Eileen Fisher and the Aesthetic of Sustainability

Posted by on Sep 4, 2015

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Key Lesson:  Aligning your business practices with your vision of the future can create a powerful force for change.

When Eileen Fisher started designing clothes in 1984, she wasn’t particularly interested in creating or leading an enterprise. She was interested in designing clothes that were simple and beautiful. Even today, Fisher says, “Design is what drives us and our business…The women who wear our clothes want to experience the magic that happens when you put on a piece of clothing that has been pared to its simple, pure essence.”

From a leadership perspective, Fisher has tried a variety of approaches and structures over the years, but has settled comfortably into a governance model that is fluid and team based. Opting for open work spaces instead of offices or cubicles, staff are “encouraged, inspired and informed” by the people surrounding them. As Fisher puts it:  “We are a company of passionate, engaged people who value our collaborative culture and are committed to connecting with one another as well as with our customers.”

Over time, Fisher has fused her company’s collaborative nature and spare designs to create a vision of a sustainable future. To her, this holistic vision is about “rethinking what it means to live in a world of finite resources, as individuals and as businesses.” Under an initiative called Vision 2020, the company has mapped out a path to 100% sustainability by the year 2020. Among other things, that means a zero carbon footprint, the strict use of eco-fibers, and living wages in their supply chain as well as endeavors like Green Eileen. In Fisher’s words:  “Our work with women and girls, human rights, and the environment and how we work as a company completes the circle — it’s about the product, people and planet and the choices each of us makes every single day.”

Eileen Fisher is our Grounded Leader of the Week for her focus on forging a sustainable future and for her sincere belief “that business can, indeed, change the world.”