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Having a net positive impact is often associated with carbon reduction, but to truly improve the world, companies must go beyond environmental responsibility to address the entirety of ESG (environmental, social and corporate governance).

As part of their corporate social responsibility initiatives, both Pima cotton organization Supima and fashion brand Michael Stars have embraced educational and youth-centered causes.

Supima’s Design Competition, which just turned 15, has become a springboard for student designers to spotlight their talent and vision. It has also served as a vehicle to educate emerging creatives about Supima cotton.

“Having the ability to share meaningful and responsible messaging and information around the cotton itself really connects with designers and the marketing people because they can help understand what makes it unique and special, why it’s valuable, and how it would be a property and a product that would be of interest to their consumers and customers,” Marc Lewkowitz, president and CEO of Supima, explained during a recent fireside chat moderated by Sarah Jones, senior editor, strategic content at Sourcing Journal.

Founded over 15 years ago, the Michael Stars Foundation was established to foster equality for women and girls. As part of this mission, the company has worked with nonprofit Step Up to mentor teens and show them the opportunities available in the fashion industry. Another charitable partnership for the foundation is Children Mending Hearts, which teaches students empathy and compassion. “Empathetic connection, endorphins that people get from seeing each other and experiencing each other, is getting lost in this modern age,” said Suzanne Lerner, co-founder and CEO of Michael Stars. She noted consumers “buy into their beliefs,” and urged companies not to be scared of backlash from social action.

Michael Stars recently applied for B Corp certification, reflecting its balance of social and environmental action.

The brand has been a Supima licensee since 2004, and this quality fiber choice leads to durable goods that support sustainable models, including resale. Lerner noted that Michael Stars is among the top vendors for secondhand platform ThredUp. The secondhand market as well as influencers have also introduced 20-somethings to the brand, expanding the audience. “If they can’t afford to buy us new, they’re getting to buy us used, which creates a new customer,” she said.

Lerner said that sustainability is more of a challenge for trend-focused brands. “I’m in the contemporary market where people will pay more money for quality product, and I can grow my business sustainably, keeping it very profitable but with a smaller impact,” she said.

Choosing Supima cotton also brings peace of mind, thanks to traceability solutions that authenticate where the fiber came from, as well as growing practices. “Trust isn’t earned just by saying something, but it’s by responsibly showing the details around something,” said Lewkowitz.

Watch the video to hear more about Supima and Michael Stars’ social initiatives and what makes Supima cotton stand out.