Monday, January 17, 2011

Branding your sustainability programme

Recently I reviewed the Arcadia Group's Responsibility Report for Arcadia is an interesting company, privately-owned, with a "Fashion Footprint" that is quite sizeable.  In fact, Fashion Footprint is the core concept on which their sustainability  programme is built.  

Read the first couple of paragraphs of my review and you will see what I mean:

The fourth Responsibility Report for the Arcadia Group, or "RR10", as they call it, is as impressive as it is frustrating. Arcadia is the UK’s largest privately-owned fashion retailer with well-known high-street brands (Burton, Dorothy Perkins, Evans, Miss Selfridge, TOPMAN, TOPSHOP and Wallis), which they sell in the UK in more than 2,500 outlets. The group operates in 36 countries in Europe, the USA, the Far East and the Middle East with a further 597 international franchise stores. In 2009, Arcadia integrated the Bhs department store chain into its operations. Arcadia has 41,500 employees and had a good 2009/2010 fiscal year, increasing both revenues and profits. As with many fast fashion retailers, the group outsources all its garment production to 620 suppliers in 1,100 factories primarily located in China, India, Mauritius, Romania and Turkey.

This report is primarily about responsible sourcing and supply chain environmental impacts, with light coverage of employee engagement and community activities. It is split into nine core sections (work-streams) which make up Arcadia's overall responsibility approach, which is branded under the name "Fashion Footprint". There are signs that Arcadia is indeed committed to adopting responsible practices in many areas, and that corporate responsibility is built into work processes. Each of the nine work-streams has its set of targets which are revised each year. All employees, according to the report, have Fashion Footprint criteria in their appraisal, and it is a "key competency for buying, merchandising, design and technical staff". New starter orientation also includes Fashion Footprint education. The Fashion Footprint is led by a Fashion Footprint Advisory Panel, made up of representatives from the different Arcadia business units. The Panel has delivered Fashion Footprint Roadshows around all business units, and the report stresses the onboarding of the new large group of Bhs employees in this programme.

(continue reading the full review and my recommendations for Arcadia here)

By this time you may have realised that Arcadia have done something I have been recommending for a while - branded their entire sustainability programme under one core concept, Fashion Footprint, which is catchy and readily understood by all. It can appeal both internally and externally as a way to refocus the conversation on sustainability issues. Just  asking the question before every single business decision: "How does this affect our fashion footprint? "  can help ensure sustainability questions can get on the agenda and are effectively adressed. In this way, Arcadia's processes seem to be robust and directionally positive, supported by clarity of communication. This clarity is highly leveraged for employee engagement, communications and training.

Branding sustainability is powerful. All companies should consider branding their CSR approach. Plan A, Ecomagination, Earthkeepers are  stars, and I bet you didn't have to click on the links to know who are behind these concepts.  Arcadia do this well, and continue to build the buzz around their Fashion Footprint, especially in communication with customers. 

Take a look at Arcadia's RR10 here. Oh, and don't forget to give them your feedback :)  

elaine cohen, CSR consultant, Sustainabilty Reporter, HR Professional, Ice Cream Addict. Author of CSR for HR: A necessary partnership for advancing responsible business practices  Contact me via  on Twitter or via my business website  (BeyondBusiness, an inspired CSR consulting and Sustainability Reporting firm)


Crystalline said...

Branding your sustainability programme will only be successful for companies who have a strong leadership in this space already. If a company does not have the what it takes to back a sustainable branding, trying to position yourself in this space could invite criticism.

Anonymous said...

just been reading the new H&M CSR report and I have to say I think it knocks spots off Arcadia's effort.

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