Sustainability: A 2023 Outlook
My day job pays me to train brands, retailers, companies, and individuals on sustainability and climate emergency matters in the apparel and footwear industry.
Now, perhaps you’ve noticed I just said, “train” not “consult.” That’s because I believe that’s what’s required to create the urgent action we need: More education on topics that have eluded most of our educational and professional pathways. With education comes empowerment, empowerment begets action. But I digress.
Thanks to this special role, I spend plenty of time leading groups, building and delivering presentations, and interacting with very experienced industry professionals at every level, and almost every role, on sustainability matters. Experts in their fields at some of the most respectable brands, well, in the world.
Based on those experiences, I’ve set out to summarize my year and highlight what I think 2023 needs when it comes to sustainability and climate action in our industry. These are a few of the things that stood out to me most.
“Why am I just now learning about this?” Most of us don’t realize the progress we’re seeing today in our industry (and I’ll grant it, there’s been quite a bit) has been 30 years (if not more) in the making. Remember Esprit’s Ecollection, circa 1992? Even so, this is a question I continuously hear my “students” ask and comment on. If sustainability feels like a new topic to you, please know that you’re not alone. And keep reading…
Leaving sustainability to the experts is a bad idea. And it’s not because the “experts” don’t know what they’re doing, it’s that they can’t do it alone. Trust me. Years ago I was VP of Global Sustainability at Volcom and that was the message I most wanted to leave the rest of the company… I need you all in this fight right alongside those of us with a sustainability-related title.
If you’re keeping up with the news and it feels like we’re not doing enough fast enough; we’re not. And I believe it’s partially because…
Too few of us are working on too big of a problem in too many silos.
While there have been great strides that have been made, across all parts of the value chain, I’d argue that you can easily carve each of them into segments: The “Fashion” industry has made bold commitments, and so has the “Outdoor” industry. The “Snowsports” industry is rallying its brands, and “Footwear” and the “Sports” giants have come a very long way too. The “Surf” industry has made strides, and even “fast fashion” is trying to show good face. But collectively?
Are we not all making essentially the same goods in the same parts of the world out of the same materials with the same processes? Sure, an oversimplification, but I hope you get my point.
The way forward? It’s time to normalize Sustainability and Climate Action.
For too long, sustainability has been treated as a specialized field and it’s time to change that.
If we want to get anywhere and make it so that the feeling of “not doing enough, fast enough” and, “why am I only hearing about this now?” is well behind us, then the days where “sustainability” is reserved for a specific role, or a specific point person, or a specialized small team are done.
You are the solution. Whatever role you play in your organization, you play a role in the solution and we need to hear from you. Like now.
If not now, then when? Let’s not let another 30 years pass… I’m not sure we’ll fare as well as we did these last 30. Just sayin’.
Derek Sabori is the Founder and CEO of The Underswell | Sustainability Training for everyone on your team. Masterclass Sessions, Group Accelerator Programs, Membership Resources, and more. Learn more at www.theunderswell.com.
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