Patagonia’s latest mission: Replacing single-use vessels with technology

Perhaps a brand doesn’t have more street credit for sustainability Patagonia. That reputation is well-earned – from the company’s self-imposed “Land Tax” and the Sustainable Clothing Coalition (which it set up side by side). Walmart) Down from the plastic pegs used to hang his label, Patagonia is known for practicing what he preaches.

However, the company continues to push for ways to do more, and one of the many executives involved in these efforts is Jennifer Patrick, Director of Global Packaging and Branding.

“It simply came to our notice then all the plastic that comes out of our containers“He said in an interview Retail TouchPoints. “That quick little one was a big boost for us. We met with one of our factories in India to gather them all leftover organic cotton residue and turn into a chain, and that’s exactly what keeps our retail labels hanging, as well as our other packaging. ” Earlier this year, the company also introduced a new initiative with Living Ink Technologies for use algae-based ink (more sustainable because it is carbon neutral and renewable) in its pendants.

Preview of the new Patagonia hanging tag design.

These changes may seem small, but they can have a big impact, as evidenced by the company’s latest initiative: the digitization of its pendants in collaboration with EVRYTHNG, Digimarc. Patrick thinks so the company used multi-card tags to replace those with QR codesPatagonia will be diverted 174,000 pounds of paper waste from landfills, or, as Patrick describes it, “the equivalent of the weight of a spaceship.”

Patagonia continues to achieve such excellent results from environmental efforts at the same time as the hanging label:

  • Testing new technologies with the potential to provide not only environmental benefits but also business benefits, in the form of cost savings and improved data;
  • Evaluate the results regularly – expected and unexpected – in the case of new programs (Patrick stated unexpectedly, but welcome, saving in man-hours); and
  • Always looking to the next: The next dream for Patrick and his team is to digitize care labels.

20 to two hanging label design

The previous generation of hangtags
Sample of Patagonia’s previous generation hanging label with external “txirga” label and multiple inserts.

Over the past year Patagonia has been working with EVRYTHNG to completely revamp its hang tag program. Until now, the retailer used a multi-insert clamshell design to showcase various product features and regulatory information. With all that said, Patrick and his team were producing 20 different and awesome clamshell cover label designs 453 vaccinations. But when the spring line of 2023 hits the shelves, it will just show up bi cover label designs and three vaccinations.

This spectacular reduction 473 just printed product labels (20 wallets + 453 inserts) five This enables digital technology – QR code. From next year, each Patagonia hanging tag will be a serial QR code connected to an EVRYTHNG digital profile (with the exception of a few products that require these three legally required inserts).

Perhaps the biggest driver of this change has been consumer behavior: “That’s about it eight years ago, we tried the QR code, and it failed, ”Patrick said. “[There were] a couple of reasons, but the main one was that you still had to download an app to read the QR code and no one was using it. QR codes have come a long way since then, especially with COVID. “

Patrick and his team did some research on QR codes before giving it another try, and people between the ages of 16 and 82 now feel comfortable with QR codes. “It simply came to our notice then We realized that by adding a QR code, we could achieve greater customer engagement than by maintaining all of these inserts. ” said Patrick. “I mean we were lucky if someone passed half of the first vaccination; no one goes into retail trying to read a novel.”

And the QR code is just the beginning. The real strength of the new Patagonian hanging tags comes in the backend, which is supported by EVRYTHNG’s product digitization and data management platform. The first step is to create a digital profile for each product, called an Active Digital Identity (ADI). This ADI is then linked to a “carrier” such as a watermark, or in this case a QR code, and all activity through that code is tracked and stored as part of the product’s ADI. From there the sky is the limit.

“Any action with the physical code is captured in the product cloud,” Judy Moon explained in an interview with EVRYTHNG’s global head of Clothing, Beauty and Luxury. Retail TouchPoints. “How is the code used, what is it made of, where is it made, what are its certificates, where is it in the supply chain, what stores have it shipped to, how can consumers be involved with the product. Is it back for resale, is it being recycled? we follow the trajectory of the physical product digitally”.

In the case of Patagonian pendant labels, this information remains at the end of the product’s life cycle – “time to sell” – as nothing can be followed until the pendant is attached and used. However, even in this limited framework, digital tracking can provide a valuable insight into how consumers are dealing with products; not to mention that the QR code is also a convenient vehicle for all the product information contained in these hundreds of inserts.

Oh the things you can do – when you go digital

Even before the program was rolled out on its shelves, Patagonia had made significant savings in reducing waste paper; reducing the need for reprints (since the digital content is printed, the printed QR code can be retained and corrections can be made online); and the carbon footprint of sending all that paper. Patrick has also noticed significant savings in another area: working hours in many areas of operation.

“This has been a very important lesson for me because I have implemented an embedding system,” Patrick said. “At the time, all of these little details seemed to be unique benefits of each product, but we didn’t really calculate how much work would add to the internal resources. We were talking about it for a moment 600 different inserts; they were out of control, not only creatively, but you can imagine the mistakes we were seeing in our factories and distribution centers. When I have evaluated the internal resources after moving [to the QR codes]we are saving a year’s effort in our creative, project management, distribution and data teams ”.

Patrick also noted that while QR codes themselves should never be changed, “the content or experience you provide to consumers can change dynamically in the background.” This is especially true for printed assets, such as labels for pendants, which are sometimes created a year before they reach stores.

“We spent a lot of money on corrections,” he added. “It probably won’t go away 100%, but as we designed our new label, most of the information is behind the QR code on our product details page. [which can be updated anytime]. Needless to say, our web and marketing teams are already creating so much beautiful content and talking to our customers in a variety of ways, and now we can take advantage of those resources. That’s what digital offers: you can talk to customers in their own language, give them much more details, and change them quickly”.

Next Station: Care Labels

Patrick now believes in the sustainable properties of technology: “[Working in packaging] we are always hearing about new materials: algae-based, sugar-based, there are a million different substitutions that are the “next hot material”. But I want to stop using new materials. Instead, I want to replace single-use materials with technology. We’ve seen that we can do this: we can make our ships smaller because we can communicate through digital access. “

As he is ready to expand his hanging tag program, Patrick is already looking forward to his next big challenge: caring tags. He says that all the care labels created by the clothing industry (most of which are cut and thrown away) can be collected around the world. 13 times.

Although the cost and environmental benefits of digitizing surveillance labels are clear – not to mention the advantages in terms of accessibility, making the content easily available in many languages ​​and in different regions – there are some legal hurdles.

“One of the hangings on the digital clothing label is regulations,” Patrick explained. “I have worked closely with other brands and organizations in the industry to try to push regulation through the FTC. This digital access is just a small change in the legislation needed to make it possible to communicate attention and content. We are making a lot of progress from a legislative point of view, and moreover, our thinking has evolved as a brand over the last year. We have all this information to share about how to take care of, repair and recycle our clothes, so our need has grown from the inside out. ”

After clearing the legislative hurdles, EVRYTHNG will also go on this walk, in what the Moon describes as their “Phase Two” of their collaboration. The potential is huge: beyond environmental benefits, it would provide digital clothing tracking to Patagonia earlier visibility into the product life cyclewith the ability to track products from the manufacturing phase and through distribution.

“I feel really passionate about how we can take advantage of making good technologies: to help businesses, to help our planet, and to help people,” EVRYTHNG’s Moon said. “The missions in Patagonia are in line with what we are trying to achieve from a sustainability perspective, so for me this collaboration is like gold dust.”

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