Editor's pick sustainability

Stella McCartney announces open source sustainability initiative and UN partnership

Designer Stella McCartney
Designer Stella McCartney

Vegan designer Stella McCartney has announced a new sustainability initiative, as well as a partnership with the United Nations, hoping to encourage the industry to take more actionable steps towards sustainability.

Speaking on stage at the Business of Fashion’s VOICES conference in the UK, the designer announced Stella McCartney Cares Green, which will offer open source information to empower other businesses, students and policymakers to fight for change.

“One of the things I’m most excited about is creating some sort of fund for lawyers and NGOs, creating some sort of policy change,” said McCartney. According to the designer, there is only so much fashion brands can do before they encounter obstacles put in place by lawmakers. For example, the brand does not market its perfumes in China, as the country enforces a law whereby any makeup or skincare needs to be tested on animals. Meanwhile in the US, the label is taxed 40% for bringing in non-leather goods into the country.

The initiative will also give incentives such as scholarships and support to new designers, as well as educate the general industry on how technology can be best deployed to spur sustainability on.

This is the sister arm to the Stella McCartney Cares Pink initiative, launched in October, which focuses on another big passion of the designer’s: breast cancer awareness.

Also announced at the conference was a charter developed between Stella McCartney and the UN, which details 16 commitments to help fashion companies curb the damage they do to the planet. The full charter will be launched at the COP 24 sustainability convention on December 10 in Poland, but the designer used her platform to already urge fashion executives in the room to join.

“Everything is at stake,” said Stella. “It’s really about bringing everyone together as an industry, and instead of having a few people talk about it, it’s having everyone talk about it and the leaders actually taking responsibility, putting our money where our mouth is and making an amazing change together.”

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sustainability technology

Why it matters: Starbucks is piloting blockchain technology

A Starbucks farmer in Rwanda
A Starbucks farmer in Rwanda

The new ‘Why it matters’ content series from TheCurrent Daily highlights cross-industry innovations and analyses why they are relevant to the fashion and retail space. 

Starbucks has announced the launch of a pilot program working with a select number of farmers to develop real-time blockchain technology that follows the coffee bean’s supply chain journey.

This will help encourage a sense of familiarity between supplier and customer, which in turn enables brands to forge a deeper sense of trust and loyalty within their consumer base. This is something we are starting to see emerge in other industries also and can easily apply to fashion and luxury. Here, using technology to understand the supply chain holds similar benefits to that of Starbucks’ new model – showcasing transparency, making brands accountable, and creating more emotional connections.

It is therefore a great example of a cross-industry initiative that can be applied to fashion at a time when everyone is looking to respond to increasing consumer demands around transparency.

Last year, Starbucks worked with over 380,000 farms, meaning the traceability technology has the potential to have exponential impact on Starbucks’ operations in the years to come.

Working with farmers in Costa Rica, Colombia and Rwanda, the aim of the program is to drive positive impact to its suppliers, and further cement the coffee giant’s ethical sourcing commitment. “Over the next two years, we will look to demonstrate how technology and innovative data platforms can give coffee farmers even more financial empowerment,” said Kevin Johnson, CEO of Starbucks. “We’ll leverage an open-source approach to share what we learn with the rest of the world.”

With this program, Starbucks is hoping to demonstrate how technology and data platforms can give farmers more financial independence and confidence – although details of this are yet unknown. The company is working with Conservation International, which is already their partner on other sustainability initiatives, to measure the impact of the traceability technology and better understand how it will benefit its suppliers.

According to Arthur Karuletwa, director of traceability at Starbucks: “This could be a seismic change in an industry that hasn’t had much innovation in the way coffee moves across borders and oceans,” he said. “At the same time, I’ve met farmers who have very little by way of possessions, but they have a mobile phone. Digital has become the economic engine of this century, and traceability preserves the most valuable assets we have as human beings – our identity.”

Karuletwa believes that beyond transparency the tool will give farmers and coffee drinkers an “authentic, seamless, dynamic” one-to-one connection. “Elevation, process, entomology, soil composition, terroir, nutrients, rainfall – it carries little meaning if I’m not also talking about the rest of what makes the coffee possible, and that’s the people,” he said. “The taste of coffee eventually disappears off the palette, but what never leaves you are the stories of a people and the places. My hope is that this project will create familiarity between farmers and customers and enhance empathy, a commodity we have great need of today.”

The fashion industry is beginning to develop ways in which it can adopt traceability technology too, both from a sustainability perspective and then within the huge potential for combatting fakes. Designer Martine Jarlgaard London has experimented with the former in the past, while earlier this year, diamond company De Beers announced it is piloting a blockchain program to ensure its diamonds are kept ethical and conflict-free.


business Editor's pick product technology

How Adidas takes inspiration from the software world

Adidas Originals x Alexander Wang collection, drop three, as captured by Juergen Teller
Adidas Originals x Alexander Wang collection, drop three, as captured by Juergen Teller

Adidas is a “brand in beta”, according to its global creative director, Paul Gaudio. Speaking at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity today, he referred to the idea of operating via an open-source model appropriated from the technology world.

“We firmly believe the idea that we are a brand in beta. We are never finished. Instead of having all the answers, we prefer to come and ask questions,” he said about the near 70-year old brand. “It’s about constant reinvention… I like to talk about the idea that we’re on a journey. As a brand we’re a story, a narrative; it’s not a fixed thing.”

It’s on that basis the company launched its “Original is never finished” campaign for Adidas Originals earlier this year, which features the likes of Snoop Dogg through to basketball star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and artist Petra Collins. They represent the idea of what it means to be a true original – the idea that things can be done multiple times over, that the brand is never finished. It’s set to a reworking of Frank Sinatra’s My Way.

But this idea of exploring self-identity, of connecting closely with culture and community, and indeed the notion of open-source creativity, is also how Adidas approaches its collaborations.

“You can’t do everything inside a little walled garden… you have to bring ideas in from the outside. We do it with athletes, we do it with chemical companies… we know we can’t do this alone,” Gaudio added.

Athlete Stan Smith and fashion designer Alexander Wang were also on stage to discuss the way they have partnered with the brand.

The Adidas Originals x Alexander Wang collaboration was launched with a campaign that took inspiration from the reseller market, for instance. It secretly dropped in different cities around the world out the back of 17 trucks in trash bags as though the items were on the black market. The initiative led to 3 billion media impressions worldwide and the items selling out within one day.

“It was spot on, it was perfect; it captured everything I wanted to say about the collection,” said Wang. But why it worked was largely because of the openness he was met with at Adidas, he explained. “In all my partnerships, I have never been in a conversation that’s been so collaborative and open to ideas. From a creative point of view, I’ve always appreciated that.”

Gaudio added: “I ask myself all the time, ‘why bother?’ If we don’t allow someone like you to bring newness into the brand, what’s the point?”

It’s about releasing control with that open-source mentality working both internally and externally, he explained. “We have to enable creativity within the brand too – we have to create space for people to express themselves and chase their dreams… It’s about creating a framework and then leaving space for people to create; to take the brand to new levels. Good ideas rarely come from the top.”

This story first appeared on Forbes