This and more was revealed in the company’s two-year sustainability plan released Thursday, envisioning “a new fashion system” based on commitments across governance, planet, people and platform. As with many businesses, Depop based its strategy on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, but unlike other sustainability reports, Depop’s report is brief and pointed.
“Fashion traditionally uses a top-down system — but that doesn’t fit today’s needs any more,” Maria Raga, chief executive officer of Depop, told WWD. “Not from a style perspective, not from an industry perspective and definitely not from an environmental perspective. So when we say ‘a new fashion system,’ what we mean is a way of making, selling, buying and experiencing fashion. One with space for many voices that’s kinder to people and kinder to the planet. Depop offers that space as a tech platform that’s easy to use, and even more so now with our sustainability plan.”
With more than 26 million buyers and sellers on its platform (more than 90 percent of whom are Gen Z), Depop is hoping to reshape the way fashion is made and experienced by promoting and developing culture that centers on circularity and creativity, as well as equity and exchange. It relied on existing frameworks and research to guide the report, which Raga considers the company’s “first steps.”
Specifically, Depop says it will rebalance access in its community by creating entrepreneurship and mentorship opportunities for underrepresented groups, as well as by investing directly in community projects focused on social or environmental good.
In the fine print, Depop pledged a preference to circular and “responsibly made garments” instead of marketing partnerships or campaigns involving the production of brand new conventional garments.
Why a change of heart in an industry predicated on overproduction?
“The negative impact of fashion production is staggering — and we want to ensure Depop is offering a solution and not contributing to the problem by supporting the creation of new items produced following a ‘business as usual’ approach, i.e., without any extra and specific social or environmental considerations,” Raga said.
The report also hinted to Depop considering B Corporation status down the road. Raga said the company has been using the certification as a “guide” and will try to informally follow along B Corp standards up to certification level by the end of 2021. “Any step we take to achieve our sustainability goals gets us closer to certification level. After this, obtaining the certification is our intention, but a step that requires additional legal considerations that we’re not able to commit to at this time,” she added.
Justine Porterie, head of sustainability at Depop, said the company will reexamine its supply chain, which along with its community of self-starters, also carries a mix of shipping providers, freelancers, partner agencies and more.
“Our supplier code of conduct will cover social and environmental issues such as child labor, forced labor, working conditions, nondiscrimination and respect of good environmental standards,” Porterie said. “The objective is for all suppliers, partners and vendors to operate in line with this code of conduct. For existing suppliers, we will ask to confirm they operate within this standard, and any new supplier to be vetted against it before entering into a contract with us.”
Depop also said it aims to become climate-neutral in shipping. “Looking into existing research and what our peers did before us, we realized that shipment of items between buyers and sellers generated, on average, more than 95 percent of a marketplace carbon footprint,” said Porterie, noting that Depop has a carbon-free shipping option that offsets each shipment’s emissions by 100 percent via its climate solutions partner South Pole.
“We know that offsetting alone is not the solution to address climate change. Reducing emissions must be the priority and offsetting should only come as a last resort to compensate for unavoidable emissions,” Porterie said, noting that Depop will also map its energy, water and waste in its owned facilities. “But we are already in a state of climate emergency. Because of this, we’ve chosen to prioritize our efforts on areas where we believe we can have the most impact now.”
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