Over the last month there has been numerous reports, commentaries, tweets and blog posts (including this one) on the announcement of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition. Apparently this effort grew out of what seems to many the unlikely collaborative relationship between Walmart and Patagonia Inc. Patagonia is one of the leading environmentally conscious apparel manufacturers in the world. (Ranked in the top 20 Best Companies from Better World Shopper in addition to leadership partnerships such as Pepperdine University’s MBA Environmental Entrepreneurship Development (EED) program). Walmart as we all know is the worlds largest retailer and has often, over the last decade, weighed heavy under scrutiny regarding a variety of corporate practices. However, since Walmart announced its own initiative for environmental indexing in 2009, through a collaboration with the Sustainability Consortium, one would ask why does this seem such an “unlikely partnership” between the two companies?
I think this is a quite obvious partnership and a testament to what could potentially be one of the biggest shift in corporate governance, transparency and forward movement for universal quality standards on CSR - particularly in areas focused in environmental concern. Why wouldn’t Walmart look to the best example for learning and development of environmental standards and why wouldn’t Patagonia offer a willingness to educate the largest retailer in the world? It would appear to me to make sound business sense for both companies. Walmart has the opportunity to further expand sustainability practices and Patagonia has the opportunity to positively influence environmental practices that would effect consumer goods manufacturers globally. This seems like a winning proposition for all, including the environment. Perhaps the only downfall is that the expectations and proposed standards will far exceeded the normal practices of suppliers who are struggling under costs of production, shareholder demands on profit margins, and our insatiable demand for low cost consumer price indexing.
However, with a growing legion of companies, NGOs and government agencies involved in the Sustainable Apparel Coalition including: Adidas, Arvind Mills, C&A, Duke University, Environmental Defense Fund, Esprit, Esquel, Gap Inc., H&M, HanesBrands, Intradeco, JC Penney, Kohl’s Department Stores, Lenzing, Levi Strauss & Co., LF USA, a division of Li & Fung Limited, Marks & Spencer, Mountain Equipment Co-op, New Balance, Nike, Nordstrom, Otto Group, Outdoor Industry Association, Patagonia, Pentland Brands, REI, TAL Apparel, Target, Timberland, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Verité, VF Corp and Walmart, perhaps consensus can be found around the key imperative variables - Planet, People, Profit and an index delivered to the consumer that allows for educated purchasing and growing awareness around the impact of our consumption.
A few last questions…
1. What happened to the relationship with the Sustainability Consortium? Hopefully what is not happening is that industries are breaking off from higher than expected standards to create their own more palatable indexing of sustainability and in the end do little to shift our necessary paradigms.
2. If the American Apparel and Footwear Association is in support of these initiatives are they planning on becoming a member like the Outdoor Industry Association, and encouraging membership from their association members? One would think that their input and influence would help in achieving an index which would have additional global reaching proportions.
3. Will the Licensing Industry Merchandisers’ Association of brands and manufacturers (licensors and licensees) apply indexing information to their products and become further involved in the sustainability conversation? Read Carol Spieckerman’s recent blog post on the LIMA website. Carol is the CEO of New Market Builders
4. Where is the National Retail Federation on the proposed indexing? No announcement on their site.
If any group has additional information to share please forward to Jen@thegoodroundup.com