10 Questions. 10 Sustainability Leads.

An interview with Melissa Mullen, Jo Malone London

In our new series, we're pitching ten essential questions to ten people who are leading their Walpole member companies to sustainability success. This week, we speak to Melissa Mullen, Vice President & General Manager, UK and Ireland for Jo Malone London about the importance of company curiosity, customer transparency and why the luxury industry needs to be talking more about the circular economy.
9th May 2022
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10 Questions. 10 Sustainability Leads. An interview with Melissa Mullen, Jo Malone London

How did you come to work in sustainability?

My university thesis was on "The Future & Suitability of Organic, Fairtrade & an Ethical Fashion Industry" which was over 15 years ago, so it has always be something that has interested and troubled me. Fast-forward to today and I get the privilege to be an executive sponsor for the Estée Lauder Companies’ work on sustainability and ESG. In every position I have held it has been ever-present as I deeply believe we have a responsibility not to add to the climate crisis. We are the last generation that can do anything about it and the first generation to suffer its impact.

In an ever-changing area of corporate policy, what's one resource that's really helped you in your role?

Curiosity. Many of my network across industries work in or have sustainability priorities, and learning and debating with others often accelerates progress. I find resources abundant in this area; what has been critical in my role is cut-through. Long-term, sustainable business growth is inextricably linked to the to the health and wellbeing of our people (our teams, consumers and communities) and our planet, so understanding how to act upon those resources has been paramount.

What is the biggest challenge your company faces when it comes to delivering your sustainability goals?

I think the challenge we all face is speed. For those companies where sustainability wasn’t present at inception, the process to re-engineer it into our development, supply chain and operations is slower. One of the silver linings to the global pandemic is that it accelerated conscious consumption. Our employees and consumer have shifted, which is supporting the business alignment for radical change.

What's your best advice for communicating your sustainability work with customers?

Transparency is key. We seek to be transparent about the process by which we bring our products to market and to embed sustainability throughout our product value chain.

Is there an area of sustainability that you think doesn't get talked about enough in the luxury industry?

Circular economy is gaining much needed traction. I am excited to see how brands connect "repair, resell and rental" from inception to understand a product's full lifecycle – and which brands do it first. All of it exists, but no-one has owned it within its entirety in their ecosystem yet.

Which action you've taken has had the most impact during your time in the role?

Over the last few years we have removed, reduced and improved the suitability credentials of how we produce and move product. Secondary and tertiary packaging is much less visible to consumers, but is arguably of greater environmental impact. However, the greatest impact has been galvanising the team to push our sustainability mission forward as they drive the ideation and action “imperfect action is better than perfect inaction”.

What are your main priorities when it comes to sustainability?

We have multiple priorities and clear goals attached to them - right across the breadth of ESG. The priority is ensuring we stay on track to meet our 2025 and 2030 commitments.

Collectively, what action is going to drive the most change for the luxury industry?

Working across the sector as sustainability consortium, utilising our collective resource, infrastructure and influence will drive the needed change at pace.

Can you tell me another luxury company whose work in sustainability you admire?

My sustainability icon is Anya Hindmarch. She has been a pioneer in this space for decades. I also admire designers such as Christopher Raeburn who have been creating beautiful garments for a circular economy since inception. Retailers such as Selfridges who are brining circular economy offerings through their repair, resell, rental and refill service are also very important to raise awareness and adoption to a critical mass.

jomalone.co.uk

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