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Retailers Adjust the Earth Day Agenda

By David Moin on April 22, 2020

This year, Earth Day is celebrated at retailers nationwide but in different ways from previous years.

With the world imperiled by the spread of the coronavirus, and 2020 marking its 50th anniversary, Earth Day takes on even greater significance this year even among all the U.S. retailers that have been forced to temporarily close their stores and furlough many workers.

It’s more challenging for most retailers to do their part this year, after prior years of recognizing Earth Day by spotlighting environmentally sound and sustainable products in the stores, and with window displays celebrating Mother Earth. Little, if any, of that can materialize this week, but retailers are recognizing Earth Day 2020 and their own efforts to help the environment by campaigning on social media and launching  marketing to drive customers to their web sites, where Earth-friendly products are being called out.

The Saks web site recognizes environmentally friendly designs. 

Saks Fifth Avenue, under the theme “In Good Fashion,” will feature on its web site and through e-mails and social media such brands as Maggie Marilyn, 3.1 Phillip Lim, Eileen Fisher, AG Jeans, Peony, Nanushka, Lesse, Codex, Surratt Beauty, Helmm, and Tata Harper, which all  focus on “responsible and consciously crafted style and beauty,” said Tracy Margolies, the retailer’s chief merchant. “We know that our customers often seek out brands that take steps to be environmentally friendly. This is a moment for Saks to share with our customers and champion established and emerging brands that can help create an earth-conscious, yet fashionable lifestyle.”

Hudson’s Bay in Canada is celebrating Earth Day through digital content that helps educate customers by giving them five challenges to help keep the planet green: unplug electronics and appliances; conserve water; recycle properly; opt for LED lighting, and plant a vegetable garden. The content is also geared to drive customers to the retailer’s web site to make “purchases with purpose.” That would be products that are ethically sourced, organic, cruelty-free and consciously designed, the company said. Saks and Hudson’s Bay are divisions of the Hudson’s Bay Co.

“The big message we will be communicating revolves around our own recyclable “Big Brown Bag” — the bag was designed by Massimo Vignelli in 1973, our Big Brown Bag is the OG alternative to plastic shopping bags,” said Frank Berman, Bloomingdale’s executive vice president and chief marketing officer.

A few weeks ago, Neiman Marcus created the “#NMTogether” video series online and in social media to help people keep a positive attitude during the health crisis and foster a sense of community while sheltering in. “#NMTogether is about connecting in a time of social distancing, when social media is a window to the outside world. We’ve launched over 20 social media videos across social featuring sales associates, NMG executives, brand ambassadors, and a few of our brand partners showcasing their ‘at home’ talents,” a Neiman’s spokesperson said. On Earth Day, Neiman’s is partnering with Gabriela Hearst in the #NMTogether program. “We also plan to feature across our IG Stories the many sustainable brands Neiman Marcus offers,” said the spokesperson.

Gap Inc. said this week that it surpassed its 2020 goal of saving 10 billion liters of water through product innovation and efficiency improvements at fabric mills and laundries, including the partnership with Arvind Limited, with which Gap opened a water treatment facility.

“This Earth Day our shared responsibility to each other and the planet is in focus like never before,” said Melissa Fifield, senior director of globalsustainability. “GapInc. and our family of brands remain committed to our ambitious environmental stewardship goals. Our customers are loving our growing selection of innovative, more sustainable apparel offerings, especially the cozy styles as so many of us are spending more time at home.”

Banana Republic introduced a “Better Republic” photo and film campaign that underscores the brand’s sustainability goals and commitment to do better for the planet. The film celebrates plant life, sunlight and water. “In these uncertain times, and as members of this global community, it is more clear than ever that we are all connected and we have a shared responsibility to protect each other,” said Mary Alderete, chief marketing officer of Banana Republic. “Since we all share this planet and its resources, Banana Republic also remains committed to our sustainability goals that reduce our impact on the planet.” Banana’s sustainable efforts include recycled fabrics like nylon, polyester, cotton and wool; man-made cellulosics sourced from suppliers that are Canopy compliant, and denim collections crafted via water savings initiatives. For example, the men’s “Dry Indigo Traveler” denim collection uses foam dye techniques that use 99 percent less water and 89 percent fewer chemicals compared to traditional dyeing methods. “From supporting our factory employees to innovations in manufacturing and responsible fabrics, we are committed to doing better every day,” said Alderete.

Last year Banana set several sustainability goals, including using 100 percent sustainable cotton and 50 percent sustainable fibers by 2023, creating more sustainable denim and saving water. Banana is also partnering with vintage online marketplace Thrilling, which will source classic Banana Republic pieces, including surplus pants, leather bomber jackets and chunky knits from vintage stores nationwide. They will be sold on http://www.brxthrilling.com today with 100 percent of the proceeds going back to the vintage stores themselves.

“To uphold our commitment to sustainability with Better Republic, we are also expanding ways for our customer to shop relevantly and responsibly,” Alderete said. “With our clothing rental program, Style Passport, and a new vintage resale partnership with Thrilling, we are creating a better path for customers to make informed, responsible decisions to live and shop more sustainably.”

At the Athleta division, three years ago, 15 percent of the brand’s apparel incorporated sustainability. Currently, 70 percent of the assortment is made using sustainable fabrics and fibers. Along with these products, limited-edition Earth Day graphic T-shirts are being sold, and Athleta is sharing the stories of the surfers who founded the Changing Tides Foundation, a nonprofit organization of surfers-turned-stewards of the ocean, who implement local educational and mentorship programs focusing on sustainability, ocean health, empowerment and access to clean water.

At the Gap division, a “Bettermade” capsule collection which features pieces made from 100 percent organic cotton, has been launched, and the Hill City brand for Earth Day is highlighting an organic cotton hoodie.

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