassador of the Postcode Lotteries since 2019. For twenty years, at the risk of his own life, the gynaecologist has been working for victims of wartime rape. Often these women were horrifically mutilated. In 2018, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his good work.

Dutch company MUD Jeans produces jeans from recycled denim, with an option to loan the jeans instead of buying them. Thanks to players from the Nationale Postcode Loterij in the Netherlands, the DOEN Participaties investment fund can invest in this sustainable, innovative company.

This Spring we highlight great examples of social initiatives the Postcode Lotteries are supporting in 2022. Part 1: how MUD Jeans proves jeans be more sustainable.

Jeans: we all wear them, but they are the fashion industry’s worst offenders for environmental damage. The production of a single pair of jeans requires about 7,000 litres of water. The Dutch company MUD Jeans wanted to do it differently.

Ten years ago, founder Bert van Son introduced a pair of jeans made of 40% recycled denim and produced with 93% less water – 477 litres. The jeans are also made under fair working conditions in Turkey, Tunisia and Spain, and without toxins or chemicals.

'Lease a jeans'
Stichting DOEN, a fund for pioneering start-ups and set up by the Dutch Postcode Lottery, has supported MUD Jeans with a loan since 2013. In the same year, the company launched ‘Lease a jeans’, allowing consumers to also loan jeans instead of buying them. After use, the jeans are recycled which stops this sustainable raw material from ending up as waste.

The next step is a pair of jeans made from 100% old denim. Dirty denim has no place in the world, says MUD Jeans. In 2019, DOEN Participaties, the social investment company of Stichting DOEN, stepped in as a shareholder help realise a fully recycled pair of jeans. DOEN and the Participation Fund of the province of North Holland have invested a combined total of €1 million in MUD Jeans, both investing €500,000.


Bold investments
Last month, the DOEN Foundation celebrated its 30th anniversary with a festive meeting.  At which time MUD Jeans founder van Son praised DOEN's bold investments. Without its backing other investors were unlikely to have stepped in. "Regular investors step in with a predefined plan," says Tatiana van Lier, head of communications at DOEN Participaties.

Van Lier: "They want to achieve their return on investment within a certain period of time. DOEN Participaties does not need to achieve a certain financial return, and therefore does not aim for it." DOEN Participaties' portfolio includes a number of larger, high-yielding companies, which allows for the financing of smaller, higher risk companies.

Changing the sector
Why did DOEN Participaties get involved in sustainable jeans? DOEN's van Lier, adds: "MUD Jeans not only markets a sustainable and socially responsible product in an innovative way, but the company is also actively engaged in changing the sector. And it is a frontrunner because it was the first jeans company to introduce a loan model."

DOEN receives many applications for funding every year. Innovative plans have a chance thanks to the principle of courageous funding and investing in higher risk projects. "We want to create a green, social and creative world, and that is only possible if people stand up with courageous, original plans."

Broader impact
DOEN’s van Lier continues: "Someone has to help them with money, and it is, of course, great it can be us. We are often the first or one of the first financiers. We always look at whether there is a role for us to add value and accelerate or grow a business."

Ultimately, DOEN invests to make a broader impact. "With the financing of MUD Jeans, we want to change the fashion industry. Of course, we hope that MUD Jeans becomes a successful company, but we especially hope that other companies adopt this way of working and that recycled jeans become the norm in the fashion industry," says van Lier.

DOEN: 30 years of investing in innovative pioneers

The DOEN Foundation is set up 30 years ago by the Nationale Postcode Loterij to support small, innovative sustainable initiatives. DOEN believes in a green, socially inclusive and creative society. The foundation supports innovative initiatives of pioneers and gives them a quick start. In this way they can inspire others and show that change is possible.

DOEN Participaties is the investment fund of DOEN Foundation. The main objective of DOEN Participaties is to achieve a positive impact on society by supporting new sustainable or socially inclusive entrepreneurs. Impact is central to all our investments.

DOEN Participaties has become the biggest impact investor for sustainable and socially inclusive start-ups in the Netherlands. Currently, the portfolio consists of 50 equity investments and convertible loans, and 18 fund investments.