Mike Barry, head of sustainable business at Marks & Spencer and Ramon Arratia, sustainability director at Interface, both spoke out about the importance in blazing new trails in supply chain sourcing of new, more resource-efficient materials.

Speaking at the Sustainable Business resource scarcity conference in London this week, Arratia criticised companies for relying on heavy rhetoric rather than action, and said brand leaders needed to be more inventive in their efforts to push the material optimisation agenda forward.

“So many CEOs walk around saying that sustainability is embedded in their DNA,” he said, a comment which drew murmurs of assent from the audience.

“We need radical efficiency so we can invent new raw materials. You can still be radical selling the same products, but this might involve coming up with new suppliers and materials for these products – and that carries a certain degree of risk,” he added.

Mike Barry echoed this sentiment and said there was “no such thing as classical commodities anymore”.

“No longer will companies be able to push onto society for free. The one thing you’ll see from M&S in the future is a push on quality – clothes that last, and a real shift away from disposable fashion,” he told delegates.

Barry added that this would involve simplifying the range of materials used through more partnership and supply chain collaboration, but he too warned of potential risks.

“Risk and radicalism – how do you pragmatically marry up the two? That is a real question for business.”

Maxine Perella

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