Episode 71: Degrowth, what is it and why are businesses so scared of it?




"Less Is More" by Jason Hickle

Definition of Degrowth

Challenges and resistance to implementing de-growth in business models

Change in consumer demand towards consuming less and the potential influence on business responses


Belinda Humphrey - Website

Belinda Humphrey - Instagram

Belinda Humphrey - Email

Less Is More

Tim Jackson

Early Majority

Vogue Business


Welcome to the Fashion Unearthed podcast. If you need help navigating the fashion industry sustainably, you have come to the right place. I'm your host Belinda Humphrey and my hope is to simplify the fashion industry so that businesses can make the best decisions for people, the planet and product. 

Welcome to episode 71 of the Fashion Unearthed Podcast. Today I wanted to talk about a concept that's being brought up more and more, and I finally got around to reading a book on my list that's inspired me to talk about it. On today's episode, I've been getting back into reading again, and I always talk about what I'm loving in my fortnightly newsletter, as well as my thoughts on sustainability and the latest innovations or concepts being discussed in the industry. If you like the podcast and the things I talk about here, you can get more of that in the newsletter just by heading to belindahumphrey.com to sign up. The book I was reading, and I highly recommend reading it as well, is called Less Is More by Jason Hickle, and it's helped me understand some of the histories behind capitalism, and he explains all those systems easily, much better than I can.

If you are interested in going into that in a bit more detail, I would highly recommend starting with that book. But the definition of de-growth is a planned reduction of energy and resource use designed to bring the economy back into balance with the living world in a way that reduces inequality and improves human well-being. It's a highly controversial and emotionally charged topic, I think for a lot of people, including business leaders. But aside from the difficulties of even changing to this system, de-growth is often viewed as completely unthinkable. It's got anti-capitalist and anti-consumerist roots, and many argue that growth is an economic necessity, and any threat to that, not only undermines business, but basic societal functioning. De-growth is so unpopular in the boardroom that according to the economist, Tim Jackson, questioning growth is deemed to be the act of lunatics, idealists, and revolutionaries.

You can see it's not a popular concept and a lot of people don't even want to engage with it. And even for business owners that are thinking about changing things, it's hard. It's hard to go against the grain of the status quo, which is a very strong status quo. In this case, capitalism requires a complete rethink of your business model. If you are in a business that's been going for a while, this means different processes and priorities, everything gets changed. If you're relying heavily on finance from a bank or external party, it's gonna be difficult to convince them of the benefits when on the balance sheet, profits might stagnate or go backward. And it keeps coming up, particularly about it being able to stop climate change. Although it does sound like it could be the solution, some experts are saying it won't be able to be implemented at the scale needed in time.

But despite all of this, there is evidence that a version of this concept is already emerging, and I want to talk about one of them. It's a UK Outdoors brand called Early Majority, founded by the former Vice President of Global Marketing at Patagonia. It's based on a community-driven membership model. It's been described by Vogue Business as being the first degrowth brand, but essentially they offer a yearly membership and in return, members receive heavy discounts when pre-ordering product, almost in line with what a wholesaler would probably pay compared to a retail price access to exclusive member-only products. There are member meetups in the outdoors, in different run clubs or fitness clubs, exclusive interviews with guests, as well as free shipping for returning goods to be repaired or returned as well. They talk about leaning out on the website saying that it's unfortunately a radical notion that it's the system that's broken, not us.

That's why instead of changing ourselves, we're enjoying ourselves and changing the world. I think the change in consumer demand will be influential in businesses' responses. The percentage of people wanting to consume less across the board from eating less meat, flying less, and buying less fashion is growing. 

And that brings us to the end of today's episode. I hope you enjoyed it, and if you did, I'd love it if you could leave a quick rating or review. If you are looking to work with me on coaching or design projects, you can get in touch by info@belindahumphrey.com, and like always, you'll find the show notes and any links on the website, belindahumphrey.com in the podcast section. 

Thanks for listening to the Fashion Unearthed podcast. If you want to get in touch head over to belindahumphrey.com or you can find me on Instagram @belindahumphrey 

Disclaimer: Whilst every effort is made to ensure that information is accurate at the time of recording, much like the fashion industry itself, this information may change. 


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