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business Podcast product Retail sustainability

How to scale circularity

There is so much opportunity in being a big business that there’s no excuse for not doing the right thing, says Christopher Raeburn comparing his British-born Raeburn brand with the global scale of Timberland, on the latest episode of the Innovators podcast. 

Raeburn has been creative director at the latter since late 2018, where he says he is focusing on putting responsible, innovative design at the centre of its strategy. But it’s through his work and experience for the smaller Raeburn business that he’s able to do so, he explains. 

“One of the ways I’ve always looked at Raeburn is almost like a Remora – those small fish that clean sharks… sometimes they can clean the teeth and everything like that. I think it’s a really interesting analogy, because by swimming alongside sometimes those big big fish in the ocean, A) you have the opportunity to clean them, and that’s exciting because they want to be cleaned. B) you have the opportunity to talk to them a little bit and then maybe you can start to really steer them. And if they want to be steered and it’s a really good partnership then you’re going to go in the right direction together,” he says. 

Raeburn, which was founded in 2009, has built up its business focused on three key areas that all come under the circularity header: reduced, remade and recycled. But that was the case long before sustainability itself became a “trend”. 

“I never really set out to start a responsible company. It was more a company that started from common sense. And it fascinates me, as I say, that there is all of this stuff out there. And why can’t we reuse and remake it before we even need to buy anything new,” Raeburn notes.

Join us as we also explore why scaling such a model is essential for the future of our industry, how much opportunity is coming down the pipeline from what we currently consider trash, and the role business has to play in education today.

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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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Editor's pick Podcast product sustainability

Levi’s on the risks of the circular economy

“[The fashion industry] is 60% larger than it needs to be relative to the actual quantity of demand,” says Paul Dillinger, Head of Global Product Innovation at Levi’s, on the latest episode of the Innovators podcast by the Current Global.

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He is referring to the fact six out of 10 garments produced every year are being discarded to landfill or incinerated within the first year of their production. The result is that those working in this world need to either think about how you can eliminate overproduction, or instead build new business models around only making and selling the four that are actually wanted, he explains, even if it affects business growth.

An alternative response to that concept is the so-called “circular economy”, whereby items are not discarded but put back into the system, which to overly simplify matters, enables businesses to continue with growth while aiming for lesser impact. But Dillinger believes such moves are merely providing brands with a guilt-free alternative to keep overproducing at a point when the technology for a truly circular system isn’t yet scalable. He instead refers to the idea of credible “circular industrial ecologies”, which are much more complex to operate and achieve.

“One of them is a corporate compliance officer selling a new shiny penny to a board of directors in the C-suite, and the other one is a studious and scientific approach to really tackling a real challenge,” he explains.

At Levi’s, Dillinger is otherwise looking at key areas like reducing the brand’s use of water. “I think people’s right to drink fresh water should be prioritized above a company’s right to access fresh water for production,” he explains.

In this conversation, hosted in front of a live audience at the Current Global’s Innovation Mansion at SXSW 2019, he explains what that looks like through the  innovative work he’s been doing with hemp. He also gets technical with host Rachel Arthur about the many ways in which Levi’s is working to make its supply chain responsible in one of the most complex industries in the world.

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.