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AND: What Does It Take To Build A Sustainable Brand?
Brand Breakdown is Shopflo’s monthly 4-part newsletter, in which we deep dive into an Indian D2C brand, and understand its constituent elements to figure out what makes it tick ⏰
A brand that has found residence in the urban women’s closets, AND is a trailblazer that brought global contemporary silhouettes to India. This week we look into how AND set itself apart from the H&Ms and Zaras of the world, by successfully implementing sustainability initiatives that are unique and impactful.
Sustainable fashion may be an oxymoron. For an industry that capitalizes on material progress can hardly be flag bearer for responsible consumption. However, accountability towards the environment falls on everyone, including retail houses. Sustainability in the fashion industry isn’t and shouldn’t be restricted to the garments and their raw materials, but operations and work practices as well.
Small steps in a big organization go a long way
AND has, over the years incorporated sustainable practices into its business model, culminating in an initiative called rECOgnize that pledges to bring responsibility into sourcing and manufacturing processes. Through this, they have set up a series of goals:
As of 2022, 100% of their packaging is made from sustainable sources.
By 2025, more than 65% of AND’s clothing will be from sustainable fabrics.
To meet these goals, the packaging material used in both their stores, and warehouse operations consist of recycled plastic bags, tapes, and boxes. The textile waste from the office and factory is collected and composted.
They have also partnered with Lenzing, a group headquartered in Austria, that supplies EcoVero and Tencel fabrics that are derived from raw wood material, and responsibly processed. To gradually reduce the carbon footprint, 79% of their Exclusive Brand Outlets are equipped with energy-saving LED lamps as well.
For this house of brands, the office is where the heart is
For Anita Dongre, causes related to the environment and animal shelters have been close to her heart. A strict vegan and animal lover, she has numerous rescue dogs in her house and in her corporate office in Rabale, Navi Mumbai.
An HQ built on a sprawling 100,000 sq ft area, the office is dotted with huge french windows which overlook hills where the employees can enjoy the mini-waterfalls in the monsoon, and cattle grazing in the summer months. An eco-conscious unit, the office runs on solar power and recycled water. The wet and dry waste is segregated and is later composed in the in-house sewage treatment unit.
“Ever since I started my career, what used to really put me off about the garment industry was the industrial buildings in Mumbai where everyone worked. All the factories in Lower Parel and Ghatkopar are in grimy condition, and I used to dream of a utopian space like this," says Dongre.
Building a culture of sustainable practices
The nine wings across the three floors in this building house office, cubicles, brand showrooms, meeting rooms, canteens, tailoring and embroidery units, inventory, and a studio. Every person involved in the creation of a garment is available under one roof to instill a sense of collaborative work.
What is significant about this process and setup is that every single employee, starting from the watchmen at the gate to the staff at the mess, tailors, designers, and managers, right up to the corporate employees, come to work every day and is part of a system that follows eco-conscious practices. They are thrust into an environment where small, but significant practices like segregating waste, not dumping fabric waste into the bin, and using the blank side of a printed paper to make notes, are the norm.
Habits are built by routinely repeating actions, and for people who spend more than eight hours at the office, these practices become part of their daily lives, even when they go back home. The ripple effect created by small actions goes way beyond the organization, and that’s how you truly measure the social impact a brand has.
How does a fashion brand not invite eye-rolls when it talks about sustainability?
By choosing to not be vocal about their initiatives on social media and conversely making it a part of their brand ethos, and imprinting it in the actions of their employees, AND makes it clear that they are committed to achieving their goals when it comes to running an environmentally conscious organization.
When you think AND, sustainable fashion is not what comes to mind. They make the conscious choice to not make sustainability come across as something extra the brand does, but rather, a way of life that begins right at the office.
With this, our second brand breakdown comes to an end! You can find the previous parts of the series here.
Next month, we'll be covering a brand that's become a staple in Indian refrigerators, a brand that took a food item that was traditionally made at home, and standardised it for the masses, a brand whose success you’ll be rooting for from the first article itself!
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