Annie Agle is the Director of Impact at Cotopaxi, an organization that truly embodies the Be-Roll mission of making the world a better and happier place. Cotopaxi directs 1% of its revenue toward addressing poverty and supporting community development and awards grants to countries that need it most. Plus, they sell some pretty cool outerwear, activewear, travel packs, and sleeping bags.
Being an impact director sounds like a really cool career. What’s your favorite part of your job?
Everything. I have the best job in the world. But if I had to articulate one aspect of my job I love the must I would say - I love creating a sense of shared purpose. When it comes to how Cotopaxi approaches impact, we try to foster a democratic and broad sense of purpose that extends from employees, to suppliers, customers, investors, nonprofit partners, and grant beneficiaries. It means that everyday I am given proof of how many decent, heroic people there are in the world doing everything in their power to lift us all just a bit. Cynicism can often feel like the wiser and more informed attitude to take, but I am given evidence in my job that collaborative and active optimism is what really drives improvement.
Do you think that sustainable fashion and products are going to be the big thing of the future?
Sustainability - both social and environmental - must be the standard modus operandi for all businesses. This transition will continue into the future, but it's happening now. Companies that are not putting in the work already will perish. It's only a matter of time. It's not just a matter of customer taste. It's easy to get a bit complacent in America, but international regulation around human rights in the supply chain, corporate emissions, single-use plastics, and transparency is increasing rapidly. I think fashion remains far behind the curve and many larger questions beyond product design must be answered such as can the fast fashion model ever truly become sustainable? Will we reach climate change goals if items do not price the value of the natural and social capital inputs of a product? How can public companies that have a moral and legal obligation to increase shareholder value ever truly prioritize sustainability given that will limit profits in certain instances? There's been a lot of great work done, and we try to be at the cutting edge of sustainable thinking and practice, but there are big problems that require total engagement.
What are ways that individuals can help to “do good” and get involved in Cotopaxi’s work?
Individuals command purchasing power. A conventional cotton t-shirt requires 40,000 liters of water to make, a Fair Trade Certified (TM) organic t-shirt can take as little as 5,000 liters. If you're purchasing a fast fashion product, know that somewhere along the supply chain a human rights abuse almost certainly occurred. Support B Corps and Fair Trade Certified (TM) brands. Also, amplify your own kindness. In today's society, there are so many reasons to mistrust your fellow man and have no hope for the future. In my experience, no problems can be solved without a spark of hope. Give people around reasons to feel better about themselves and the human condition. Act on your impulses towards sympathy. Engage emotionally with the world around you, not just politically.
What advice do you have for young professionals who want to make a difference?
The world needs you! And the world needs young people with optimism and ethics. It doesn't matter what course your career takes, within any role in any company there is the opportunity to make the kind of improvements that drive social and environmental performance. Whether it be diversity and inclusion or sustainable packaging or even a lunchtime yoga club, use the power you have to make a difference!