A while back I went to an event in Stockholm, held by one of Sweden's most exclusive networks for entrepreneurs. They we're promoting a book that recently launched, and a few of the networks members had been invited to speak.
One of them was the CEO and founder of one of Sweden's, in recent years, most successful fashion- and lifestyle companies, so I was particularly excited about listening to what she had to say and sharing her experiences.
It's time to lift the head up.
I got really caught up in her charisma and entrepreneurial story - like many successful entrepreneurs she was also an amazing storyteller - and by the time we got to the Q&A, I felt I'd become a new-born fan of hers. But during the Q&A, one lady stood up and asked about how her company worked with CSR, and my new idol replies (in a very vague and sort of off-putting way), "well, of course we have a policy, we do some controls, but how can we really know how things are" and I found myself sobering up from the buzz I experienced during her speech.
This might not sound like such a horrible reply, and I guess there is truth to it - because how can anyone ever vouch for what goes on when they are not there. I can't, you can't and no human can (if you're not a psychic - and I don't role out that that exist put it's another topic). But it was not so much what she said, as the way she said it; it was so obvious that this was a question that frustrated her, like the woman that asked the question were stupid for raising it. And if you flip it around: can you imagine a politician giving a similar answer? "yeah, we believe in equal rights, see our manifest, but how can anyone really know if it's being executed?" - would that have been socially accepted by the public? (I looked around and NO ONE seamed to be reacting to her answer, as the woman that asked the question sat down in silence).
And I think that's a huge problem. It's completely social accepted within the fashion industry - both by the design company and the consumer - not to know. Not to ask the questions - and not to get the answers. This constant pushing of responsibility; the glamorous "lifestyle companies" mantra of "we can't know what goes on there", putting millions promoting a promise of how their clothes will make you a better, neater person at the same time as they don't put in the small (in the context) resources to keep their own backyard clean. If that is not modern day craziness then what is?
If a "mull" would come and put spotlight on each little step our process and find something not correct or that could be improved, I would embrace it with all my heart. And if someone asked me "how do you work with CSR?" I would speak passionately, starting with philosophical views and trail down to how we execute each micro step of our business. And most of all, I would be extremely thankful that someone bothered to ask the one question that means the most. BECAUSE. For us, this is not something we do to sell, it's something we do because it should be obvious (but it's not), and if other people would find things we can't, it would give us an opportunity to improve.
And this is what it all comes down to; transparency. For a sustainable movement to work, there needs to be transparency. There needs to be processes that you can track, understand and question. I would say that transparency is 70% of the importance for the fashion industry's development and the process only 30 %. Because if there is transparency there is accountability and ability for consumers to question - and that's necessary for a disruptive movement to take place.
This is an issue that we have been discussing a lot lately, and this year we'll put a lot of focus and resources on finding ways to make our process, beliefs and actions more accessible and understandable. Expect some updates on this soon.
Also, the most important, a question; What Would YOU Like to Know? And how would you like to get the information? How can we as a company make it easier for you to see and engage in our processes?
THANK YOU for reading this post. Please leave a comment if you were moved by something in this post.