sustainability

Reformation Plans to Become ‘Climate Positive’ by 2025

“The goal is to share all lessons learned to accelerate this sort of commitment across the industry,” said Kathleen Talbot, Chief Sustainability Officer and VP Operations at Reformation.
article cover

Reformation

· 3 min read

Stay up to date on the retail industry

All the news and insights retail pros need to know, all in one newsletter. Join over 180,000 retail professionals by subscribing today.

Reformation says its slip dresses are the most “sustainable” clothing option out there—second only to wearing nothing at all. Still, it found places to clean up its climate commitments.

The details: Reformation told Retail Brew that it will be “climate positive” by 2025. That’s a new term for you and me both.

  • Kathleen Talbot, Chief Sustainability Officer and VP Operations at Reformation, defined climate positive as “going beyond net zero carbon emissions to actually create an environmental benefit, by removing more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than we emit.”

The directives: Talbot told me the brand studied every step in its supply chain to identify where emissions are largest. Then it ID’d three investment areas: further reducing emissions, insetting (a process of expanding renewable energy in the direct supply chain), and producing garments with regenerative fibers.

  • “Within apparel, [...] the area we can drive the most impact in is raw materials sourcing and material processing,” Talbot said.
  • But regenerative farming for apparel is still in its infancy—meaning that Reformation considers progress here to be sourcing 10% of its collections from regenerative fibers. Talbot added, “[I]t’s going to take time and some investment from us and other brands to help scale these methods.”

Is this a greenwash?

There’s cause for skepticism when brands announce in-house sustainability efforts. Brands don’t use a unified definition of sustainability, so it’s often unclear whether items with the label are truly better or worse for the environment.

  • Meanwhile, at U.S. and U.K. online retailers, clothes and accessories labeled as “sustainable” have quadrupled over the past four years, per data from analytics firm Edited.

Retailers from LVMH to Amazon have entered the green chat primarily by offsetting their emissions—which doesn’t always have a clear-cut impact. So from Reformation’s POV, “we have the responsibility to set the bar high and let others know we need to do more than buy offsets,” Talbot said.

Going public: Reformation will hang all its laundry from the climate positive plan out for other brands (and shoppers) to see starting in 2021, with quarterly updates.

  • “The goal is to share all lessons learned to accelerate this sort of commitment across the industry,” Talbot said, calling the plan a “proof of concept” for peers.

Zoom out: Reformation is overhauling many processes to promote transparency this year. Reformation's former CEO Yael Aflalo stepped down following accusations of racism in June; a third-party investigation did not find evidence that her behavior toward employees was racially motivated. The brand has since added diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) stats to its quarterly sustainability reports.

Correction: A previous version of this story stated that Reformation's CEO was removed by the company. She voluntarily left the role. We have also updated this story to include the results of the company's culture investigation.

Stay up to date on the retail industry

All the news and insights retail pros need to know, all in one newsletter. Join over 180,000 retail professionals by subscribing today.