Director of Social and Environmental Responsibility Patagonia
What are the new innovations in terms of sustainable practices?
We have been using recycled material for many years, and continue to add recycled content to our clothing including recycled hemp, recycled polyester, recycled cotton as well as reclaimed wool and reclaimed cotton. Recycling keeps products out of the landfill, uses fewer resources to make materials and puts fewer toxins and chemicals back into the environment. We started using a new dyeing process for our denim this year which uses 84 per cent less water, 30 per cent less energy and produces 25 per cent fewer CO2 emissions than conventional denim dyeing practices.
Which are the certifications that a retail house can go for if they wish to get the official stamp of approval for sustainability?
We believe that no certification is bullet-proof and reliability varies from programme to programme. Certifications are good tools, but are only one part of a holistic approach to achieve sustainable compliance. We recommend using combination of a three-way system where the supplier, brand and third party expert verifiers or certifiers are all involved in varying degrees for audits and remediation efforts to fully achieve the desired result. It's also very important for suppliers to embrace and own the process.
For complex sustainability issues, it's effective to add in other stakeholders and experts as needed including CSOs, other brands, government and workers or community getting affected. If a certification is needed, we pre-screen the programme for usual scope, global reach and price. Most importantly, we want to have a good understanding of the auditor or consultant competencies, including training, demeanour and the amount of direct field experience. Anti-bribery training and investigation systems are a must as well. Your certification activity (or any outside engagement) will not be effective unless the third party has systems to ensure their experts are genuine and keep up with the dynamics of sustainability industry. Third-party firms hiring auditors and consultants just on the basis of a resume is not enough.
What steps is the retail industry in US taking to ensure that sustainability norms are met?
A large group of apparel and footwear brands are collaborating on the development of Sustainable Apparel Coalition's Higg Index. The Higg Index is a suite of tools that aims to measure in one common language a brand's environmental and social impact on the supply chain, corporate and product levels. You can't manage what you don't measure. In this case, the industry lacked a universal method to measure and compare our footprint-a big hurdle to achieving sustainability goals. The hope is in the not-too-distant future. The Higg Index scores will be on a hang-tag or some other public facing medium. The public facing score will influence brands to develop more and more sustainable products by creating competition in sustainability. Also, consumers will be able to see the level of impact created by the product on the people and planet they are buying, which in theory will stimulate responsible consumption.
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