Business as a Movement: Social Consciousness in the Fashion Industry

Amy Hall, the Director of Social Consciousness for Eileen Fisher joined the Bard MBA in Sustainability for a Sustainable Business Fridays eileen-fisher-logo-2-270x270Conversation. Hall, who has now been at Eileen Fisher for 20 years, truly believes in what the company is doing to not only make their practices more sustainable but also to create a positive social impact. At Eileen Fisher, all three pillars of sustainability are equally important: environment, human, and economic.

amy1After giving us an overview of her job, which ranges from environmental sustainability to human rights work, we asked Hall to share with us some of the challenges that she has faced over the years in improving the company’s social impact. According to Hall, there are some inherent environmental challenges in making clothes. Just as with any consumer product industry, the production and disposal of theirproducts cause pollution, so the main challenge is trying to minimize this pollution before and after use. Compounding this pollution challenge is the need to be profitable. Sustainable fabrics are often more expensive, so it is a constant balancing act: maintaining profitability while improving environmental and social impact.

Eileen Fisher seems to be a master balancer. For example, Hall shared with us one of their new initiatives called Green Eileen. Through

this initiative, Eileen Fisher seeks to extend the life of their clothing items by mending used clothes and reselling them. When customers no longer want their Eileen Fisher clothes, they can send them back to the company where the clothing will be fixed up for resale in new “Green Eileen” stores.

In addition to the Green Eileen initiative, Eileen Fisher actively tries to promote sustainability at every level of the company, from design, to manufacturing, to retail. One way that they do this is through sustainability offsite retreats, at which employees from all areas of the

ge-logo1business participate to brainstorm new ideas for positive environmental and social impact. This leads to some creative solutions that the company would never have pursued without a diverse group of people collaborating.

At the end of our conversation, we asked Hall what made Eileen Fisher great. Hall told us that it is all about valuing individuals and encouraging them to bring their passions to work. This creates a communal energy that excites creativity.

“Its all about people”, Hall said.

You have to help people see the urgency and importance of environmental and social impact work and then encourage creativity and participation.

 

Listen to the audio from this conversation here.

 

Join us for our next Sustainable Business Fridays conversation on Februrary 28th. We’re talking with Toby Usnik of Christie’s, a fine art auction house, who will be speaking about launching inaugural CSR campaigns within one of the world’s oldest companies.

Photo Credit: EileenFisher.com

About Christina Wildt

Christina Wildt is an MS in Environmental Policy candidate at the Bard Center for Environmental Policy. Christina is passionate about transforming the way consumers affect the natural world and is pursuing a career in corporate environmental sustainability management.