Ethical Apparel Africa

LONDON — Tamsin Lejeune wants businesses to work together to find sustainable solutions that stick — and are right — for each retailer, so she founded Common Objective, a networking platform similar to LinkedIn for individuals in the retail industry.

Launched last year, the platform was created off the back of the Ethical Fashion Forum, the largest industry body for sustainable fashion, with partners including Kering and blockchain company Provenance. To date it has grown to 15,000 members in 138 countries across supply chain, suppliers, manufacturers and retailers over the past year.

“We wanted to make it possible to engage with the entire industry and create a platform that would be a fundamental tool, a place that all professionals go to do business because it helps them find suppliers, buyers and information,” Lejeune said.

Just like LinkedIn, members will need to create a profile to sign up, specify their specific needs, what they are interested in and the site will start suggesting or matching similar companies that keep sustainability top of mind.

“You need to reach some of our sustainability requirements and provide proof. However, even if you don’t meet them, you can still sign up as an individual or your ranking will be lower, which means you won’t be high up on our search results,” Lejeune explained, adding the algorithm works similarly to Google.

The biggest barrier that companies of all sizes face, according to Lejeune, is how to find solutions that are right, and how to scale them accordingly. Common Objective aims to help connect solution seekers with solution providers.

It has also launched tools intended to help businesses meet their financial goals and key performance indicators while operating sustainably and responsibly. These tools include a glossary of terms and issues and a dedicated resource to fabrics called Fabric Switch.

“You can type in any sort of fabric and the platform provides you with a range of alternatives and direct links to link to these businesses. You can search for anything, someone might be looking for something very specific and we don’t want to cut out that potential for them to find the most sustainable solution,” she said.

Lejeune said she’s hoping that the technology will help businesses of all sizes find a tailored solution. “What we are essentially aiming to do is to democratize consultancy.”

Moving forward, Lejeune said she hopes to expand the platform to the beauty and jewelry industry and eventually to any organization that needs to build a sustainable supply chain.

“Our vision is that sustainability should be the way all business is done. Moving it from niche to norm is an opportunity rather than a cost,” Lejeune said.

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