How Volcom is changing the sustainability game

The Southern California fashion market is dense with companies who live and breathe the outdoors. Most of the companies, even the ones located in the heart of downtown Los Angeles, feature action sportswear like wetsuits, skate shoes or streetwear.

Given the industry’s target market being so immersed in the outdoors, it only makes sense that there’s a huge push for sustainable clothing.

Because of this, companies here are starting to pay attention to the impact they’re having on the world around on them. Many brands are changing the way they make clothing for sales or for their market, but some are taking it even further because they are ran by people who care about the footprint their company is leaving.

One of the companies paving the way for brands everywhere is Volcom.

Their headquarters, located in Costa Mesa, California, includes their own skate park, plenty of locally created artwork and an entire staff of people eager to engage with others to talk about how the Volcom brand lives and breathes its “true to this” motto.

Tony Alvarez, known in the industry as Big Tony, gave a passionate and sincere presentation to me and my classmates early in the week during our trip to Los Angeles. After an entire week of appointments with companies talking about their ideas of sustainability, Big Tony’s words are what resonated with me.

As a consumer, my first thought when a company talks sustainability is to be critical. Maybe it’s because my world as a trend icon shattered when I learned about fast fashion (how could a company that made me look so good be so bad for everyone?).

Either way, when Big Tony first laid out his plan for a greener future for Volcom, I assumed it was because sustainable, ethical, etc. are all crazy buzzwords in the industry right now. “Sustainably produced” carries the same weight as “organic” circa 2012 or “gluten free” circa 2014.

However, somewhere throughout the presentation, Big Tony’s passion and sincerity convinced me that this company truly that stands behind their brand and their consumer.

Outside of participating in traditional green initiatives like making garments out of recycled fibers or using sustainable dyes, the company is also funding programs that change the lives of the people they work with.

Volcom is teaching cotton farmers better ways to grow organic cotton and how to be strong business partners, therefore ensuring growers are properly compensated for their goods. This strengthens the organic cotton crop, making it possible for more sustainable cotton to be grown.

Outside of programs that only affect Volcom, Big Tony also spoke of sustainability conferences that will make a difference in other companies, the whole idea being that everyone has to take action if the industry wants to see real change. After growing tired of attending conferences and leaving without much direction, he’s decided Volcom should be the company that takes charge and leads the way.

Although fashion can be a dirty and dark business, companies like Volcom and people like Big Tony are shining a light that other businesses can follow. All that’s necessary is for consumers like you and me to listen, learn and take action right along with them.

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