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SURVIVING THE STORM: HOW SUSTAINABILITY HELPS BRANDS GET THROUGH A CRISIS

Updated: Feb 2

There has been little time over the course of the last year to focus on anything other than riding the Covid-19 wave. As we evaluate the long-term impact on our businesses, we also need to think about how we protect ourselves from future crises.


In this blog, V&V co-founder Vanessa Brain, shares some personal reflections and tips on how to create a resilient business.


The global pandemic has taken its toll in so many ways in 2020, not least on the fashion industry with major brands disappearing from our high streets. The list is likely to grow as we limp through the second wave of the pandemic and get used to new Brexit trade rules.


One high profile loss was the collapse of the Arcadia Group. I felt sad at this news and nostalgic about shopping in Topshop over the years. Initially as a teen in the corner of my local Co-op where they had a concession. Then at the excitement of visiting their flag-ship on Oxford Street - descending into its cavernous depths to see what fashion treasures awaited.


I’ve also spent many years working with Arcadia’s head office team on their journey to develop more responsibly sourced products, be it Fairtrade, Organic or recycled. I hope the talent and passion of those that drove the brands is re-born in one way or another.


What might the rest of Covid’s legacy be for fashion? I'd like to think there's potential for it to create positive change.


Sustainability continues to feature high on the agenda of fashion CEO’s and research shows that businesses with strong environmental, social and governance practices are likely to be more resilient through a crisis. V&V believe the most savvy brands will utilise this opportunity to adapt, build back better and put sustainability at the heart of their business strategy.


But, for even the most dedicated businesses, it’s difficult to know where to start. It can be complex, costly and challenging to get your staff on board with a new strategy. Particularly when improving the sustainability of product ranges, where price and delivery times are already challenging.


That’s why we are sharing our five top tips to strengthen your brand:


Re-evaluate your overarching vision


Do you have a clear vision and mission for your brand? Does it still feel right in this new world? If not, now’s the time to write or reshape it. Having a clear vision helps you stay focused during challenging times. By involving your staff in the process you’ll ensure they are fully invested as change-makers. Read our blog on writing a vision statement with sustainability at the forefront.


Take time to understand your strengths and weaknesses


By understanding where you are now you’ll be able to set clear targets and monitor your progress. V&V’s free Fashion Footprint tool (available on our resources page) can help you take stock of your strengths and weaknesses. Upon completion we will give you a baseline score and provide lots of advice on areas to improve. Also, research what your competitors are doing – how do you benchmark against them?


Tailor your targets


What do you want to change…and why? Use your vision to shape targets and tailor these to your strengths. These might be related to the materials you use, the manufacture of your products, or the way you govern your business. Be realistic and have ambition, but don’t set yourself up to fail. Small, achievable changes are much better than big commitments that might never be realised. Check out V&V’s free Sustainable Development Goals tool, which is packed with business improvement ideas and practical steps you can take to achieve them. Don't forget to read this blog for tips on planning.


Build partnerships and learn


Adapting the way you do business and shifting to more sustainable materials and suppliers takes time and commitment. Build partnerships and join networks of brands that have already made positive change, so you can learn from them and see best practice in action.

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” African proverb.

Try to take your existing suppliers with you on the journey. By working together to make improvements you’ll forge much stronger relationships.


Communicate with your customers


Don’t be afraid to tell your customers what you are doing. Consumer’s want to know they are buying from brands that are committed to working responsibly. You don’t have to be perfect, but you do have to acknowledge where improvements need to be made. Take inspiration from ethical brand, Fairphone, who have been completely transparent about the highs and lows of their supply chain from day one. Build trust and loyalty by sharing your journey.


The business case for working responsibly is clear (but read this blog if you're still not convinced!), if you:

  • Know where and how your products are being made

  • Can measure the impact they have on people and planet

  • Endeavour to conserve and re-use resources

You stand the best chance of weathering any future storm.


And of course, if you need help come talk to us, we are happy to give you a free consultation on how we can support you to achieve your sustainability objectives - just drop us a line at hello@vvcollective.com


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