Everyday Pioneers... Leigh Morris

We recently joined The Re:directory (created to be the modern day directory for innovative sustainable small businesses), and caught up with incredible founder Leigh Morris about her journey, the issues facing the fashion industry and how we can all make a difference to the planet.

Tell us about The Re:directory... why did you create it and how does it work?

I worked in the Buying Retail sector for nearly 20 years and witnessed the negative impact caused by poor practices in large retail businesses, and the subsequent marketing and greenwashing to distract from the effect of their operations. At the same time I was struggling to understand and navigate the complexity around sustainability myself, I knew that I wanted to make changes to my own lifestyle but felt overwhelmed with the avalanche of information and opinions. I  struggled to find a really useful source that I could rely on to give me a broad variety of solutions that were realistic, affordable and inclusive for all, so I decided to create a platform to do it. My theory was if I could help myself and my family understand and make better choices (we’re a diverse lot) sorting and researching the information for them then hopefully it would help other people too, whilst supporting the growth of positive impact businesses who choose to operate consciously.

Meet Leigh, founder of The Re:Directory

Can you tell us more about the Values and how they reflect the businesses you feature?

The core of The Re:Directory is our Values, these founding 12 Values represent the key areas to support in choosing to lead a more sustainably minded lifestyle. Each of these Values is linked to the targets and requirements of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, which is a science based framework of targets and measurements that 193 countries signed up to in order to deliver a liveable and equitable future for all. This framework is important because it focuses on both the environmental and social facets of sustainability to eliminate all forms of exploitation and inequality and keep our planet in

Each member business of the platform is assessed on industry specific criteria to determine the Values their business model embodies, these values are clearly displayed for each business with a description of how each business delivers against that value. The goal is to connect consumers to transparent businesses who choose to operate consciously, never sacrificing people and planet in the pursuit of profit to help develop more positive impact consumption habits and re:direct money away from negative impact greenwashing businesses.

From your own experience, how can the fashion industry embrace sustainability more wholeheartedly (and transparently)?

The sheer volume of product being produced is THE key problem, the fashion industry is responsible for 10% of all humanity’s carbon emissions and the second largest consumer of the worlds water supply. A lot of retailers buy volumes of products specifically to markdown, stimulating demand through distressed pricing but a lot of this still doesn’t get sold and is on the fast train to landfill (disguised through charitable donations). 85% of textiles produced each year ends up in landfill so it makes sense that if the fashion industry committed to producing less they would massively reduce their negative impact.

Accountability is also woefully lacking. The supply chain is distant and fragmented which allows the industry to distance from any accountability but yet still apply immeasurable cost and lead time pressure which leads to human and environmental disasters such as Rana Plaza in 2013 where over 1100 garment workers lost their lives. Industry players all need to account for the TRUE cost (product, environmental and social) of their products, but that won’t happen without enforceable legislation which is why our collective action as consumers is so incredibly important.

The 2 biggest things we can do as environmentally conscious consumers is slow our consumption right down whilst keeping the items we do have in use for as long as physically possible. Our current rate of consumption and subsequent disposal of products is creating the huge issues we see both environmentally and socially.

And what can we do as consumers to help? Any steps and advice for those wanting to make a difference to people and the planet.

The 2 biggest things we can do as environmentally conscious consumers is slow our consumption right down whilst keeping the items we do have in use for as long as physically possible. Our current rate of consumption and subsequent disposal of products is creating the huge issues we see both environmentally and socially. We buy 60% more than our parents did but keep for only half as long, purchasing new things we really don’t need because we’ve been conditioned to think that new and shiny is the only covetable quality of the products we choose to buy.

2 areas of sustainability that are often overlooked due to environmental focus are Racial and Gender Equality. Of the 74 million garment workers globally, 80% are women of colour whilst black people, people of colour and women are socially and economically disadvantaged in today’s world. By choosing to shop with conscious businesses contributing to The Re:Directory values of Social, Racial and Gender Equality you are buying with businesses providing liveable wages to workers, black owned, people of colour owned or female owned businesses, supporting a liveable equitable future for all.

How can parents embrace sustainability? Do you have any advice for new parents trying to make efforts to be more sustainable as a whole?

One of the best learnings of The Re:Directory has been meeting the sheer volume of engaged parents who want to make sure the world is a better place in the future for their babies, I’ve learnt so many practical tips from them such as buying oversized so clothes last longer (plus kids look cute like this) as well as buying less new.

Using reselling platforms such as dotte are a game-changer because it helps show parents that that initial investment in a more consciously made piece of clothing and equipment that may have a higher price is worth doing for the sustainability and resale price benefits. Buying from businesses with take-back reward schemes makes so much sense too, I know dotte has the take back and recycle scheme which is fabulous, Be Diddy has the Buyback Scheme and Les Petits Champignons has the Loyalty Loop which are both genius too.

Do you have any featured businesses that you think are incredible? The ones you wish you'd thought of!

The ones that focus on keeping products and materials in circulation as long as possible are the ones that really get me – that’s the aim of the game with sustainability; keep products alive for longer in order to reduce landfill and the consumption of finite resources, the circular economy really is the future.

What's next for you and The Re:directory? Any sneak peeks you can share!

There’s so many great businesses to showcase, that’s the first aim. I want this platform to be the biggest cheerleader and awareness driver of better sustainable choices for people and support the growth of good people, Brains behind brands is our newly launched IGTV series to give followers and users an in-depth look into the minds behind these clever concept businesses in a bid to inspire and engender support for the community – as we grow the next step will be expansion and national awareness, so stay tuned and watch the journey unfold!

Follow The Re:Directory on Instagram or browse the incredible businesses listed here.

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