• Sustainability in Retail: Save the planet and make profits? It’s possible says Vivobarefoot’s Galahad Clark

    Footwear brand Vivobarefoot is fully committed to protecting the planet. But as Founder and CEO Galahad Clark is the first to admit: “Even we don’t do sustainability perfectly at all.”

    His view is that we are all still a long way from sustainable nirvana. “But the more industry works together on systemic change and we embed sustainability into the wider culture we will make progress. Big companies can accelerate what the smaller ‘guinea pig’ companies are achieving. We can push forward together, learn together. I hope so.”

    Talking to Essential Retail’s editor Caroline Baldwin during a RetailEXPO Virtual Conference session, Clark aired his views about how the drive to make business more sustainable must not be knocked off track by the Covid-19 pandemic. “The earth is sick. We are sick. It’s not enough just to sustain where we are now,” he said.

    Green products are still too expensive

    He agreed that due to the pandemic, people will have tighter wallets in the coming months, “so the sustainable option can no longer always be the most expensive option”. He gave examples of how some of the materials being developed, packaging innovations and collaborative working projects across industry sectors are making real progress – although still a little expensive for many businesses to adopt.

    “Solutions for a more regenerative world will grow exponentially in the coming years and become more affordable,” he said.

    Sustainability needs to be systemic

    Clark’s view is that not enough is being done to make sustainability a systemic part of retail.

    “We do see sustainable efforts made by big brands – earnest efforts around compliance, supply chain efficiency and materials, but too often this is just paying lip service to the situation,” he told Baldwin.

    Referencing the likes of Primark and H&M as having meaningful sustainability policies and large departments promoting this, he suggested a complete mindset change is needed at executive level to progress to the next level.

    Asked what retailers should be doing in their approach to sustainability, Clark suggested these three areas to focus on:

    “Think about what you are doing to improve the life of humans. If there’s not something worthwhile, it’s fundamentally just filling the world up with more crap.”

    “Address the Supply chain – this goes all the way back to agriculture, manufacturing and the petro-chemical industry – we should be mapping that and demanding more transparency right at the start of product life.”

    “The elephant in the room in fashion is the ‘end of life’ of clothing. Most items end up in landfill but this must be looked at and designed out of lifestyles and business operations.”

    Fashion for Good

    Clark gave a shout out to Fashion for Good – a platform which was set up originally by C&A to tackle the devastating environmental impact of the fashion industry. He sees it as an example of private business driving real industrial change in its own sector.

    Adidas, Zalando, Chanel and others are involved in this excellent project he said, so there is a lot of encouraging work driving change in the business world.

    You can watch the whole of Galahad’s interview and insights at RetailEXPO Virtual Conference on-demand here.