Board Interview: Sean Cady on Building a Career of Purpose

  • Leadership
Photo of Sean Cady speaking at a Cascale event with Tamar Hoek
March 15, 2024

As part of a recurring series, Cascale details the involvement and vision of its Board members. Here, Sean Cady,  VP Global Sustainability, Responsibility, Trade and Government Affairs, VF Corporation, and Interim CEO, Cascale, shares his perspective.

Cascale: Sean, you’ve been involved with Cascale from the start, beginning when you were at Levi’s. Why?

Sean Cady: Yes, from the beginning, I used the tools and implemented those throughout our supply chains.

I got involved because I believed in the vision and the mission of the organization. Just like today, I believe in the revised vision of Cascale to lead an industry that gives more than it takes to both people and the planet. That’s important to me and I am passionate about this work – about using business as a scale for good. We recognize the impact global businesses have around the world, both on the planet and people, which can be either positive or negative. Cascale brings us the tools that enable us to have a positive impact.

Cascale: You mentioned the name change, and the rebrand is certainly top of everyone’s mind. Why do you think the timing was important?

SC: We’re at a very pivotal point right now. There’s a sense of urgency, we all have to have a sense of urgency, because we see what’s happening around the world. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to recognize the impacts of climate change on the planet – whether it’s rising sea levels, more extreme storms and weather events, or climate migration.

We see these impacts firsthand in our communities, in our countries, and around the world – from wars to supply chain disruptions. We all need to have a shared sense of urgency to create the change that we all want to see in this world.

We have to recognize also that Cascale has created a tremendous amount of value for the apparel and footwear industry, building convening power and bringing the industry together to harmonize on key assessment methodologies. Cascale built credibility in the tools by equal partnership and outreach to different stakeholder groups to align on where we need to prioritize our focus to drive change.

That credibility, that harmonizing power of Cascale, is now ready to be applied to new industries and adjacent product categories. This expansion enables us as an organization to drive impact far beyond what we could achieve previously.

What’s in the name? We wanted to honor the history and the legacy of the SAC. And so the first three letters of Cascale are SAC reversed. And then scale – that’s exactly the point we’re at right now. We’ve built the harmonized credible assessment methodologies that are ready to scale across not only apparel and footwear, but also adjacent product categories and adjacent industries to drive more positive change at that scale that we’re all hoping to see.

Cascale: Your role – as board director and interim CEO – is also about unifying. What is that like? 

SC: I’m honored the board asked me to step into the interim CEO role as we’re searching for a new CEO of Cascale. The work is exciting. It enables me to participate in different situations and different roles to drive change that is continuously focused on improving the lives of people and the planet and reducing our industry’s environmental impact. So it is super exciting for me to be in multiple roles. One of the things I learned about Cascale coming into this interim CEO role is that the team is comprised of experts; the team is very, very strong. The strategy is solid, and now it’s all about how do we build for the future.

Cascale: What is the best part of your work? What are the highlights? 

SC: I have had the fortune to lead a number of teams here at VF, and I’m proud that VF is a purpose-led organization. That’s why my VF colleagues and I come to work every day.

We have great brands like The North Face and Timberland, and we make great products that help people get outdoors and live active lifestyles, but at the core of all of it – why we show up at VF – is because of that purpose. This enables us to drive a positive impact, which also aligns with Cascale’s goals.

Why do I do it? Well, we know that if you don’t focus on people or the planet, you harm your brand reputation. We know consumers care. We know our stakeholders, our investors, NGOs, and governments care about this work. We know it’s the right thing to do. But really, the best part of my job is the people. It’s the people I get to work with and learn from every single day of my job, whether that’s my job as a board member or interim CEO of Cascale or my job at VF. I love people, and I love the opportunity to work with people all over this world and learn every step of the way.

Cascale: It’s so exciting to have that clear purpose. What has been the hardest part about balancing these roles at such a high level? 

SC: The hardest part is the time I need to spend balancing the roles and delivering exceptional results for each organization. But because of my passion for this work, the time commitment is worth it.

This is the reason I’m here. And I’m willing to give, because I know that if I give today, in the future the value will come back to me and to my family and to others around the world. But the biggest challenge now is balancing the time commitments.

Cascale: You mentioned time, what are you doing with any free time outside of your day jobs?

SC:  One of the things I’m really passionate about is my family – both my extended family all over the world in New York, Colorado, Hawaii, and Asia – but also my two kids. I am super passionate about raising amazing, global citizens in this challenging world. One of the things I’m focused on with my kids as they grow up is to give them the opportunities to see the world through other people’s eyes. So I bring them into our supplier factories to see what life is like outside of the developed world where they live.

Aside from family, we live in Denver, Colorado, and I can look out my window here and can see the Rocky Mountains with snow on top. I love getting into the mountains, whether that’s mountain biking, or hiking, or now in the winter, getting out and spending a whole day snowboarding. That’s where I get my energy, and it’s a passion that I hope never to lose.

Cascale:  What is on the travel list? 

SC: Well, we’ve gone all over the world; they’ve spent a lot of time in Asia and both of my children were born in Thailand. Our recent trip out of the country was to Tokyo, which was culturally an eye opener for them. This summer, I’m taking them to Kathmandu, and we’re going to do some trekking up in the Himalayas in Nepal.

So that’ll be a new country for them to go to, and it’ll be a different perspective. I have plans to bring them to Bangladesh, to go to my friend’s factories in Bangladesh, and that will also be eye opening to them.

Cascale: As we’re tracing the arc of your career, what is the best advice you’ve ever received? 

SC: There are two pieces of advice that I continue to live by. One, I don’t know where I got it or who gave it to me, but it was to, “Say yes to everything.” And it’s truly benefited my career trajectory. Whenever a challenge was presented to me, I would always say yes. Even if I didn’t know how to get it done, I would go figure it out. And these types of challenges are always an opportunity for me to learn. When the board asked me if I would step in as Interim CEO of Cascale, my first reaction was, “Of course, I will – yes!”

The second piece of advice is to “plan your work, and work your plan.” I believe in that because the number of distractions there are today, the amount of people or technology apps or things on the computer, phone or text messages, just seeking our time distracts us all from delivering exceptional results.

I plan my work; I am very clear on the objectives and the goals of my work, and the work plan to achieve the desired objectives. Then, I work my plan – step by step by step without distraction. That’s one of the areas, I believe, that has made me successful in my career. It’s not just an objective that I set for myself. I build a plan to achieve it, and then I work on that plan step by step by step.

Cascale: Where do you see uncharted territory in your own career and for Cascale as it enters its new era?

SC:  For me, personally and professionally, I’m very fulfilled. I feel extremely fortunate in where I am today. My career has taken me to different industries, it’s taken me to live on two different continents, and I’ve worked all over the world.

Because I’ve been able to engage and build friendships with experts around the world, I’ve been able to lead challenging work to deliver exceptional results. I feel as though the work that we’re trying to drive here takes a systems view. It’s not just one person, or one team that’s going to drive exceptional results anymore. We live in a connected world. And I enjoy being able to pull on many different levers to create outsized change. I know that we’ve achieved a great amount of success because of the work we’re all focused on, and I’m particularly honored that I get to play a small role in driving positive impact. I think for Cascale, the organization has an amazing opportunity right now. The tools we built are adding so much value to the apparel and footwear industry today, and I can only imagine how much more change the organization can drive with tools that have proven to be successful time and time again.

Cascale: Anything else to add?

SC: My last message is a huge sense of gratitude and thanks to the Cascale team. All of the staff, leaders, and managers are experts. I also give a huge thanks to all of the Cascale members today for offering your advice and sharing your perspectives and for leveraging the work that Cascale delivers throughout your own businesses.

I’m grateful to the Board of Directors of Cascale for their trust in me and their partnership in driving the entire organization forward, and lastly, I would say thanks to all of the stakeholders that Cascale touches – from the brands and retailers to the manufacturers. From the farmers and the raw material suppliers to the governments and the NGOs and the investors who care about how the tools deliver meaningful analysis of a company’s impact. I feel a  huge sense of gratitude for all the people that have helped me become successful and have helped Cascsale become what it is today.

Sustainable Apparel Coalition CEO Transition Announced

  • Leadership
Photo of Amina Razvi on stage at the 2023 Annual Meeting
November 15, 2023

San Francisco, Amsterdam, Hong Kong – November 15, 2023: Today, the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC) announced its CEO, Amina Razvi, will leave the organization as of December 29, 2023. As the organization enters a new phase of growth and expansion to adjacent product categories, she and the Board of Directors have mutually agreed the time is right for her to step away and for the Board to identify a successor. Razvi worked with the Board to lead the organization through significant growth and development of key strategic partnerships during her tenure, including but not limited to:

  • A new strategic plan in 2021, refocused in 2023 to prioritize sustainable impact at scale, providing clear direction for the SAC.
  • The doubling of SAC’s membership since 2019, exceeding 300 organizations, strengthening our collective influence for industry transformation.
  • The further evolution of the suite of Higg Index tools with over 24,000 organizations adopting the tools, facilitating standardized sustainability reporting worldwide.
  • A threefold increase in the SAC’s global team since 2019, bolstering its capacity, expertise and global presence to deliver on the SAC’s mission.
  • Successfully managing the Worldly spin-off in 2019 and overseeing plans for the Social & Labor Convergence Program spin-off in January 2024, creating a more robust ecosystem of partners and positioning the SAC as an agile, adaptable organization.
  • Establishing key strategic partnerships with organizations like Apparel Impact Institute, Textile Exchange, ZDHC Foundation, Worldly, The Industry We Want, and Global Fashion Agenda, driving deepened collaborative efforts to address industry challenges that are too big to solve alone.

Over the past decade, Razvi’s tireless commitment played a pivotal role in the SAC’s significant achievements and positive impact that it has had on the apparel industry, and the SAC Board and staff are grateful for her guidance. Through the end of December, Razvi will continue to work with the Board and the global team to support a smooth transition. During the transition, the SAC Executive Team will oversee day-to-day operations and key strategic initiatives, providing stability and guidance and ensuring that the organization’s ongoing commitments are maintained.

In addition, a dedicated Transition Taskforce will be overseen by Tamar Hoek, Chair of the SAC Board and Senior Policy Director of Sustainable Fashion at Solidaridad. There will be no changes to the organization’s mission, values, or direction, and members and partners – as well as the SAC’s global team – will be engaged at every step of the transition, reflecting the spirit of transparency that is an organizational hallmark. Finally, no staffing, Board, or leadership changes are anticipated as a result of this development.

Amina Razvi, outgoing CEO of the SAC, said:

“When I joined the SAC eight years ago, it was because I saw an incredible opportunity to drive positive industry transformation at scale. From the very beginning, it was clear what this organization and community were capable of, working as a catalyst for industry collaboration. In that time, we’ve come a long way together: We’ve doubled our membership, launched a new strategic plan and forged key partnerships, tripled the size of the SAC team, increased adoption of the Higg Index across the value chain, and achieved so much more.

“Partnership and community has been at the heart of our success. I wholeheartedly  believe that partnership is the new leadership, and together, we’ve demonstrated what’s possible. I’m extremely proud of what we’ve accomplished together.

“But reflection is paramount, and as I step down from my role as CEO, I am excited about what lies ahead. The journey doesn’t end here; there are new opportunities and challenges on the horizon, and, while I will take some time to recharge and spend more time with my family, I’m eager to continue working on the issues I’m deeply passionate about. I look forward to the next opportunity to drive meaningful change, and positively impact people and the planet.”

Tamar Hoek, Senior Policy Director Sustainable Fashion, Solidaridad, and Chair of the SAC Board, said:

“The entire Board and I wish to express our gratitude to Amina for her contributions over the past eight years. As we bid her farewell, we take a moment to reflect on her outstanding achievements and those of her dedicated team. Their collective efforts have positioned the SAC for an exciting next chapter in its evolution.

“During her tenure, Amina played a pivotal role in uniting the industry and strategic partners, paving the way for a more sustainable and responsible future. Her accomplishments include the development of the SAC’s updated strategic plan, the establishment of new membership requirements, remarkable growth in both membership and the SAC team, and a host of other achievements. With great enthusiasm, we commend her dedication and the strong foundation she has laid, which will enable the SAC to expand its influence across the consumer goods industry.”

 

– ENDS – 

About the Sustainable Apparel Coalition:

The Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC) is a global, non-profit alliance of over 300 organizations in the apparel, footwear, and textile industry. Initially formed to create standardized sustainability metrics, the SAC has sharpened its focus to driving pre-competitive, collective action across three foundational pillars. As an independent entity, the SAC brings together brands, retailers, manufacturers, NGOs, academics, and industry associations to combat climate change, ensure decent work, and contribute to a nature-positive future. Central to the SAC’s mission is the Higg Index, a suite of comprehensive tools that empower members to measure, evaluate, and improve sustainability performance across the supply chain.

LinkedIn | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook | YouTubeToday, the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC) announced its CEO, Amina Razvi, will leave the organization as of December 29, 2023.

Sustainable Apparel Coalition Moderates Leadership Panel at WWD Apparel and Retail CEO Summit

  • Leadership
Photo of three people seated on stage with the WWD logo above them
November 07, 2023

At WWD’s star-studded Apparel and Retail CEO Summit, the SAC’s new editorial director Kaley Roshitsh stepped into the role by moderating a discussion on balancing ethics with metrics in sustainability leadership. The “What Makes a Responsible (And Profitable) Brand,” panel included Amy Williams, CEO of Citizens of Humanity Group, and Stefano Canali, CEO of Canali. Each discussed their company’s approach to furthering sustainability while remaining committed to on-the-ground suppliers.

Williams detailed Citizens of Humanity Group’s commitment to regenerative agriculture — explaining how cotton transcends commodity to become a proving ground for the value of collaboration in advancing the fashion industry’s sustainability goals. The California-based company recently became involved in the “Kiss the Ground” documentary and partnered with the Erewhon grocery chain.

Canali shared his eponymous company’s metrics-first approach to business growth, which has been centrall to its nearly 90-year history. The Italian menswear brand is invested in a longstanding history of craftsmanship, and Canali considers durability as a testament to its values. The brand also embraces a progressive approach to measuring sustainability, which is demonstrated by Canali Care, which acts as an avenue for data-driven advancements. Over the past two years, Canali invested in life cycle assessments, beginning with a focus on product environmental footprint, and found that raw materials represent two-thirds of the company’s carbon footprint; it is working to decarbonize its supply chain and has committed to near-term targets with the Science Based Targets initiatives.

Roshitsh also attended the day-one closing ceremony, where presenter Jennifer Lawrence was among the A-list attendees and awards were given to Dior creative director Maria Grazia Chiuri, Macy’s Inc. CEO Jeff Gennette, and the Chloé brand.

Andrew Martin Calls on Academic Community to Be Active Influencers in Driving Change Across the Industry

  • Leadership
Photo of Andrew Martin speaking at a podium
August 22, 2023

SAC Executive Vice President Andrew Martin recently gave a keynote speech at the 92nd Textile Institute World Conference (TIWC) 2023, which took place in Queensgate, Huddersfield at the University of Huddersfield on July 3-6, 2023.

 

Speaking on the topic titled, Vigilance and influence: The role of academia in transforming industry, Martin took to the stage to share specific challenges currently facing the industry in achieving effective and rapid change, which members of the academic community and professional experts have a great opportunity and important role in addressing.

 

Martin opened his keynote by giving a brief history of the SAC, including the challenges the industry faced while working in silos and the inspiring idea from two unlikely companies that brought the sector together around a universal approach to measuring sustainability performance. Launched as the Higg Index suite of tools, this approach set the industry on a collaborative path towards driving collective action. Reflecting on the progress achieved including in areas such as collaborating with data, insights, capacity building, and more, Martin noted there were still obstacles the industry was facing, which also presented an opportunity for motivating even deeper collaboration.

 

Martin highlighted persistent challenges in the increase of reports, campaigns, and media stories, based on poor science and unsubstantiated research, which sometimes lack transparency regarding funding or authorship. He explained that this often results in the creation of sustainability and circularity narratives that are not always scientifically sound and do not truly reflect the complexities and nuances of sustainability and circularity, while also lacking the integrity and accuracy critical to drive credible actions.

 

Acknowledging genuine efforts by stakeholders to contribute to and accelerate change in order to build a sustainable future for the industry and the world, Martin highlighted the risks of employing narratives that create division, pit industry players against each other, and influence civil society, stakeholders, policymakers, and consumers with flawed information.

 

As an example, Martin highlighted the challenges we face with oversimplification, leading to binary messaging – i.e. “this thing is good and this thing is bad” – and the threat that this poses to slowing or even halting the urgently-needed holistic progress needed across the whole industry.

 

“The world has reached a critical point in the climate crisis,” Martin said. He then shared three key areas in which we believe the academic community could contribute to solutions with the nuance and clarity that’s necessary to achieve effective progress: materials, policy, and processes, which ensure that rigor, transparency and credibility are upheld. He challenged academics to come together and collaborate on the development of a framework to help expose and eliminate flawed,  counter-productive narratives in reports, campaigns, and the media. Finally, he called upon them to leverage their voice and expertise to become active influencers, calling out bad science, spotlighting the more nuanced work, and providing the insights needed to drive positive action.

 

“We can’t go on relying on shallow soundbites,” Martin said. “We need your knowledge, experience and credibility to drive the change we all want and need to see.” He completed his keynote speech with a clear call to action: Members of the academic community and experts should get involved and to share their knowledge, experience, and credibility to help drive collective change, support collaboration, and ultimately deliver real progress for a better future.

 

Read more in Andrew’s opinion piece in environment journal.

Episode 1: Scale Your Business and Impact

  • Leadership

How can you scale your purpose-driven business and drive greater impact? In this episode we tackle these questions with NY Times best-selling author, and CEO of We First, Simon Mainwaring. We also explore how to effectively communicate your sustainability story and Simon’s latest book, Lead With We.

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Black and white headshot of Lee Green
Lee Green
January 31, 2023