Sustainability Pulse #1

Sustainability & Tech Trends Worth Exploring — July 13

On Sunday, Richard Branson fulfilled his boyhood dream by launching himself 53 miles high to the edge of space. "To all you kids out there -- I was once a child with a dream, looking up to the stars. Now I'm an adult in a spaceship ... If we can do this, just imagine what you can do," Branson glozed at the top of the flight while his three companions -- Virgin Galactic employees Beth Moses, Colin Bennett and Sirisha Bandla -- floated around him.

Richard Branson and a crew of three others grazed the edge of space on Sunday in a rocket built by the British billionaire's company, Virgin Galactic.

What a historical moment now let us see what other headlines on sustainability are worth knowing.

Sustainability stands out as a post-pandemic trend

PARIS – The importance of sustainability to consumers has "massively increased in importance even among lower incomes," said Konstantinos Apostolatos, managing director and senior partner for The Boston Consulting Group. The accelerated interest will change how companies communicate with consumers and collaborate with their customers and suppliers.

How Education Helps Set a Better Foundation for Long-Term Sustainability

Education is, in many ways, the foundation of society — where civic values, core skills and lifelong habits are built. As a result, the importance of education is an issue that cuts across partisan, age, race and cultural lines. It can also lead to transformational change. For example, students and education professionals have played a key role in several of the US's most influential social movements — from the fight for women's suffrage to the civil rights movement.

If you're a brand that cares about the environment or society but doesn't invest in education, you're missing an opportunity to expand your impact. This connects to a larger issue — how CSR and sustainability go far beyond any company's immediate customer base or market.

Pineapple leaf leather and carbon-capture clothing: Fashion is looking for sustainable alternatives

Carmen Hijosa is the founder of Ananas Anam, a company that produces Pinatex, a natural leather alternative made from pineapple leaf fibers.

While Hijosa was working as a textiles consultant for the World Bank in the 1990s, advising on the Philippines' leather exports industry, she started looking for more sustainable alternative natural materials.

This was when Hijosa "discovered" pineapple leaves, which have fibers that are "very fine but are very strong," she explained.

So she sought to make a mesh as the basis for a leather alternative, and "after 20 years of research and development, Pinatex was born," Hijosa told CNBC on a video call.

Pinatex is 95% plant-based and the production process is "totally transparently sustainable," according to Hijosa.

On track to 100% sustainably sourced cotton by year-end

Williams-Sonoma Inc. said 89% of the cotton used in 2020 was responsibly sourced. While it didn't break out what portion of is organic cotton, it noted that its use of organic cotton saved 8.2 billion liters of water and 10.8 million kilowatt-hours of energy.

The company's top-volume fibers are currently cotton, polyester and wool. In addition to sourcing 100% responsible cotton by 2021, Williams-Sonoma Inc. is transitioning to recycled polyester and wool certified by the Responsible Wool Standard — which has already launched at Pottery Barn and West Elm.

The fashion industry's quest to deliver on its sustainability ambitions

This story is part of The Path to Zero, a series of special reports on how business can lead the fight against climate change. This quarter's stories go in-depth on sustainability in supply chains.

For the first time in decades, the global fashion industry is undergoing its most profound moment of reckoning, and some of its players are attempting a systemic transformation in the way it operates.

This story is part of The Path to Zero, a series of special reports on how business can lead the fight against climate change. This quarter's stories go in-depth on sustainability in supply chains.

Retail brands, including Rebecca Minkoff, begin renting clothes without a subscription

Some apparel brands are starting to rent their clothes in a bid for more customers — without a monthly subscription.

Fashion designer Rebecca Minkoff recently became the first to offer a "borrow" option on her website, powered by rental technology platform CaaStle. Customers can wear the item as many times as they like during the rental period and have the option to buy it at an adjusted price.

"We envision the 'borrow' button being ubiquitous across anyone who sells clothing," said Christine Hunsicker, founder and CEO of CaaStle, which also provides rental-based subscription services to the likes of Banana Republic, Express and Destination Maternity.

"If you think about what percentage of the population can afford a $300 or $400 jumpsuit, you are really talking about the top 1%,"

For Minkoff, it's an opportunity to get new customers to try the brand or even current customers to dive a little deeper. Her dresses typically range in price from $98 to $378.

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