Sara Brennan on building a Positive Business

This week, at the Drapers Sustainable Fashion Conference, Sara Brennan, our Head of Corporate Responsibility, spoke with Rebecca Bennett (Materials Specialist) and Jeremy Barton (Footwear Developer) on how we’re using an employee-led movement to create a sustainability strategy that inspires positive action for people and our planet.

Here we catch up with Sara on our Positive Business strategy, why it’s important to go slow and her ambitions for the year.

What is a ‘positive business’?

Positive Business is a holistic approach to sustainability and calls for us to take action for people and planet. We have used this as a framework to build our sustainability strategy by breaking it down into three key themes: Purpose led brands, Owning our footprint, and Circularity and collaboration. For each area there are clear goals we want to achieve, and we align these activities to the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Why is it important to be authentic and avoid ‘greenwash’?

Unfortunately, greenwashing is becoming more prevalent. It’s important that businesses stay authentic and validate claims they’re making by demonstrating their actions, rather than just setting out ambitions and goals in the distant future.

To be truly authentic with sustainability you need to do your homework. A sustainable choice should be focused on trying to resolve some of the big sustainability challenges the world is facing. More information than ever before is now readily available to consumers – so being authentic is vital.

How are you ensuring that our sustainability efforts tackle big issues?

Sustainability is still being revealed and so we are working with others to ensure we keep up to date as the science evolves. We all have to work together to tackle some of the big issues like carbon and water. We have worked with Professor Gail Whiteman, Director of the Pentland Centre for Sustainability in Business on deriving targets to reduce our carbon footprint. Even though some of our science-based targets are longer term, we need to act now to start our journey to achieve them. The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are also helpful to guide us as these are a blueprint for a sustainable future for all.

How are you using it to inspire action?

2020 kicks off the UN SDG’s decade of action as we have only 10 years left to fulfil the SDGs and so what better year to kick off our Positive Business activity than 2020 as we take action for people and planet.

What did you find difficult?

It was difficult going slow! We could have looked to launch our Positive Business strategy earlier and have gone faster but I am glad we waited to take the time to fully consider what we needed to do. It was a great way to start 2020 with a new business strategy and Positive Business activity launching. I think the timing worked well as everyone came back from the holiday period refreshed and raring to go.

What are you most looking forward to in 2020?

I am looking forward to the Positive Business festivals, which we will run internally to engage our people further. The festivals will be fun, interactive and formative way to learn more about what we are doing to become a more Positive Business – it will be a great way for our people to think about how they can take action. Equally I am excited to hear how people external to Pentland will respond to Positive Business. Through feedback and collaboration, we can continue to learn, adapt and make improvements.