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business Campaigns Podcast Retail sustainability

Backing a Global Green New Deal

Introducing legislation along the lines of a Global Green New Deal is mandatory for the future of our planet and the existence of the fashion industry within it, says designer and activist Katharine Hamnett on the Innovators podcast. 

“That’s the dream, isn’t it? We reclaim the destroyed lands, we get out of burning fossil fuels and killing the planet, we go to renewables. People find interesting jobs, rewarding jobs… you know, building a better world – it’s exciting for everybody and is the way that we’ve got to go,” she explains. 

A Global Green New Deal suggests investment in key areas such as net-zero greenhouse gas emissions, clean-energy jobs and infrastructure, clean air, water, access to nature and more. It’s not brand new, it’s an evolution on from a United Nations paper in 2009 that focused on helping power a job-rich global economic recovery through decarbonization, and before that a Franklin D Roosevelt term from the 1930s.  

While it’s got a lot of mixed opinions, it supports the idea ultimately that we need a stronger push around climate change legislation, and that the needs are now too big for businesses to do it alone. 

The commercial endeavours of industry full stop mean there just isn’t incentive enough there to do so in a way that results in any tangible change. So we have to make it mandatory, and, as per Hamnett’s thoughts, we have to lobby existing governments to introduce the sort of regulatory methods that will actually lead us somewhere. 

Rachel Arthur, co-founder & chief innovation officer of Current Global, with Katherine Hamnett

Hamnett herself is one of the original fashion activists. Her brand is now celebrating its 40th anniversary, but she is a designer that has become particularly well known for her t-shirts supporting various movements, from helping refugees to indeed, supporting a Global Green New Deal. And she’s now lobbying for it too. 

Join us as we dive into what her view is on the sort of regulations we need in the UK and Europe particularly, what activism today should really look like both for businesses and for us as individuals, and why she doesn’t believe the answer is about reducing how many clothes we all actually buy.

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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 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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e-commerce Editor's pick Podcast Retail sustainability

Allbirds on why sustainability is a non-negotiable

Tim Brown of Allbirds with Rachel Arthur
Tim Brown of Allbirds with Rachel Arthur

It’s not incumbent on the consumer to change behaviour, but on businesses to take responsibility, says Tim Brown, co-founder of direct-to-consumer footwear brand Allbirds, on the latest episode of the Innovators podcast, by TheCurrent.

Speaking to Rachel Arthur, Brown stresses that brands need to show leadership on the issue of sustainability, and not expect their customers to be the ones to do it for them. “People don’t buy sustainability, they buy great products,” he explains.

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Brown started his career as a professional soccer player in his native New Zealand, which he says is what got him understanding the comfort needs in footwear. It was when he met co-founder Joey Zwillinger, a San Francisco-based biotech engineer and renewables expert, that the idea of creating a shoe that focused on sustainability and comfort together began to take shape.

Fast forward to 2016 and Allbirds launched its very first product, a pair of wool sneakers. Word of mouth quickly spread about the shoe’s simple design, level of comfort and sustainable use of textiles: a winning combination of good product and good storytelling that is at the core of any DTC brand’s strategy, and as a result, so attractive to the Millennial shopper.

Allbirds in London
Allbirds in London

Two years on, the brand has recently announced a new round of funding worth $50m, now valuing it at $1.4bn. With the investment, Brown says, comes the pressure to deliver on the many things they have imagined for the future, with a focus on physical retail, international expansion, and constant material innovation.

The latter has already included everything from a collection using ethically-sourced Eucalyptus fibres and a new flip-flop with a renewable sugarcane sole. The brand has also just opened up its first flagship store in London, as its first international move.

During this conversation, Brown explains how DTC brands succeed by owning every consumer touchpoint, how the narrative of retail being dead is greatly exaggerated, and why, in line with the UN’s recent report on climate change, every brand should strive to be sustainable in 2018.

This episode was recorded at Entale’s studio in London. Entale is a new podcasting app that allows you to interact with exclusive extra content like images, links and maps as you listen to your favourite podcast. You can download Entale from the iOS app store today.

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

How Ikea is boosting sustainable and healthy living

Rachel Arthur and Joanna Yarrow
Rachel Arthur and Joanna Yarrow

“We’ve been set up as a business to understand how people live and to provide solutions that help them live better,” says Joanna Yarrow, head of sustainable and healthy living at Ikea, on the latest episode of TheCurrent Innovators podcast.

Since its inception 75 years ago, the Swedish flatpack retailer has been known for affordable – and arguably, disposable – furniture that is a staple in young people’s homes. But after identifying a shift in how we consume and live our lives, Ikea is on a much bigger mission, which is to think of what products and services it can provide that support consumers to live more sustainably, and more healthily, everyday, Yarrow explains.

Speaking to Rachel Arthur, she says that sustainability has always been at the core of Ikea, but one of the biggest mistakes it has made is not to have engaged with consumers on their sustainable journey up until now.

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But times have shifted, and with mainstream consumers now maturing from supporting a single cause, such as saving water, to attempting to become more sustainable in every aspect of their lives, Ikea is aiming to follow suit. 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); look at people and it supply chain; and lastly, how to improve its customers’ lives overarchingly.

The company is due to release its new strategy in June, which will focus on its consumers and how to create affordability, accessibility and sustainability for all. Customers of the Greenwich, London store due to open in 2019 will be able to trial some of the company’s upcoming features, which include upcycling stations, solar panels, green walls and rain water harvesting, among other components.

During the conversation, Yarrow also talks about her background as the child of eco-warriors in England, how brands can no longer afford to just greenwash, and her belief that no one brand will ever be able to achieve sustainability alone, making collaboration key.

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.