You mentioned greenwashing. For those that don’t know, what is greenwashing?
It is pretending to be eco or sustainable when you’re not, and using it as a marketing thing. It used to be a weird niche-y thing. When I started Au Coco, clients would come in and say, “Why should I care about eco-clothing? What does that mean?”
Now, that question is never asked, never. When I say what we do, people say, “That’s great. Wow! That’s amazing. I’ve been looking for you.” That’s in ten years, which is not a short amount of time, but it went from being weird granola grungy thing to now almost now more of an intelligent choice to live more mindfully.
If you don’t recycle, people look at you!
It’s the thing to do. Now, with social media, it’s blowing up. Now, with plastics in our oceans, society and other things like wars, and the refugee crisis. People are more tuned into what’s happening.
Parents are feeling like “what can I do?” One thing I often talk about is the power of your dollar. You can vote with your dollar. Now, Wal-Mart sells organic yogurt, not because it is part of the value system, but they were losing sales to other people who were selling organic yogurt.
So, if you are mindful about where you put your money, you can create change. The corporations will follow the money.
So, it’s important and empowering for people that want to be a part of the bigger change. And so, people have been making money by pretending to be eco and through greenwashing and so on.
With respect to labeling not-so ethical behavior, or company practices that are pretending to act in an appealing way to consumers, but not actually acting in that way as per greenwashing, do you think that labeling it is a good tactic to combat that – “greenwashing”?
Only if there is some policy around the labeling. For instance, with foods now, if it says, “100% Natural” or “Organic” versus “100% Organic,” you can find out exactly what that means. It is clear across the board what that means.
I’m not sure if it is global, but certainly in North America. Now, we are waiting for apparels to have standardized labelling. You can’t just say, “Oh, this is ethically made.”
You can state certain certifications, and the content is still really vague. That is coming. There’s a few different people who are working on it. I am waiting to see what happens.
With all of these things, we wait for policy to take part, even in us working on a textile recycling system. So, the municipality of Vancouver wants to ban textiles in the landfill like they have organics, like food waste.
You can’t do that without infrastructure, and so we are working with them right now along with a few other people to figure out a way. It is with a bunch of other brands. It is to figure out a way that we can set that up and what it would look like.
Not just the benefit for us, but for the residents as well. It’s not as easy as food. You can compost food on your back deck. You can’t recycle textiles. You have to mulch it and ship it away. It’s a whole thing.
Also, they could hot compost with some red wiggler worms.
I do that! We’ll see what happens. Again, you don’t just need designers. You need technology and policy makers. You need all of these people who play a role in moving things forward. So, that’s why it takes a while.
It is new. This talk about eco and ethical clothing. I think we’re trying to figure out the how, how to make it easy for consumers, how to make transparency. Transparency is probably the biggest shift now.
Not only in apparel, but a lot of consumers are wanting transparency. It’s not about the perfect. For instance, Patagonia released, not that long ago, that they found child labour in their supply chain.
They weren’t about hiding it. They came out and said, “Hey, we found this and are changing it.” Patagonia has a huge ethical and sustainable mandate. They are a huge company. So, for them to find that is a big deal, and it’s not about being perfect and lying.
It is about finding an issue and we’re fixing.
It seems easier in the digital era.
Any advice for women in leadership?
I believe that the Dalai Lama is right. He said, “Western women are going to heal this world.” I think it’s important as a woman to acknowledge the special power that we have. I think we do!
I think innately we have some incredible capabilities, whether that is around multitasking or other things. Science has proven our brains multitask more than men’s brains. It is not men vs. women, but as a woman leader it’s kind of a new thing.
This is still a new thing, topic of conversation. Something we are still figuring out. In our society and in other societies, but in our society, I think to have confidence in acknowledging your capabilities.
I often see women not thinking that they can do or that they aren’t capable. “Oh! I need a man to do that,” they might think. I think we are capable of it. I think we bring a unique kind of grace, which is really different not.
One perspective that is more holistic, caring, and nurturing. We need that. Maybe, that’s my advice: women are needed! If you’re feeling called, then answer the call and step up to the plate. Do your best and that’s it!
Just make sure the number is from the right person.
Just make sure it’s a divine calling.
A soul calling. It has taken me a way to actually listen to my intuition, to listen to my gut. Women are generally intuitive, I think. So, that’s a special something to share.
There’s one more part about women in leadership. One thing I observe with my friends, for example, is I’m in the middle. I really connect with my male friends who are business owners, but they have someone at home taking care of the child.
I connect with my friends who are moms, mostly stay-at-home moms. They watch their husbands go through the trials and tribulations of business. I can see both sides. But I have to do it all. It is hard for them understand that.
I tell my male business owner friends, “Imagine if you had to work between 9:30 and 2:30, and fit your exercise in there.” They can’t believe that. Nothing would get done and the business would fail.
So, what I’ve learned in that is you don’t have to do it all. I think that that’s what women who are – my situation might be exacerbated, but it’s made it really obvious to me – leaders in the home and in their work life (and possibly the breadwinners in their home as well).
It feels like a lot. It is a lot. It is a lot of responsibility. So, I’m saying this to myself as I’m saying this to you. With that huge sense of responsibility, you have to remember that at the end of your day just do your best, and it’s okay if things sometimes don’t get done.
You also have to have fun in there too.