Fashion retail is blurring the lines between profit and value

I have been waiting for Zady for a long long time. When I was 16 I watched the documentary The Corporation, which explains how corporations became legal persons for the first time. I left feeling amazed that such entities were allowed to exist - they had the legal rights of a person, but as inherently profit-seeking organisations without a moral compass, would always follow wealth at the expense of value. 

Since then, I have been looking for companies that challenge this unsustainable logic. The online fashion retailer Zady is one of the emerging new companies that disagrees with the traditional model of the business organisation, noting how executives will pursue short term profits while ignoring longer-term goals like sustainability. 

“We have serious challenges ahead of us. As citizens we’re going to have to come up with more than a plan to turn our lights off and recycle our plastic, and corporate citizens will have to shift to a growth model that accounts for the true cost of production. Corporations are always looking to innovate. The next great innovations will be coming up with sustainable growth solutions.

At Zady we’re working to demonstrate the future corporation. We’re embedding transparency into everything we do. We work to develop quality products, products that aren’t just marketed to get the consumer to buy them, but products that are created with the user in mind. We are not externalizing corporate responsibility into a separate department, the responsibility we have as a corporation of the future is to build a sustainable means of dressing the global population. And to explore more about defining sustainability click here.
What if instead of corporations just being in the business of selling things, they were in the business of making the world better?”

Zady’s “new standard” of business may sound like an elaborate PR ploy or marketing strategy, but they aren’t just another a big business that has just wisened up to the necessity of an annual CR report - Zady is a new kind of corporation that has embedded sustainability into its raison d’etre. And this makes it not only an innovator of products, but an innovator of ideas.

I will not tell you all the ways in which Zady commits to the principles it lays out, because that would just be regurgitating the contents of a CR report. What is interesting about Zady is not how many trees its planting, or how many pairs of shoes it donates to poor children in Africa.

Zady is is important because it is challenging the idea of what it means to be a corporation. By integrating sustainability and social value into every aspect of the organisation, Zady is able to have far-reaching consequences not only on what people consume, but how they consume. One of their philosophies, for example, is to sell timeless and high-quality pieces that will not only last, but that will also not go out of fashion next season. Their business practices therefore aim to influence the behaviour of the end user as well as the substance of their consumption. Counterintuitively, Zady is trying to get customers to consume less.

It will be interesting to see if Zady’s model is successful. As a profit-seeking corporation, they still need to convince people to choose them over other fashion retailers. Luckily, ethical and sustainable products seem to be a growing market and sell pretty well to a certain demographic. So in the end it seems that the success of Zady’s model will come down to marketing after all.

For other conscious retailers, check out Everlane (US) and PeopleTree (UK)

(this post was not in any way sponsored by Zady)