Episode 77: The framework that will help independent retailers validate sustainable brands at wholesale trade shows
- Explanation of the triple bottom line framework and its origins
- Interconnection of people, planet, and profit in business sustainability
- Important questions to ask regarding people, including supply chain traceability and worker wages
- Environmental considerations, such as materials, circular design, and energy sources
- Business contributions to prosperity, including collaborations and community involvement
- Emphasising the importance of ethics and well-being in sustainability
- Importance of ongoing learning and seeking clarification on sustainability concepts
Welcome to episode 77 of the Fashion Unearthed Podcast. It is still freezing in Melbourne, but I think I'm adapting. But even though it's cold, I love the change of the seasons and pulling out the Winter Woolies, hoping I've stored everything properly and nothing's gotten in there and eaten in little holes and things and all the coats and all the stuff. I also enjoy the sense of momentum that a clear change in seasons brings every year. I just like that feeling of just summer being over and then it brings a nice sense of just being able to start afresh or start something new.
Today I wanted to talk about a framework that will help independent retailers validate sustainable brands at wholesale trade shows. But before I get into that, if anything comes up in the episode that you want to understand better or you have questions on how to apply it to your specific business, I wanted to mention my one-on-one sessions. They're called Ask Me Anything strategy sessions where you can literally ask me anything about sustainable fashion to help inform your next move in business. You can find those sessions in the shop on the website, belindahumphrey.com.
I was prompted to talk about today's topic because next month in August, I'll be speaking at both the Life In Style and Reed Gift Fairs as part of their Retail Therapy Program on a panel discussion titled How to Improve Your Sustainability Credentials and Grow Your Business. I know that many independent retailers, are busy enough and they often have to rely on the information that businesses give. I wanted to offer up a suggestion to use the triple bottom line to help those independent retailers validate the business' sustainability claims. Way back in Episode 10, I talked about the triple bottom line, and I'll put all the links in the show notes where I included a bit more history and reasons why businesses were turning to it to remain profitable.
But for this episode, I want to revisit and highlight its usefulness for independent retailers. And I've chosen this in particular because generally speaking, it's best to try and zoom out and take in a more holistic evaluation of a business than just a fabric choice or certification. This framework helps you do that. The concept of a triple bottom line expands business success metrics to include people and the planet as well as profit. The term was conceived by entrepreneur and business brighter, John Elkington in 1994, and it's often used as a framework to help businesses and other organisations move towards regenerative and a more sustainable future. The theory is that if an organisation is only focused on profit, ignoring people and the planet, it cannot account for the full cost of doing business and will consequently not succeed term. It's important to note that these three categories overlap, and they're not separate silos, they're all interconnected, and decisions in each area will affect the others.
The first section is People, obviously all about the people, and you want to be asking questions about the people involved in the whole business's supply chain. To be able to do that, you would probably want to be asking the business how far back they can trace their supply chain. do they know if their workers are paid a minimum or living wage? Do they even know the difference? Do they have a policy of responsible purchasing practices? What's included in that? How do they validate those claims themselves? The second area of the framework is a planet which broadly refers to how environmentally responsible the business is. Things like what materials are being used, are they designed for circularity? Are they designing out waste? Are they aware of chemical use in their supply chain? How do they test for that? Are they reducing plastic use?
Do they know what data is being used when making water usage or energy reduction claims in the materials? Do they visit the owners of the factories? Are they aware of the energy source of the factories? How is the business incorporating a long-term vision when it comes to the environment, resources, and products? The third area to think about and help you to frame your questions is profit, which is often called prosperity now, and refers to how the brand is contributing to a greater purpose than just selling clothes or items. This might look like artist collaborations, tree planting, working with indigenous farming communities, donating to charities, and helping women and children escape domestic violence. It's all about how are they creating prosperity for all from the workers in the supply chain, to the retail staff feeling safe in their stores, as well as contributing to a greater community.
I want to highlight that planet and the environment often gets referred to more frequently when talking about sustainability. But like I said earlier, ethics and prosperity for all a woven into sustainability, a 16-hour workday for a factory or farm worker is not sustainable to that person or business much in the same way that independent retailers need to incorporate their own health and well-being to have a sustainable business for them. Have a think before you go. Cover the basic information on a business website from the exhibitor's list, and put together two or three questions from each section to get the conversation going. Once you get started, more information will come and you'll get a sense of where they're at in their sustainability journey. The important thing is that it feels integrated and aligned with your business, and you've gotten enough information to keep your customers trusting your product selections in your store.
While this can take more time, it'll give you a better sense of where they're at and where their goals are for the future more than just visiting a website. Keep asking questions, and as I said earlier, if you're unsure of what some things mean, like certifications or responsible purchasing practices or circular design, you can book a one-hour asking me anything session to get the need to know and help you get up to speed. Just head to the shop on the website, belindahumphrey.com and you'll find it there. If you are an indie retailer heading to Life In Style and Reed Gift Fairs, I look forward to meeting you. I'll put a link for the Retail Therapy Program in the show notes where you'll find any other links for this episode too. You can find those on the website, belindahumphrey.com in the podcast section. Thanks so much for reading.
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.