From Little Things Big Things Grow: Taking Steps To More Sustainable Vegan Leather In Fashion


There was an extremely interesting article in Sourcing Journal this week: Why a ‘Tesla’ for Fashion May Be the Fix for Sustainability.

The article referenced a presentation given by Harvard Professor Rebecca Henderson at a Sourcing Journal event about the business model for sustainability in fashion. 

Professor Henderson pointed to the Tesla electric car manufacturer company as one which has successfully nurtured an environment where sustainability and profitability coexist. And in the Professor's view the marriage of sustainability and profitability are not 'nice-to-haves' for businesses moving forward.  The purpose/s for which the company exists must be central to its business model. Profitability cannot be put above sustainability. 

 “You can see that with Elon Musk, whose insistence that electric vehicles were the future has probably brought down the price of batteries by—you pick a number, 20 or 30 percent—and accelerated the transition to new kinds of cars by maybe five years,” she explained. “He’s demonstrated a business case, he’s driven the technology down the learning curves. And, as firms start to move in this direction, they can change consumer tastes.”

The fashion industry, in the Professor's view, is now facing the need to find the way to deal with the demand crisis prompted by the covid-19 pandemic: increased consumer consciousness and increased intolerance for lacking environment and social concern. If the fashion industry can follow a similar model to Tesla - bringing the cost of sustainability down and the value of it up - fashion may be able to catch up to more innovative industries like car manufacturing.

How do you transform a whole industry that is as large and complicated as the fashion industry?  How to remake businesses and organisations in the industry so that profit is not the main goal? Some examples of new business models may be businesses that change apparel’s seasonal calendar or eliminate it altogether. They may change their supply chains to deliver differently tailored products. 

Businesses looking for innovative change will need to set new environmental, social and governance (ESG) goals to be measured against. But just setting them won't do it on its own. Including the sustainable goal to eradicate products with toxic raw materials is laudable - how is the business going to do it?

Whatever the focus for the industry’s path to greater sustainability, purpose needs to be embedded in strategy of a business.

So, how will the fashion industry get there?

It's here that 'from little things big things grow'* kicks in. If individual businesses follow the model of sustainability and profit co-existence, delivering their goals will call on greater collaboration across the industry and the strategic alignment will spread across the industry. 

“[Fashion business] Start by developing your own sense of purpose…and if we can mobilize that, we can move mountains,” Henderson said. “We need an avalanche—and it’s pebbles that drive avalanches. I think we can all be pebbles.”

Can James&Co be seen as the fashion industry's Elon Musk - albeit an Elon Musk pebble?  

James&Co is the only brand of outerwear that is both vegan and sustainable. We are a truly purpose-driven company.  We don't just make & supply top quality vegan leather jackets and coats.  We make & supply top quality vegan leather jackets and coats with the purposes of:

  • contributing to ending tailoring in real leather and making a difference to growing cruelty-free stances
  • contributing to eradicating toxic leather alternative traditional polyurethane (pu) and toxic raw materials in vegan leather alternatives
  • contributing to meeting global sustainability goals

You can read more about in the 2nd Edition of our book The Only Choice Is Change...To Sustainable Vegan Leather. You can download if here and/or flip-read it here.

* We acknowledge these words are from the title Australian protest song. Read more.  Often used in conjunction with sustainability writings and images. 


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