Veja is suing Primark. To accelerate a regenerative world do this instead.

The creator of Veja, Sebastien Klopp, has announced that he will press legal action against Primark for copying the design of his best selling product, the Veja V 10 trainers.

Veja uses organic cotton, recycled plastic and champions factory workers’ rights, and funds this by selling their sneakers for £115 while Primark is selling £7 shoes that bear a striking resemblance to their sneakers without the thoughtfulness they bring to it.

He’s right, we should all copy the way and the ethics they use to create their products. But suing isn’t the solution (or at least not the long term solution).

Primark is addressing a completely different audience. People who go to Primark will never buy Veja shoes. And people who buy Veja shoes will never buy at Primark. And I would even argue that Primark selling their shoes is actually a good thing for Veja, since they are helping them create more awareness for their style of shoe.

Suing is probably a counterproductive move for a few reasons.

First, they are going to spend tons of money and time in suing a brand. They might win, but that’s money and time not put to a better use. (I’ll get into how they can invest this time and money better a bit later).

And second, instead of building an alliance with the copycats to help promote their vision, they are burning bridges with all of these companies.

Apple said it would go thermonuclear against Android.

Did it work? Nope.

Android is now 80% of the smartphone market. And Apple is gathering 80% of the profits of this market. Users benefited from cheaper smartphones, and Apple became the most valuable company in the world.

The Music and movie industry sued every pirating platform, but they didn’t propose any alternative to pay for music online, hoping to live off CDs for the rest of their lives.

Did it work? Nope.

iTunes, Spotify or Netflix created platforms to deliver convenient music and movies without caring that much what pirating would do, and they have made billions out of it. Meanwhile the music and movie industry have suffered to find a way to catch up.

And the fashion industry seems to be following the same path.

The opportunity

As Veja very well says, they should copy how they make their shoes, not the designs themselves.

But this is hard to do, and should be addressed as a collective endeavour. Veja is pioneering a new way of doing. And it takes a lot of investment in R&D to change manufacturing processes. So why not share how they are doing it with others?

Patagonia has done it with its Footprint Chronicles to help spread and improve their own sustainable manufacturing practices.

Tesla has done it to get other car manufacturers to help them speed up the creation of a network of electric chargers that would make their cars more valuable.

Facebook and Google are doing it by sharing in open source the tools and processes they use to build their own infrastructures (here and here).

And all of them are doing better than if they were not sharing.

Here’s a wild thought for Veja (and for every sustainable company out there), why don’t you open source your own manufacturing processes and tools?

The value you’ve created lies in the brand and the values you embody. In the marketing message you’ve crafted. In the distribution channels you’ve opened. In the designs you’ve carefully fashioned. In the loyal following you’ve created. In the talented and aligned employees you’ve hired and trained. In the well oiled operations you’ve put together.

And by opening the new paths you’ve opened, you won’t be losing any of this. In fact you’ll be getting other experts, students and manufacturers to help you go even faster. To create new use cases that you can reuse for the ideas you pioneered. To find improvements in what you’re already doing, and to create ecosystems to build a sustainable supply chain much faster. And the more people collaborate with you, the more you’ll be able to influence the entire industry, and even to hire the experts you identify around you.

And why would they collaborate? Because they can get access to your innovative processes. Because they can gain visibility thanks to your megaphone. And because it makes sense to do so.

Will you lose money? No. You’ll still be able to sell shoes. And you’ll be able to make this shoes even more sustainable even faster. And hopefully you’ll be able to make them regenerative even faster and easier as well thanks to everyone’s help.

And you’ll even be able to sell the shoes of the rest of the ecosystem if you wish. You’ll know who is good at their craft, and you’ll have an audience they don’t have. So for example you could set up a marketplace where these curated collaborators sell their work and you’d take a commission.

Would that be a better use of resources than suing Primark?

If you’re not sure how to pull it off, or if you have any suggestions or questions, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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