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Editor's pick Podcast sustainability

Meet 5 companies putting sustainability at the core of their business models

Consumer demand for more responsible products is clearer than ever, and companies – from legacy names to newer players in the field – are evolving their business models to incorporate more sustainable practices.

To hit their ambitious sustainability goals, the approach is diverse, from using blockchain in the supply chain to finding new ways to bioengineering innovative textiles.

Last year, TheCurrent Global’s Innovators podcast spoke to some of the world’s top brands and companies on what it means to be sustainable at this day and age, and how to create a more responsible future that will enable them to still be around in decades to come.

H&M
Nina Shariati, who is responsible for transparency at H&M, on TheCurrent Innovators podcast
H&M’s head of transparency Nina Shariati

H&M has some of the fashion industry’s most ambitious goals: by 2030, it aims to use 100% recyclable or sustainably sourced materials. Nina Shariati, who leads transparency at H&M, spoke to TheCurrent Global on how the group’s size in the fast fashion space could work in their – and everyone’s – favour: “We see it as a positive thing that we are a large company where we have [these ambitions], and we see that with the help of our size we can drive this change that we want to see.”

For example last year already, 36% of H&M’s total material buy was recycled or sustainably sourced.  “What we want to do with transparency is to set a measuring index that harmonizes the industry so that you can compare your product across brands,” adds Shariati. “We are far from the time where it’s OK to work in silos.” The ultimate goal, she notes, should be to empower consumers by enabling them to make more informed decisions.

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Naadam
Liz Bacelar and Matt Scanlan, Naadam
Liz Bacelar and Matt Scanlan, Naadam

For Matt Scanlan, CEO and co-founder of the disruptive cashmere brand Naadam, being sustainable means transforming your supply chain into a community. The brand was conceived after he spent a month with local communities in the Gobi Desert learning about their lifestyles. He eventually returned with $2 million in cash to buy tons of raw cashmere directly from herders, thus allowing them to earn 50% more profit than in a traditional fashion supply chain. His ambition to disrupt the cashmere industry has grown rapidly since.

But Scanlan still holds some skepticism about reaching 100% sustainability in the supply chain, which he thinks is both fake and impossible to achieve. Speaking to Innovators co-host Liz Bacelar, he also talks passionately about the human side of the industry which, after all, is built on relationships.

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Ikea
Rachel Arthur and Ikea’s Joanna Yarrow

Ikea is focusing on creating products and services that can support consumers to live more sustainably, and more healthfully, every day.

According to Joanna Yarrow, head of sustainable and healthy living at the Swedish giant, to achieve its sustainable strategy, the company’s approach is threefold: look at its use of energy and resources – by 2020, it will be generating at least as much energy as it is consuming in their operations; focus on its people and its supply chain; and lastly, work on how to improve its customers’ lives overarchingly.

Since the original episode was published, Ikea has opened what it claims to be its most sustainable store in the world in Greenwich, London, featuring solar panels, rainwater harvesting and a geothermal heating system. It has also introduced a furniture leasing pilot in Switzerland.  

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Martine Jarlgaard
Martine Jarlgaard and Rachel Arthur
Martine Jarlgaard and Rachel Arthur

Blockchain has an emerging and important role in sustainability, and UK-based designer Martine Jarlgaard was one of the early adopters of the technology in order to investigate a more sustainable supply chain.

In 2017, her namesake label teamed up with London-based startup Provenance to register and trace each step of the journey of a garment on a blockchain platform, which consumers could access by scanning a QR code found on its label.

Speaking to co-host Rachel Arthur last summer, Jarlgaard weighed in on how brands need to redefine the value of a product to change the way in which consumers shop, and emphasized the huge responsibility that sits on the industry’s shoulders to start driving sustainability ahead. “We are such a closed, centralized system. Being open and transparent is the only way forward.”

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Bolt Threads
Dan Widmayer and Rachel Arthur
Bolt Threads’ Dan Widmayer and Rachel Arthur

San Francisco-based bioengineering startup Bolt Threads is arguably one of the most known names disrupting the fashion industry, largely due to its relationship with eco-luxury label Stella McCartney. Working with the brand, it has so far launched pilot products such as a dress made of of lab-grown spider silk, as well as most recently, a ‘leather’ bag constructed out of mushroom leather, or mycelium.

Sustainable innovation and the power it now carries are a direct response to a shift in consumer behavior, he says. “Ultimately it is up to the consumer. [We’re] seeing the speed at which consumer taste is changing – 2017 was a transformative year for sustainability,” adding, “It is getting big really fast and it’s becoming one of the issues at the forefront of the industry because it touches everyone.”

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Catch up with all of our episodes of the Innovators podcast by the Current Global here. The series is a weekly conversation with visionaries, executives and entrepreneurs. It’s backed by The Current Global, a consultancy transforming how consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more.

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business Editor's pick Podcast sustainability technology Uncategorized

Our top 10 innovation podcasts to listen to

 

Big issues such as sustainability, rising technologies and the changing role of the consumer were major topics of conversation in 2018, as evidenced by the top shows on TheCurrent Global’s weekly Innovators podcast.

Throughout the year, we explored far and wide what those leading the industry are doing to tackle some of the most pressing issues it faces today. Here, we highlight 10 of the most interesting conversations had as we look forward to 2019 and providing even more food for thought for our listeners.

Ian Rogers, chief digital officer, LVMH
Ian Rogers at The New York Times International Luxury Conference


Speaking to co-host Liz Bacelar at The New York Times International Luxury Conference in November, LVMH’s Ian Rogers rang the death knell for the chief digital officer, a role he himself holds. The title, he argued, is merely a transitional one as brands become accustomed to a future where there is a digital layer to every consumer interaction. He also talked about how it makes sense that luxury took so long to jump into e-commerce; why CEOs don’t need to know technology intrinsically; and what he’s driving at LVMH to keep up with the level of experience the customer expects online.

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Anna Gedda, head of sustainability, H&M Group
Anna Gedda and Rachel Arthur
Anna Gedda and Rachel Arthur

“We only have one planet, and the toll [the fashion industry] has on resources today is simply unsustainable,” H&M’s Anna Gedda told co-host Rachel Arthur. With that in mind, the Swedish group is pushing towards an ambitious goal of being 100% circular by 2030. The sustainability expert also talked about how collaboration in the industry is critical and the important role artificial intelligence will play in this field.

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Laurence Haziot, global managing director, IBM
Laurence Haziot and Rachel Arthur
Laurence Haziot and Rachel Arthur

A leading woman in the STEM industries, Laurence Haziot, global MD at IBM, believes blockchain will have the same long-term impact that the internet has had on commerce. During this conversation, she broke down what this technology means for fashion, why she is bullish on the efficiencies it could drive throughout the supply chain, and how it’ll play a major role in sustainability and transparency.

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Avery Baker, chief brand officer, Tommy Hilfiger 
Liz Bacelar and Avery Baker
Liz Bacelar and Avery Baker

“When you’re trying to do something that really creates an impact and is somewhat revolutionary, then you’ve got to put all the chips on the table,” said Tommy Hilfiger’s Avery Baker. For the chief brand officer, who has been with the company for 20 years, risk, authenticity and understanding your consumer are the keys to innovation. She also talked about how the brand has translated its American roots and values to a global audience, how it overcame the unexpected lull, and why magic and logic need to work together.

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Martin Urrutia, head of retail innovation, Lego
Lego's Martin Urrutia with Rachel Arthur
Martin Urrutia and Rachel Arthur

Lego seeks feedback from six year-olds, and often breaks into moments of play in order to shift siloed thinking. That, believes Martin Urrutia, is how the company remains focused on the relationship between the user and the brick. In this passionate chat, the head of retail innovation also spoke about the importance that technology and a knowledgeable staff both play in creating elevated retail experiences.

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Jen Rubio, co-founder, Away
Jen Rubio and Liz Bacelar
Jen Rubio and Liz Bacelar

Direct-to-consumer luggage brand, Away, received its first round of funding without even having a product, which is a testament of how clear its vision was from the get-go. Co-founder Jen Rubio talks about how she built a brand based on making travel more seamless, how they overcame their first major hurdle, and why listening to customer feedback and constantly iterating is key to innovation.

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Matthew Woolsey, managing director, NET-A-PORTER
Matthew Woolsey with guest host Rosanna Falconer
Matthew Woolsey with guest host Rosanna Falconer


The future of e-commerce may not be about a traditional website at all, but about existing on multiple other platforms, said NET-A-PORTER’s Matthew Woolsey. One of the luxury retailer’s most expensive sales, a watch, was completed entirely on WhatsApp, for instance. This shows the importance of a customer centric strategy, he explained, from what platform to use to how to integrate data and AI into every process.

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Dan Makoski, VP of design, Walmart
Liz Bacelar and Dan Makoski, Walmart
Liz Bacelar and Dan Makoski

“Design is best when it serves people,” said Walmart’s now former VP of design, Dan Makowski. He spearheaded the world’s largest retailer’s e-commerce redesign, explaining that it all came down to focusing on elevating the shopping experience for the changing customer of today. With so many brands now under its umbrella, such as ModCloth and Jet.com, there was a new focus on having a wider conversation in order to cater to different types of consumers, he noted.

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Sandrine Deveaux, MD of Store of the Future, Farfetch
Rosanna Falconer and Sandrine Deveaux
Sandrine Deveaux with guest host Rosanna Falconer

The store of the future will solve consumer problems in innovative and meaningful ways, said Sandrine Deveaux, MD of Farfetch’s division dedicated to such a cause. Technology, she said, should not be deployed just for the sake of it, but to create better shopping experiences driven by personalization. She referred to the experience of Apple, but the convenience of Amazon, and why she’s on a quest to change the way luxury brands think.

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Guive Balooch, global VP of L’Oréal’s tech incubator
Rachel Arthur and Guive Balooch


L’Oréal is on a mission to marry technology and beauty in order to enhance customer’s lives, said Guive Balooch, global VP of the beauty group’s tech incubator. From the connected hairbrush to the customized formulas or augmented reality makeup apps his team has created, the key is thinking about how to personalize all interactions and solutions for consumers, he explained. “In 10 years time there’s no question to me that every person will have the ability to have the perfect product for them,” he noted.

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Catch up with all of our episodes of the Innovators podcast by the Current Global here. The series is a weekly conversation with visionaries, executives and entrepreneurs. It’s backed by the Current Global, a consultancy transforming how consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more.

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Podcast sustainability

H&M Group on its ambitious circularity goals

Anna Gedda and Rachel Arthur
Anna Gedda and Rachel Arthur

“We only have one planet, and the toll [the fashion industry] has on resources today is simply unsustainable,” says Anna Gedda, head of sustainability at the H&M Group, on the latest episode of TheCurrent Innovators podcast.

She was referring to the company’s goal to move towards a 100% circular model by 2030, which means that everything it uses will go back into the system to be either recycled or reused.

Speaking to TheCurrent’s chief innovation officer, Rachel Arthur, at a FashMash event in London, she said the aim of the business is to keep all that is good with the fashion industry – from providing clothes to an ever increasing global population, to contributing to job opportunities and development – but doing so within the planetary boundaries.

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“If you do that, if you only use what is in the system in terms of resources, then we believe that you can continue to consume fashion in the future and you will be able to have prosperous communities that depend on the fashion industry in a good way,” she explains.

It’s a cumbersome road ahead to get there of course, with the industry needing to rethink everything from design, materials, consumption, recycling and more. And while there are already plenty of ideas out there – with H&M’s non-profit Foundation leading the way with an annual award for startups in the space – time, effort and big investment is needed to get many of them to scale.

Anna Gedda
Anna Gedda

“At the moment there is not much out there in terms of what is scalable, but if we look at the pipeline of innovation that is coming, it’s fantastic,” Gedda notes. She’s particularly enthused by some of the work that’s going into recycling technology to get us to high quality upcycled fibres.

She adds that what’s really needed in the industry today to make all of this a reality for mass brands however, is a coordination of innovation efforts so things don’t happen in siloes. “If we’re going to have fast acceleration of this, then whatever is invented needs to complement something else so you can get an effective chain – whether it’s materials or production – to happen. I think that from a challenge perspective, it’s the lack of coordination, or the lack of a bigger platform where all this collaboration can really happen, that’s the key thing I would point out.”

During the conversation, the duo also explore what will make the consumer really care about sustainability, how collaboration in the industry is critical, and just why AI is so pivotal to the future.

Catch up with all of our episodes of TheCurrent Innovators here. The series is a weekly conversation with visionaries, executives and entrepreneurs. It’s backed by TheCurrent, a consultancy transforming how consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more.

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Editor's pick Podcast sustainability

H&M’s head of transparency on why industry-wide collaboration is critical

Nina Shariati, who is responsible for transparency at H&M, on TheCurrent Innovators podcast
Nina Shariati, who is responsible for transparency at H&M, on TheCurrent Innovators podcast

It was only 10-15 years ago H&M used to lock its supplier list in a safe in Stockholm, with only five people having the code to get to it. That move was about competitive advantage, Nina Shariati, who is responsible for the retail group’s transparency efforts worldwide, explains in our most recent edition of TheCurrent Innovators podcast.

A disclosed supplier list is now old news for the business, but it kickstarted its goal to have transparency as a red thread through everything it does. “It’s been a journey,” Shariati explains.

Her role is to set the strategy connected to what type of data it wants to be transparent with and to then make that happen. The group’s most recent efforts including adding a layer of transparency to the actual product pages of its new Arket brand, for instance.

That sort of move is all part of a wider effort to become a more sustainable organization. H&M’s focus is to offer “fashion and quality at the best price in a sustainable way”. More specifically it has ambitious goals to be 100% leading the change, 100% circular and renewable, and 100% fair and equal.

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The question is whether the second largest clothing retailer in the world can really ever be considered eco-conscious and sustainable while pumping out fast fashion?

The fact is millennial consumers seem to be more concerned about manufacturing practices and their effects on the environment than ever, Shariati explains. “We see it as a positive thing that we are a large company where we have [these ambitions] and we see that with the help of our size we can drive this change that we want to see.”

But she argues that this sort of consumer awareness is only possible if there is collaboration industry-wide. “Many challenges that we face as a brand are big challenges that are being recognized in the industry as a whole… No single brand can come up with a solution,” she explains. “What we want to do with transparency is to set a measuring index that harmonizes the industry, so you can compare your product across brands. We are far from the time where it’s ok to work in siloes.”

The ultimate goal, she notes, should be to empower consumers by enabling them to make more informed decisions. “Some consumers are aware some consumers will be more aware, and eventually we will have this harmonized way of measuring things. When that’s in place then consumer can make more active choices.”

TheCurrent Innovators is a podcast about the leaders pushing the boundaries of fashion, beauty, and retail. Hosted by Liz Bacelar and Rachel Arthur, and distributed by MouthMedia Network, each episode is a frank conversation about the challenges and opportunities faced by top brands and retailers around the world today, through the lens of technology. Check out some of the other highlights, including an interview with Stefano Rosso, CEO of Diesel, and William Tunstall-Pedoe, founder of the tech behind Amazon Alexa.

Catch up with all of our episodes of TheCurrent Innovators here. The series is a weekly conversation with visionaries, executives and entrepreneurs. It’s backed by TheCurrent, a consultancy transforming how consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more.