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These are the Champions: A Klarna x FMG Special Sustainability Report

Critics of industry-wide sustainability and ethical practices efforts often complain that “there’s too much talk” and not enough real work being done to change policies and practices. In many instances, they’re right. After all, the fashion apparel and accessories industry is a $2 trillion behemoth, and turning it around and aligning it toward short- and long-term sustainability and circular economy measures is a massive undertaking that takes time.

But there are many brands who are not waiting for others to lead the way and have championed the cause by truly walking the talk — here and now. In the next few pages, leading payments solutions provider Klarna and Fairchild Media Group celebrate these “sustainability superheroes” who are innovating during a critical time in the industry by deploying bold initiatives that aim to make the world a better place.

BREAKING DOWN THE URGENCY OF SUSTAINABILITY WITH Sebastian Siemiatkowski
CEO and Co-Founder of Klarna

Sebastian Siemiatkowski,<br />CEO of Klarna.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Klarna

In addition to progressing its own initiatives for sustainability, including the launch of one of the largest global carbon footprint awareness-building efforts to date in the shape of a tracker and offsetting feature in its updated app and a $10 million pledge to support sustainability initiatives, Klarna recognizes the critical need to work together in the industry to achieve real change. Here, Siemiatkowski shares insights on advancing goals in sustainability.

Fairchild Media Group: Why is deploying sustainable practices critical now?

Sebastian Siemiatkowski: As business leaders, it’s time to hold ourselves accountable for the role we play in the daily lives of consumers and in society as a whole. Each of us has a responsibility to tackle global sustainability challenges in some way, shape or form—whether that be through workplace initiatives to reduce carbon emissions, or through product innovation that can build wider awareness around the topic.

FMG: What does it take to be a sustainably-minded company?

S.S.: Klarna is focused on sustainability because it’s the right thing to do, period. This isn’t for image building or economics. That said, it’s critical that companies approach sustainability initiatives with results in mind, rather than throwing money at a problem. Our corporate culture is built around wanting to facilitate innovation and change to make a positive impact on the world we live in. When it comes to sustainability, the only metrics we are interested in are whether our efforts really work and make a difference.

FMG: How is Klarna encouraging more sustainable practices – as a company, and also for both brands and consumers?

S.S.: We have a powerful global network of more than 87 million shoppers, 18 million active users of our mobile app, and over 250,000 retail partners. With this reach comes a responsibility to engage and inform on relevant topics like sustainability. One way we do this is through the Klarna platform, where we are focused on spotlighting sustainable brands through marketing campaigns and in our app.

We also aim to set an example for other retail and technology businesses through our own company programs and initiatives. In March, we committed to donating 1% of our latest $31 billion funding round to support global sustainability—$10 million will be donated to high-impact projects addressing climate and biodiversity. We will be making our 1% framework available to the public in the hopes of inspiring other growth and pre-IPO companies to follow suit. We are also aiming to reduce our global company emissions by 50% and are implementing internal policies to make that a reality.

SUSTAINABILITY SUPERHEROES

Hana Kajimura, Sustainability Lead at Allbirds.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Allbirds

Hana Kajimura, Sustainability Lead at Allbirds

Fairchild Media Group: From your perspective in the market, how has the global pandemic impacted the consumer demand for more sustainable and greener products and services?

Hana Kajimura: The pandemic has crystalized for many the connection between our human health and the planet’s health. Now more than ever, consumers are more aware of how their purchases can not only improve their lives but also the health of the environment – and they’re demanding the same accountability from the brands they support. They’re starting to understand that companies, especially those in the fashion industry, have presented them with a false choice between a functional, stylish product and buying something better for the planet.

We’re seeing an exciting shift in the market toward offering more products that are better for consumers and for the environment, but we still have a lot of progress to be made.

Fairchild Media Group: How would you describe your company’s approach to sustainable practices? What are some recent initiatives?

H.K.: Our ultimate goal is to create products that have a positive impact on the environment, and the only way to get there is by using natural, renewable materials. Through regenerative agriculture and manufacturing innovations, the Merino wool, eucalyptus tree fiber, and sugarcane we source have the potential to actually absorb more carbon from the atmosphere than they take to emit. That simply isn’t possible with traditional plastic, even if it’s recycled. And in February of this year, we introduced Plant Leather – the world’s first 100% natural, plant-based leather and the newest addition to our suite of natural materials, carrying up to 17 times less carbon than synthetic-based leather alternatives.

As we continue to invest in low-carbon material R&D, we hold ourselves accountable for our carbon emissions by labeling every product we make with its Carbon Footprint. We also pay to offset 100% of these emissions, because any number larger than zero is too big.

Fairchild Media Group: What do you think it takes to lead as a sustainably-minded company or brand? What is the commitment?

H.K.: As a B Corp, we believe that business can be a positive force for good. However, that requires a deep commitment to consistently prioritizing responsible business practices – not just when it’s convenient. This means being accountable to all stakeholders including customers, employees, suppliers, and the environment. But we’re not going to make the necessary progress to meaningfully address the climate crisis if we can’t look ourselves in the mirror and acknowledge where we have room to grow.

I’ve found that the B Corp certification process has been really invaluable in this way by encouraging us to perform in-depth self-analysis to identify where we’re excelling and where we can improve.

Fairchild Media Group: What can the overall industry do better in terms of sustainable and ethical practices?

H.K.: Climate change is the most urgent crisis of our generation, and we don’t have time to wait for a silver bullet solution. We need to hold ourselves accountable now for our collective carbon footprint before we can even begin to think about how to reduce emissions. A clear place to start is for businesses to pay to offset 100% of their carbon emissions so that we’re all working from a position of net-zero.

From there, we encourage all brands to label their products with their carbon footprints. Not only does this hold companies accountable to reducing those carbon numbers over time, but it provides consumers with a universal scorecard on who is taking sustainability seriously, and who is not. Leading brands will show their carbon footprint decreasing steadily, and rapidly over time.

Yi-Mei Truxes, Founder of Bembien
CREDIT: Courtesy of Bembien

Yi-Mei Truxes, Founder of Bembien

Fairchild Media Group: From your perspective in the market, how has the global pandemic impacted the consumer demand for more sustainable and greener products and services?

Yi-Mei Truxes: When all transportation and commerce shut down last March, there was a noticeable impact that was impossible to ignore — fresher air, cleaner water and wildlife returned to areas they had previously vacated. This demonstrated how climate change is not a “10,000 years in the future” hypothetical, but is in fact affected by our day-to-day behaviors. The pandemic has forced the world out of the status quo — we’re reassessing our habits, asking a lot of questions, and for the first time (in a long time) turning off our autopilot-mindset when it comes to consumerism.

Fairchild Media Group: How would you describe your company’s approach to sustainable practices? What are some recent initiatives?

Y.T.: Sustainability has been a priority for us since day one. Our bags are made from materials that come from the earth, are sourced locally and regenerate naturally (the majority of our bags are made from Ata leaf, which is a reed that is grown on and around Bali). We also focus on ways we can help improve and bring awareness to the living conditions of our artisans, who are battling overwhelming plastic pollution that threatens their ecosystem. We introduced a handbag collection called the Jolene that’s made entirely from recycled plastic picked up on the beaches of Bali. But for Bembien it’s not just about using the right materials, it’s about finding creative ways to make all aspects of the business make an impact where possible.

We recently started partnering with a company called Energea to invest a portion of our sales to fund renewable energy projects around the world. Most recently, we helped fund a community solar initiative in Brazil that powers thousands of small businesses. As a brand, our approach is to lead with a sustainability-first mindset, and to find new, creative ways that we can help make an impact.

Bembien supports communities of artisan weavers across the globe.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Bembien

Fairchild Media Group: What does it take to lead a sustainably-minded company or brand? What is the commitment?

Y.T.: To lead a sustainably-minded brand, you need to be comfortable making decisions that don’t immediately lead to growth and profit. You have to trust that responsible decision-making will have a net positive result for the brand, consumer, and environment.

Our commitment is to lead by example, rethink the norm, and never default to the status quo. We all know that the population is increasing, along with our carbon footprint. As brands, we all strive to grow our businesses — but we need to ask ourselves: at what cost? Every company, big or small, must consider their impact on the planet. What does your impact look like when you’re 2x, 10x, 100x bigger? I think the commitment to being a sustainability-minded brand is to ask: how can we continue to grow without adding to the world’s environmental problems?

Fairchild Media Group: What can the overall industry do better in terms of sustainable and ethical practices?

Y.T.: As an industry, we can move away from perpetuating the revolving door of trends that are designed to be fleeting and wasteful. For instance, at Bembien, we don’t participate in the four – six traditional buying seasons per year, which require brands to turn over styles unnecessarily and can lead to overstock issues. We have to rethink fast fashion as quickly as possible. Affordability is of course very important, but as consumers, we must consider the value in buying well-made items that last, both in terms of the cost to our wallets and to the environment.

Eileen Fisher, Founder of Eileen Fisher.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Eileen Fisher

Eileen Fisher, Founder of Eileen Fisher

Fairchild Media Group: From your perspective in the market, how has the global pandemic impacted the consumer demand for more sustainable and greener products and services?

Eileen Fisher: I think the pandemic allowed us all to stop, to rethink and reassess the way we live. It has been an opportunity to ask what really matters and, hopefully, to realize we can live with less and still have meaningful lives.

And there’s a consciousness that’s been awakened in a lot of people about living differently — a desire to understand how they can make a difference, to learn more about where products come from, how they’re made and the impact they have.

Fairchild Media Group: How would you describe your company’s approach to sustainable practices? What are some recent initiatives?

E.F.: Our approach to sustainability is very holistic. We’ve been on this path for many years. Our commitment is deeply embedded in our organization.

The process and practices start at the seed level and go all the way through — fibers, fabrics, water, energy, chemistry, dye processes — across the supply chain. It’s imperfect, but also an ongoing process. There’s always so much more to do.  But we are consistently trying to do better and look for ways to create less waste. One of the ways is through our take-back program which keeps clothes from ending up in the landfill. We believe in taking responsibility for what we make and how we make it.

And we do try to hold ourselves to a higher standard. Being a B Corp — a new business model which includes not only profits but holding ourselves accountable to a quadruple bottom line — requires that we measure our environmental and social impacts. One current initiative that’s especially interesting is regenerative agriculture, an innovative practice where we can actually draw down carbon and store it rather than releasing it into the atmosphere.

It’s not just about doing less harm, but actually making a positive difference.

Another program I’m passionate about is our circular initiative, Waste No More. We have a collection of cross-body bags that are felted from garments from our take-back program. It’s all so fascinating to me — the opportunity for creativity in discarded clothing.  Creative ways to use waste.

Fairchild Media Group: What does it take to lead a sustainably-minded company or brand? What is the commitment?

E.F.: I think we keep educating ourselves, ask questions: Where does this come from? What’s it made of? — and continue to learn together along the way. We engage people within our organizations to see the bigger picture, the vision forward — and give them permission to make their own meaningful contributions. Ultimately, we have to be willing to take risks for the greater good, to do what’s right — and trust that the customer will come along with us.

Fairchild Media Group: What can the overall industry do better in terms of sustainable and ethical practices?

E.F.: We all have an important opportunity to rethink how we do business and where our priorities lie — and customers are going to demand it in the not-too-distant future.  Repositioning ourselves for the future is just good business.

Amy Roberts, Senior Director of Brand Impact and Sustainability at The North Face.
CREDIT: Courtesy of The North Face

Amy Roberts, Senior Director of Brand Impact and Sustainability at The North Face

Fairchild Media Group: From your perspective in the market, how has the global pandemic impacted the consumer demand for more sustainable and greener products and services?

Amy Roberts: The few studies conducted since the pandemic began have shown that the crisis has focused people’s attention more sharply on the importance of the health of our planet and as a result our own community and personal health. One recent study by Accenture found that that 60% of people interviewed reported making more environmentally-friendly, sustainable, or ethical purchases since the start of the pandemic with more than 90 percent intent on continuing that behavior. I believe people took note of the improvement in air quality during the initial weeks of lockdown, and climate change also seems to be a higher priority for policymakers than in the past as well.

Fairchild Media Group: How would you describe your company’s approach to sustainable practices? What are some recent initiatives?

A.R.: At the North Face, we are committed to reducing our environmental footprint, with a focus on reduced carbon emissions, as well as preserving water quality. More than 55 percent of our footprint comes from product production, so we place the majority of our resources and innovation toward combating this. We have chosen to buy high-quality offsets to address employee travel, work commutes and athlete expeditions, but generally, our rule is to first and foremost reduce our footprint before simply offsetting it.

Since 2017, we have increased our use of recycled synthetics to almost 90 percent of the line and we just announced a partnership with Indigo Ag which will allow us to use regenerative cotton produced by U.S. farmers. Recycled products are positive because they extend the life of our materials, but regenerative production will actually start to create a net positive impact on carbon levels and soil health. We have also grown our Renewed re-commerce collection, where we refurbish used goods to make them like new again, and we will have some exciting news focused on circular products coming later this Spring.

Fairchild Media Group: What does it take to lead a sustainably-minded company or brand? What is the commitment?

A.R.: The commitment to sustainability must start at the top levels of an organization. There must be a commitment to choose sustainable materials over virgin materials, to fund sustainability innovation, and to publicly put ambitious goals on the table and figure out how to actually meet them. The North Face parent company, VF Corporation, announced some really aggressive science-based carbon reductions targets about a year ago, and in doing so became we became one of the largest apparel and footwear brands to make these commitments. We have also made a commitment to move away from all single-use packaging by 2025 Now that these goals are public, we are committed to taking the right steps to get there.

Fairchild Media Group: What can the overall industry do better in terms of sustainable and ethical practices?

A.R.: Sustainability has traditionally been a very collaborative field, even among competitors. The reason is that we need to create change at scale to truly have the kind of environmental impact that is needed; so we need to continue to find and share solutions across competitors. The North Face Responsible Down Standard is a good example of a standard we developed in partnership with the Textile Exchange that is now used by more than 6,000 farmers covering 735 million birds worldwide. We also need to fundamentally rethink business old models of producing goods out of virgin materials. That is where re-commerce, rentals, selling experiences versus goods and extending the life of materials and products come into play.

Anushka Salinas, President and COO of Rent the Runway.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Rent the Runway

Anushka Salinas, President and COO at Rent the Runway

Fairchild Media Group: Fairchild Media Group: From your perspective in the market, how has the global pandemic impacted the consumer demand for more sustainable and greener pro ducts and services?

Anushka Salinas: As we all settled into the new normal of shelter-in-place over the past year, consumers had ample opportunity to reflect on their lifestyles — and on their relationships to ownership in particular. This has been especially apparent across retail, where women have been staring at closets full of clothes that went unworn. Coming out of the pandemic and into a recessionary environment, people are going to care more about value, sustainability and shopping with their values, creating unprecedented tailwinds for brands like Rent the Runway. In fact, 79 percent of Gen Z and Millennial consumers more broadly say sustainability will be more important to them after the pandemic ends, indicating a mass-market shift towards more conscientious fashion consumption.

We see this acceleration among our own customer base as well: the proportion of customers who tell us they are Rent the Runway subscribers because they are looking for a way to get dressed “more mindfully” has doubled over the past year. Finally, we’ve seen outsized growth of the secondhand economy during the pandemic. At Rent the Runway we’ve taken this time as an opportunity to expand our value proposition and become a more comprehensive platform for the circular economy — we’ve never been more bullish about where this industry is headed!

Fairchild Media Group: How would you describe your company’s approach to sustainable practices? What are some recent initiatives?

A.S.: Rent the Runway was founded around the idea that women needed a smarter way to get dressed and that 100% of the $2 trillion fashion industry didn’t need to be brand new. Rental has always been about extending the life cycle of garments through the sharing economy, but as we’ve grown, so has our commitment to full circularity. As we continue to scale, our goal — and our responsibility — is to bring more sustainable practices to every facet of our business, from our operations, to our designer partnerships, to our cleaning practices, to our private label manufacturing and more. We’re currently in the process of quantifying our impact via a comprehensive Life Cycle Analysis to evaluate every aspect of our operation. From here, we’ll make short- and long- term goals and commitments to lessen our impact, create future benchmarks and set an important example across the industry.

In the last year alone, we’ve evolved our subscription programs away from an unlimited swapping concept in an effort to consolidate shipments and reduce carbon emissions while still delivering the same or more value to our customers. And most importantly, we’ve taken the COVID-19 crisis as an opportunity to become the full home for the circular economy. This is a fuller realization of our value proposition and a natural extension of what we already do. We now offer infinite points of access (subscribe, rent, buy), so Rent the Runway is the most flexible platform and THE place to go if you are comfortable wearing something that’s not brand new.

In our 11 years of existence, we’ve already made so much progress — but our work certainly isn’t done. Back in 2015, we traded our plastic mailing bags, cardboard boxes, and vinyl garment bags for reusable garment bags — converting three pieces of packaging into just one.

We also recycle significant portions of the poly bags we do use via a partnership with Trex, which gives them a second life as plastic decking. More recently, we’ve focused on extending the life cycle of our garments even after they’ve retired from RTR’s inventory. Revive by Rent the Runway gives our garments a second life and diverts clothing and textile waste from landfills for as long as possible. When items are no longer able to cycle through rental, we either donate them to vetted nonprofit organizations like Dress for Success, or make them available for purchase at a crazy-good discount through pop-ups or online through partners like thredUP.

Fairchild Media Group: What does it take to lead a sustainably-minded company or brand? What is the commitment?

A.S.: Transparency is a key value across our business. It’s especially crucial when discussing sustainability given the rampant confusion and greenwashing that occurs across industries. The Life Cycle Analysis we’re conducting right now will help us understand Rent the Runway’s environmental impact on the most granular level. Coming out of that, we’ll share an update with customers and the general public detailing where we’re excelling, where we need to do better, and how we’ll get there.

Fairchild Media Group: What can the overall industry do better in terms of sustainable and ethical practices?

A.S.: Fashion is the second-largest polluter in the world, after the oil and gas industry, so there’s significant room for improvement industry-wide. Unfortunately, there’s no one size fits all solution. Every company should be looking deep into their own supply chain to determine where they should evolve their practices. On a holistic level, though, we need to shift our focus away from short-lived trends and fast fashion that quickly end up in landfills and make a concentrated effort to support the circular economy.

Palle Stenberg, CEO of Nudie Jeans.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Nudie Jeans

Palle Stenberg, CEO of Nudie Jeans

Fairchild Media Group: From your perspective in the market, how has the global pandemic impacted the consumer demand for more sustainable and greener products and services?

Palle Stenberg: When a disastrous event like a pandemic occur, I believe it makes people starting to reflecting on the important things in life and the choices you must take to try to improve the world we live in. We can see that the demand for sustainable products accelerated during the pandemic, there is more time to do research from home when you shop online and you might spend a bit extra on well selected and more sustainable products.

Fairchild Media Group: How would you describe your company’s approach to sustainable practices? What are some recent initiatives?

P.S.: We work with sustainability in all parts of business, on product level from selecting good raw materials, the production and in the user phase. Some of the recent initiatives are the grievance mechanism and program for the cotton farmers in Turkey, very detailed product transparency online, our CO2 mapping of our full supply chain, and a recycling initiative in collaboration with our suppliers and  UNIDO in Tunisia.

Fairchild Media Group: What does it take to lead a sustainably-minded company or brand? What is the commitment?

P.S.: Leading a sustainable minded company is first of all much more fun which makes it easier. But of course, it also challenges you by you having to rethink old truths that you have been taught. It makes it necessary for the leaders and co-workers to be able to see things in a different perspective. But it also triggers creativity in a beneficiary way. Original commitment was to explore creating a company with the possibility to sleep well at night but has evolved into the curiosity of seeing how far we can go and transforming the industry

Fairchild Media Group: What can the overall industry do better in terms of sustainable and ethical practices?

P.S.: Even if we are seeing more and more sustainability efforts at different brands, on an industry level we still have a long way to go. One of the key aspects is the lack of supply chain transparency. If you have transparency in the supply chain, like we have, it enables you to make better material choices, get actual data from your supply chain and identify the areas that needs improvement and start working on the improvements.

Kelley Hall, Chief Financial Officer at REI.
CREDIT: Courtesy of REI

Kelley Hall, Chief Financial Officer at REI

Fairchild Media Group: From your perspective in the market, how has the global pandemic impacted the consumer demand for more sustainable and greener products and services? 

Kelley Hall: Supplying our members with the most sustainable outdoor gear possible has long been our focus. In the wake of the global pandemic, more people are turning to time outside to rest and recharge close to home. The historic level of interest in outdoor recreation, coupled with the delays due to the pandemic, is creating vendor production challenges resulting in low inventory levels across the outdoor industry. We’re working hard to adjust so our members can find the gear they need to get outside both at our stores and at REI.com. 

Fairchild Media Group: How would you describe your company’s approach to sustainable practices? What are some recent initiatives? 

K.H.: At REI we believe that climate change is the greatest existential threat to our business and that combatting this threat requires us to take a holistic approach.

REI is formally joining Climate Neutral and will hold itself financially accountable for each unit of carbon it emits in its own operations beginning with 2020’s emissions. The co-op has also committed to more than halve its carbon footprint over the next decade while continuing to grow in size and revenue.

Reaching these targets will not be easy, and REI will reexamine every aspect of its business in an effort to lower emissions while investing in natural climate solutions to offset the carbon it’s not yet able to draw down.

We’re particularly excited about the potential of re-commerce to expand our business model while meeting emissions goals. Selling a used piece of gear on average requires 70% less carbon than selling a new item, even accounting for shipping, cleaning, and remerchandising.

We also know that we are just one company and we can have a much larger impact by inspiring others to take action and bringing others along in this journey.

Fairchild Media Group: What does it take to lead a sustainably-minded company or brand? What is the commitment?

K.H.: At REI, we’re focused on building a sustainable business by building sustainability into the business. Our impact is a priority, and we measure success based not just on our bottom line, but also on the long-term wellbeing of our employees, members, society and planet.

The companies that will be best positioned to succeed in the future are making big investments in sustainable business practices now, from supply chains through re-commerce in the hope of achieving sustainable circular business models. There is no single answer. A truly circular economy will not just require resale. It won’t just require rentals or subscription services. It will require all of the above, plus products designed with the circular economy from the ground up.

You can expect REI to continue to innovate in these spaces, and share our progress and lessons along the way.

Fairchild Media Group: What can the overall industry do better in terms of sustainable and ethical practices?

 K.H.: REI is trying to use its size and influence in the outdoor industry to implement positive change. While we don’t directly oversee the supply chains for the outdoor brands we sell, we influence responsible choices through education, engagement and collaboration—and by holding those brands to high standards, just as we do for ourselves.

In 2018, REI codified years of effort supporting our partner brands in creating more sustainable products with the launch of our Product Impact Standards. These standards—which apply to all products sold at REI—provide clear expectations of brand partners, encourage them to integrate leading sustainability features into those products, and provide a platform from which REI offers support and guidance.

The co-op recently updated those standards to further address carbon reduction and incorporate more of what we call preferred attributes of products. These include recognition for products that are certified to Climate Neutral, bluesign®, or other leading standards supporting organic ingredients, recycled materials or fair trade. We’re committing that, by 2030, all products on our shelves will have a preferred attribute so that every purchase at the co-op supports a healthier, cleaner, more equitable planet.

Within REI’s own Co-op Brands, we continue to raise the bar in how we drive positive impacts through our products. In 2021 we’ll bring to market our largest collection yet of products certified to the bluesign® criteria. We also continue to expand our offering of Fair Trade Factory certified apparel. Finally, we’ve assessed our highest-volume materials via the Higg MSI, which helps us understand their impact to the climate and environment, and work to reduce that impact.

Going forward, we hope to further empower our members, and the industry at large, to speak with one voice on the issues we all care about most.

Stacy Flynn, CEO and Co-Founder of Evrnu.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Evrnu

Stacy Flynn, CEO and Co-Founder of Evrnu

Fairchild Media Group: From your perspective in the market, how has the global pandemic impacted the consumer demand for more sustainable and greener products and services?

Stacy Flynn: We’ve all been sitting with our “things” over the past year and I believe people are getting to the root of what’s important; connection with each other, not necessarily connection with more “things.” We have to assume that consumer consciousness has elevated through COVID-19 and as we move into a post-COVID world we have an incredible opportunity to redefine the consumer experience through sustainable innovation. We will be moving into a reality where impact reduction is regarded as a key product performance indicator – this is not the same wine in a new bottle. These are products and experiences which outperform the status quo because they have been conceived, created and scaled to bring business in alignment with natural systems.

Fairchild Media Group: How would you describe your company’s approach to sustainable practices? What are some recent initiatives?

S.F.: We had the luxury of starting Evrnu as a social purpose corporation and we then became a B Corp as well and this is critical as in the US corporations are legally required to maximize shareholder profit. If CEOs have a legal responsibility to maximize shareholder profit over how people are treated and how the natural world is treated, they remain stuck in a reality where they must do the bare minimum and this puts them in a position where they require outside innovation for support. That’s where Evrnu can be helpful; we know what these businesses are up against and our technologies must improve business performance and inspire an innovation expansion when the leadership is ready.

NuCyclTM is our first consumer-facing co-brand and the goal behind NuCycl is to create a really easy way for consumers to identify products that have been made from waste that are recyclable.  We’ve partnered with incredible brands to build garments that are designed for disassembly so we can efficiently break them down and depolymerize the garments and convert them back into same or better-quality fiber. We are now able to reduce impact and improve performance which is an incredible advancement.   

Fairchild Media Group: What does it take to lead a sustainably-minded company or brand? What is the commitment?

S.F.: My business partner, most of our team and I have all worked exclusively in the textile and apparel industry and we know the inner workings of our industry intimately. This knowledge allows us to create strategic innovation hacks to transform the supply chain quickly. We are committed, as professionals, to do our best work and nurture the next generation of innovators so they have access to our experience, networks and influence as they bring a fresh perspective to a very conservative industry. Our consumer-facing co-brand, NuCycl, has been designed to signal that we can now take old clothing and turn it into new clothing that is recyclable. Keeping textile waste from entering landfills or incinerators is the most powerful impact reduction strategy possible and we have the technologies to breakdown every fiber and every blend in our labs.  We are committed to innovating with existing producers who have the ability to scale these technologies globally.

Fairchild Media Group: What can the overall industry do better in terms of sustainable and ethical practices?

S.F.: Take responsibility for how people are treated system wide and acknowledge the collateral damage the business model creates by restricting freedom in exchange for cheap product. If we don’t get our arms around how people are treated across the board natural systems cannot come into balance because the short-term profit benefiting the few is creating long term suffering for the many which creates a distraction in the focus of human energy.  We have a leadership issue.  This model has been in place since the beginning of the industrial revolution and it’s time to innovate our industry out of the legacy of harm as a condition for doing business.

We underestimate the consumer and their willingness to get themselves and their worlds into alignment and believe that inexpensive product is the goal to “sell more.” Let’s not forget who’s in charge, the consumer is starting to understand how their products are made, the collateral damage associated and with this elevated consciousness they have the unprecedented power to make or break a company. Let’s give them what they want, get our businesses in to balance and have some fun as we usher in a new standard for doing business in the 21st century!

Negin Mirsalehi, Founder of Gisou.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Gisou

Negin Mirsalehi, Founder of Gisou

Fairchild Media Group: From your perspective in the market, how has the global pandemic impacted the consumer demand for more sustainable and greener products and services?

Negin Mirsalehi: The global pandemic has had an undeniable impact on the spending habits and choices made by today’s consumer. We see customers paying increasing attention to sustainability, opting for quality over quantity and demanding greater transparency on the provenance of products. With our family heritage, bee-centered approach, ethical beekeeping practices and sustainability commitments, this approach resonates with our audience and aligns closely with the values of Gisou.

Fairchild Media Group: How would you describe your company’s approach to sustainable practices? What are some recent initiatives? 

N.M.: Sustainability is a core value and focus at Gisou. On World Earth Day 2019, we published our first Sustainability Promise and made the commitment to work towards a cleaner and greener Gisou, stay accountable and never stop improving in the years to come. This is a commitment we renew annually with a recap on our progress and updated goals for the future. These span from our bee-centered approach and raising awareness for the importance of honey bees in our ecosystem, prioritizing efficacy and sustainability throughout all of our product formulations, to improving the sustainability of our packaging. Sustainability remains an ongoing priority at Gisou with no finish line. We know we’re not perfect but we’re passionate about improving and constantly working hard to do so.

Gisou is committed to raising awareness of the importance of honeybees to our ecosystem.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Gisou

Fairchild Media Group: What does it take to lead a sustainably-minded company or brand? What is the commitment? 

N.M.: Leading a sustainably-minded brand requires commitment, transparency and accountability. With our annual Sustainability Promise, we aim to set the goals necessary to make a difference, constantly improve and hold ourselves accountable with the support of our community.

Fairchild Media Group: What can the overall industry do better in terms of sustainable and ethical practices?

N.M.: Sustainability is multifaceted and requires dedication and focus to match. It has become imperative for the industry to adopt sustainable and ethical practices, not only to satiate consumer demand but to significantly reduce its proven global impact. This requires all brands to audit their own practices, prioritize sustainable solutions and opt for transparency in the process.

Ultimately, we can all learn from one another and collectively work together towards a more sustainable planet. At Gisou, whether we’re using our reach to raise awareness of endangered honey bees, giving our community the tools needed to foster their own bee garden, improving our formulations and packaging or reducing our logistics footprint, sustainability remains an ongoing priority and commitment.

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