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How to start your sustainability journey

A panel of experts at Drapers Fashion Forum revealed insights for businesses looking to kickstart sustainable initiatives, and key areas the industry should be focusing on today.

Anna-Maria Rugarli, sustainability and responsibility senior director EMEA, VF International

Sustainably cannot be ignored any more. One area we are looking at a lot is energy, and how much we consume, particularly in our stores. When you start making changes in this area, it makes a huge difference.

Educating staff is also really important – they are the face of your business in stores. They need to be able to explain your sustainability beliefs to the customers in your stores.

 

Esther Verburg, vice-president corporate responsibility, Tommy Hilfiger Global/PVH Europe

It is important that sustainability isn’t just on the side but is central to everything you do now. If you have to make choices around sustainability, I would say make choices where the most impact is. Don’t prioritise things where there is lesser impact. If you have to make choices, look at what will provide the most value across revenue and brand image.

It is also important to involve leadership from the beginning, so everyone is on board.

 

Cora Hilts, founder and CEO, Rêve en Vert

Sustainability should be at the core of what you do now. People need to sign up for sustainably, learn what it really means and take it seriously. A lot of that starts with individuals getting the right education.

For business bosses and people higher up the supply chains, they need to learn what really needs to happen within their businesses and hire someone who really knows what they are talking about to lead it. Looking outside fashion is a good idea for these sustainability leaders.

Circular design could also make a huge difference to the industry. Designers, business owners and everyone should be looking at resources properly, and do what we can to stop producing new materials.

 

Jack Ostrowski, co-founder and CEO, Yellow Octopus

I believe in commercial sustainability: creating business models around sustainability and then scaling them up across organisations.

We have to let people know that other options exist. Ordinary customers don’t know. How can we expect people to change their behaviour if they don’t know that fashion is one of the biggest polluters?

Are you giving customers choices of what to do with clothes after they’ve bought them, for example. Make it easier and convenient to recycle, and incentivise it. Give shoppers benefits to recycling.

How can buyers be more sustainable? Add another measure to buyers’ KPIs related to how they can improve sustainability. At this stage, it’s difficult to ask a buyer to be sustainable because it’s not what they are paid to do. It needs to be one of their metrics.

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