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Finally a Sustainable Idea

By March 3, 2011 No Comments

The Licensing Letter announced, on March 1, that The Sustainable Apparel Coalition was launched today by 30 organizations including Walmart, JC Penney, H&M, Hanes, Nike, Marks & Spencer, the Environmental Defense Fund, Patagonia, Duke University, and others. The trade group will make a database available tracking the environmental impact of manufacturers, components, and processes in apparel production with the ultimate goal of assigning a “sustainability score” to every garment. The group also hopes to make an impact on fair and safe employment practices globally.

In a 2007 letter to the editor of The Licensing Letter, I put forth the idea of an industry standard, for our own global industry protection. It took four years for the industry to catch up and play it forward.

Dear TLL:

Going green is only the first step toward sustainability.

Everyone in our industry appears to have their own personal and professional definition or interpretation for being or going Green. That’s the problem. Green is only part of a sustainable solution.

Green has become a social short-hand attempting to acknowledge “Sustainability;” a code word for being politically correct and socially aware. But, awareness has yet to provide any consensus for action. What’s worse, its meaning is so often misinterpreted and its use so over extended that it’s quickly becoming a cliché.

Part of the solution is in the definition of Sustainability. The rest is in the doing. If we draft the contracts, approve products, work with retailers and care about consumers maybe we can help shape our future by collectively adopting a definition and a measurement to influence change.

Here are three considerations:

1. Adopt a definition for Sustainability.

Its origin is from the Brundtland Commission which was sanctioned by the United Nations in 1983. They described Sustainable development, not solely as an environmental issue but, as a broad set of policies encompassing three areas: social, economic and environmental development.

2. Start with list the “Carbon Footprint” on all products, goods and services…like ingredients on packaging.

Perhaps our industry should adopt a set of standards similar to the measurements of a “Carbon Footprint;” already the focus of both the Australian and New Zealand governments. Simply, it measures the environmental impact of producing a product on the climate and the amount of greenhouse gases produced as a result (measured in units of carbon dioxide).

Social acceptance and usage would give rise to economic choice; both in support of sustainability.

3. Lead not follow.

Our industry is global and powerful because of its reach across multiple industries. Many would suggest that the responsibility rests within each sector of business. Others don’t really care. However, before we get influenced by any single entity or regulated by the government, perhaps we could take a defining step in shaping our own economic, social and environmental responsibility.

After all, sustainability, even if regarded as enlightened self interest, is ultimately about survival; both personal and profession.

I am awaiting the call to action.

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