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Common Objective launches strategic sustainability consultancy

Lauretta Roberts
04 December 2019

Common Objective, the pioneering online platform for sustainable sourcing, has launched a strategic consultancy powered by a line-up of expert industry players.

CO Consults has been launched in partnership with eight leading sustainability and retail specialists including Mike Barry (previously of Marks & Spencer and architect its sustainability "Plan A") and Vanessa Podmore (previously of Pentland Brands, Jimmy Choo and Burberry).

Its launch was inspired by the data Common Objective (CO) holds on 22,000 fashion professionals from more than 130 countries, as well as the realisation that that thousands of brands suffer from "sustainability paralysis".

CO says that it can often be difficult for brands to make meaningful progress and a measurable impact with their sustainability strategies due to factors such as "an absence of team-wide alignment on the priorities, a trackable roadmap, fear of margin erosion in a challenging market, or an understandable fear that any customer communications will face the accusation of greenwashing".

To address this it has assembled a line-up of experts whose expertise spans design, production, supply chain and business transformation. The full line-up is:

Mike Barry - Strategy and Business Transformation. 20-plus years experience, previously at M&S.

Clare Lissaman - Ethical Trading Initiative, the Fairtrade Foundation, Tesco, Gap, Traidcraft, Twin Trading and the Department for International Development.

Andy Jackson - Design and Product Development. 15-plus years experience, previously Debenhams, River Island and F&F.

Vanessa Podmore - International Supply Chains. 20-plus years experience, previously Burberry, and Pentland Brands.

Alessia Gotti - Sustainable Textile Sourcing - Highly networked textile agent with global reach.

Victoria Waugh - Sustainable Jewellery Sourcing and Fashion. 20-plus years experience, previously Fairtrade International.

Vanessa Brain - Certification and Traceability Systems. 10-plus years experience, previously The Fairtrade Foundation.

Tara St James - NY based Zero-to-one strategy. 20-plus years experience, Educator and Designer.

Rachel Fortune - SME Sustainability Specialist. 15 years experience, stylist and consultant.

CO Consults says is approach recognises that sustainability can challenge traditional business models, so will encourage business transformation that optimises sustainability.

"We believe in a model that prioritises sustainability goals alongside commercial targets," said Tamsin Lejeune CEO and founder of Common Objective.

“We’re bringing together a global network of experts to deliver world-leading and achievable sustainability solutions for fashion businesses. Our team has spent over 50 years on the factory floor, in the boardroom, chairing workshops, leading business transformation, advising and executing, with one single question in mind; How do fashion businesses continue to prosper by operating sustainably and ethically?”

Catherine Thomas, commercial director, Common Objective added: “Meaningful change can be sidelined unless it positively impacts the bottom line or neutralises any associated increase in cost. Most fashion business models are of course rooted in traditional capitalism and shareholder KPIs.

"But attitudes are changing. Customers are trusting their favourite brands to have nailed this challenge and at the very least be on the journey to achieving measurable change. Reputations are at risk unless we can use our best endeavours to make sustainability and ethical trading business as usual.”

Common Objective is a global information and sustainable sourcing network. Through a personalised dashboard, CO’s technology enables fashion professionals to access a global database of brands and suppliers, learn from expert industry intelligence, and participate in industry knowledge-sharing.

It was founded in 2018 and draws on 12 years of work by the Ethical Fashion Forum, and partners with a number of industry organisations including The World Fair Trade Organisation, Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) and more.

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