From Sustainable Development to Fashion Entrepreneur

Sustainable Development Fashion Entrepreneur

I LOVE MY JOB: I run programs to help fashion designers and sustainable fashion entrepreneur. I work with international organizations, I’m a speaker and I get to travel to various parts of the world. It is an unusual career path. It has been a rocky road and I would like to share my story with you.

In 2003, I decided to take a gap year to go back to study. Coming from a banking and consulting background, the natural move would have been an MBA. Some of my colleagues had gone down that road. But I wanted to explore a less traveled path. I wanted to expand my horizon as far as possible. I wanted to learn something that would not only feed my mind and soul, but also that would be useful for the rest of my career, and if possible, useful for the world.

Discovering the concept of Sustainable Development

I’ve heard about Sustainable Development; I fell in love with the promises of this concept. Sustainable Development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. That is precisely the field I decided to become an “expert” on (sic)

So I studied an MSc Environment & Sustainable Development at UCL, in London. For a countless number of reasons, that year was the most enriching year of my life. Environmental Justice, Development Theories, Agenda 21, Political Ecology, Urbanizing World, Gender, Environment Governance, Industrialization…etc. I still vividly remember the fascinating readings, classes, and passionate debates. 

From starting a career in Sustainable Development in 2005 …

After a short stint in the non-profit realm, I decided to go back to the corporate world in an attempt to preach the concept of Sustainable Development. Back then, it was a different era where the corporate world had little consideration for the Environment, let alone the concept of Sustainable Development.   

We are all accountable for our actions and impacts: individuals, governments, companies, whether big or small. I’ve worked most of my life in companies, exploring the implementation of the principles of sustainable development in the corporate world seems to be the most natural path to follow. 

In the quest of my new career, I met many people, mainly in large companies as I thought (naively) that these could not only see the value of incorporating Sustainable Development principles in the business but also have the financial means to implement them. I was often perceived as a dreamer and even sometimes as a freaky hippie. It was true that the topics I raised were uncomfortable, even depressing, as I was talking about climate change, environmental refugees, ocean pollution, ecological footprint, loss of biodiversity…

… to becoming an Entrepreneur

The best job I was offered that would match (remotely) with my “career aspiration” was in the financial communication agency, whose main contribution was to help greenwash the annual company report… I politely declined the offer.

One day I had a meeting with a pharmaceutical business owner. At the end of our meeting, she said that the concept of Sustainable Development was really pertinent, and it could only work if all companies would make a move at the same time. However, this is a paradigm shift that has to be decided at the highest level of management, but right now, as a business owner, she has other things to worry about and Sustainable Development is not on top of her list. She thanked me and wished me good luck.

Even if it sounded like another rejection, this was indeed an enlightening moment for me. She was right: in order to be truly effective, the principles of Sustainable Development have to be implemented at every stage of operations of a business, hence sponsored at the highest level. Since I couldn’t convince business owners, I have to own the business so I can experiment by myself. 

In 2019, Sustainable Development has become mainstream 

Almost 15 years have passed and it is a totally new era. In this era, we are undergoing the consequences of problems predicted by Sustainable Development scholars such as climate change, resource scarcity, and growing inequality, just to name a few. As I’m writing now, we are experiencing an unusual early heat wave and we are most likely heading for a new national record in France.

While the debates sparked off by the Anthropocene predict the upcoming of a gloomy dystopian in the near future (2050), some climate-skeptical minds believe that we can continue to enjoy limitlessly growth, with increasing pressure on natural resources and emission of polluting substances.

We can no longer ignore the issues of Sustainable Development

No matter the side of the debate, discussions around sustainable development, climate change, pollution, access to clean air and water, loss of biodiversity, deteriorating public health…etc. have never been so present in the public, private and corporate spheres. 

This debate even managed to unite members of all countries around one pursuit: the paramount character of Sustainable Development. As such, Agenda 21 has successfully evolved into more actionable goals with the Sustainable Development Goals ( SDG ).  

The media has become more vocal than ever before about the environmental crisis. Governments seem more and more united and committed to finding solutions. The public is better educated on the matter and has now a better understanding of the problems and consequences.

And what about in business?

Now, most businesses have now a “sustainability” or “responsibility” section on their corporate websites. Does that mean that the corporate world has all figured it out and knows how to solve the crisis and possibly revert the situation? Does that mean that we can all wear sustainable fashion brands? It’s unfortunately not that trivial. 

For Sustainable Fashion Entrepreneurs?

The roots of the environmental crisis are involved with many interlinkages. Running a business in a globalizing world is also very complex. I believe that the business world has become more conscious of the environmental crisis. And I like to believe that businesses would do their best to address this crisis. And do Sustainable Fashion Entrepreneurs address the issues? This is what we will be exploring in another blog post 😉

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