CSR is generally understood to describe sustainable production, good working conditions for employees, and social responsibility toward society as a whole. Brands for Good aims to work together with companies to highlight these principles through events, goods, or exhibitions – such as its first appearance at ISPO SHANGHAI 2017 (July 6 to 8) – and contribute toward creating better business.
Diverse CSR in the Sports Business
Projects vary, from collecting old wintersports equipment and passing them on to ski instructors working in the most remote regions of Kyrgyzstan, to reusing residual material from large sportswear manufacturers such as Volcom, Burton, or Arcteryx in an ecologically worthwhile manner.
ISPO.com spoke to Frank Lohse, founder of Brands for Good, about the term Corporate Social Responsibility, how consumers can contribute, and what his company hopes to gain from its first appearance at ISPO SHANGHAI in China.
Interview with Frank Lohse
ISPO.com: Mr Lohse, how did you come up with the idea of Brands for Good and what brought about the decision to progress from ISPO MUNICH to your first appearance at ISPO SHANGHAI 2017?
Frank Lohse: Brands for Good was born from the question of why companies don't publicize certain social projects. Are they worried about Green Washing or are these projects simply not important enough? There are many projects that not only place economic figures center stage, but that also cover the holistic approach of Corporate Social Responsibility.
Sustainable production, working conditions for employees, or social responsibility with regard to society – all of this is part of CSR. These are the projects we want to help promote. It's an idea that was already very popular at the exhibition in Munich. Now we are hoping to attract similar attention for this subject in China.
Video: Sustainable ideas at ISPO MUNICH
What does Brands for Good aim to achieve at the multisegment sports exhibition?
For Brands for Good, the aim is to highlight the successes of social and sustainable projects instead of their shortcomings.
We have acquired a broad spectrum of partners:
- Small initiatives collecting sunglasses for people living in the poorer regions of the Himalayas;
- companies whose outdoor clothing is not only 100% free from PFCs, but also which have most of their goods produced by seamstresses employed as part of a social project in Colombia;
- and even big players such as Arc'teryx's "Birds Nest" project, which sees volunteers using high-quality residual materials to sew cloaks for the homeless in Vancouver.
We also work closely together with start-ups actively searching for and developing solutions to significant existing problems.
"We need to tread carefully in China"
How are plans for your first appearance going?
We need to tread very carefully in this early stage of our time in China. At all costs, we must avoid giving the Chinese the impression that we Europeans are acting like schoolmasters coming to lecture them. We want to connect people and ideas and of course aim to create a platform that integrates Chinese companies and projects.
To what extent has Corporate Social Responsibility already established itself in China?
Though it is certainly not a subject that has enjoyed the country's undivided attention until most recently, the government has now begun to take action. Owing to declining economic figures, the government has specified a complete restructuring, investing billions in attaching far greater importance to the subjects of "sustainable development" and "environmentally friendly production."
How can events such as ISPO SHANGHAI further improve the situation?
My experience of ISPO MUNICH has shown me that this subject attracts a great deal of attention. Many consumers want to make a change, they just need the right information in order to make the right decisions.
It is also necessary to a certain extent to present CSR as something stylish and cool. Our performance at ISPO SHANGHAI is the first step to providing CSR with a bigger platform. We are very grateful for this opportunity.
CSR: It's possible to save money
How can the industry drive CSR forward even more successfully?
There are many possibilities, starting with the integration and motivation of employees, as well as of course backing up company goals for the benefit of consumers.
Ultimately, all of these measures are also aimed at creating value through saving money. For example, Burton Snowboards managed to save 50 percent of packaging materials through CSR. It's a transfer that hasn't quite arrived on the whole market yet. That's why we want to inspire, inform, and communicate.
And which opportunities are consumers left with?
Information is everything – and of course this not only applies to the sportswear industry. The more consumers know about CSR, the more of a conscious decision they can make when shopping.
And little things do indeed mean a lot: For example, is it really necessary to drink a latte macchiato through a plastic straw? In relation to sports clothing: Where are items produced, how, and under which conditions? Which product should I buy? How can I communicate this information? Asian companies may have a little catching up to do in this area.
What would lead you to class ISPO SHANGHAI as a success for you and Brands for Good?
First of all, we want people to meet other people who want to make a change in the world. We want to create a communal network and meeting point for people to discover, share, and foster common interests and values.
We must aim to reach out to as many visitors and exhibitors as possible in Shanghai, helping CSR shrug off its image as something inconvenient or annoying and instead attract attention as an investment in our future, as an asset for companies as well as for employee and customer retention, and ultimately as an asset for society as a whole.