Short essay - sustainability partnership proposal for workwear clothing company

A short essay from Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership's course "Business Sustainability Management", working on a case study of a workwear clothing company.

 

Propose a specific partnership or collaboration that would help your organisation to solve the systemic challenge you have identified, and seize new business opportunities in the process.

Developing a circular textiles/fashion economy driving more sustainable production and consumption represents a $500bn annual opportunity. This can tackle Industry-level impacts of 1.2bn tonnes of annual GHG emissions (23kg generated from 1kg of fabric produced), 93bn tonnes of water annually, and health issues arising from hazardous substances and microfibers, and generally how factories operate [1] [2]. Such issues align with our internal environmental challenges and opportunities.

We cannot solve such a multi-faceted, multi-actor and globally complex issue alone [3].

We need to map and consult stakeholders as early as possible [4]. As many impacts are felt primarily by our suppliers and their localities – particularly as they are in areas vulnerable to climate change and water-stress - engaging these affected stakeholders is vital [5]. NGOs will be key to research and innovation: Ellen MacArthur Foundation can provide expertise in circular textiles, while Fashion For Good can connect us with delivery partners (e.g. resale, repair); particularly through their Accelerator and Scaling Programs [6]. I:CO can provide expertise on circular ecosystem delivery services [7] while cities can support this through their control of after-use collection infrastructure, and policies [8]. We should start with C40 cities due to their climate engagement [9].

We will form a partnership of these stakeholders in the form of a collaboration, whose primary collective function is focused on project delivery [10] of developing sustainable materials and building a circular economy ecosystem. A secondary (and enabling) function is learning and innovation [11].

This collaborative collective form is vital as it provides enough focus and drive to tackle the grand issue at hand, however as the stakeholders are diverse as are their resourcing levels and motivations, a fully integrated partnership would be challenging to manage [12]. Functionally, as the focus is implementing new business models and research enabling this – rule-setting and resource-based partnerships are less applicable [13].

Our main opportunity is to exert great influence [14] and commercial, environmental and social impact as outlined above [15] through fibre innovations [16], enabled through a smaller, hands-on partnership.

Communicating and marketing this initiative effectively provides an opportunity to be seen as a leader and enhance our reputation with our target millennial audience, particularly as they are more engaged in these topics [17].

The main pitfall is resource-led – given our precarious market position and smaller and less stringent partnership form. Do we have the resources and risk-appetite required to deliver such a project? Can we guarantee all parties commit the necessary resources? As a small group, can we scale up for broader impact? [18]

Another pitfall is the diversity and complexity of both the issue at hand and the form, function and membership of the project delivery-based collaboration. How do we ensure we are all aligned and incentivised, and are setting effective targets? Will it be clear when we have reached our ultimate goal and the partnership therefore ends? [19]

 

1 - Ellen MacArthur Foundation, 2017, “A New Textiles Economy”, Retrieved from: https://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/assets/downloads/publications/A-New-Textiles-Economy_Full-Report_Updated_1-12-17.pdf

2 - Remy, Nathalie et al, 2014, “Style that’s sustainable: A new fast-fashion formula”,  https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/sustainability-and-resource-productivity/our-insights/style-thats-sustainable-a-new-fast-fashion-formula, McKinsey

3 - Ellen MacArthur Foundation, 2017, “A New Textiles Economy”, Retrieved from: https://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/assets/downloads/publications/A-New-Textiles-Economy_Full-Report_Updated_1-12-17.pdf

4 - International Finance Corporation, 2017, ‘Stakeholder Engagement, A Good Practice Handbook for Companies Doing Business In Emerging Markets’

5 - International Finance Corporation, 2017, ‘Stakeholder Engagement, A Good Practice Handbook for Companies Doing Business In Emerging Markets’

6 – Fashion for Good, 2018, ‘Fashion for Good – Accelerator’ - https://fashionforgood.com/innovation-platform/accelerator-programme/

7 - Remy, Nathalie et al, 2014, “Style that’s sustainable: A new fast-fashion formula”,  https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/sustainability-and-resource-productivity/our-insights/style-thats-sustainable-a-new-fast-fashion-formula, McKinsey

8 - Ellen MacArthur Foundation, 2017, “A New Textiles Economy”, Retrieved from: https://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/assets/downloads/publications/A-New-Textiles-Economy_Full-Report_Updated_1-12-17.pdf

9 – C40, 2018, ‘C40 Cities’, http://www.c40.org

10 – CISL, 2017, ‘Notes: Collaboration and partnerships’, Cambridge University

11 – CISL, 2017, ‘Notes: Collaboration and partnerships’, Cambridge University

12 – CISL, 2017, ‘Notes: Collaboration and partnerships’, Cambridge University

13 – CISL, 2017, ‘Notes: Collaboration and partnerships’, Cambridge University

14 – CISL, 2017, ‘Notes: Collaboration and partnerships’, Cambridge University

15 - Ellen MacArthur Foundation, 2017, “A New Textiles Economy”, Retrieved from: https://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/assets/downloads/publications/A-New-Textiles-Economy_Full-Report_Updated_1-12-17.pdf

16 - Remy, Nathalie et al, 2014, “Style that’s sustainable: A new fast-fashion formula”,  https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/sustainability-and-resource-productivity/our-insights/style-thats-sustainable-a-new-fast-fashion-formula, McKinsey

17 - Blowfield, Michael, 2013, ‘Business and sustainability’ Oxford: Oxford University Press.

18 – CISL, 2017, ‘Notes: Collaboration and partnerships’, Cambridge University

19 – CISL, 2017, ‘Notes: Collaboration and partnerships’, Cambridge University