Yann Queinnec: “Sustainability and social matters have become a must have”

On 26 April, the Denim Masterclasses kicked off. The initiative, which started as a cooperation between SI magazine and Denim PV, presented the first informative and networking workshop hosting Yann Queinnec, expert and consultant for legal, social and sustainable matters, though also an expert in textiles and former activist and legal expert for NGOs and governmental organizations. Together with a partner, he founded Affectio Mutandi, a company based in Paris, which focuses on ecologically and socially sustainable issues that companies have to focus on today. He presented case studies and useful inputs from various markets including the textile, retail, IT and food ones.

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Here we sum up some of his key statements :

“We address companies and explain why sustainability and social matters have become a must have, and that companies must become educated about how such matters can become business friendly.”

“There are three main mutations we have assisted in recent years and they involve three main fields – digital, social and legal aspects – and those three are interacting.”

“Today companies have to demonstrate how they impact the environment with their supply chain, human right issues, labour issues, corruption issues, just to name a few ones.”

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“Speaking of social mutation, for instance, there are ways to put pressure on environmental aspects by engaging public opinion that is linked with legal and digital aspects. For instance, activist movements like Greenpeace are supporting environmental issues and also sensitize public opinion. You may have heard about the #whomademyclothes sensitization campaign or about what change.org are doing by launching online petitions. For such matters, there is an increased risk, a more massive and totally direct way of applying pressure. Those who sign such petitions – we can call ‘homo heticus numericus’ – are sensible and sensitive to such matters and may easily sign petitions via computer or smartphone. They become offensive and critical but can also become positive stakeholders. There are many examples that such people can become helpful for a company.”

“Such issues can be transformed in a business-friendly way, but one has to think twice before taking action. Look at the H&M #conscious collection launched in 2010: if you produce 1% of your collection in a sustainable way you may expose the remaining 99% to criticism.”

“There are three main steps through which a company can proceed:

1. Product valorization

2. Transparency

3. Dialogue

“Referring to product valorization: Lipton for years has spoken about producing its tea fairly. Now they also provide a certification. Their case, when compared with H&M, is different for proportions and approach.”

“In IT business they employ rare minerals that often come from countries with a weak government and such business is often also supporting wars. Intel puts pressure on such aspects and made a marketing story out of a legal matter in a business-friendly manner. ‘If you buy my computers they are conflict-free,’ they told consumers.”

“Veja, Brazilian sneaker brand, emphasizes that its shoes are not made under bad working conditions.”

“Transparency can be approached in many ways. For this companies have leant new ways for reporting about their know-how and about how they operate. In many of their financial reports, there is also a part dedicated to nonfinancial matters and performance.”

“Consumers might be asking how a product has been made. If you answer properly to them or to the classic ‘homo heticus numericus’ you win. This is the new ability in telling the story about the product according to its social and environmental dimension.”

“The trend which seems to be rising now is – like Hackathon happening now – the dialogue with your stakeholders. Now the new challenge is to enter into a dialogue with them. Just do an initiative to illustrate this point. Dell did a customer advisory panel just to meet their consumer’s expectations and explain the matter of the rare minerals.”

“Carrefour will organize a hackathon in some of their stores in France in a few weeks for two days with consumers and suppliers as they want to create applications for smartphones that directly connect their organization, the suppliers and the consumers. This way they convince the consumer that it is a responsible act to buying their products. That’s how you can establish a relationship with your own stakeholders.”

“Thanks to such apps Carrefour’s customers may inform the company about, for instance, environmentally-friendly wrong attitudes they see in their stores. Little by little consumers can help change a company´s path or behaviour.”

Sportswear Article here