The costs and rewards of sustainable fulfillment
“The retail industry talks a lot about sustainability. The real word to think about is ‘responsibility.’ What can we fix about the way we produce and how and what materials we use to ship our products?” asks Michael Maher, CEO of Taylor Stitch, an online clothing retailer that crowd funds its new release apparel items over the span of two to three months. The brand gauges interest before the launch and manufactures just enough clothing to meet demand.
“Don’t overproduce,” Maher says. The online retailer’s message is to invest in better-quality apparel and buy less.
Using organic or sustainable materials for its apparel often comes at a cost. Recycled or organic fibers, for example, cost about 20% to 40% more compared with conventional materials, Maher says. Because Taylor Stitch produces its premium clothing on a smaller scale, it does not affect the pricing as much, he says.
Experts warn retailers not to misuse the term sustainability. Greenwashing, the act of misleading consumers about how a company’s products or processes are environmentally friendly even if the opposite is true, can result in lost business. Customers are beginning to care more about how their shopping affects the environment and how forthright retailers are with information.
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