Posts Tagged ‘sustainable business’
Eco-conscious, locally sourced and community driven, Grain handbuilds wooden surfboards, skateboards, bodyboards and handboards in southern Maine. We met up with the Grain guys a few months ago to get their thoughts for our Expert Advice section – and in addition to their words of wisdom, we also came away a bunch of great photos of board-building action. Here are a few of our favorite shots that didn’t make it to the website:
Mike and Brad are the founders of Grain Surfboards – an eco-conscious, locally-sourced and community driven business located in southern Maine near the Atlantic Ocean (all the better for putting their boards to the test).
We caught up with them during a few quiet moments when they weren’t focused on waves or work to see what tips they have for other aspiring small and sustainable business owners:
Source local. Not only does it help your community and economy when you buy your materials locally, it cuts down on transportation emissions. Grain uses cedar from a local mill for their boards.
Hire local. Another great way to support your community is by hiring your (qualified) neighbors. Some of Grain’s employees live so close by, they travel to work by bicycle (talk about a fun commute!).
Use everything. Grain gives its wood shavings to farmers, who use it as bedding for animals. What kind of waste are you throwing in the landfill that could have a useful second life? (At Timberland, we’ve started using old fishing nets to make material for our jackets – who knew?)
And finally: Follow your passion. Mike and Brad and their team are crazy about 2 things: surfing and treating the world right – and those passions shine through in every decision and surfboard they make. If you don’t believe in what you’re doing, life’s not nearly as much fun.
Why is it that the world’s coolest brand sees a choice between delivering new culture changing products and delivering them … sustainably? How does Apple get away with such a limited imagination in this day and age?
CEOs of publicly-traded companies in the fashion industry don’t get the “pass” that comes to the super cool Apple leaders and their uber cool company. Meaning, my shareholders and my consumers insist that we create profit, quarter by quarter, and that we do it … in a sustainable fashion, both in terms of environmental practice, and in terms of transparency and safe working conditions in the supply chain. Why does a boot maker get held to a higher standard than an iPad maker?
Is it because consumers of iPads and iPhones and iMacs don’t care about how their products are made, about how much energy was used, what chemicals were involved, what impact on the environment the manufacturing process wreaks, or whether the rapidly churned products will end up being recycled or in a landfill at the end of their usable life? I doubt it. The elite technology adopters who “wear” their Apple products like a badge of hipster coolness seem to me like the very center of the “moral capitalism” consumer universe—hanging at Davos, orating at TED, elbow rubbing at SXSW. As a wannabe cool guy, I sit here with my headphones on, listening to my iPod and working on my iPad, wanting to feel as cutting-edge as the technology at my command … but instead, I feel a little sick. Because a brand that’s seen as a world leader is, in this case, failing to lead.
Apple refuses to set targets for reducing its carbon emissions. Despite Chinese factory workers falling seriously ill after being exposed to a toxic chemical while manufacturing Apple products, the company remains tight-lipped about its supply chain – presumably prescribing to the belief that that supply chain secrecy is key to competitiveness. It’s an argument that sounds vaguely familiar: in the last decade, some in the fashion industry pleaded the same argument with activists. The outcome? These days everyone knows where Nike and Timberland and adidas manufacture —names, addresses—and the “competitive secret” argument is debunked. Period. Don’t tell me cool and sustainable aren’t compatible—there are too many examples in the marketplace, earning plaudits from consumers and activists for anyone to believe otherwise.
With success and leadership comes a heightened expectation of responsibility – and Apple is failing that test. And the worst part? The company’s “rebel without a corporate responsibility cause” attitude doesn’t seem to hurt it one bit with consumers or investors.
Many of us – myself included – are perpetuating a mind-blowing double standard, proudly browsing the organic produce section and flaunting our recycled grocery totes … but wave the “it” technology product of the month in front of us, and we forget all about business’s need to be transparent and accountable and responsible.
Why should consumers like me have to choose between transformational technology and moral consumption? To iPad, or not to iPad—why is that the question? Why shouldn’t Apple’s leadership instead have to raise its game, and make their cool products and their cool company more socially accountable? If Apple would replicate the speed-to-market rigor and innovation of their product development in their corporate responsibility agenda, consumers like me could have our cool and self respect.
Apple should keep exceeding my expectations for products, but not at the expense of my expectations for social and environmental responsibility. They can and must show leadership in sustainability, not just in technology. That would be Thinking Differently.
Too bad that the communications department at PPR, the parent company of Puma and Gucci, doesn’t seem to be held to the same standards of original design and creativity that the product design departments are. Their recent announcement about a new sustainability agenda focused on the social and environmental impacts of PPR’s business reads a lot like an off-the-rack knock-off of existing thinking, re-packaged as important business leadership. Tant pis; the world needs better.
That PPR aspires to be an active builder of Moral Capitalism is heartening. Way too few CEOs in this industry are even remotely serious about real sustainability. In a world where government leadership on climate change is hot air rhetoric, period, private sector leaders have a unique opportunity to link solid, for-profit thinking/doing with sustainable business practices, creating real profit and social impact.
So, to les Pinaults, bienvenue, welcome — glad you are determined to be involved in the conversation. But if you want to lead—the way a Gucci design leads—we need much more from you.
First, check the rhetoric about “groundbreaking” and “pioneering” and “world’s first” in the press materials. For more than a decade, a group of competitors have been doing serious work to build sustainability into the fashion industry. You are more than welcome to join the Outdoor Industry Association’s Eco-Working Group, which has been laboring the past several years to create a standard measurement system for the environmental impact of products. Or, do connect to the Apparel Coalition, which counts as founding members the likes of Nordstrom and Gap and Adidas and Patagonia, who are trying to build consistent standards into how the apparel industry approaches sustainability. Sustainability in the fashion industry requires collaboration, period. If Walmart, with all their scale and power, believes that the best path to industrial reform requires other brands to collaborate rather than “go it alone,” then respectfully — connect to the existing efforts underway. Given your creativity, your brand building power, your star power — consider building on the existing coalition of the truly committed.
Second, if you are serious about sustainability, consider some understanding of existing best practices. Given the hurdles of consumer confusion, and government inaction, there is no time for anyone to reinvent wheels that are already rolling in the pursuit of sustainability. So it is disappointing to see you embrace buying carbon offsets as a best practice, rather than dedicating your creative energy to pursuing real, concrete emissions reductions in your operations and value chain. Four years ago our company publically set a measureable, concrete goal—to become carbon neutral by the end of 2010. To achieve carbon neutrality, we committed to cutting our emissions associated with our facilities and employee air travel by 50%. And with hard work we did exactly what you can do—we reduced our emissions—by 38%. We did not meet our goal of 50%, but we did fundamentally reorient our business practice. We began to transform ourselves into a sustainable business. And so when we wrote the check offsetting the balance of the emissions we are accountable for, we wrote the check with the determination that with more innovation, more hard work, more commitment, the “check writing” part of our sustainability agenda can be for a very short time period. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t rework your value chain to eliminate emissions—if we can, you surely can.
No one in the fashion space has more vision and daring than you. No one competes harder than you. You lead in our industry—and so more is expected of you, once you leap onto the short list of fashion brands that know we can create profit for shareholders in a sustainable fashion. Lights are down, influential eyes are all set in their chairs, the catwalk is empty, the curtain is opening….and because this is the PPR sustainability show, there are big expectations. Lights, camera…. let’s see PPR’s leadership in action.
I’m not Irish, but I’m sure feeling it today. St. Patrick’s Day in Boston is an unparalleled experience.
No, I’m not downing Guinness at the Black Rose … I’m celebrating St. Patrick’s Day by opening the new Timberland store on Boston’s famed Newbury Street. What’s so green about a shoe store? In a word, everything. From the tabletops reclaimed from old athletic bleachers to the recycled stoneware floor tiles to LED lighting and low VOC paints, we’ve designed this store – and the ones like it that will open later this spring in New York and San Francisco – to serve as a real-life example of how we’re working to reduce our environmental footprint and operate our business more responsibly and sustainably.
Despite the St. Paddy’s Day launch and the opportunity it gives us to cleverly (or not) play up the “green” aspects of our store, our commitment to environmental sustainability isn’t a marketing tactic … it’s as much a part of our heritage as Boston itself. My grandfather started this business as the Abington Shoe Company on Camden Street, just blocks from where our new store is opening today.
I can remember my grandfather stopping to pick up sewing bobbins off the factory floor when I was a kid … as he would pick them up, he’d say, “there’s a penny … there’s a penny …” it wasn’t called recycling in his day, it was called frugality. Make the best use that you can, for as long as you can, out of what you have – not in order to save the environment, but in order to save a buck. Three generations later, here we are staring at reclaimed wood countertops and marveling at the shiny new LED light fixtures. Same value, different outcomes.
Some might argue that it would be cheaper and less complicated to design our new stores with less emphasis on the environmental and more focus on, I dunno, the actual products we’re trying to sell … but then they would be missing the point that businesses today should be doing both. We don’t have to make a choice between creating beautiful, durable products that perform and operating our business in a way that’s mindful of the environment or our impact on it. To the contrary — as an brand and a business that makes boots, shoes and gear for the outdoors, it’s in our best interest to help preserve it … and reduce our impact on it, any and every way we can. Just as every new store puts us more boldly on the map, every step we take to put our environmental values into action – from Earthkeepers products to stores designed with environmental consciousness and consideration – lends credence to the notion that businesses can and should be a force for environmental good.
In the spirit of environmental responsibility, I can do without the Dirty Water (yech) … but otherwise, the Standells had it right. Boston, you’re my home … and there’s no place I’d rather be celebrating heritage and values and all things green today.