Executive Briefings

All Too Often, 'Sustainability' Is Empty Marketing Buzzword

Sustainability is a huge macro trend and it's no surprise that the language and goals of the larger sustainability movement have made their way to apparel. Unfortunately, with it comes the same polarizing ambiguity that has plagued the broader sustainability movement in other industries. Cynics roll their eyes while dismissing sustainability as a latest marketing façade designed to push products on uninformed customers while true believers insist it's a more responsible way forward for apparel manufacturing that is genuinely improving lives and saving the earth.

All Too Often, 'Sustainability' Is Empty Marketing Buzzword

As a start-up trying to modernize apparel manufacturing, Maderight is forced to confront sustainability in a very honest way: our customers demand we check the box on sustainability and we also need to run our workshops in a way that maximizes profits while meeting our moral standards. Based on our experience, what the majority of customers demand is empty lip service. We don't win new customers based on ethics or sustainability - we win them by being faster and cheaper than the other guys.

Part of the issue is that few people have a clear definition of what sustainability really means. Much of the superficial plumage of sustainability comes in the form of third-party certifications or attractive photographs of factories. We have those too but let’s be frank – it's marketing. We commonly see small uncertified factories doing just as well as factories sporting the latest international standards. Further, it’s not always clear to us how some of these certifications actually benefit either the workers or the environment. In our experience, people tend to do the minimum work possible to get certified, rather than truly embrace the ethos of change, and that's how you get workshops with 10 fire extinguishers in a room while still forcing hidden overtime on their workers. Without clearly defined goals, asking for sustainability just becomes another marketing buzzword.

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As a start-up trying to modernize apparel manufacturing, Maderight is forced to confront sustainability in a very honest way: our customers demand we check the box on sustainability and we also need to run our workshops in a way that maximizes profits while meeting our moral standards. Based on our experience, what the majority of customers demand is empty lip service. We don't win new customers based on ethics or sustainability - we win them by being faster and cheaper than the other guys.

Part of the issue is that few people have a clear definition of what sustainability really means. Much of the superficial plumage of sustainability comes in the form of third-party certifications or attractive photographs of factories. We have those too but let’s be frank – it's marketing. We commonly see small uncertified factories doing just as well as factories sporting the latest international standards. Further, it’s not always clear to us how some of these certifications actually benefit either the workers or the environment. In our experience, people tend to do the minimum work possible to get certified, rather than truly embrace the ethos of change, and that's how you get workshops with 10 fire extinguishers in a room while still forcing hidden overtime on their workers. Without clearly defined goals, asking for sustainability just becomes another marketing buzzword.

Read Full Article

All Too Often, 'Sustainability' Is Empty Marketing Buzzword