You know the worn out saying “Culture eats strategy for breakfast”? I think all of us in the business life know that both culture and everyday business often run strategy over. However, the climate crisis has taken such a fast turn that most industries, including textiles, are now thinking not only how to minimize their environmental footprint, but also how to stay relevant to conscious consumers.
Sustainability improvements and new business models are becoming part of the mission critical, strategic core that management teams (should) have high on their agenda. Strategy implementation, however, also requires proper resourcing that makes sure that everyday business does not get in the way of it. A strategic initiative requires budget and means – but most importantly empowered people. Even one self-empowered person can make a difference.
Fight the odds
After talking to a variety of brands, I have come to find that the most important vehicle for this kind of corporate transformation is an internal hero (or a group of them). A hero makes sure that innovation, such as investment in sustainable product development, stays on the agenda instead of being trampled by business as usual.
A hero is often personally passionate about sustainability, and finds a sustainable initiative very meaningful. I talk to a lot of people who are parents who want to do something to make the world a better place for their children. This personal drive makes the hero relentless, trying to get others excited, involved, committed, and eventually empower and sponsor the hero to take the idea forward if that’s not the case already.
Characteristically for heroes, it’s not always easy. The less strategic management commitment there is for disruptive action, the more the hero struggles. The company may also not have an innovation department or the necessary foresight and expertise to implement its plans.
Play the long game
The people that the hero tries to talk to might be too busy with everyday business, where plans are made for next year, not the next. The hero may even be a management team member, but struggling to engage his colleagues. Some might think that the initiative is uninteresting, too risky or not feasible. It’s perhaps also not in their, or anyone’s, personal performance incentives. It’s more tempting to make an effort for the things that are.
Sometimes meetings are canceled and postponed, emails go unanswered, momentum lost. Some heroes tire and give up for the time being, or altogether. A true hero plays the long game.
Challenge the status quo
We all sometimes struggle to be mindful of how we spend our (working) lives and get stuck in our ways. However, the old ways must now be challenged on a daily basis. We can all be heroes, be it through innovation initiatives at work or small everyday changes at home. We can affect all of the communities we belong to if we really want. We just have to stay determined, bold and positive, and immune to any reluctance, doubts and cynicism.
Thanks and congratulations to all our brand partner heroes, for keeping us and sustainability on your agenda. At some point of the journey, I think you’ll find that you personally made a huge difference.
Stay sustained <3
“You see the old way wasn’t working so it’s on us to do
What we gotta do, to survive.”