Interview with Dorota Jankowska-Tomków, Director of Purchasing and ESG LPP
ESG criteria are becoming as important as strict business criteria. Why does this happen? What prompted the entrepreneur to take more and more care of the environment? What drives him to do this?
Indeed, the non-financial elements become as important as the financial ones. A few years ago, we were mainly interested in our financial situation, today we are often asked about the circular economy approach or our social contribution. Both aspects have been present in LPP for years. We have always tried to be a good neighbor concerned about the immediate environment. Over the years, seeing the number of areas touched by our activities, we began to broaden our commitment. Many companies forget that in every activity, in addition to the economic aspects, there is also an obligation to implement a certain social mission. The specificity of our industry and the very dispersed economic model that characterizes it have made environmental aspects essential and the need to implement changes throughout the supply chain. It was an impetus for us to develop the first sustainability strategy, then the next one, and today we have clearly defined goals that we constantly pursue and for which we are accountable. In my opinion, it is our duty to all our surroundings – employees, neighbors with whom we share the street, customers for whom we create collections, business partners, investors and, above all, to ourselves.
How does this translate into the assessment of the company’s value? After all, in theory, fragmentation on many topics not directly related to the core business may not be favorable to it, and even sometimes harmful.
I cannot agree with this. When achieving the adopted environmental objectives, it may turn out that their implementation will also contribute to introducing certain improvements in the company. At LPP, we have faced such a situation, for example, when our packaging policy changed. We wanted to eliminate plastic from e-commerce packaging. Initially, we changed the aluminum foil to a paper carton format. This inspired us to make further changes. It turned out that by diversifying the size of the packaging and adjusting it better to the content of the products ordered, we will reduce the consumption of raw materials for their manufacture, but also transport costs and, above all, our carbon footprint. Thanks to better packaging, we also use storage space more efficiently, which also has a significant impact on climate issues.
In a nutshell, just take a good look at your business because it may turn out that a change in just one area will not only improve our economy but, more importantly, reduce our impact on the environment.
Has ESG changed the image of the company in general, or is it just a characteristic of the group of companies involved? Sensitization? Maturity? Or just marketing?
I think we are on the right track for ESG to change the face of business, but it takes time. I am very happy that there are new directives for companies or even legislative obligations. As a result, companies that ignore climate issues will soon have no choice but to be forced to act strictly from the top down. Otherwise, they will fall out of the market.
Are ESG issues solely within the purview of boards? How is it in business? Which parts of the company are or are not involved in corporate social responsibility?
I can’t imagine it’s possible to implement ESG standards based on a small segment of the company. If we want to change, we must do so, embracing all areas of our business with the participation of people at all levels of the organization. At LPP, we think holistically about ESG standards. Therefore, in our strategy, we have focused not only on the product and the production itself. We have set ourselves specific targets for improvement and development in the field of packaging, the elimination of plastic, chemical safety, but also the infrastructure of our offices and stores, which can also be made more environmentally friendly. Real changes are not possible without a holistic approach, and therefore the involvement of all teams supported in their activities by company management.
How does a company that deals with clothing, that is to say non-ecological production, with a lack of factories and suppliers (out of control), take up ESG issues? Are there catalogs, action plans, guidelines that are supported?
We are not able to do everything alone, because we operate in a too dispersed model. However, many certification bodies and international agreements that develop standards and best practices for the industry come here to help us. We have been involved in joint change for years and we can see real benefits today. For example, currently up to 70%. our garments, produced in countries as hostile to the environment as Bangladesh or Pakistan, comply with the strict chemical safety requirements defined by the international ZDHC initiative. Until a few years ago, this would have been unthinkable. Through such actions, taken on a global level, we change not only ourselves, but also our business partners, even in remote corners of the world.
What good habits and best practices would you suggest? Can these contemporary issues be transformed into a sort of criterion of self-esteem and satisfaction in business?
From the perspective of the last four years, that is, since we have been reporting on our non-financial activities, I can see how much we have changed not only as a company, but also as employees. Reporting requires us to collect a lot of information about ongoing projects. Initially, this process was considered a time-consuming device. Today, each subsequent report is for us a treasure trove of knowledge about our own organization, but also an impetus to implement further changes. This not only helps us to monitor the situation, but also to accurately identify challenges and make decisions more effectively. This is why I strongly recommend that you submit your business activity to an assessment and research the reasons for change, as this can bring positive results for the entire organization.