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business Campaigns Editor's pick sustainability

From G7 to fashion weeks – why the industry needs to cut the sustainable chat and take action

One minute we’re talking all about saving the planet, the next, it’s onto the indulgence and excess of fashion weeks. No wonder there’s so much questioning around what the industry is about right now. 

At the G7 Summit last month, François-Henri Pinault, chairman and CEO of luxury group Kering, introduced the Fashion Pact, a deal that saw 32 brands from Adidas to Prada, coming together to commit to stopping global warming, restoring biodiversity and protecting the oceans. 

The initiative was mandated by French President Emmanuel Macron, who asked the industry to set practical objectives for reducing its environmental impact.

Practical is the keyword here. While collaboration between so many different players is in itself great progress, reflections on many of the goals are that they have been light on detail as to how they’re going to be achieved. 

Meanwhile, as has been pointed out by others this past fortnight, fashion week season has kicked off and we’re back into that completely contrasting feeling of celebration and excess once more. “Fashion month is a party,” Orsola de Castro, co-founder and creative director of non-profit Fashion Revolution, told the Business of Fashion. “It’s huge fun, but it’s the kind of fun that is no longer funny.” 

Within that is of course the volume of waste and climate impact generated from the shows themselves, but in addition, the culture of consumerism they continue to feed.  

In London we have Extinction Rebellion protesting against the very existence of fashion week itself, while in New York, the biggest stories have conversely been about the large-scale theatrics of shows from the likes of Tommy Hilfiger and Rihanna’s Savage x Fenty. Let’s not forget, fashion weeks are about marketing – appealing to buyers, press and consumers individually to encourage them to buy and buy-into the new collections in one or other of their relative ways. 

By their very nature, they therefore clash with a more sustainable approach to supply and demand. All of which makes one question how much hot air really surrounds the topic of sustainability – no matter how much it’s “trending” – when looking across the industry at large. 

Back to the G7 pact and the biggest question that sits there then, is how will any of these promises turn into reality? As in, literally what are the methodologies behind them? 

The fact is, what we really need is less talk more doing. To put it into the simplest terms, the contradiction of fashion week doesn’t sit well with the notion of ‘actions speaking louder than words’. But neither do promises that aren’t backed by some tangible outputs to follow. 

The same goes for the sheer volume of broader sustainable pledges being made by the industry. Everywhere you turn you see promises to use 100% renewable energy by 2020, to become carbon neutral by 2022, to reduce water consumption by 2025. The same can be said for chemicals, materials, recycling, waste… the list goes on. 

That’s all well and good, but only if progress towards those things actually happen. On our side, we’re tracking them all, and the list of promises is growing at a substantially faster rate than that of the actions being made in response. This is absolutely key. It means that currently the announcements are serving in the main as PR initiatives – a way of hiding behind something that is several years away, or about buying time while you figure out what to actually do. 

The result is that we either have too many pledges that risk not being met, or those offering too little too late – such as to be carbon neutral by 2050. In Greta Thunberg’s words, this is a climate emergency

Last year, Fast Company reviewed various environmental goals set for 2020 by large corporations as well as countries, questioning which of them were on target to actually be met in time. It reads like a mixed bag, though does demonstrate progress in parts. 

The same can be said for fashion. Kering itself has always been one of the most vocal about its goals, setting them out in 2012, then reporting back on what it had and hadn’t achieved in 2016. It reset its targets in 2017 with a broader 2025 sustainability strategy in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Included in that was cutting the group’s carbon emissions by 50% and reducing its overall environmental impact by at least 40%. Not small aims. An update is expected in 2020. 

H&M is another that’s always gone big. It’s reportedly on target to hit its goals of both using 100% organic or recycled cotton, and eliminating hazardous chemicals in its production, by 2020. Future aims include becoming climate positive by 2040. 

The difficulty with all this is the sliding scale of what attaining such goals mean, not to mention how they’re measured. 

One of the ones I have the biggest issue with in the industry broadly is the idea of moving to entirely “sustainable cotton” by 2025. This isn’t so much in the goal itself by any means, but in the naming of it. What is sustainable cotton? Strictly speaking, most of the time what we’re talking about is rather “better” cotton. As in, it is literally better for the environment than that which is otherwise farmed in the conventional manner. Usually this falls under those certified via the Better Cotton Initiative and others including Organic and Fair Trade. 

This sort of language use is critical because of how misleading it can be to the consumer. It instantly gives the impression that fast fashion, like Zara as well, for instance, will be absolutely fine by 2025 because the materials used will indeed be entirely sustainable. Not true. They’ll just be less bad at that early part of the supply chain. Arguably, that’s not enough. 

The same goes for what is the lesser of two evils when we hear certain companies have managed to achieve zero waste to landfill targets, yet are continuing to incinerate items. Does the ban on incineration in France mean landfill will then be on the up? 

When it comes to greenhouse gases, there was a feeling in a recent meeting I had with some members of UK parliament, that regulation for companies to declare their emissions makes the industry immediately more accountable.

What didn’t seem to be acknowledged is that the fashion industry doesn’t know the true numbers around its emissions. As I’ve written about before, it’s not completely possible right now because there is simply not enough accurate information out there for it to report this – and it doesn’t have direct control of its supply chain in the majority of cases to discover any of it itself further. 

We know this from our work with Google to build a tool that shines a light on the raw materials stage of the supply chain – Tier 4. What’s available right now is at best globalized averages, at worst, completely unknown. The result, therefore, is guesswork. How for instance can H&M become climate positive in a true sense, if it can’t trace back the impact it is actually having? It can’t. You can apply the same to Burberry, to Nike, to whoever else you like.

A few years back there were headlines about 2020 being the “magic year for fashion” based on the industry embracing sustainability. Arguably, even in the midst of fashion week season, that has already happened. But it doesn’t mean anything if it’s just being talked about.  

Change can only take place if these goals become tangible. That’s our entire mantra as a business – drive transformation by enabling action. Enough with the pledges therefore, what we’d rather see is the industry diving deep, staying quiet, building new solutions and starting to show us some results. 

How are you thinking about sustainability? The Current Global is a transformation consultancy driving growth within fashion, luxury and retail. Our mission is to solve challenges and facilitate change. We are thinkers and builders delivering innovative solutions and experiences. Get in touch to learn more.

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Retail sustainability

UK brands push for government support in sustainability

The UK fashion industry is calling for the government to support further sustainable development, according to a new report.

The study, released today by trade publication Drapers, asked the respondent’s opinions on the recommendations made after the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) completed its inquiry into the environmental and social impact of the fashion industry in February 2019. This focused specifically on the disposable nature of the fast fashion industry.

While almost all of the 370 business leaders and professionals agreed to the committee’s proposed implementations, 85% of them said the government is currently not doing enough to support the industry’s development in this regard.

94.9% of respondents supported the EAC’s recommendation that calls for mandatory sustainability targets for retailers. Furthermore, 97.1% support the introduction of fines for companies that fail to comply with the Modern Slavery Act. The same consequences are to apply to retailers that do not meet zero-emissions targets (96.4%).

But, when asked what additional actions the government should take to encourage the industry to become more sustainable, respondents also called for more investment in recycling infrastructure (84.1%) as well as the outlawing of unsustainable practices (71%).

Interestingly the majority of retailers (92.2%) reached a consensus that sustainability is a commercial imperative for their businesses. This statement is clearly driven by changing customer demands, with 91.6% saying there is a growing interest in sustainability from their customers.

Mary Creagh MP, chair of the EAC, also commented on the necessity of government intervention in the fashion industry at the Draper’s Sustainability Conference earlier this year.

How are you thinking about your sustainable strategy? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners to do so. The Current Global is a consultancy transforming how fashion, beauty and consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more. 

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Campaigns Editor's pick sustainability

Adidas, Reebok & Patagonia top Fashion Revolution’s Transparency Index

Sports and outdoor brands adidas, Reebok and Patagonia are leading the charge in the fashion industry’s mission towards transparency, according to Fashion Revolution’s latest index released today.

This year, the three brands are tied at the top reaching 64% of 250 possible points, marking it the first time any fashion brand has crossed the 60% threshold since the report’s first edition in 2017. Completing the top five is Esprit (62%) and H&M (61%). H&M will likely soon move a few points ahead as only yesterday it announced it is now listing all supplier and factory information on individual products on its e-commerce pages.

“The progress we are seeing this year, coupled with the feedback Fashion Revolution has received from brands, suggests that inclusion in the Fashion Transparency Index has motivated major fashion brands to be more transparent,” says Sarah Ditty, Fashion Revolution’s policy director and report author. “We are seeing many brands publishing their supplier lists and improving their scores year on year,” she adds.

The Index rates fashion brand’s and retailer’s transparency levels by measuring their performance in five key areas: policy and commitments, governance, traceability, supplier assessment and remediation, and spotlight issues.

This year, the list of brands analyzed increased from 98 to 200. Other brands ranked include C&A, Puma, Marks & Spencer, Banana Republic, Gap and Old Navy, all who remained in the top 10 from 2018, scoring between 51-60%. Luxury, specifically, is beginning to open up to displaying supply chain information, though numbers are still low compared to high performers: Gucci and Bottega Veneta, the highest scoring brands to be reviewed, make the 31-40% score.

“There is still a lot of work to be done”, adds Ditty. “Detailed information about the outcomes and impacts of their efforts is still lacking. The average score amongst the biggest fashion brands and retailers is just 21%, showing that there are still far too many big brands lagging behind.”

“Major brands are disclosing very little information and data about their purchasing practices, which means that we still don’t have visibility into what brands are doing to be responsible business partners to their suppliers.”

This year, the report also deep dives into four of the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals, which it believes is imperative to achieve greater transparency in the fashion industry. These are: Gender Equality, Decent Work, Sustainable Consumption, Production and Climate Action.

For example, findings highlight that brands are not disclosing enough information on their efforts to empower women and girls and increase gender equality, or how they are addressing gender-based labor violations in garment factories. Furthermore, it emphasizes that although 55% of the 200 brands publish annual carbon footprint in their company websites, only 19.5% disclose carbon emissions within their own supply chains, which is where over 50% of the industry’s emissions occur.

Since Monday, Fashion Revolution has been running its annual Fashion Revolution Week, a global series of activations and marketing efforts that aim to advocate for increased transparency in the industry, while calling for consumer to ask brands about who made their clothes. The report’s publishing date, as well as the accompanying global awareness campaign, aligns with the anniversary of the Rana Plaza factory collapse, which killed 1,138 people on April 24, 2013.

How are you thinking about sustainability? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners for your sustainability strategy. The Current Global is a consultancy transforming how fashion, beauty and consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more.

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Editor's pick sustainability

H&M now lists supplier and factory information on all of its products

H&M has launched a new tool that lists all suppliers and factories attached to an individual product, giving consumers an unprecedented level of access and transparency to its supply chain.

Available from today on all 47 local H&M websites, a ‘product sustainability’ button on individual product pages will display details on materials, as well as the country, city and factory (including address and number of workers) that garment was created in. In-store, that information can be obtained by scanning price tags through the H&M app.

“We are so proud to be the first global fashion retailer of our size to launch this level of product transparency,” said Isak Roth, head of sustainability at H&M. “By being open and transparent about where our products are made we hope to set the bar for our industry and encourage customers to make more sustainable choices.”

As consumers become increasingly worried about social and environmental issues (such as fair labor and sustainable resources), radical transparency has surfaced as one of the top 10 trends that will shape the industry in 2019, according to The State of Fashion Report 2019 by McKinsey & Company and the Business of Fashion. According to the report, 42% of millennials say they want to know what goes into products and how they’re made before they buy, compared with 37% of Gen Z.

Meanwhile the H&M Group, which includes brands such as H&M, Arket and COS, has been working hard towards reaching is 2030 sustainability goals through a number of new initiatives, some of which detailed in their latest annual Sustainable Report published earlier this month. This includes announcing that 57% of all materials used by the Group now come from either recycled or sustainable sources, up from 35% in 2018; and deploying technology such as VR to ensure the design process is run more efficiently.

How are you thinking about sustainability? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners for your sustainability strategy. The Current Global is a consultancy transforming how fashion, beauty and consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more.

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Editor's pick product technology

H&M Group deploys VR to design more sustainably

H&M Group is investing in virtual reality to enable its design team to design more sustainably, says Christopher Wylie, research director at the brand.

Speaking at the FIT’s Sustainable Business and Design Conference in NYC last week, Wylie gave an insight into how the technology is being integrated at the beginning of the design process.

“When they pick fabrics, it will show them how much water that fabric uses and the amount of carbon,” revealed Wylie. In addition to that, VR is also helping improve the diversity of the garments’ shapes. “When they are doing the virtual cut of the piece, they can look at how it would fit in different shapes of people.”

The goal is to eventually use VR as an informational tool for designers, with initial tests already showing positive results. “It’s interesting when looking at these little experiments that we’ve done that it really influences how a product was made when that information was available,” he added.

H&M Group announced the appointment of Wylie last November as leading the research into data and analytics to drive the company’s sustainability mission. Speaking at the Business of Fashion’s VOICES conference at the time, he said AI could be used to reduce waste in the industry and drive efficiency through the supply chain.

So far, VR in the industry has been deployed at a more experiential level, often offering customer-facing activations at stores or at home. But increasingly brands are looking at enabling their design teams with the relevant digital tools, from VR to 3D printing, that enable them to create more mindfully, reducing waste and the risk of overproduction.

How are you thinking about innovation? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners to do so. The Current Global is a consultancy transforming how fashion, beauty and consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more.

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Editor's pick product sustainability

Adidas on spreading its sustainable message through creativity and collaboration

Adidas is using creativity and collaboration to create awareness on sustainability and “find a way out of this mess”, says Matthias Amm, product category director for global running at the brand.

Speaking at the Drapers Sustainable Fashion conference in London last week, the exec outlined the many ways in which the brand is educating both consumers and its own ambassadors on its mission towards a more sustainable supply chain, largely influenced by its partnership with Parley for the Oceans.

Since it began working with the NY-based non-profit, adidas has adopted its AIR concept – to avoid, intercept and redesign. It is avoiding the use of plastics not only throughout their supply chain, but even by banning plastic bottles in its offices and factories; it is intercepting plastic waste going into the ocean by using it as the raw material for its shoes and clothing; lastly, its biggest focus is on how to redesign future products where the use of plastic doesn’t even come into consideration in the design process. 

Educating consumers on its long-term mission is key to its success, he says. Since announcing its first product with Parley in 2015, a shoe made out of recycled plastics recovered from the oceans, it has embarked on a series of initiatives that aim to bring further awareness to plastic waste. 

With adidas’s support and funding, Parley is running an educational series under the Parley Ocean School program that aims to get young people more informed on the marine environment and how to deal with plastics accordingly. For example children growing up in the Maldives, he says, see plastic polluting the ocean as a normal occurrence, so the end goal is to help shape these young consumers into the eco ambassadors of tomorrow. 

Real Madrid player Marcelo promoting the team’s recycled ocean plastic kit

Engaging with its own athletes and gaining their support to help spread the message is another approach. It has designed sports gear and football kits for major international team such as Real Madrid and Juventus made entirely of thread consisting of ocean plastics, while often enlisting its own athletes to participate in campaigns and Parley-focused events.

Speaking at an adidas x Parley event last year, Ian Thorpe, swimmer and Australian Olympic gold medalist, said: “Growing up in Sydney, the oceans have always been a big part of my life. It’s incredible to see that adidas are taking such significant and positive steps in helping everyone fight marine plastic pollution. Together, we can protect the future of our oceans for everyone to enjoy.”

Its most consumer-facing event under the strategy, however, is the yearly Run for the Oceans event. Happening at major cities across the globe, from São Paulo to Shanghai, it aims to get people running in order to raise awareness about ocean plastic, marine wildlife, pollution, overfishing and other issues that Parley stands behind. Last year, almost one million runners joined in, and adidas matched the first million kilometres run with $1/km in funding towards the Parley Ocean School program.

How are you thinking about your sustainability strategy? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners to do so. The Current Global is a consultancy transforming how fashion, beauty and consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more.

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Editor's pick Podcast sustainability

Meet 5 companies putting sustainability at the core of their business models

Consumer demand for more responsible products is clearer than ever, and companies – from legacy names to newer players in the field – are evolving their business models to incorporate more sustainable practices.

To hit their ambitious sustainability goals, the approach is diverse, from using blockchain in the supply chain to finding new ways to bioengineering innovative textiles.

Last year, TheCurrent Global’s Innovators podcast spoke to some of the world’s top brands and companies on what it means to be sustainable at this day and age, and how to create a more responsible future that will enable them to still be around in decades to come.

H&M
Nina Shariati, who is responsible for transparency at H&M, on TheCurrent Innovators podcast
H&M’s head of transparency Nina Shariati

H&M has some of the fashion industry’s most ambitious goals: by 2030, it aims to use 100% recyclable or sustainably sourced materials. Nina Shariati, who leads transparency at H&M, spoke to TheCurrent Global on how the group’s size in the fast fashion space could work in their – and everyone’s – favour: “We see it as a positive thing that we are a large company where we have [these ambitions], and we see that with the help of our size we can drive this change that we want to see.”

For example last year already, 36% of H&M’s total material buy was recycled or sustainably sourced.  “What we want to do with transparency is to set a measuring index that harmonizes the industry so that you can compare your product across brands,” adds Shariati. “We are far from the time where it’s OK to work in silos.” The ultimate goal, she notes, should be to empower consumers by enabling them to make more informed decisions.

Listen here

Naadam
Liz Bacelar and Matt Scanlan, Naadam
Liz Bacelar and Matt Scanlan, Naadam

For Matt Scanlan, CEO and co-founder of the disruptive cashmere brand Naadam, being sustainable means transforming your supply chain into a community. The brand was conceived after he spent a month with local communities in the Gobi Desert learning about their lifestyles. He eventually returned with $2 million in cash to buy tons of raw cashmere directly from herders, thus allowing them to earn 50% more profit than in a traditional fashion supply chain. His ambition to disrupt the cashmere industry has grown rapidly since.

But Scanlan still holds some skepticism about reaching 100% sustainability in the supply chain, which he thinks is both fake and impossible to achieve. Speaking to Innovators co-host Liz Bacelar, he also talks passionately about the human side of the industry which, after all, is built on relationships.

Listen here

Ikea
Rachel Arthur and Ikea’s Joanna Yarrow

Ikea is focusing on creating products and services that can support consumers to live more sustainably, and more healthfully, every day.

According to Joanna Yarrow, head of sustainable and healthy living at the Swedish giant, to achieve its sustainable strategy, the company’s approach is threefold: look at its use of energy and resources – by 2020, it will be generating at least as much energy as it is consuming in their operations; focus on its people and its supply chain; and lastly, work on how to improve its customers’ lives overarchingly.

Since the original episode was published, Ikea has opened what it claims to be its most sustainable store in the world in Greenwich, London, featuring solar panels, rainwater harvesting and a geothermal heating system. It has also introduced a furniture leasing pilot in Switzerland.  

Listen here

Martine Jarlgaard
Martine Jarlgaard and Rachel Arthur
Martine Jarlgaard and Rachel Arthur

Blockchain has an emerging and important role in sustainability, and UK-based designer Martine Jarlgaard was one of the early adopters of the technology in order to investigate a more sustainable supply chain.

In 2017, her namesake label teamed up with London-based startup Provenance to register and trace each step of the journey of a garment on a blockchain platform, which consumers could access by scanning a QR code found on its label.

Speaking to co-host Rachel Arthur last summer, Jarlgaard weighed in on how brands need to redefine the value of a product to change the way in which consumers shop, and emphasized the huge responsibility that sits on the industry’s shoulders to start driving sustainability ahead. “We are such a closed, centralized system. Being open and transparent is the only way forward.”

Listen here

Bolt Threads
Dan Widmayer and Rachel Arthur
Bolt Threads’ Dan Widmayer and Rachel Arthur

San Francisco-based bioengineering startup Bolt Threads is arguably one of the most known names disrupting the fashion industry, largely due to its relationship with eco-luxury label Stella McCartney. Working with the brand, it has so far launched pilot products such as a dress made of of lab-grown spider silk, as well as most recently, a ‘leather’ bag constructed out of mushroom leather, or mycelium.

Sustainable innovation and the power it now carries are a direct response to a shift in consumer behavior, he says. “Ultimately it is up to the consumer. [We’re] seeing the speed at which consumer taste is changing – 2017 was a transformative year for sustainability,” adding, “It is getting big really fast and it’s becoming one of the issues at the forefront of the industry because it touches everyone.”

Listen here

Catch up with all of our episodes of the Innovators podcast by the Current Global here. The series is a weekly conversation with visionaries, executives and entrepreneurs. It’s backed by The Current Global, a consultancy transforming how consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more.

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Editor's pick sustainability Uncategorized

CEO Agenda 2019 launches at Davos, urges fashion industry to address climate change?

Sustainable organisation Global Fashion Agenda has released the second edition of its CEO Agenda at Davos this week, presenting the eight sustainability priorities every fashion CEO needs to address in order to become more sustainable – including climate change. Presented at Davos House during the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting, the report was developed in collaboration with leading players in the fashion sustainability field, including brands such as Bestseller, H&M Group, Kering and Target.

Sustainability is no longer a trend, but a business imperative, says the Agenda. With that sense of urgency, the report has been updated from 2018 to add climate change as one of its core priorities, echoing what other sustainability experts have been saying at major conferences over the past few months.

“Climate change is an unprecedented threat to people and the planet. We only have 11 years to rectify the catastrophic impact we’ve had on our planet or we’ll miss the objective of the Paris Agreement to keep global warming below 1.5 degree Celsius,” said Eva Kruse, CEO and president of the Global Fashion Agenda. “We know that change is not easy, but overall progress is too slow, and we simply can’t afford to lose another year. The fashion industry is one of the world’s largest and most powerful industries. Therefore, we need to take leadership to secure the future of our industry – and our planet.”

The report further explains that although fashion has increasingly been working on pressing issues such as chemical usage and circularity, it must also address the impact on climate change more proactively. At present, new research by UNFCCC states that total greenhouse gas emissions from textile production amount to 1.2bn tonnes annually, which is more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined.

The updated Agenda now highlights four core priorities for immediate implementation, with climate change being the new addition. This includes: supply chain traceability; efficient use of water, energy and chemicals; respectful and secure work environments; and lastly, combating climate change. The other four transformational priorities for fundamental change remain the same from 2018, as follows: sustainable material mix; circular fashion system; promotion of better wage systems; and fourth industrial revolution.

The report also directly speaks to fashion leaders and asks them to further engage in the topic of conversation in light with how slow progress has been: at present, only 50% of the industry has taken any action on sustainability. “As fashion leaders you’re in a unique position to turn things around, holding the power to make sustainability an integral part of your business strategy, and thus of the fashion industry as a whole,” reads the report.

The organization has also announced ASOS, Nike and PVH Corp. as new Strategic Partners who will be working with the Global Fashion Agenda on providing expert opinions to help shape the agenda and play a role in developing though leadership content. 

“We believe that the world needs to urgently work towards creating a sustainable future – one where everyone thrives on a healthy planet and a level-playing field,” adds Nike CEO Mark Parker. “We are committed to innovating our way into that future, both within Nike and in partnership with others.”

The CEO Agenda 2019 is available to read online.

How are you thinking about sustainability? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners to do so. TheCurrent Global is a consultancy transforming how fashion, beauty and consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more.

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business Editor's pick sustainability Uncategorized

Patagonia is in the business to save the planet, says CEO Rose Marcario?

 

As climate change becomes real, Patagonia is striving to do more good, rather than just less harm, said its CEO, Rose Marcario, at NRF’s Big Show in New York yesterday.

“Patagonia is in the business to save our home planet,” reads the outerwear brand’s updated mission statement.

In the 90s the company’s strategy around sustainability was considered groundbreaking because supply chain wasn’t so much in the consumer’s mind, she adds. But with consumers being more informed than ever and climate change becoming increasingly tangible –  as the recent fires in California have shown – brands should strive to be much more proactive. 

The California-based company has been working on its activism for the past 35 years, but recently it has upped its efforts in speaking up for environmental issues, and supporting its consumers to do the same.

“The reality is we have been proportionally responding to what’s happening,” explains Marcario, rather than making a conscious effort to be louder. For example, it recently donated $10m from tax cuts it received from the Trump administration to environmental causes. It also openly backed two political candidates in Nevada and Montana who had sustainability at the core of their campaigns, and launched the Patagonia Action Works platform, enabling its community to give back locally. 

One could argue that being sustainable is a risky move. Marcario however believes the brand’s success has been a natural evolution, as it started as a catalog company in the 70s and therefore has always had a close relationship with the consumer. “For us it hasn’t been a big risk. We’ve been funding activism for three decades,” she adds, saying that so far the company has given over $100m dollars to grassroots environmental programs, partly because it knows how little funding goes towards environmental NGOs.

The future of the planet is not entirely bleak, however. Although some brands are still nervous to step out of their comfort zones, Marcario believes a lot of them recognize the importance of working together in order to address more transparent supply chains as well as wider activism. For example, Patagonia and 400 other companies recently participated in the Time to Vote campaign, which gave employees time off to vote on the midterm elections in the US. As for climate change, when President Trump pulled the country out of the Paris Climate Agreement, a lot of US companies vouched to remain in.

“Anybody who is running a business recognizes it is important to keep going, and the cautionary tale is: don’t just stop on the first level,” Marcario says. “Keep asking questions and go deeper.”

How are you thinking about sustainability? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners for your sustainability strategy. TheCurrent Global is a consultancy transforming how fashion, beauty and consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more.

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Editor's pick Events sustainability Uncategorized

Eileen Fisher on sustainability being key to long-term customer loyalty

Customers care about fit and style, but sustainability is an important added bonus that leads to loyalty, said Amy Hall, VP of social consciousness at Eileen Fisher at NRF’s Big Show in New York yesterday.

“If it’s not beautiful and it doesn’t fit them well, we’re not going to make the sale,” adds Hall, who has been with the womenswear label for 25 years. For its clientele, finding out products are made with eco materials in ethical factories is the icing on the cake and helps them attach a much more long lasting value to the brand.

Hall was speaking on a panel about sustainability’s new surge in popularity alongside Eileen Mockus, president and CEO of sustainable home textiles brand Coyuchi and Jason Wachob, founder and CEO of wellness platform mindbodygreen. Mockus agrees that customers are still initially drawn to a great product, and if there is a good story attached to it, it creates a longer term relationship.

The panel also touched on the importance of helping customers create an emotional connection with environmental issues. Customers don’t respond emotionally to a big, abstract issue like climate change, for example, but rather operate from a ‘me first’ mentality, says Wachob. Showing how their consumption habits may impact other human beings down the supply chain, for example, can be much more effective, adds Hall.

Sustainability is having a moment because it not only creates very positive brand associations for the consumer, but from an innovation standpoint, it is leading the charge in the fashion industry. But there are plenty of pitfalls to this booming industry, the panel argues. Hall highlights the certification system, for example, wherein there is a lot of confusion and fraud, which she believes is leading to up to half of certifications being fake or inaccurate.

In an environment where a select group of players are making strides but a much larger group is simply making noise, it is important to know how to focus. Hall suggests that brands should start with one thing, such as changing how a product is shipped, and tick it off their list before working their way up. As consumers become increasingly informed on the issue, so will their demands on how every step of the journey can play an important part in ensuring a more sustainable future.

How are you thinking about sustainability? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners to do so. TheCurrent Global is a consultancy transforming how fashion, beauty and consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more.