By Alison & Roaya (featured in HMKM Eye #2 - Selling Sustainability)
Green is the color of retail’s future. Transparency and sustainability, recycling and renting all have their places. HMKM’s Alison Cardy and Roaya Garvey explain.
It certainly seems to us that while global retail practice is a serial offender on the sustainability stakes, increasingly, circular is replacing linear. From ‘‘make, use, dispose’’ to ‘‘respect, re-use, re-cycle’’, we are witnessing a wave of purposeful activity across the board.
Green is the color of this year’s cultural and political zeitgeist. Last month, the Oxford Dictionary declared that ‘‘climate emergency’’ was the word of 2019, following a hundred-fold increase in its usage.
David Attenborough’s Blue Planet 2 re-energized the conversation around single-use plastics, and activism has taken centre stage, with the London Fashion Week protests in September generating significant press coverage as well as the likes of Greta Thunberg and Extinction Rebellion permeating into every sphere of the Internet.
Naturally, this has shifted consumer buying behavior. The Pulse of the Fashion Industry 2019 Update found that 50% of consumers plan to actively switch to brands that take a public stance on environmental issues. According to a McKinsey US cohort survey, 66% of respondents said they considered sustainability when making a luxury purchase. And a survey by YouGov found that 66% of UK adults think sustainable practices in retail will make a difference to the environment.
This shift has forced the hand of business. In May of this year, French President Emmanuel Macron appointed the CEO of Kering, François-Henri Pinault, to create a coalition of fashion companies dedicated to helping companies reach their sustainability targets.
The same week that Pinault was tasked with creating an eco-fashion-coalition, LVMH announced they were going to partner with UNESCO to set climate change targets. In August 2019, 181 CEOs made history at the Business Roundtable by redefining the purpose of a corporation – committing to deliver value beyond just their shareholders, to include customers and communities, with an explicit dedication to embracing sustainable practices. These responses are necessary and serve as North Stars that these brands are working towards. Though these actions may seem like lofty ideals, the barriers to entry are quite low.
Elsewhere in the industry, brands like Adidas have stepped up to the plate. Of the many collaborations Adidas have had, one of the unlikeliest was their partnership with Parley – a non-profit that addresses the environmental threats posed by ocean plastic pollution. In 2017, Adidas sold over one million pairs of sneakers made from recycled ocean plastic, and they have now pledged to eliminate all virgin plastic in their products by 2024. H&M have made a similar pledge – vowing to only use recycled or sustainably sourced materials by 2030. Zara want to use 100% sustainable fabrics by 2025.
Then we have the challenger brands; the emerging start-ups that have centered their business models or strategies around sustainable practices. Rent the Runway and Nuuly are two brands that are tackling over-consumption. Both are online retailers founded on the premise that renting clothing can offer a salve to the now popular maxim: ‘‘fashion is the second biggest polluter.’’ Everlane, another startup, have adopted a model of ‘‘Radical Transparency’’ by revealing the true costs behind all their products – from materials, to labor, to transportation – utilizing the power of digital innovation.
As we compare the large brands – the Adidas, H&M’s and Zara’s of the world – in comparison to these emerging startups, it begs the question: can established businesses change as fast as the smaller startups can grow?
At HMKM, we believe they can. As you will see in the following articles, our clients and industry experts have sought simple answers to their sustainability challenges. We explore: product sourcing , material innovation, localized products, and transparency & traceability.
When these practices are implemented in a 360-degree fashion, retailers can achieve what others could not. Take our work with iconic lifestyle brand, Country Road, as an example. Earlier this year, when they launched their newly designed flagship in Chadstone Mall, Melbourne, they became the first retail brand in Australia and New Zealand to achieve the prestigious Green Star Design Review’s Five Star rating – an accolade that recognizes its excellence as a sustainable store. The journey was exacting and yet we had an unwavering belief that it was the right thing to do – proving that a multi-dimensional approach is possible.
Our Country Road Group work began with that initial Five Star rating target, which became a series of actions and behaviors that, once broken down, became eminently manageable to implement – all within a year. We suggested local craftspeople, who are now being invested in to produce at a commercial level, not just for the Country Road Group but other retailers wanting to support in this initiative. This is only the start. As we look to 2020, we firmly believe that all brands – large and small – can do their part to deliver true, sustainable value to their customers and communities.
To read more of our thoughts on Sustainability, check out HMKM Eye #2 - Selling Sustainability: https://rebrand.ly/HMKM_WeLove1