ROW DTLA x The Heart Series wasn’t just “another corporate conference.” This 3 day resort-style retreat empowered brands and entrepreneurs with the tools and inspiration to do social good better. Featuring discussions led by executives from GOOP, Reformation, Toms, The Little Market and more, The Heart Series set out to change the way companies embrace the world.
So we sat down with two women leading the charge, Kathleen Talbot (VP Operations & Sustainability at Reformation) and Noora Raj Brown (SVP of Communications at GOOP) to get the scoop on strategies around sustainability and social good.
Kathleen Talbot, VP Operations & Sustainability at Reformation
ROW DTLA: You’ve dedicated your career to sustainability. What first sparked this passion?
KT: The simplest way to describe it is that I wanted to work on hard problems that mattered. This was a little bit before “sustainability” was a buzzword, so I ended up studying Sustainability Science. It’s a wild ride; you’re just focused on problem-solving. But I’ve built a career getting to do that for different organizations and brands, and it’s been a lot of fun.
ROW DTLA: How do you stay inspired when you’re fighting an uphill battle against systems that are already in place?
KT: For us, it’s not that hard to still do the right thing and push forward; but it’s all voluntary, which is really strange. You’re not actually incentivized to do the right thing in the United States right now. Reformation has been carbon-neutral since 2015. We do that because we think it’s really important – and that’s our part and our mission – but there’s no benefit to doing so in the business community in the U.S. right now. And that feels perverse. So while there’s not necessarily a lot of red tape or things that limit us from taking those steps, it can feel like a miss when we’re trying to encourage a wider community to participate in those things.
ROW DTLA: What is it about your communication strategy that not only makes your customers feel good about buying your products, but also activates people to be passionate about your mission?
KT: If you order from us today, your order confirmation will literally say, “YOU DID GOOD,” and it will reveal our life cycle totals to let you know how much you saved in terms of carbon, water, and waste, compared to most clothes bought in the U.S. In that way, it’s more personalized. It’s saying, because of the work we’re doing behind the scenes, that does translate to real impact at the unit level, and you’ve participated in that by “voting with your dollar.”
We actually went live today with a “Cancel Carbon” campaign. We’re encouraging people to sign up with 100% wind energy through our partner that does all of our renewable energy for our facilities. It doesn’t cost anything. There’s no incentive. We don’t have an interest besides wanting our customers to become educated around renewables and climate impacts, and feel like they have an option to do something. So we’re giving away $100 e-gift cards for anybody that will enroll in the program. Again, that’s not tied directly to Reformation or buying a cute dress, but we think it’s a really important first step that people can take.
ROW DTLA: What are some garment care choices that we can make at home?
KT: It seems simple, but obviously, washing less and only as you need to. We’re trying to develop more of our garments so that they’re cold and hand-wash safe, because dry cleaning can have significant negative impacts. Low impact for us means cold or hand wash and then line dry, that’s the best way you can manage your garment care footprint.
We’re also hopefully helping develop an actual filter for your washing machine that captures synthetic fibers. There’s no perfect answer yet, but as we test and develop better solutions, we’ll try to communicate those to our customers too.
ROW DTLA: What’s at the heart of the Reformation philosophy on doing good?
KT: There’s this concept in sustainability called the “Precaution Principle,” which is don’t do something if you don’t know what the impacts are. At Reformation, we’re utilizing the Precaution Principle. If we don’t know enough [about a garment or product] from what the initial research shows, we’re gonna pull back and really limit our use of synthetics and recycled synthetics until we know more.
ROW DTLA: What 3 things do you do at home to stay sustainable?
- I don’t drive. I live in Downtown, so I take the train and the bus for my daily commute.
- I’m big on the reusable train. I’ve even trained my husband, so he’ll only take our tumblers to our neighborhood coffee shop. Even the glass straws is a big one. Just being thoughtful about single-use [items] is really nice. If you build it into your lifestyle, it doesn’t feel like a sacrifice or anything.
- With feminine products, I’ve been using cups and cotton pads for 12 years, and it’s so much better! I always try to convert other women because it’s not just crunchy; it’s actually more comfortable and you don’t have to use any single-use feminine products. You can do the math really quickly: how many tampons [or pads] does the average woman have to use? It’s a lot, and over time, it really does make a difference.
Noora Raj Brown, SVP of Communications at GOOP
ROW DTLA: What about your communication strategy instills authentic engagement and belief in your products?
NRB: It really goes back to the idea that we didn’t start as an e-commerce brand.
For so long, GOOP really was just a content brand, it was a place for the editors to ask questions about things they were really interested in. So when we started actually introducing products, there was so much data and dialogue already there, that we really understood the reader.
There are so many media platforms that play that SEO game, and luckily, we made the decision early on that that wasn’t the direction we were gonna go. We’re very cognizant of our reader’s time. We only do about 10 stories a week, and as a result, when you look at the products, they’re very very curated. Everything that’s on the site has a story behind it.
The mantra for the editorial team is always, “talk to the reader like she’s your smartest friend.”
ROW DTLA: How focused is GOOP in making sure that you promote products with pure ingredients?
NRB: One of the big differentiators about GOOP is that we are so committed to clean beauty, and if you go to GOOP.com, there’s also transparency about how we evaluate wellness products. We have a science and research team that vet every single product, or we test them ourselves.
Fragrance is a really great example. [You’re] putting it on the thinnest part of your body, but most fragrances are incredibly toxic. So many fragrances can put in whatever they want, and there’s no transparency there. So when GOOP launched our fragrance, we were very clear about saying, “this is exactly what’s in it.” And you might look at that and say, “you know what, lavender oil, that essential oil doesn’t work for me,” but at least you know.
ROW DTLA: What kind of growth has GOOP seen during your journey?
NRB: When I started, we were almost 30 people and now we’re almost 250, so that alone has turned it into a different machine. From a content perspective, again what we really tried to do is meet the reader where she is. For example, we introduced a podcast. We didn’t necessarily feel like she wanted to be reading more on her phone; but we did feel like there are times when she wanted really meaningful content and she was in a car. We also just announced that we’re going to do a [wellness-focused] TV show with Netflix, which will be a great new platform for us. It’ll be a great natural extension of the GOOP content that everyone sees on the site.