Thoughts On Retail Sustainability: With the Social Responsibility Coordinator at URBN

Hi! My name is Dustin and I am the Social Responsibility Coordinator at URBN. The brands that fall under URBN are Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie, Free People, and Nuuly. In this role I work with our vendors across all brands to ensure that they are in compliance with our code of conduct, which includes crucial policies such as zero tolerance for forced labor and child labor. Additionally, my team works in conjunction with the sustainability team on initiatives to promote responsible operations. Prior to this role, I spent a year researching and documenting the social and environmental impact of the apparel industry as a United Nations (UNESCO) Research Fellow at Penn State. I’ve always been interested in clothing and have held the strong value of protecting our people and planet, so it’s safe to say I felt a calling to this career path.

  1. How and why did you become a Social Responsibility Coordinator for URBN? Has this always been something you have been passionate about?

I’ve always been a loyal Free People and UO customer, and I believe that URBN is a leader in the industry in many respects. Sustainability and corporate responsibility are still considered fairly new areas for many brands, so I knew that by joining the growing department at URBN I’d have the opportunity to be a part of something very impactful. But let’s be real, the dog friendly office and employee discount were also big drivers to work for the company. It took me a year of sending cold emails, applications, and making connections to get my foot in the door, but boy was it worth it! 


2. What does being sustainable shopper mean to you? Do you have any tips for someone who wants to begin shopping more sustainability?

Being a sustainable shopper to me, means making conscious decisions in the brands I support. I try to limit my purchases to pieces that I can wear numerous times and style in different ways. Additionally, I try to purchase second hand to extend the lifecycle of garments (you can also find really unique pieces when purchasing secondhand). When I do decide to make first hand purchases, I buy from those who have visible supply chains and utilize materials that have limited negative impact on the environment. 

For those who want to begin shopping more sustainably, I recommend buying second hand and vintage. Additionally, look for brands who have certifications such as B Corp, or certified organic cotton. These brands must abide by numerous policies and regulations which promote sustainable supply chains in order to obtain these titles. 

My biggest piece of advice however, is to go through your closet before you make purchases. You may find a piece that you haven’t worn in awhile and fall in love with it again or you can find a way to repurpose it e.g. old jeans can be cut into a new pair of shorts. 


4. What is your take on fast fashion and the current accelerating trend cycle?

It’s hard to stay away from fast fashion, especially in your college days/ early 20s when you’re trying to fit in with everyone. So, I understand why consumers flock to it. I do think that brands are starting to receive more pressure from their customers, especially from Gen Z, to make conscious decisions in their operations. Because of this I am optimistic that there will be a shift in consumerism and in these trends. 

5. Where do you see URBNs progress with sustainability in 5/10 years? Are there any plans in place you can share?

I think that URBNs progress with sustainability is going to sky rocket in the next several years. We are building our department and we have started prioritizing initiatives that put our planet and people first. Our C-Suite executives recognize the importance of being a responsible company and support these initiatives. It’s really an exciting time to be a part of the team! 

6. What are some of your favorite sustainable brands?

  • Patagonia
  • Reformation
  • FP Care
  • Outdoor Voices
  • Levis
  • Boyish Jeans

7. This past year a lot of awareness has been put on shopping local and small, do you think this is still important even if they aren’t the most sustainable? I find myself struggling with this questions a lot.

I think that it’s always best to try to shop local and small when possible. In my experience, most small shops are always looking for feedback and suggestions. If you don’t agree with their practices and feel that there may be a more sustainable option, then befriend management and make the suggestion 😊

Thank you so much for letting me interview you Dustin!

I hope you learned at least one new thing reading this, let me know if you would like to see more blogs like this.

Love Always,

Meghan

Good News Friday Article: https://www.retailwire.com/discussion/madewell-is-set-on-becoming-a-leader-in-the-circular-economy/

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