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Biodiversity and it's Link to the Apparel Industry

May 29, 2020

I recently attended a Biodiversity Master Class hosted by Common Objective, an organization that has been highlighting the importance of sustainability in apparel and fashion.  The speakers included Dr. Sam Sinclair from, Katrina ole-MoiYoi from Kering, and Dr. Gemma Cranston from the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership.  

While JOOB prides itself on being sustainable, transparent, and Climate Neutral Certified - understanding biodiversity is a bit new to us and we are trying to figure out what it means and how it would impact our overall environmental efforts.  This workshop was a first step for us to get our heads around biodiversity.

Dr. Sinclair was first to speak and he started by helping attendees understand why biodiversity is important - and how it is linked to apparel and fashion in particular.  Most of don't think of the clothes we wear as having an impact on the environment, let alone to biodiversity - but the simple example of leather being used helped bring the point home for me.   If you think about your leather belt, jacket, or other item - this raw material source comes from cows.  Cows take up land, water, and usually means trees and other plants are taken away so the cows can graze on grass.  Leather producers therefore can take away important ecosystems if they do not look to replace their grazing lands elsewhere.   This net impact isn't being calculated today when discussing overall value produced by an organization.  We typically look at an organization and what it makes and the revenue it produces.  We ignore the impact on environmental losses and other assets the land would have produced if the cows weren't there.  

Another example that has been discussed recently with apparel makers is with cotton - and the water resources used and large tracts of lands used to produce this resource.  If care and consideration is not given to managing these trade-offs across resources and we simply focus on producing a particular item, whatever that may be, we may be losing out on other resources or assets that are being taken away because of this singular focus.  Biodiversity means understanding and balancing more effectively the impact of one resource's production and it's impact on others.  

Dr. Sinclair gave businesses a very simple framework to get started, along with a more detailed process to develop an ongoing sustainable biodiversity effort for businesses.  The image below is the getting started framework, check out the link provided for the full report (references below).  


Katrina ole-MoiYoi from Kering gave a great review on her organization's work to understand their biodiversity impact across their portfolio of fashion brands.  They incorporate a scorecard approach, similar to how organizations might measure their end to end supply chains costs, but with the metrics focused on environmental and sustainability scores - which are then monetized to understand their contribution to overall P&L.  Kering calls this The Environmental Profit & Loss - and is a process developed by Kering and is offered to other businesses to follow.  An example of the results from one of their projects is shown below:

The example shown helped the organization focus efforts to improve in two key areas - land use and GHG emissions - for raw material processing and production.  

Dr. Cranston emphasized that businesses more and more are coming to the realization that biodiversity impact scores need to be balanced with financial performance, and that best in class leadership recognizes the importance of environmental stewardship as a foundational element to business leadership.  

The session provided JOOB with a good foundation to understand a bit more on the topic of biodiversity, and how we might expand our efforts beyond GHG emission mapping and sustainable sourcing to identifying biodiversity impact metrics.  The challenge for most businesses will be in quantifying biodiversity scores and monetizing them.  But even if it's a simple index - the important thing is to start.  

We'd like to hear from you on this, send us your comments in the form below.  


1.  Biodiversify Org:

2.  Environmental P&L from Kering:

3.  Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership:

4.  Common Objective:


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