The presentation by Globe Hope strongly reminded me of another guest presentation we’ve had in the course Innovation toward Sustainability. The guest there was the founder of Remake, a company which works in the same business of re- or upcycling textile leftovers or discards. But while the basic idea behind both businesses is similar, there is one important difference: Scale.
While Remake’s business model is based on craftsmanship and tailored to a small business, Globe Hope buys its material in large badges and creates collections instead of completely individual pieces. Not only does this create more business opportunities for the company such as opening new shops or even expanding abroad, it also scales up the positive societal and environmental impact a business, and, indeed, an individual working for the company can have.
Sure, it is not everyone’s purpose to change the world, it is of course completely legitimate to emphasise oneselve’s personal job satisfaction over impact maximisation. Remake’s founder then also mentioned that her venture would not change the world, an attitude which I found refreshingly modest and down-to-earth.
However, if impact maximisation is indeed the goal, the scalability of a business is of utmost importance. Not only will it enhance the benefits to environment and society, but growth also attracts motivated personnel and has a variety of other positive side-effects, such as specialisation benefits and economies of scale. These consequences are more important than one might think: Globe Hope, for instance, does not directly benefit the environment with its business. Actually, every car driven by a GH employee and every sewing machine generates additional negative impacts. As long as GH customers by the products on top of their normal consumption patterns, the overall impact will therefore be negative.
Only when customers buy GH products instead of the competition’s can the environment benefit from reduced resource use. Competitiveness is therefore of the essence: pushing costs down through economies of scale improves competitiveness compared to less sustainable businesses to ultimately push more of their products out of the market and reducing the overall impact of the textile industry.