Gen-Zers care deeply about sustainability, ethical consumption, and climate change. They use their purchasing power to support causes they believe in, and are savvy enough to recognize the difference between an ad campaign and an authentic, long-term commitment to sustainability.
Below are seven brands that are leading the way on the path towards a healthier planet.
The Sustainable Stalwart
Patagonia is the North Star regarding sustainable business practices, committed from the C-suite to the production line, and promoting its eco-conscious values for so long they are entrenched in the brand's DNA. Is it perfect? Of course not -- but it constantly strives to set and uphold industry standards.
Curious about sustainable practices? Try auditing your own closet. Once you begin, you might be surprised by some big names. Nike, Adidas, and Levi’s all adopted social responsibility and environmental policies way before it was considered “cool," by asking what’s wrong, what can be fixed, and what solutions are available.
In fact, Levi’s commitment to water preservation permeates the entire company, in product practices and by engaging the customer through information about how to wear and care for denim.
By examining their practices from the earliest stages (raw materials, extraction, processing, finishing, etc.) to the final days in the hands of the consumer, these companies have made sustainability standard.
Socially Conscious Startups
Fashion startups Allbirds, Cuyana, and Everlane launched with consumer-facing information about renewable resources, and transparency about fair labor and factories used. These successes prove that the consumer is savvy about where their products come from -- and yes, it’s cool to care.
It might take decades to get where some of these top sustainable brands are, but that’s OK.
The hardest part in creating change is getting started. Derek Sabori, co-founder of yoga goods maker KOZM, recommends a three-pillared approach:
1. In order to transform and succeed in becoming sustainable, a company must have strong leadership. Doing business the eco-conscious way is never cheaper or easier, so it’s critical to consider the triple bottom line: social, environmental, and economic outcomes.
Sabori explains, “Without real executive buy-in and education to push forward and include sustainability in [a company’s] core business model, things won't move far or quickly.”
2. In the global fashion economy, production never stops, and neither does the need for continued evolution and education in sustainability practices. “Just because you decide to get on board with sustainability and valuing social responsibility, doesn’t mean you do it once and check it off the list,” notes Sabori. It is not enough to produce a single sustainable collection then revert to old practices because it’s more profitable. It’s a long game, not a trend.
3. Finally, the third pillar involves creating a company culture that values sustainability in every facet of the business. Whether enforcing recycling programs and providing reusable utensils in the corporate kitchen, or dedicating days for beach clean-ups in areas where your factories contribute to pollution, companies must help employees understand both how the product they create impacts their world at large and on a local level.
According to Sabori, corporations play the biggest role in getting us out of this environmental crisis. Brands must consciously choose to eliminate products that are not sustainable. Then, marketers can share these stories so the narrative not only resonates with consumers, but also empowers them to make purchases that support a commitment to global change.