Selfridges launches Project Earth, a transformational sustainability programme

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Project Earth

When I was quite young there used to be a dolls’ hospital, somewhere in the region of where Alder Hey Children’s Hospital is sited. Favourite dolls were lovingly restored to their former beauty. Sometimes the doll would be bandaged, when you first took it in, if say an arm was broken. By the time you returned the bandage would be gone, and the arm restored. Then this concept was replaced by the notion that toys had but a limited shelf life. Toys no longer needed to be lovingly cared for, repaired and restored throughout child-hood. A brand new shiny model replaced the worn and shabby original. Selfridges believe it is time to re-assess that retail model.

WORDS: Jean Hill

In August 2020, Selfridges Manchester launched a transformational new sustainability initiative, Project Earth. Its commitment is to change the way we shop by 2025. The initiative builds on the industry leading steps Selfridges has taken over the last 10 years to place sustainability at the heart of their business.

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Selfridges aims to help customers change the way they shop in three ways. To begin by addressing the materials used in products. Then launching and exploring new retail models such as repair and resell. Finally by engaging with teams, partners and customers to inspire a shift in mind-sets.

Working closely with over 250 of Selfridge’s brand partners and with support from the Woodland Trust and WWF. Project Earth will kick-start with eight weeks of experiments, innovations and conversations, across all stores and online, dedicated to reinventing retail. Selfridges is the first luxury department store to set tough material requirements as part of their commitment to a science-based Scope 3 carbon reduction target in goods and services.

The targets:

Materials: to ensure the most environmentally impactful materials used throughout the business come from certified, sustainable sources by 2025.

Models – to pioneer new retail models and experiences, making Selfridges synonymous with circularity, including rental, repair, resell, refill and rent.

Mind-sets – put longevity, creativity and sustainability at the heart of the business, and engage with teams, partners and customers to effect change. Underpinning Project Earth is a broader commitment to science based targets and to achieve net-zero carbon by 2050, in line with the Paris Agreement.

Alannah Weston, Selfridges Group Chairman, says: “For the last decade we have taken ground-breaking steps to put people and the planet at the heart of our business, embedding sustainability alongside creativity. Project Earth is not only our bold, new commitment to stretching environmental targets, it is about imagining new ways to do business, within the next five years…”

Out of the global pandemic has come an understanding of how fragile and complex our systems are, but also how our planet and people can benefit if we act collectively with a shared purpose. Now more than ever we must double down on our efforts to reinvent retail with sustainability at its heart. And a way of working which is regenerative for humans and nature. Achieving our ambitions won’t be easy…We are in a unique position to be able to work with our team members, partners and customers to co-create change and explore possibilities for a sustainable future.”

Anne Pitcher, Global Managing Director of Selfridges Group, says: “In a way we never could have predicted, the cycle of consumption has been broken by the pandemic marking a moment of change in our customers…and requiring us to set new expectations for retail. We firmly believe evolving the way we do business and supporting change in the way people shop is essential to building a more sustainable business…And the tough, stretching targets we have set ourselves underpin our commitment to change our business and our ambition to imagine and create a sustainable future for our customers.”

Project Earth launches with collaborations from more than 300 brand partners, with exclusive collections from Prada Re-Nylon, Barbour, HURR, Duke’s Cupboard, Harper Collective, Craig Green, Levi’s, KITH and Seletti.

There will be a series of 13 talks, takeovers and screenings with 10 partners such as ‘How To Academy’ and ‘Intelligence Squared’. There are more than 20 events engaging with stories, brands and services to engage customers with the future of shopping:

Ethical Consumerism: oxymoron or opportunity? (The Guardian webinar, 18th September)

Reimaging the fashion world; (How To Academy webinar, 20th September)  

Climate Action: meet the champions of change; (How To Academy webinar, 20th October)

The Climate Changemakers: Meet the young activists fighting for climate justice; (Inteligence2 webinar, 6th October)

The Future of sustainable beauty with Sali Hughes; (Webinar, 9th October)  

Immaterial Fashion: the end of ownership? (The Future Laboratory Instagram takeover, 8th October)

Better together: how to build a movement; (How To Academy webinar, 13th October) Sowing the seed: how can we become ethical eaters?; (Intelligence Squared webinar, 14th October)

Eco Innovations: future-facing ideas for our changing world;(How To Academy webinar, 15th October)

Selfridges is embedding circularity into the business with new services including a Repair Concierge, helping customers to find which repair service is needed to make love-worn items as good as new. ‘Resellfridges’ (launching in September), its first own brand resale model, making it easier than ever for customers to shop pre-loved, vintage or archive clothing and accessories.

All Project Earth displays and signage across Selfridges four stores in London, Birmingham and Manchester have been created from recycled or sustainably sourced materials. Eco paints have been used across all painted elements and all vinyl is PVC free and will be incinerated for energy after use. All props used for Project Earth will be reused for future projects.

Over 400 products from more than 40 brands will be labelled ‘Organic’. Over 550 products from more than 20 brands that avoid all animal-derived ingredients will be labelled ‘Vegan’ All inspirational.

Related read: Young Cheshire-based designer showcases sustainable fashion at London Fashion Week

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