We are very pleased to announce the launch of a new article series – Sustainably Attired: Exploring the Lifecycle of Fashion.
Through this in-depth series, we’ll spend the next four months exploring the environmental and social impact of fashion. We’ll take you through the lifecycle of fashion: from the design phase, through material procurement and product construction in a factory setting. We’ll look at what it means for apparel to be “fair trade.” We’ll also take a peek inside the consumer’s closet and look at how consumer demand influences the industry. Finally, we’ll explore the leading second uses for worn-out garments and the future of the sustainable fashion movement as a whole.
This series comes to you with the support of lead sponsor Levi Strauss & Co., a company we’ve covered many times over the years for their decades of commitment to sustainable apparel. Levi Strauss & Co. takes multi-faceted approach to sustainability, highlighting consumer-focused initiatives like low-impact care tags as well as collections like Water<Less, Waste<Less and Wellthread that are as highly fashionable as they are sustainable.
The apparel manufacturer has also made headlines for their collaborative approach, working with organizations like the Better Cotton Initiative and the Sustainable Apparel Coalition to support the sustainability of the apparel industry as a whole. We’re thrilled that they’ve decided to take the next step by supporting our editorial exploration of the topic.
gDiapers is a heartthrob product among sustainability-minded parents. The covers are stylish, and the inserts come in both cloth and disposable, which allows for some flexibility for times when cloth isn’t practical. The idea is that you can use cloth most of the time, and when you have to use disposable, the volume of the material that’s getting disposed is much smaller because you’re still using a reusable cover.
Unfortunately gDiapers has gotten their hand slapped by the FTC over claiming that their disposable inserts are actually compostable.
These issues are top of mind for me, as my husband and I are expecting our first child in March, and, y’know, hoping for the sweet young thing to be low-impact, environmentally speaking. We looked at gDiapers pretty closely but ultimately decided against them because, while the flexibility is cool, the inserts are more expensive than full disposable diapers, even the hippie ones. Cloth vs. Disposable is one of the first decisions any new eco-parent has to make, and the internet is chock full of resources for helping new parents sort out the environmental implications of their little darlings. But I digress…
gDiapers clearly understands that there are many expectant parents currently weighing these issues with a solemnity only expectant parents can muster. Of course they geared their marketing toward making their product seem as environmentally friendly as possible. However, it looks like they may have taken things a little bit too far…
Tempers have risen in the SF Bay Area over the past few months due to sky-rocketing rental costs (the average cost for a 1 bedroom in the city was $2800 this past July). The cost increases are attributed to an influx of well-paid tech workers, many of whom actually work outside the city, down at Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Apple or one of the numerous other tech companies that litter the Silicon Valley peninsula. Increased demand for housing among well-paid tech workers plus stagnant supply means rising costs, and boy have they risen.
The tensions have a natural focal point in so-called Google busses – private busses that cart tech workers down to their jobs every morning and back again in the evening. These busses conduct their pickups on public streets and at public bus stops and the sheer volume of them slows down traffic flow and regular public transportation for the rest of the city. Most recently, protesters blocked a bus from departing and smashed a window in frustration.
Now, it’s not fair to blame these sweeping economic forces on the individual workers – who wouldn’t take a great job in a great city with great pay if they had the skills? Terrorizing individual workers who bus to work (the busses are a great decision from an environmental standpoint) is a decidedly bad response to the rising economic pressures, but the protesters do have a point. The rising rent costs and crowded public streets are benefiting corporate entities outside the city by providing their workers with a great place to live. These companies are headquartered outside the city limits, minimizing their tax burden in the area they are impacting. That means they aren’t held liable for the constraints on public services caused by the systemic influx of their workers.
However, those corporate entities who claim to be good corporate citizens have a responsibility to respond proactively. Here’s why this is a classic corporate sustainability issue.
While we love bringing you the daily news, it’s always a special treat here at TriplePundit to take a deep dive on a core issue in our work and bring you a variety of stories on that specific topic. Here are the series we ran which brought in the biggest traffic, a sure sign for us that we’ve struck a nerve. Click through and check out some of the posts!
We Ask, They Answer: Women In CSR, a 3p interview series
In January 2013 I penned a post spotlighting 35 women in CSR that have been doing great work across all industries. The response was remarkable, with hundreds of shares and dozens of people commenting to share the names of women we missed.
We wanted to delve deeper into the story of women in CSR. We launched this series of interviews, edited by Andrea Newell, with leading CSR practitioners in order to understand what makes these women tick and how they found their way into sustainability careers. Learn about what inspires these women and gain insight into how to craft your own career path. The insights in these interviews are valuable to anyone in CSR and sustainability.
2012’s Hurricane Sandy made climate change and the economic impacts of storm intensity an issue for all of 2013 and the collapse of the Rana Plaza clothing factory in Bangladesh brought the issue of human rights into renewed focus for American clothing buyers.
Both tragedies made it clear that we need sustainable principals now more than ever, but they also raised the consciousness of global citizens to this need.
On the corporate side, the Global Reporting Initiative released the G4 guidelines, which brought renewed focus to the issue of materiality for corporate sustainability reporters.
Here on TriplePundit, where we cover sustainability every day, you were captivated by many stories great and small. Here’s a select few of the ones that brought the house down:
Monsanto is a company whose name is not without controversy in sustainability circles. Nevertheless, the sustainability efforts of Monsanto are one of our favorite late-night debates here at TriplePundit HQ. We may disagree on some fronts, but there is no denying that feeding the residents of our increasingly populated planet will be a big challenge, especially in a warming, water-constrained world. As one of the biggest players in agriculture, Monsanto deserves a seat at the sustainability table to share their perspective.
Novozymes, on the other hand, is a company with the deepest of sustainability credentials – the company even uses integrated reporting to ensure that sustainability performance and financial performance are judged simultaneously; the company even ties sustainability performance to financial compensation. Will this new partnership improve Monsanto’s sustainability credentials? What about the effect on Novozymes’? Let’s take a look.
Levi’s latest creation – the Wellthread Docker – launched during BSR last week to lots of press due to the line’s sustainability cred. It’s no wonder. The line’s designers challenged themselves to consider sustainability from the first moment of the design process, which led to some stark innovations in product durability, materials, and manufacturing. This remarkable feat is a great example of embedded sustainability, rather than that troublesome “bolt-on” sustainability that so often plagues companies that are trying to do the right thing.
What interested me the most about Wellthread is its focus on both environmental and social innovations. I wanted to hear more about how Levi Strauss innovated to improve workers’ well-being. So, I sat down with Levi Strauss & Co VP of Global Sustainability, Michael Kobori, to get the full story on the social side of Wellthread and other Levi Strauss products.
BSR’s President Aron Cramer made a big commitment at this week’s conference in San Francisco. He and the BSR team are doubling down on 2 degrees Celsius, drawing a line in the sand and committing to use the power of their network to avoid breaching a global temperature rise above it. Two degrees is, of course, the limit in global temperature rise that the latest IPCC report recommends we avoid in order to skip the worst impacts of climate change.
BSR plans to utilize its stance as a key influencer and in Cramer’s words, “spark action on part of business,” by, in part, “changing the public narrative on climate change.” How can a network, influential though it may be, actually have a measurable impact on a global problem like temperature rise? After all, BSR has few sticks with which to encourage its members.
Edward Cameron, Director of Partnership Development and Research, laid out the four point plan:
The Vodafone Americas Foundation recently launched the Wireless Innovation Project (WIP), a contest to “promote innovation and increase the development of mobile and wireless technology for a better world.”
The contest provides up to $600,000 in awards to support projects at the intersection of wireless innovation and solutions to some of the world’s biggest challenges. To find out more, I sat down with Andrew Dunnett, Head of Vodafone Group Foundation and Sustainability.
Though the Vodafone Foundation has been around for 23 years and operates in 28 countries worldwide, it aims for local impact. The global foundation directs its giving through the local foundations in order to ensure that it meets local needs. This arrangement allows for local ownership and authenticity.
Most of the Vodafone Foundation’s worldwide support goes to “Mobile for Good” programs, projects that utilize mobile technology to make the world a better place. “When we combine a catalytic grant with our expertise, our knowledge and our capabilities, we can make a huge difference.” These projects, 72 percent of the 250 current projects, utilize Vodafone’s new and existing mobile technology for good.
For example, one key project in Europe is the TecSOS project which is a handset for women at risk of domestic violence. The handset opens a line to the police at the push of a button. The police can tell who the user is, where she is and can hear everything going on in her environment through an enhanced microphone. The handsets have been used by over 22,386 women across five European countries. “We’ve moved away from the checkbook charity model into a catalytic grantmaking model.” The Wireless Innovation Project is another great example.
Patagonia made headlines when they admonished us: “Don’t buy that jacket.” In fact, they made so many headlines, we bought them anyway. Their commitment to environmental sustainability keeps them at the top of GoodGuide’s apparel recommendations. And they’ve even dipped their toes into social sustainability, with the Footprint Chronicles, a collective documentation of the supply chain and local impacts of all of their products. Today, Patagonia announces that it is taking its commitment to social responsibility much, much further – beyond documentation into third party verification.
In the Fall 2014 season, nine styles will be Fair Trade Certified by Fair Trade USA. This step, a first from a major retailer, represents a huge vote of confidence for the Fair Trade apparel industry in general.
“Offering Fair Trade products is an important new tool for us to help ensure fair wages and workplace safety for the workers in the supply chain who sew Patagonia clothes,” says Cara Chacon, Director of Social and Environmental Responsibility for Patagonia in a press release. “We are also empowering the people purchasing our products. This effort is part of a larger strategy to raise awareness with our customers on how they can make a difference in the world with their purchasing decisions.”
Fair Trade USA’s certification works a bit differently in the apparel industry than it does for food and agriculture. When it comes to crops like those Fair Trade bananas and chocolate you may see on co-op shelves, the focus is primarily on protecting the agricultural workers, making sure they have living wages and giving them the freedom to improve their own situation. In the case of apparel, those benefits are also extended to the factory workers who cut, make and sew the products.
Want to weigh in? Join us for next week’s Twitter Chat with Yalmaz Siddiqui, Office Depot’s Senior Director, Environmental Strategy to discuss environmental transparency and its role in sustainability reporting.
Office Depot released their 10th annual Global Citizenship Report today. For their 10th anniversary, the office supply retailer decided to turn things up a notch with a total overhaul of their citizenship website, including new ways to view the data they’ve been collecting all these years.
When we review a CSR/Citizenship report, we’re looking to see how robust the data is and whether it’s robust in the right ways: those that speak to the material impacts of that organization’s operations. For example, oil company CSR reports really need to cover the carbon impact of their operations, but it’s probably OK if they skim over discussing employee volunteer projects.
When it comes to a retailer, a big part of their sustainability materiality is what they sell and how they engage with customers on sustainability issues. Do they offer greener products? Do they have robust customer education/engagement campaigns? Do they offer takeback programs?
OfficeDepot’s report really shines when it comes to the “Planet,” which is great because that’s where the retailer should be putting its efforts.
NDZiLO, the little ethanol stove company that could, has won my heart. Simply put, this Mozambican company tackles environmental and social problems without charity handouts but with a tremendous amount of passion for solving customer problems.
Mozambique, by the numbers, is a very poor country with Gross National Income per capita of $510 per year, and an average life expectancy of 49 years. Numbers don’t tell the whole story, of course – the country is also full of individuals with tremendous pride, spirit, and passion for their country. A great example is Thelma Venichand in this video.
What does NDZiLO actually do, and how do they do it?
It’s not often that we see a UN organization putting its money where its mouth is, but the UN Global Compact (UNGC) may have done it this time with the launch of a new stock index which seeks to correlate sustainability and financial performance.
UNGC’s 10 principles are seen as one of the easier sustainability programs for organizations to get behind. UNGC keeps it simple with 10 general principles and the request that compact signatories “embrace, support and enact, within their sphere of influence, a set of core values” to meet them. Signing up is as simple as agreeing to that, and issuing an annual statement of progress on these efforts. This ease of commitment has led to many pundits questioning the usefulness of the UNGC. If everyone can join and reap the marketing value of being a signatory to a worldwide compact on sustainability practices – doesn’t that dilute the value of the compact as a whole? The compact has also been criticized for not pushing companies to push their sustainability practices further.
MBA students and graduates have always been key members of the 3p community – both as readers and writers. That’s because many of the themes and issues in sustainable business that we cover every day are core themes in the classrooms at the world’s most prominent sustainable MBA programs. Today’s students bring fresh new ideas to the sustainability challenges faced by today’s businesses.
Now we want to hear more directly about how sustainability is being taught. In this new series kicking off tomorrow, we’ll hear directly from the administrators and faculty at these schools. Topics include:
- The intersection of business education and sustainability, why it’s an important topic for tomorrow’s business leaders to study today
- Business and sustainability education pedagogy: lessons learned and tips for professors
- New research findings
- Key themes that emerge from classes related to sustainability
- Summaries of projects from the best and brightest students
- What makes each sustainability program special
- And general thoughts on the state of sustainability in business
We have a number of guest authors lined up, but we’d love to hear from you too! If you’d like to share your perspective, send a note to Andrea Newell at Andrea@triplepundit.com
Check back tomorrow for the first article!
“Creating shared value” sounds deceptively simple. Show me a company or organization that doesn’t want to add value!
Sustainability enthusiasts may already be familiar with the concept of “shared value” – the idea that a company’s financial health and the health of the communities around it are mutually dependent. By growing a successful business, the community should become more successful as well. While shared value has a lot in common with other approaches to corporate social responsibility, it has a few key differences as well. Corporate philanthropy does not take center stage in the shared value philosophy, nor does stakeholder engagement (which is at the core of popular sustainability reporting guidelines from the Global Reporting Initiative.) Rather, the focus in the Shared Value framework is on the creation of meaningful economic and social value at the same time.
Of course, the devil is in the details – in this case, implementation. And that’s the impetus behind the creation of the Shared Value Initiative.
The Shared Value Initiative was launched in 2012 by FSG, a non-profit strategy and research consulting firm (and the brain child of Michael E. Porter and Mark Kramer). The purpose of the initiative is to foster “a global community of practice committed to driving adoption and implementation of share value strategies among leading companies, civil society, and government organizations.” To put it more simply, it’s a community to help shared value advocates with implementation of shared value strategies.
The impetus for the Shared Value Initiative came from a desire to speed adoption of the principals of shared value. FSG had been focused on research, but the needle was not moving quickly enough – and community engagement was a great way to ramp up adoption. According to Justin Bakule the Shared Value Initiative’s Executive Director: