Working as a sustainability manager at the department store Åhléns, Anita Falkenek knows a thing or two about changing the way we think about consumption. Here, she tells Make it last about Åhlens' Bra val, and which products are her personal favorites!
Working as a sustainability manager at the department store Åhléns, Anita Falkenek knows a thing or two about changing the way we think about consumption. With experience from both grocery retailer ICA and nature preservation organization WWF, she stands out from those in the field who claim that their brands are already perfect. She knows that the shift towards a circular economy is complicated and that working with issues of sustainability is very much about the process. She also knows that it’s equally much fun to work with sustainable fashion, greener beauty and recyclable interior design – if not even more so.
At Åhléns, Anita Falkenek and her colleagues work with the concept ”Bra val” (in English, ”Good choice”), a label for more sustainable products. Right now, Åhléns is driving awareness about their ”Bra val” range – perhaps you’ve seen an ad in a newspaper or one of the commercials on Youtube documenting Anita’s and TV personality Kalle Zackari Wahlström’s 24 hours in the Åhléns pop-up apartment, decorated with pieces from the ”Bra val” range.
Make it last asks Anita about what’s important to think about when making a stand for sustainability.
– To use recycled materials is the most important issue from an environmental perspective. The work is all about contributing to what is usually called a circular economy. This term is perhaps not known to everyone, and that really doesn’t matter. What matters is to think about what raw materials we use, and try to find ways of using those materials over and over again. It’s something that our planet will demand from us, as the population grows and the resources stay the same.
How far have we come when it comes to recycling?
– Comparatively, Sweden’s doing pretty well in an international perspective, when it comes to recycling packaging and electronics. But there’s still a lot to be done, and there is a lot of products that we don’t recycle at all. For example, every single individual throws away 8 kilograms of clothes every year, straight to the bin. So, we do recycle quite a lot, but we must do it even more.
Who’s responsible for fashion to become more sustainable?
– It is really about teamwork between producers and consumers. As producers, we have a responsibility to show the customers that there are in fact good products to choose – then it’s important that the customers actually buy them, so that we can make larger quantities of these products. It really is a collaborative process, we all have to pitch in.
– With that said, I do think that companies have a great responsibility – if we don’t offer ”good choices” customers simply can’t choose them. We have to develop things with good quality that, at the same time, are stylish and desirable.
Tell us about the clothes from the ”Bra val” range!
– Most of them are made from organic cotton, recycled polyester or Tencel. We have a lot of good basics; underwear and night wear; but when it comes to more fashionable garments, it becomes a little trickier. The waves of fashion are fast and what’s considered fashionable changes constantly– so it’s all about keeping up.
– We have a great advantage working with our own Å-labeled products as well as external brands. We can choose to take on brands that are prominent in the field of sustainability.
How much does Åhléns work with sustainable brands overall?
– A lot. It’s not a coincidence that we carry The Body Shop, Nudie Jeans or Uniforms for the Dedicated, to mention a few. There’s a great desire within the organisation to work with these issues.
FACTS ABOUT ÅHLÉNS BRA VAL
To be marked as a ”Bra val” (”Good choice”) at Åhléns, a product needs to meet the requirements of at least one of six categories:
- Organic (raw materials or ingredients grown without chemical pesticides and fertilizers)
- Eco-labeled (labeled with Svanen (Nordic Ecolabel), EU Ecolabel Good Environmental Choice or FSC, which stands for Forestry Stewardship Council, that makes sure forests have been managed in a way thatconserves biodiversity)
- Svalan (products approved by the Swedish Asthma and Allergy Association)
- Sustainable materials (products made up of at least 50% TENCEL®, a viscose material with low environmental impact)
- Social responsibility (products certified by organizations such as Fairtrade)
- Recycled (products made entirely or mainly made of recycled materials)
This post is presented in collaboration with Åhléns.
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