Following its spinoff from Sears Holdings last year, Lands’ End has made a stylish green-focused commitment by hiring new CEO Federica Marchionni in February to reignite the brand. The former Dolce & Gabbana executive envisions the NASDAQ-listed Lands’ End as a sustainability leader and a global lifestyle brand for outdoors adventurers and nature lovers. To that end, she will be based in New York to run the $1.5 billion retailer, which is based in Dodgeville, Wisconsin.
Marchionni, who has also worked at Ferrari and Samsung, was drawn to the opportunity to lead Lands’ End because of its longstanding commitment to sustainability and philanthropy by founder Gary Comer, an environmentalist and accomplished sailor who launched the brand in 1962. “He was a sailor, and I love sailing,” she told the Huffington Post. “It’s the contact with nature that’s important.”
— HuffPost Business (@HuffPostBiz) April 30, 2015
The Italian-born exec moved to New York four years ago to head the US division of Dolce & Gabbana. A Manhattan-based CEO is a first for Lands’ End, but she wants to be closer to Wall Street, Madison Avenue and international markets for growth—traveling sustainably, of course, and being conscious of her carbon footprint.
The first sign of the new leader’s priorities was made evident to customers with last month’s “Lands’ Friendly” Earth Day campaign, with its hashtag #IAmLandsFriendly. As part of that effort, the brand extended its partnership with the National Forest Foundation and announced its one millionth tree planting in America’s national parks.
Behind the scenes, she has been making the rounds to build awareness that sustainability and social responsibility are more than an Earth Day commitment at Lands’ End, which sponsors about 20 eco-focused events annually. Its environmental goals and progress are noted in its latest Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) report, which was filed in 2013 and covers milestones through year-end 2011.
Marchionni recently spoke about supply chain management at the Milken Institute and at Tina Brown’s sixth annual Women in the World Summit, where she opened her remarks by saying, “As the new CEO of Lands’ End, I want to lead this amazing American iconic company to become a meaningful global lifestyle brand. Meaningful in the way we conduct our business, in the way we take decisions, the way we inspire people (in our) community and the world.”
“We are continually improving upon our sustainability efforts to become even more ‘Lands’ Friendly,’” stated Marchionni. “While I am proud of what has been accomplished so far, there is much more to do and I am excited to take our sustainable efforts to the next level.”
In the past three years, the company has planted more than 500,000 trees across America to help offset its use of paper packing materials and print catalogs. It plans to ramp up digital offerings in lieu of paper-based marketing collateral. Currently, about 60 percent of its packaging material is recycled, reported Forbes, “which tells us that Lands’ End doesn’t just donate to do good, but instead they actually lead by example in doing good. Well done, Lands’ End, well done.”
It’s also working to receive certification from Swiss company Bluesign, a sign that its textiles are made with eco-friendly dyes and materials (such as Supima Cotton) that are safe for workers.
“Everything that’s going into production is more sustainable,” said Marchionni, noting that Bluesign improves safety for the workers at the plant and in local communities.
Her biggest task will be a different kind of conservation project: restoring the brand’s reputation and desirability, which dipped during its 12 years of ownership by Sears. Sales were down 4.9 percent last quarter, but overall revenues have been rising steadily since the spinoff in April.
She’s also grappling with the fallout from a recent recall of some of its children’s apparel due to concerns over fire safety. Now, its new leader hopes that being green will not only generate more green, but a more positive image and reputation for the all-American brand, at home and overseas.