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The MAVerick - Henri-Lloyd's journey to a sustainable future

by Mark Jardine 5 Nov 10:05 PST
Hans Eckerström helming his J/70 during the Henri-Lloyd Frostbite Challenge in Marstrand, Sweden © Dan Ljungsvik

Henri-Lloyd has recently fundamentally changed its business model, selling direct to their customers. The goal of Hans Eckerström and his team is to deliver the highest quality technical clothing, while investing in strategies and technologies which push the brand towards a sustainable future. Their belief was that the existing supply chain was broken, and to truly achieve their goals a direct relationship with the customer was essential.

The clothing industry has become increasingly under the spotlight in recent years for wastage, over-production, disposable clothing, labour conditions, and pollution through microplastics entering our oceans. The clothing industry produces 10% of all humanity's carbon emissions and is the second largest consumer of water - stark facts which point to the need for sustainability.

2020 is of course a time of change due to Covid-19, and a phrase within the industry is the 'pandemic pivot' where e-commerce has moved forward in six months what was expected in ten years, supporting the shift in strategy.

Hans is an entrepreneur who has never been one to accept the status quo. He questions strategies and isn't afraid to make changes when needed. His approach can be unorthodox but, more often than not, is successful. His approach could be described as maverick, and indeed this has been the name of more than one of his boats.

Henri-Lloyd initially launched their reduced pricing with the 'No More Middlemen' message, but it became clear from feedback, and a growing realisation by the team, that this message missed much of the point of the business model change, and brushed over many of the benefits for the customer, brand, workforce and the environment.

We talked to Hans to understand the reasoning behind the change and the holistic strategy Henri-Lloyd is implementing to become a truly sustainable brand.

"One of the problems with the reseller model is that you have several intermediaries, which causes long lead times - you have make decisions 18 months before you do things - creating a lot of buffers in every step, which leads to over-production. This then leads to heavy discounting in sales several times a year. It's a very inefficient model which drives over-consumption, which is one of the first things to address in terms of sustainability."

Key for Hans has also been to source materials closer to the factory in Poland, particularly from innovative European suppliers such as Swedish sustainable fabric producer We aRe SpinDye©. Hans also chose sportswear fabric specialist Pontetorto, who are known industry-wide for their forward-thinking attitude and use of recycled materials, such as the PET bottles used in the Henri-Lloyd MAV range. Their Italian plant has a photovoltaic panel system making them 95% self-sufficient on energy usage.

"Using European suppliers reduces transportation, and allows us to ensure that working conditions are more attuned to our standards and values. Sustainability is about more than just the materials - it's about health and safety for workers, transportation, carbon footprint - which makes this change incredibly significant."

Henri-Lloyd now have a direct relationship with their customers, which brings many benefits to clothing development. With the chain between an idea and finished garment being much shorter, and listening to feedback from customers, actively seeking the positive and negative points of each product, the evolution of lines can be accelerated, providing sailors with what they want.

"Moving towards a customer order-driven model with an agile supply chain gives us the flexibility to develop products while significantly reducing waste. Consumers are becoming more and more informed, so we need to be transparent with them. We're aiming to share all the information of where we source our materials from and how we are reducing the steps needed to deliver products to our customers."

As an active sailor, Hans is passionate about the boating lifestyle and the health and well-being benefits it provides. Those who are connected with the sea naturally feel an affinity with their surroundings and the passion to care for the environment. His stewardship of Henri-Lloyd is leading the brand towards a truly sustainable future, with high quality technical clothing produced in as ethical a manner as possible.

Without maverick thinking there isn't progress and without progress there isn't change. The direct customer model allows Henri-Lloyd to invest in change and further steps towards a truly sustainable future.

Find out more at www.henrilloyd.com

About Hans Eckerström
Hans is a passionate entrepreneur and sailor, equally at home in the boardroom as on the sea. In addition to his role of Chairman of Henri-Lloyd, he is a Director of the listed companies Swedbank and Thule Group, and Chairman of Profoto. Previous positions include being Partner at Nordic Capital, Director at Nordstjernan and Chairman at Nobia. His sailing life is as equally diverse, being a Youth Instructor at GKSS Aeoluson for a decade, summer cruising with his family on his X43 (also called Maverick) and club and national level racing in Dragons, J70s, 606, Express and J/24.

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