Three Retail Brands Making Waves in Sustainable Fashion and Housewares
The Travel + Leisure Global Vision Awards aim to identify and honor companies, individuals, destinations, and organizations taking strides to develop more sustainable and responsible travel products, practices, and experiences. Not only are they demonstrating thought leadership and creative problem-solving, they are taking actionable, quantifiable steps to protect communities and environments around the world. What’s more, they are inspiring their industry colleagues and travelers to do their part.
Between employment practices, supply chains, and sourcing, retailers around the world must consider a wide range of factors in building a more sustainable retail business. Historically, many companies have been cagey about those kinds of operational aspects, too, making it tough for consumers to gauge how ethical and environmentally friendly a brand really is. What sets these Global Vision Awards honorees apart is their commitment to bettering their business on all levels. From minding and mitigating their environmental impact to partnering with grassroots organizations to bolster local economies, these companies create products that travelers can feel good about buying. — T+L Editors
Often, the most compelling, effective, globally important vision is long-term. Patagonia wins its spot on this list not for any one thing it has done, nor for any single new initiative, but rather for a nearly half-century record of doing good and working to do even better as a sustainably minded business. Last year, that history won it the title of Champion of the Earth, the highest environmental honor bestowed by the United Nations. “Patagonia offers a perfect example of how the private sector can join the battle against climate change, biodiversity loss, and other threats to human and planetary health,” UN Environment Program executive director Inger Andersen said.
Since rock climber Yvon Chouinard founded the company in 1973, Patagonia has grown into a business with nearly $1 billion in annual revenue. That growth has directly benefited environmental charities: since the early 1980s, the company has given away 1 percent of its net revenue each year. Its Worn Wear program encourages consumers to buy less by teaching them how to repair their Patagonia gear. The company is also working to become carbon-neutral within the next five years to help mitigate the clothing industry’s contribution to global carbon emissions (upwards of 10 percent annually).
This British outdoor brand collaborates with the Colombia-based nonprofit Miquelina Foundation to make outdoor gear you can feel good about. The partnership sustains a workshop in Bogotá that trains and employs more than 500 women annually, particularly former sex workers, drug addicts, and victims of human trafficking. “This partnership gives vulnerable people valuable opportunities,” says founder Nick Brown. “More than 80 percent of Páramo’s annual production occurs at Miquelina.” Between the ethical business model and the retailer’s choice not to use effective-but-toxic perfluorinated compounds for its waterproofing, it’s no wonder that conscientious adventurers, including British explorer Ranulph Fiennes and researchers working for the British Antarctic Survey, have embraced the brand.
Gone Rural Swaziland
For nearly 30 years, Gone Rural has created jobs for skilled but impoverished women in Eswatini — the nation known as Swaziland until 2018. The UN ranks Eswatini in the bottom 15 percent of the world’s nations when measuring gender equity, with especially low female participation in the formal labor force. The company hires local women to produce woven baskets in complex patterns and striking home wares from indigenous materials, such as lutindzi grass, that fuse traditional craft with contemporary design. Thanks to Gone Rural, women across the country have become breadwinners. Through a program called Rural Post, shoppers can even correspond online with the more than 800 artisans on the payroll — like Siphiwe Mngometulu, who earned enough money with Gone Rural to build a new home for herself and her kids. The company can also arrange tours of the workshop and guided visits to a local community.