People keep asking us what ‘good’ means in the retail world? Is ‘good’, perfect? Is doing one thing well, good enough?
As beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder, ‘good’ in the fashion retail world somewhat lies in the eyes of the beholder too. ‘Good’ can be about how factory workers are treated; whether they are paid fair wages and work under proper conditions. ‘Good’ can be about how animals were treated to obtain the wool, leather or fur that goes into making garments. For the health conscious among us, ‘good’ is about the effect something has on our bodies and well-being: organic fabrics, free of harmful chemicals. ‘Good’, for others, are those products that have a minimal impact on our air and water streams.
Today, few, if any, companies are running their businesses with a zero-negative impact on people or planet. Increasingly, small business owners and a few big companies are striving to do good. They are taking big steps but will all admit that they are not yet in a position to claim that everything they do is good. Think of:
- Flip-flops made out of recycled tires. Yes, they re-use a material that would otherwise be wasted, yet tire rubber wasn’t made to be used on the body and therefore we do not know the effect of the chemicals seeping into our skin
- Brands that give something free to peoples from a developing country for every purchase. Nice, but we are also taking away from local industry and possibly providing them with unneeded goods that end up as trash in landfills or nature
There are many reasons why we cannot be ‘perfect’ yet today: financial choices, knowledge gaps, cultural practices. But also, we do not yet have solutions to all the issues we are facing.
So we might as well do nothing? … Nope!
At Good Brand Guru we believe that if a lot of companies do something good, then step by step we can leverage each other’s knowledge and tools to improve the whole industry.
- By recycling materials to develop new textiles, companies like Adidas, Nike, O’Neill, Levi’s, Timberland and more are doing their bit to keep valuable resources from being landfilled or incinerated today.
- Tech companies like Worn Again, supported by retailers such as H&M, are developing technologies to sort textile waste to be able to reuse cotton and polyester blend textiles for new products
- In the meantime, companies like Ananas_Anam and the Agraloop bio-refinery are developing ways to use crop waste to develop compostable fabrics at large scale
- Tencel produces fibers from sustainably sourced wood and has already been adopted by brands such as Armed Angels, Reformation, Bella Dahl and GStar
- Bloom foam is an algae-based technology used to develop shoe soles and is used by Ecoalf , Adidas, Vivo Barefoot
- Organizations like the ZDHC Roadmap to Zero programme , run with the financial support of large brands such as Nike, Gap, Benetton, Inditex, H&M etc… carries out research and provides guidance and tools to avoid the discharge of hazardous chemicals in textile, leather and footwear production
- Brands such as C&A and Calida are leveraging a range of these developments to take a leading role in developing cradle-to-cradle products that come from nature and can completely go back to nature without harming the environment
- Some companies are rethinking their business models in order to reduce the need to extract new resources and increase the longevity of use, such as those companies offering repair services (Patagonia, Nudie Jeans), rental models (Rent the Runway), or even leasing models (Mud Jeans)
- Multi-brand stores such as Selfridges are taking a stand by forcing their suppliers to be more sustainable, thereby leveraging their position to encourage a large part of the chain to become more sustainable
- And similarly, other companies are working to improve harvesting conditions, working conditions, energy and water use or funding organizations to protect plant and wildlife.
With all these developments happening in parallel, one day it will be easier for brands to source from a range of textiles, using processes that are harmless to the environment, working with people in a fair way and leveraging smart, sustainable business models. To make this happen we all have to do something. It makes sense for people, planet, and ultimately business too.