Ciara touts sustainability goals at United Nations Conscious Fashion and Lifestyle Network meeting
"We live in a time when the younger generation is vocal; they want change and are more conscious than we were. I can't wait to see what it will be like when my kids are young adults; I believe it will be a much better world," Ciara told FashionNetwork.com after speaking about sustainability at the United Nations.
The Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter was present at the United Nations Conscious Fashion and Lifestyle Network Annual Meeting along with team members from The House of L, R & C—the sustainability-minded brand group which houses Good Man, Lita by Ciara and Human Nation—she and husband footballer Russell Wilson founded with Christine Day during the pandemic.
After opening remarks from Kerry Bannigan, co-founder of United Nations Conscious Fashion and Lifestyle Network and executive director of Fashion Impact Fund; Annemarie Hou, executive director of United Nations Office for Partnerships and Camilla Mellander, consul general of Sweden in New York, Ciara took the stage with House of L, R & C's chief sustainability officer and COO, Therese Hayes, and chief commercial officer and CMO, Janelle Shiplett for a panel led by sustainability journalist Kaley Roshitsh. Ciara and Wilson are signatories of the Fashion Impact Fund, and The House of L, R & C is listed as a supporter on the fund's website.
By explaining the name she and Wilson came up with, the businesswoman said that the letters stand for love, care, and respect.
"The name carries weight. We believe in the power of words. This is incorporated into the process of everything we do down to the culture of our team, which has love, care, and respect amongst each other as a proudly Black-owned business," she said, noting that LITA stands for Love Is The Answer. "We are low impact on the planet, a big impact on people," she added.
The brand has already won two prestigious industry awards; an ACE award and a Fashion Group International Rising Star award, and its business model gives back three percent of the profits to the Why Not You Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to education, children's health and fighting poverty, the couple established in 2014.
Hayes outlined the brand's mission which she says is dedicated to doing things differently.
"First, in our charter, we established it as a public benefits company. Next, we became a B Corp which is like a scaffolding to guide as we developed the company and our policies, which also serves as accountability because we are required to recertify every three years," said the chief sustainability officer.
"Most importantly, sustainability is a philosophy for the company and not just a department. Everyone in the company has a sustainability goal tied to their performance," she told the audience.
Post-panel, she acknowledged the company finds it seamless to attract the right talent with the B Corp status. "It's the law of attraction."
It also attracts people to a cause. Ciara acknowledged that it had been a journey for the company.
"It's not easy to become a B Corp, and it took time to get here. Therese held us to it. I'm a fashion girl, and my fans identify me that way. Now there is a sustainability challenge. It's been great seeing the no-fur law passed in California. We were already there with a long faux-fur coat that sold out; it makes you proud that you were already there," she said. She likened the cause to a marathon and not a short-term race, which makes sense considering the evolving nature of sustainability goals due to advancements and technology.
Shiplett told the audience of mainly UN policymakers, trade associations and supply chain leaders, CEOs, CMOs, press, and representatives from brands such as Reformation and Pangaea that she has noticed a shift from the consumer side and not just the policymakers.
"What we see happening is key sustainability callouts as a cultural conversation. Moving forward, it's going to be non-negotiable. Right now, it's removing a barrier from having that sustainability column, but it will become something that has to be there," she said, noting that information on a product's origins is available.
She also alluded to the process as a journey, using the brand's use of genuine leather versus faux, made from plastic, as an example. "We use only meat by-product leather but are also looking at mushroom leathers," she noted while mentioning a new men's sneaker soon to be released whose upper is made from recycled materials.
Hayes added that the structure provided by the B Corp status, which uses similar barometers as the UN's SDG or Sustainability Development Goals, has been like "a north star," and that according to the certification process, right now, the brand has checked enough boxes to be a seven or eight out ten on the B Corp rating scale.
Hayes likened it to food labeling. "There isn't the food label equivalent for fashion products, yet that would affect consumer choice. If garments had this, consumers would vote with dollars," she suggested, noting that key areas of future sustainability goals will focus on blockchain traceability, transparency and carbon measurement, and ultimately circularity.
It's not lost on Hayes and Shiplett how Ciara's celebrity status helps spread the message but emphasized that Ciara isn't simply adding her name to a brand but actually "in the conversation." Evidenced by the busy entrepreneur and mother-of-three always showing up in person for The House of L, R & C.
Her colleagues weren't the only ones to notice that. Ciara chatted with several UN representatives interested in sustainability and climate issues. Acknowledging the discussion and pondering FashionNetwork.com's question about a possible UN sustainability ambassador role, she left open the door to any possibility that further supports her mission.
"It's an honor to be in this house and people who get it and understand the mission at mind and heart. We are having some good conversations in this room. I think this room leads to many great things, and I am looking forward to all the possibilities ahead," she offered while noticing how much has changed regarding the fashion industry's transparency.
"We weren't being told those things before in fashion. It was just about the look, but we are going in the right direction now; I can see it happening from my perspective."
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