Sustainability aligns with current business model
Posted January 28, 2013 at 11:58 pm in News
Elissa Loughman, an environmental analyst for the Ventura-based clothing company Patagonia, spoke about sustainability practices within businesses at the Marshall School of Business‚Äô monthly ‚ÄúLunch and Learn‚ÄĚ series.
Loughman, who has a bachelor‚Äôs degree in zoology and a master‚Äôs in environmental science and management, focused on the environmentally conscious outfitter‚Äôs strategies for sustainability and waste reduction. Eight years ago, when she applied for the company‚Äôs internship, Loughman didn‚Äôt think she would fit in at a company like Patagonia.
‚ÄúI‚Äôm not a designer,‚ÄĚ Loughman said. ‚ÄúI have no fashion sense and I‚Äôm not a sales person at all. What would I do for a company that makes and sells clothes?‚ÄĚ
As it turned out, Loughman would end up doing quite a lot.
According to Loughman, since the 1970s, the company mission has been to ‚Äúbuild the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.‚ÄĚ
To build the best product, Loughman says, Patagonia believes in a design that is durable, long-lasting, failure resistant and repairable if necessary. Manufacturing products that can be used for years without wear reduces waste and improves efficiency, she noted. In addition, Loughman helps Patagonia develop products that are earth-friendly and use more sustainable raw materials. Patagonia‚Äôs cotton products are USDA-certified 100 percent organic, and the company is pursuing strategies for waterless dying.
The company is also creating initiatives to encourage more environmentalism among its customers. Patagonia began its ‚ÄúCommon Threads‚ÄĚ initiative, which recycles and converts its customers‚Äô used cotton clothes into usable cotton. In addition, the company partnered with eBay to sell cotton products online, resulting in the company being landfill-free since 2011, according to Loughman.
Yet Patagonia doesn‚Äôt rely on internal practices alone to promote its sustainability campaign. The company has reached out to its supply chain in order to implement sustainable solutions to environmental crises, according to Loughman. The company‚Äôs webpages, such as The Footprint Chronicles, show customers the process of how their products are made. Patagonia also sells its ‚Äú1% For The Planet‚ÄĚ products, donating that portion of the profit from those products to environmental organizations.
Some students said Loughman‚Äôs speech made them optimistic about the shift to a corporate economy. Ian Ritchey, a junior majoring in business administration, believes Patagonia‚Äôs ideology is a positive aspect of the company.
‚ÄúThe high price tag deters a large number of consumers, which is counterintuitive as a for-profit company,‚ÄĚ Ritchey said. ‚ÄúBut they know what they are doing and they are clearly doing [it] well.‚ÄĚ
Loughman knows that transforming the way corporations relate to the environment is a long and difficult process. Through her work, however, it is clear that she is fulfilling the goal she set for herself when she applied for an internship with the company eight years ago. Patagonia‚Äôs acute focus on environmentalism and customer awareness within their business model reflects Loughman‚Äôs greater goals.
‚ÄúI knew I wanted to do something bigger,‚ÄĚ Loughman said. ‚ÄúThere is no business to be done on a dead planet.‚ÄĚ
The next ‚ÄúLunch and Learn‚ÄĚ will take place in March and will feature Josh Nesbit, co-founder and CEO of Medic Mobile.