3 questions for Fanny Garcia,
Founder of the Bluequest network

Fanny Garcia is the founder of the Bluequest network which helps businesses meet their CSR goals. She’s also a member of Ressources Green, a platform launched by the Fédération Française du Prêt à Porter Féminin. She believes that it’s a priority to give fashion businesses the right CSR tools to better prepare for the future.

Why did you agree to be part of the Fédération’s Ressources Green expert committee?

I’ve worked in corporate social responsibility for almost 20 years. I’ve held several posts with responsibilities that let me observe businesses’, especially in fashion, growing interest in CSR and their difficulty in attaining those goals. That’s one of the reasons I created the Bluequest network of CSR experts. Our objective is to help companies transition from identifying their CSR goals to defining and implementing a program that expresses their vision in all the major steps of the value chain. We kept this need – including for the smallest businesses – in mind when we collaborated with the FFPAPF on the Sustainable Supply Chain Guide (mettre le lien), which was created to be a tool that was an exact fit for fashion businesses’ challenges.

When the Fédération contacted me, it was clear that I would agree to join the committee; it was the natural next step after the Guide. In addition, since CSR has enormous scope and applies to all of a business’s major functions, it’s complicated to navigate among the almost overabundance of propositions available today. So this platform gives real support to fashion businesses, and it’s an opportunity for me to learn about new initiatives.

What are the future CSR challenges for the fashion sector?

In terms of CSR, France is chronically behind. For the most part, businesses have been satisfied with setting up the regulatory basics: Grenelle Round Table measures, the Sapin II Law, and anti-waste laws; and they haven’t taken much time to innovate on these topics. There was, however, a profound awakening about social responsibility, especially for multinational companies, after the 2013 Rana Plaza tragedy and the resulting “devoir de vigilance” [due diligence] regulation. And more recently, lockdown has accelerated awareness with a re-examination of the importance of social issues in the fashion industry.

What does fashion do? How can it get through and survive crises? So many questions are being asked. Shortcomings have been exposed in players who greenwashed their products but don’t pay their suppliers, or department stores who make unilateral decision to slash prices on small brands. The health crisis is not just a stress test, it also highlights major social and environmental stakes. Businesses now have to think about CSR for the long term and ask themselves where they’ll be in 10, 15, or 20 years. They can no longer be satisfied with just a few initiatives; they have to go further by becoming interested in new modes of consumption, digitalisation, the circular economy, and other topics.

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation reports (p.20) that “less than 1% of material used to produce clothing is recycled into new clothing”  So, there’s a lot that still needs to be done! Fashion businesses are often satisfied with adding some certifications to their tags. But they should go further and ask themselves questions about their mission and role in the future of fashion. The ones that take the time to reflect will perform well.

And fashion companies must not only be serious about building their CSR strategy, they also need to know how to develop the topic to communicate with consumers. If they’re protecting employee’s well being and being careful about social risks, human rights, forced labour, and children’s rights; if they’re analyzing their impact on the environment and natural resources; if they’re working to improve their social and environmental footprint … they need to know how to talk about it! It’s critical that customers get on board. But very often the message is too technical or too vague and the consumer doesn’t believe it and thinks it’s a trick. It’s imperative that fashion businesses that are committed to CSR know how to cultivate brand preference. And here again, there’s still a lot that needs to be done!

Do established companies and young labels have different viewpoints about CSR?

There are some big groups, including in fast fashion, who are making a change. I’m thinking, for example, about H&M. Despite criticism, they’re making progress in terms of transparency and especially the circular economy. But it has to be noted that a lot of the changes are taking place thanks to new players. Another example is the second hand movement, which has been championed by young businesses and is now being adopted by more established brands.

There are labels like Sézane or Reformation where CSR is a core part of their DNA. These labels are sexy and they’re digital natives, a far cry from the image of the ethical brands of the 2000s. They don’t pay attention to preconceived ideas, they keep moving forward. We can also mention Hopaal – a brand that produces really great products using only recycled fibres, while many think it’s still hard to put those materials on centre stage. Patine’s offer is also eco-based and the brand has totally transformed the usual communication codes for sustainable businesses. Then there’s Make My Lemonade which is built on a DIY approach. And there’s De Bonne Facture with its premium positioning. The label’s standards for doing business, choosing materials, and managing production are comparable to what we expect from traditional luxury brands. Single-product strategies, pre-orders, subscriptions, rentals … all these young brands are bringing creativity and a fresh, unbiased approach to the discussion about the future of fashion and CSR. They’re animating the conversation with their talent and, in doing so, inspiring the entire sector.