A coalition of brands that have nothing to hide.

OVERVIEW

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As the word “sustainability” continues to be overused, the climate crisis continues to escalate. We need a new way of measuring and communicating environmental impact.

THE CHALLENGE

Many consumers want to understand the impact of their purchases. Few brands wish to genuinely communicate it. 

THE OPPORTUNITY

A third-party scoring system administered by a membership-based nonprofit, focused on reducing the footprint of the fashion industry.

THE SOLUTION

Improving environmental responsibility in the fashion industry by transforming the way clothing is designed, produced,

and consumed.

THE IMPACT

MY ROLE

I independently designed the following organization and impact measurement tool. The Business to Planet brand and scale make up Part II of my independent study. I conducted extensive research on the environmental impact of the apparel and footwear industry. I analyzed current measurements and standards across different industries, and designed a solution that harnesses the power of supply chain data.

CONTEXT

12 Week Independent Study

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THE CLOTHING INDUSTRY 

HAS A PROBLEM

THE PROBLEM

Unprecedented pollution, decentralized accountability

The apparel and footwear industry is the second most pollutive industry behind oil and natural gas. Estimates say that across the full lifecycle of clothing globally, the industry has an annual carbon footprint of 3.3 billion tonnes CO2e – which is nearly the combined annual carbon footprint of all 28 current members of the EU.

INDUSTRY TRUTH

Truth about environmental impact is buried deep within global supply chains. Most global brands are making huge profits, while easily passing the responsibility of environmental pollution down complex and disjointed supply chains, without little to no accountability. 

THE OPPORTUNITY

Enable consumers to make more informed and responsible purchases.

Because apparel brands are the ones who design and sell clothes in the first place, they are in a position to lead the change towards more sustainable manufacturing processes and consumption. These brands have the power to influence purchasing behavior and loyalty through unique value propositions. One of these propositions lies in how brands talk about their global supply chains. However, most brands are reluctant to publicize this information because the truth is scary.

Design Objective: Build a solution that educates consumers about supply chain impact and incentivizes brands to be more transparent.

BUSINESSES NEED...

A system that calls attention to responsible supply chain practices, and encourages industry-wide improvement 

CONSUMERS NEED...

To understand the complete environmental impact and lifetime value of clothing

THE SOLUTION

A third-party scoring system that hold brands accountable through consumer expectations

Business to Planet was created to hold brands accountable for the environmental impact of their products. The organization itself is a third party entity supported by brands that believe in the importance of analyzing and communicating their products’ lifetime value and impact, in service of consumers and the planet.  

THE SCALE

When a brand join Business to Planet, the organization evaluates that brand's supply chain to determine a unique score for each of it's products. Businesses can then post this score alongside product listings. 

 

Products are scored from 0 (least damaging) to 50 (most damaging). In order to accurately reflect improved sustainability practices in global supply chains. scores are eligible for review and recalculation quarterly, 

SCORE CALCULATIONS

The B2P Scale formula accounts for differences in product footprints. For example, a pair of socks will have a much smaller carbon footprint compared to a down jacket. However, the scores are balanced by incorporating an estimated product lifetime value. 

PRODUCT EMISSIONS

DELIVERY EMISSIONS

PRODUCT LIFETIME

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TEXTILE PRODUCTION GENERATES AN ESTIMATED 1.2 BILLION TONS OF CO2E PER YEAR – MORE THAN INTERNATIONAL FLIGHTS AND MARITIME SHIPPING COMBINED.

– ELLEN MACARTHUR FOUNDATION

THE VISION

Encouraging quality purchases through a new industry standard

In a world where Business to Planet is fully realized, consumers will expect quality. Shoppers will use the scores to evaluate the lifetime environmental impact and long-term value of apparel. Fast fashion will have slowly vanished, as consumers continue to become increasingly aware of the fashion industry's contribution to the climate crisis.

Although the climate crisis is an immediate concern, Business to Planet cannot be brought to life overnight. It is going to take time for the organization to establish credibility and continue to scale. Ultimately, it will be up to brands to determine the value of the B2P scale. That said, I envision Business to Planet coming to life through the following phases:

PHASE 1

CREATION

BRAND(S): 

ESTIMATED SCORES:

ABOUT PHASE 1:

Patagonia is perfectly positioned to be the founding partner of Business to Planet. Historically known as an activist company, Patagonia has ran ads telling consumers NOT to buy its jackets, as well as lobbied against trade deals that would ultimately improve the company's bottom line – all in service of the planet.

In the past, Patagonia has led and supported similar movements and standards that have been adopted across industries (ex: 1% for the Planet, Certified B Corps, Fair Trade Certified, bluesign, Traceable Down). 

Because Patagonia has already publicized its supply chain, the brand would likely be open to the more in-depth supply chain audit that generates B2P scores. Additionally, Patagonia could use its previous experiences to help shape the scoring metrics and expectations of future Business to Planet members.

PHASE 1 IN ACTION:

To see how the B2P scale could show up in the Patagonia shopping experience, please visit Part I of my independent study.

PHASE 2

EARLY ADOPTION

EXAMPLE BRAND(S): 

ABOUT PHASE 2:

Phase 2 growth consists of companies that would likely be interested in joining Business to Planet after it is launched. All of these companies have proven not just with words, but with actions, that they care about and understand the environmental impact of their businesses.

This is arguably the most important phase for scaling Business to Planet – if these companies are willing to open themselves up to supply chain inspection and receive B2P scores, then there will be a new pressure for other companies to join the movement. 

PHASE 2 IN ACTION:

PHASE 3

ACCEPTANCE

EXAMPLE BRAND(S): 

ABOUT PHASE 3:

Phase 3 growth consists of brands that might be initially reluctant to join Business to Planet because of the potential for concerning supply chain practices and subsequently poor B2P scores.

 

While companies like Nike and Under Armour do address sustainability, they ultimately mass produce clothing loaded with harmful synthetic fibers such as polyester. The same could be said for brands like Zara and H&M, two companies that have fueled the rapid growth of the fast fashion industry.

 

However, once these brands realize that consumers are beginning to favor Business to Planet brands, perhaps they will become members and work harder to reduce their impact. Minor improvements in water consumption, textile decisions, renewable energy installation, and LCA standards could go a long way towards improving the off-putting scores these brands might currently receive

"FASHION IS AWLAYS ABOUT WHAT IS NEXT. FOR THE FASHION INDUSTRY ITSELF TO HAVE A FUTURE, SUSTAINABILITY NEEDS TO BE NEXT"

– WOLFGANG BLAU

COO, CONDÉ NAST

LESSONS FROM LEED

What could Business to Planet learn from the growth of an analogous standard?

ABOUT LEED:

In the early 90's, three men had an idea for a new type of organization. The trio – consisting of a construction manager, an environmental lawyer, and a communications consultant – sought out to create a membership based non-profit that would promote the betterment of buildings through more sustainable practices in the building and construction industry. In 1993, the United States Green Building Council was born. 

A few years later, the USGBC decided it was time to create a unique scoring and certification tool for the building industry in the U.S. In 1995, The organization launched version one of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) green building rating system.

 

Although the scoring criteria has evolved throughout the years to meet evolving industry expectations, the point-based scoring system has stayed more or the less the same. Today, LEED is the most widely used green building rating system in the world.

HOW LEED TRANSFORMED AN INDUSTRY:

LEED certifications are now globally recognized as symbols of sustainability achievement. Every day, over 2.2 million feet is LEED certified. LEED exists in 165 countries and territories, and certifications are available for nearly all building, community and home project types.

As LEED grew in popularity throughout the years, similar certifications began popping up and the green building movement took off in other innovative directions, especially within the United States. Nowadays, the nation's largest cities are getting even greener – according to CBRE's 2019 Green Building Adoption Index, 42.2% of total space across the top 30 U.S. office markets is green certified.

As the green building movement has grown, architects have taken notice. More green buildings are being built because that's what people want. As this demand for green buildings has increased, so has the demand for LEED certified architects. According to PDH Academy, "If other architectural firms in your city have LEED-certified architects and yours doesn't, you'll appear to be behind the times, you won't be able to compete as well, and you'll lose contracts. The LEED-certified designation brings you and the firm much-needed credibility. The designation is not just an achievement within the field, but more of a good housekeeping seal of approval for current and prospective clients, validated by an independent third party.

Finally, as green building certifications have become more widespread, U.S. capital markets have also taken notice. A recent study by the American Real Estate and Urban Economics Association found that commercial mortgages collateralized by green-certified buildings carry significantly lower default rates – an observation which leads commercial real estate firms like CBRE to believe lenders are factoring the energy and sustainability performance of buildings into mortgage pricing. 

 

I believe that Business to Planet could learn a lot from the growth of LEED and the green building movement. By replicating certain elemenets of LEED's organization and scaling strategies, Business to Planet could experience similar, if not more impressive growth and adoption within the fashion industry. 

"TWELVE YEARS AGO, I ASKED SOME OF THE WORLD'S LARGEST COMMERCIAL REAL ESTATE OWNERS AND DEVELOPERS, ‘HAS THE ECONOMIC CASE BEEN MADE TO MAKE YOUR BUILDINGS GREEN?’ NOT A SINGLE HAND WENT UP. I ASK THAT SAME QUESTION A LOT TODAY AND EVERY HAND GOES UP." 

– SPENCER LEVY

CHAIRMAN OF THE AMERICAS, CBRE

PROJECT REFLECTIONS & CONSIDERATIONS

Throughout my time at the Brandcenter and time spent on this project, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the relationships between brands and consumers, and specifically how these two groups exert influence over one another in addressing the climate crisis.

 

Truthfully, the ideal scenario for addressing climate change will involve both groups working together harmoniously, That said, I believe it will ultimately be consumer demand that gets the ball rolling on impactful change. Consumers dictate demand, they always have. The traditional, microeconomic definition of demand is more often applied to tangible products and services. However, consumers are also beginning to demand brand transparency and sustainable business operations, especially as global climate concerns escalate. In order for this type of demand to increase (which I believe would be a good thing for the world), consumers are going to have to educate themselves.

 

With unreliable narratives swirling around in mainstream media, consumers generally don’t know who or what to believe. Therefore, there exists a unique opportunity for brands that are already behaving responsibly to tell consumers about their impact in an unfiltered, unbiased, and fully transparent voice. I believe the Business to Planet scale outlined above could give brands that honest voice, and allow them to influence future purchasing behaviors of consumers.

 

In its simplest form, the score is essentially a third-party supply chain audit. The way I see it, the only brands that would welcome such an audit, are the brands that are willing to embrace the dark realities of complex supply chains and communicate the true impact of their products. In my opinion, it is time for that willingness to become an expectation.

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