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"Europe's been ahead, but now the US has woken up" | Andrea Green shares her sustainable journey

Wed 29 Sep 2021 | 04:24 pm GMT
Rob Hutchins | Products of Change Writer

Andrea Green, US Ambassador of POC

Andrea Green is a name well-known and well-respected among consumer product circles in the US, boasting a career that has seen her climb the ranks of some of the biggest names in US retail and entertainment licensing. Her journey on the path towards better sustainability across the licensing industry started some 12 years ago - but it's taken a while for her US homeland to catch up. The US Products of Change Ambassador, Andrea Green shares her relationship with the green movement.
There comes a time in every career where thought is given to whether or not your path is headed in your desired direction. After 18 years in licensed consumer products - 15 as an apparel licensee and three as an entertainment licensor - I decided to capitalise on the forward insight we are trained to hone, and left the industry to study a course in Sustainable Business Management. That was 12 years ago. Among the factors that prompted the move it was Walmart who was, most notably, asking its vendors to think sustainably. After a lifetime of personal sustainable growth practice, I wanted to bridge my two worlds and asked myself the question: How could we in licensing make more educated choices and, perhaps, maybe even make less ‘stuff’? Or, at the very least, better ‘stuff’. I felt to my core that going forward, this evolved way of doing business was to be required of all of us in our industry if we wanted to stay competitive and viable. Going back to school as an adult with a focused passion was exhilarating. I was surrounded by bright, established professionals who also wanted to make their own marks in their respective industries. We were taught by the most extraordinary sustainable business minds: Hunter Lovins, Bob Willard, Bonnie Nixon, and Marsha Willard to name just a few.
Without the impetus to change, we just don’t.
Nine months of gestation, and deep diving into this executive-targeted graduate education, set us all out into what felt like a country ready for what we were proposing: thoughtful business led practices that took into consideration people, planet, and profit. For the next three years my consulting business, Globally Green, was kept busy mostly helping US apparel licensees fill in the gaps that Walmart and other retailers were asking their suppliers to adopt. In partnering with other subject matter experts, we measured and cut Scope 1 and 2 emissions, addressed environmental vendor compliance, worked on waste streams, adapted to less and smarter packaging, focused on cube utilization and the movement of freight and, in general, worked to check all the boxes that were being asked of my clients, by their clients. It was exhilarating and felt like I was home. Until suddenly, things took a turn. In the confluence of a recession, changes in upper management at Walmart, and an offer to take a maternity cover role at Saban working on the international side of the business, I jumped right back in where I left off three years prior. I then joined Activision, and then Zag Studios, and I adored both roles. However, sustainability was never far from my own goals and practices, just not a focus for my employers at the time.
Customers are more vocal than ever (thank you Greta Thunberg and her fellow Gen Z and Gen Alphas) and are demanding retail to be more thoughtful.
I’d occasionally try to bring up the topic, but it never stuck. To gain real traction, licensors and licensees require support and directives from upper management and maybe more so from the retailers they support. Without the impetus to change, we just don’t. For years, this has been the case in the US, but times and practices are quickly changing. Customers are more vocal than ever (thank you Greta Thunberg and her fellow Gen Z and Gen Alphas) and are demanding retail to be more thoughtful. Thus retail is making giant internal strides and starting to push us again to make our products in ways that make more sense for our combined global success. This had been the case in Europe for a number of years, and now the US has finally woken up. A renewed political will, a global pandemic, rejoining the Paris Climate Accord, rising undeniable climate crises dictating climate adaptation, a youthful employee corporate mandate for change, and maybe finally realising we really are globally connected and therefore all responsible for our short and long term corporate decisions, the time to create change is now. Risk mitigation, the potential to add value, and a CEO’s corporate legacy can all be powerful key stimuli of any sustainability strategy. Leaving my last licensor role, I relaunched my consulting business hoping that sustainability would again be the main focus. My first clients were more interested in my international connections, but in a bit of kismit, I joined a group of like-minded UK based licensing professionals in creating a sustainability sounding board called Products of Change. What began as a bit of a free form group filled with a combined hunger to learn more about sustainability, support each other’s pursuits and gain the tools and frameworks to bring what we learned into each of our licensing roles, became, under the guidance of Helena Mansell-Stopher and a partnership with Max Media, a glorious, structured, membership driven educational hub. Our members span our community and include multi-national retailers, major toy companies, licensors, licensees, consultants, service providers, educators, and those who just want to learn more about what sustainability is and how they can drive new practices to replace the old. Our working groups include Toy, Fashion, Carbon Neutrality, Plastics, Sports, Gaming, Packaging, Legal and Education. Our philosophy is that by working collaboratively we can get further, faster. While we do serve to educate; it’s collaborative and not top down driven. We want everyone to join us and be a part of the conversation. The POC website is rich with curated content, relevant news, great ideas and a supportive community. POC also hosts a yearly conference; the Sustainability in Licensing Conference (SiLC). With two in the bag already, these conferences have been a huge success, and we are fully charged for the next - taking place in June 2022 in London and virtually to include our now bigger tent. Meanwhile, this year’s Brand Licensing Europe will see Products of Change boast a large booth presence, showcasing sustainable products and practices. We can’t wait to share what we have been doing, finally in person. After 12 years of dreaming of creating something similar, but never making it happen, supporting Helena and her vision has given me tremendous satisfaction. Helena and I have spent hours groking on articles, webinars, conferences, all of which spark such joy for me. It’s like coming home and knowing you are doing just what you should be. As the US Ambassador for Products of Change, we officially launch this week. I invite and welcome my US colleagues to join us on this necessary, timely, exciting path towards a more sustainable future. Licensing International members receive a 10 per cent discount on membership. For more information please reach out to me at andrea@globallygreenbiz.com
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