Day-to-day, a rotating list of companies announce their latest efforts to set new sustainability industry standards, from game-changing initiatives such as Walmart’s Sustainability Index and Puma’s triple bottom line accounting system to a spectrum of brands broadcasting new metrics, programs or platforms that advance their corporate sustainability goals. Setting the pace for industry-leading change has become an industry standard. While this type of leadership is commendable (and necessary), it does not always guarantee systemic change. This is one important distinction between two standards recently launched by two outdoor apparel giants: Patagonia’s Traceable Down Standard and The North Face’s Responsible Down Standard.
Patagonia, which launched its new standard last November and announced that from fall 2014 forward all its down-insulated products will contain only 100 percent “traceable down,” is certainly an exemplar of all-things-good for the outdoor and apparel industry. As Patagonia has done in the past with its commitment to organic cotton and recycled polyester, the company hopes its new down traceability standard will “inspire other companies to look closely at their own down supply chains and utilize the model.”
This is all well and good. Models are important – though when are models not enough, especially when complex global supply chains are involved? Perhaps the question we can ask instead is: how can sustainable business leaders go beyond setting the pace for the race, and instead ensure that everyone running makes it to the finish line?