FCG x Otto Group panel discussion – Interview with Sustainability Manager Lisa Franke

The challenges of a circular collection and the general idea of ​​sustainability in society and companies

Interview with Lisa Franke, Sustainability Manager Otto Group

Green Tech Festival
Source & Copyright FCG

Author: House of Eden

On September 22, 2023, a joint panel discussion between the Fashion Council Germany (FCG) and the Otto Group on the topic of "Circular Fashion - The Future Normal" took place. The participants were Christiane Arp, the CEO of FCG; Ina Budde, co-founder and CEO of circular.fashion; Simone Sommer, expert for sustainability and circular fashion, and Lisa Franke, Sustainability Manager at Otto.

The panel participants agreed that sustainability and circularity are a question of attitude. The challenges involved, the importance of social change and the need for education at all levels were discussed. Young fashion labels and established companies alike must approach the topic in order to create new systems together.

At the same time, the brand's new Circular Collection was presented in the Collabor8 Co-Working Space on the Otto Campus in Hamburg. The new collection focuses on resource-saving fashion made from reusable raw materials. What's special: The integration of a so-called "circularity.ID®", which acts as a digital product passport in the form of an NFC tag. Created in collaboration with the Berlin company circular.fashion, both customers and recycling companies can use this chip to identify the composition and origin of the clothing items.

We conducted an exclusive short interview with Lisa Franke, sustainability manager at Otto:

What does sustainability mean to you personally?

In the past, sustainability was always associated with prohibitions and renunciations. For me, the circular economy has opened up a completely new solution space. As a result, I now have the feeling that I am dealing with solutions to the problems of our time and that is exactly what sustainability means to me.

Has there been a noticeable, lasting change in consumer demand in recent years?

Customers' demands with regard to sustainability are becoming more and more demanding, especially with regard to the sustainability statements made. At the same time, we observe that products with sustainability seals and similar labels are often preferred. Society's awareness of this has increased.

Nevertheless, sustainability is still not the main criterion for a purchase. Functionality, price, aesthetics and quality play an important role in the purchasing decision. This is because the sustainable aspect is often not directly associated with the product itself. For example, when customers buy a piece of clothing, what matters to them is how it feels and looks. It is therefore very important to gradually ensure that the sustainability aspect is integrated into all product categories in order to make it a matter of course.

Lisa Franke - Circular Collection OTTO

What was the biggest challenge in developing the Circular Collection?

The biggest challenge is change, i.e. moving away from tried and tested methods of product manufacturing towards complete transparency. This challenge lies primarily in the details. At first it seemed as if we had taken sustainable requirements into account, for example by using 100% organic cotton. But the difficulties came to light during implementation: How do we handle the sewing thread, for example? How can we design a sweater without spandex so that it can still be easily pulled over the head?

These practical questions require extreme precision in our work and a realignment of our processes, and that is exactly the biggest challenge. There is also the challenge of scaling, especially when the processes are new and complex. This requires new solutions and tools to simplify processes and make them efficient.

What are the Otto Group's current priorities in the area of ​​sustainability and what is the mindset within the group?

Environmental protection has been a top priority for us since the 80s and our sustainability team consists of almost 25 employees. This year we have also drawn up the most comprehensive sustainability agenda to date. This includes six active fields of action in the areas of packaging, circular economy, products and materials, compliance, supply chains and climate protection. When it comes to the general sustainability mindset, we are on a very good path. Our goal is to integrate sustainability more deeply into the core processes and thereby make it part of the daily business of all employees.

Do you think major change is only possible with regulatory requirements?

The current situation is double-edged. The “Green Claims Directive”, for example, has fueled great fear of accusations of greenwashing. So many people no longer communicate externally on the topic of sustainability. However, it is questionable whether this is the right approach. The announcement of regulations can therefore lead to a certain level of shock.

At the same time, I am convinced that laws can only be effective if they are made in solidarity with the industry. This means that companies must actively participate in the design of regulations such as the Ecodesign Regulation or recycling quotas. They can provide valuable input to find sensible implementation paths without undermining the logic of current business models. Therefore, I believe that successful regulations must build on the experiences and efforts of companies.

At the same time, it is crucial to recognize the urgency of this matter. We only have a limited amount of time to deal with the important issues of sustainability and laws are accelerating change.

Thank you for the interview Lisa.

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