How Farfetch is aligning business strategy with sustainability goals

The fundamental purchase drivers in fashion of style, quality and the right price haven’t changed, but a key evolution in the sector is that sustainability provides a point of difference.

That is the view of Thomas Berry, director of sustainable business at online luxury fashion marketplace Farfetch, who argues a product's sustainability credentials are increasingly the factor behind a consumer's purchasing decisions when faced with an array of options that all meet these traditional demands.

“Consumers want to feel there’s a positive story in what they are buying,” he explains.

“The key for a fashion retailer looking to be more sustainable is to help consumers make better choices. If you enable your consumers to buy better products or services and ensure your buying team understand what comprises a better product, that’s the most important thing.”

Berry believes a growing number of companies are now thinking about sustainability as part of business-led strategy, rather than just paying lip service to it as part of a tick box corporate social responsibility agenda.

Farfetch, he says, is one such company following this path, having trialled and launched various new initiatives in recent months.

The retailer launched ‘The Conscious Edit’ in April, as part of its goal to help consumers “think, act and choose positively”. It teamed up with independent agency, Good On You, to rate brands on their environmental, social impact and animal welfare credentials.

The Conscious Edit – which has its own section on the Farfetch website and sees applicable products and brands clearly labelled online – is the start of a more concerted commitment by the retailer to highlight and showcase more sustainable fashion, according to Berry.

“The two worlds of what makes a beautiful product and what makes a sustainable product are colliding in luxury, but at the same time it’s hard for consumers to decipher what it really means to be sustainable” he notes.

“Our approach is to demystify that for consumers using independent bodies to supply the data and for us to generate really good communication to help consumers make genuinely positive choices.”

There are over 12,000 products on Farfetch that qualify for the conscious edit, which aims to inspire consumers to shop in a sustainable way and encourage the wider fashion industry to meet higher standards.

“We’ll be bringing in more tools and ways to do that over time,” Berry adds.

The move adds to Farfetch’s experiments in challenging the traditional fashion model. Its Browns brand recently teamed up with luxury rental company Armarium, offering customers the option to rent some of its inventory, while the company also ran a pilot with luxury resale platform Vestiaire Collective to encourage customers to sell pre-owned products.

“We’re exploring opportunities to offer our own resale services,” Berry states.

“We’re aiming to help change the model for how fashion makes money by looking at ways that extend the life of clothes and reduce waste – things like made-to-order, rental and resale. These are propositions consumers are already buying into. We're right at the start of the journey but it's exciting.”