ESG Outlook is Sourcing Journal’s discussion series with industry executives to get their take on their company’s latest environmental, social and governance initiatives and their own personal efforts toward sustainability. In this Q&A, Jake Disraeli, co-founder and CEO of resale marketplace platform Treet, discusses the sustainability of secondhand.
Name: Jake Disraeli
Title: Co-Founder & CEO
What are your company’s best ESG-related achievement over the last 5 years?
Our entire mission at Treet is to reduce fashion’s environmental impact by extending the life of clothing through resale. Buying a used item reduces its carbon footprint by 82 percent, and by making the secondhand shopping experience feel firsthand for brands and their customers, we’re helping resale go mainstream. According to reports, only 5 to 7 percent of resellable clothes is actually resold. By working directly with the brands producing the clothes in the first place, we’re able to tap their customers and turn more shoppers into secondhand sellers.
What is your personal philosophy on shopping and caring for your clothes?
I’ve leaned pretty heavily into the “you get what you pay for” philosophy when purchasing clothes. To that end, it’s less about paying for labels, and all about paying for quality. The best way to reduce an item’s carbon footprint is to simply wear it longer. When I’m not purchasing items secondhand, I love supporting high-quality brands that stand for something more than the clothing they sell. Brands like Tentree, Pistol Lake, and Patagonia are three of my favorites. These brands are making significant strides to help their customers support recycling, upcycling or reselling, items at end-of-life.
How much do you look into a brand’s social or environmental practices before shopping?
Even before Treet, I’ve always considered the brand’s social and environmental practices before purchasing. Part of the joy of shopping is the feeling I get when finding that perfect item. And that feeling is 10X better when you know the brand produced it ethically and sustainably. Brands like United by Blue catch my eye—they’ve literally woven sustainability and environmentalism into everything they do, from the fabrics they source, to the ocean cleanup projects they support. Plus, their jeans are amazing so that’s a nice bonus.
Anything new you are doing to boost sustainability beyond the fashion industry?
Aside from buying 90 percent of our furniture on Facebook Marketplace, we’re always looking for the little things at home to live more sustainably. Over time, we hope these small changes add up. We’re doing things like using cloth napkins instead of paper towels, getting our hand soap/body wash/shampoo refilled monthly to reduce plastic waste, and adding composting to our daily routine. My fiancée even cuts her own cloth from old shirts to use as makeup remover wipes. We’re always on the lookout for more tips, so if you have a good one, we’d love to hear from you!
What is the biggest misconception consumers have about sustainability in fashion?
One of the biggest misconceptions is that sustainable fashion is expensive and you must be wealthy to afford it. This is not necessarily the case. I always encourage people to think about it from a cost-per-wear perspective. Sustainable clothes are usually higher quality, therefore they outlast your fast fashion finds. The initial cost to buy a sustainably-made sweater may be more than something you’ll buy at the mall, but you’ll wear it for years. While a cheaper version will need to be replaced every season. Plus, a quality item with a higher initial price tag resells well. On the flip side, as a secondhand buyer, you can find lots of great sustainable options that are 20-70 percent off retail. If the price tag is stopping you from shopping more sustainably, I just gave several reasons why it shouldn’t!
What was your company’s biggest takeaway from the Covid crisis?
Conscious consumerism and secondhand shopping were growing fast pre-Covid, but the pandemic really accelerated things. People began to question all their shopping habits, including whether they really need that many new things. Meanwhile, those looking to add to their wardrobe took to secondhand as a way to do it affordable and more sustainably.
On the brand side of things, the pandemic shuttered retail and forced brands to transition resources toward e-commerce. Creating a branded resale program happens to be a great mechanism to strengthen customer loyalty, which is one of the key drivers of the growth we’ve seen in this space.
What is your company’s latest sustainability-related initiative?
Today, Treet is an “extension of life” platform, but we’re actively working on ways to also offer “end of life” solutions. Our goal is to be one trusted destination that can help not only extend an item’s life, but make sure it’s recycled properly when it’s time.
What is the apparel industry’s biggest missed opportunity related to securing meaningful change?
In order to secure long-term meaningful change, I believe we need to regulate the fashion industry similar to other polluting industries like oil and gas, agriculture, and transportation. There’s just no better motivator to change how our clothes are produced, shipped, sold, resold, then recycled. Consumers have done an excellent job pushing brands toward greater sustainability, but this can only go so far. We can’t continue to hope that brands will do the right thing.
While I believe every fashion brand should be striving toward sustainability, I wholeheartedly believe we don’t need to compromise on profitability. We can have our cake and eat it too. New business models like resale and rental allow brands to make money well past the initial sale. Carbon offset tools help drive customer loyalty and conversion. Data shows that consumers are more likely to buy from brands with sustainable or ethical practices. Reducing your carbon footprint can be and should be better for the planet and your bottom line.