Anita Falkenek, Åhléns: Sustainability makes good business sense
Make it last talks to Åhléns' sustainability manager about why companies that take responsibility for their sustainability issues will be the successful ones in the long term.
Make it last talks to Åhléns’ sustainability manager about why companies that take responsibility for their sustainability issues will be the successful ones in the long term.
Sustainability makes good business sense, argues most leading thinkers in the fashion industry today. What’s your perspective on this?
– Sustainability work can only be successful if it is well integrated in the company’s different processes. I think most retailers are convinced that you need to have knowledge and insight, and constantly work with these issues. Companies that take responsibility for sustainable issues will build a ground for success in the long term.
There are many reasons why companies today need to act responsibly:
– Customers are becoming more and more interested in and concerned about their health and surroundings and they want to know more about the ingredients and raw materials in the products they buy.
– Companies must be able to inform and communicate how they source and take responsibility, so that customers can have trust in the business.
– Many resources are becoming more and more scarce. If we want to be able to source them in the future, we need to find smarter and more efficient ways to use them today.
– To be able to keep and recruit valuable employees, companies need to have a profound sustainability strategy, involving all departments, so that co-workers get involved and feel pride in working for the company.
You’re a department store with a lot of suppliers. How do you work systematically with questions of sustainability when a lot of players are involved?
– We could never make a change on our own. To make a real impact in the world, when it comes to environmental issues and human rights in the supply chain, we partner with other companies and organizations that have the same high ambitions and values as we do. We are involved in BSCI – a global initiative to improve working conditions in the supply chain, especially in so called risk countries. We are also a member of Better Cotton Initiative and Leather Working Group – two global initiatives with the purpose of improving the conditions in cotton and leather production.
What’s the development plan for your Bra val range?
– We continuously increase the sales and the offer of Bra val. We see a growing awareness and curiosity from our customers in terms of sustainability. More and more people want to know about the materials and where they are grown and under what circumstances the products have been produced. But still the interest is not as big as we wish for. There are many different reasons for this – sometimes price, sometimes problems of finding the right materials and sometimes that the customers are not yet convinced about the need and advantages with Bra val.
Åhléns does not only work with environmental sustainability. Last spring you addressed age discriminating fashion and last year trans model Lea T was the face of your spring campaign to symbolize that you’re a department store for everyone. What has been the reception of these markting actions?
– The campaigns have received great response. Our customers have shown involvement through social media by liking and sharing our posts and photos and also starting discussions among themselves, which we are very happy about. In addition, many customers have been in touch with us directly giving positive feedback that they think we are actually making a difference.
How will you move forward with your sustainability work?
– At the moment we are working with diversity in two ways. The first is that we are now offering 100 intern positions, dedicated to newly arrived Swedes that have received a residence permit. This is a great way to support integration into the Swedish society.
As an Åhléns employee you can also be involved, on a voluntary basis, in a project called Öppna Dörren. Through the initiative you support newly arrived people in different local initiatives.
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A sustainable match made in heaven.
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