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REI's Former Sustainability Director: "Even Walmart" Can't Change the Industry Alone

REI's New York flagship in Soho, via <a href="http://www.greenbuildingsnyc.com/2011/12/05/rei-preserving-puck-building-history-at-first-nyc-retail-store-in-soho/">Green Buildings NYC</a>
REI's New York flagship in Soho, via Green Buildings NYC

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Outdoor apparel brands—including Patagonia, Nike, and REI—have been leading the conversation around sustainability in fashion for the past decade. So as more fashion-focused brands join the conversation around ethical apparel, there's a lot the industry can all learn from the progress outdoor apparel brands have already made.

Greenbiz conducted an excellent interview with Kevin Hagen, who recently left REI after seven years as the company's director of corporate social responsibility. During his time there, REI grew from $1.3 billion in annual sales and 3.3 million active members to $1.8 billion and nearly 5 million members, Greenbiz reports. Also during that time, REI developed its first comprehensive environmental program. Hagen was surprisingly candid about what he learned during his tenure, and his takeaways include valuable lessons for the fashion industry as it moves toward a more sustainable approach.

The most interesting point Hagen brought up might be his insistence that the apparel manufacturing supply chain is simply too big for one brand or company to change alone. He believes that companies have to work together to make changes to the industry: "Ultimately, what most organizations have discovered is that the problems and challenges and the opportunities are really too big for any one company to deal with, even if you're Walmart," he said.

"The supply chain was so big that none of us was going to be able to influence the cotton supply chain by ourselves, or the polyester supply chain, or the chemistry supply chain. So we needed to work together in order to get where we wanted to go."

Head over to Greenbiz to read the whole interview, and feel free to share your thoughts on sustainable fashion in the comments.
· Exit Interview: Kevin Hagen, REI [GreenBiz]
· 17 Essential Eco-Friendly Fashion Brands To Shop Right Now [Racked]
· Would You Pay More for Target's Phillip Lim Collab if it Were Ethically Made? [Racked]