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Interview with Apurva Kothari

Industry Speak
Apurva Kothari
Apurva Kothari
No Nasties
No Nasties

How would you sum up your idea and understanding about sustainability?

I gauge sustainability this way: If everyone in the world were to do "this", would the world be a better place or worse? Would it work? If it won't work for everyone on a global scale, then let's say NO.

And how does your project fit into this understanding/idea?

Our work is built on this very foundation-we believe and hope that everyone should follow an organic and fair path to production of our food and clothes (and extend that to other aspects of our life too). Say no to things that don't make sense. If it's not ethical-say no. If it's not eco-friendly-say no. And why not, when we have so many amazing alternatives that make sense!?

What role do you think that the overall cotton/textiles/apparel/fashion industry can and should play in overall sustainable development? In what way?

Isn't the fashion industry the second largest polluter in the world? One of the largest employers too? And only growing year by year. We have an incredible impact on this planet and its inhabitants-both human and non-human. We (fashion) have the attention of the world-from runway ramps to glossy magazines to every movie and tv show influencing what we wear. It would be great to see this kind of "power" being used with great "responsibility".

Do you think terms like sustainable fashion / green fashion / eco fashion / responsible fashion etc have become small, niche segments?

They were niche, they're becoming more mainstream. That's the goal! Instead, let's make unsustainable, non-eco-friendly, irresponsible fashion niche and a blot on the industry.

What do you yourself (both as individual and organisation) do to ensure that your own supply chain (both upstream and downstream, as applicable) remains sustainable?

1) We work directly with our supply chain-one farmer co-op, one factory. We know the people we work with and build mutual trust. No middlemen.
2) We only buy from certified organic (GOTS) and Fairtrade (FLO) supply chain partners-the certification process has more eyes on the entire process than we can ourselves.

The term "sustainability" has also become a greenwashing tool. Without transparency, sustainability means zilch. So, how transparent are you?

Absolutely agree. We've always been fully transparent about our supply chain-all the info has been on our website since the day we launched seven years ago. 
<rant>Why am I (and brands in this sector) having to work so hard to prove myself as sustainable and responsible while the polluters and exploiters are allowed to run unsustainable and unfair businesses? Why is the onus on us?</rant>

Sustainability is a lifestyle issue. Comments?

That almost makes it sound like a luxury we have. It's not. I think sustainability is a survival issue.

Do you think Indian citizens are lagging behind in terms of awareness and lifestyle changes?

It's unfair to use the word "lagging" in my opinion-we, Indian citizens, have so many harsh realities and challenges in our daily lives, but yet are ethically-minded and socially-conscious on the whole. There are definitely other countries that have become extremely aware of the social and environmental impact of our lifestyle choices, but most of them are wealthy nations not dealing with as much strife as we do, and I think that has an impact on the consciousness too given there is more mind-space to think about these issues. But Indian consumers are getting more conscious-the trend is very positive.

What are the challenges that you see ahead?

The main challenge I see in this sector is green-washing. As the market size for sustainable clothing grows, bigger brands are entering it with their own spin of sustainability and really diluting the values while pumping in their marketing dollars to make it sound sustainable. There's a lot of noise in the space and it's going to be increasingly difficult for consumers to know the good from the bad. 

I think certifications and labels like Fairtrade are key to build trust in this noisy space. Take the example of the green dot vs the red dot for food-a simple and effective indicator for veg vs. non-veg food. That's how simple it needs to be for consumers, but that level of simplicity takes a lot of hard work for trust-building, certification, transparency.

What kind of policy changes do you think will work towards making all this happen?

I'm not a policy person, but my general view and hope is that the government can at least make it an even-playing field for farmers by offering the same (if not higher) subsidies to organic farming as it does for chemical/conventional farming. 
  • Making it mandatory to indicate GMO content in food and clothes would help-this is a growing trend globally.
  • Making it mandatory to share supply chain info would be a good step.
  • Asking for a triple bottom-line approach from all companies would be incredible.

Published on: 27/04/2018

DISCLAIMER: All views and opinions expressed in this column are solely of the interviewee, and they do not reflect in any way the opinion of Fibre2Fashion.com.

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