Heroines for the Planet: Avery Dennison’s Sustainability Leader Helen Sahi

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Heroine for the Planet Helen Sahi, Avery Dennison’s Senior Director of Sustainability. 

“By nature surfers are environmentalists,” John Moore, co-founder of surfing legend Kelly Slater’s new Kering-backed surf-lifestyle brand Outerknown said in a panel on sustainability that Eco-Chick attended at this year’s Fashion, Culture and Design conference. It stands to reason that a brand so connected to our oceans would be committed to respecting and protecting our precious blue marble across its entire supply chain.

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John Moore, co-founded sustainable fashion brand Outerknown with surfer Kelly Slater.

So when Outerknown wanted to improve their environmental impacts, they turned to Avery Dennison Retail Branding and Information Solutions (RBIS), a global leader in sustainable solutions, to do it. And not surprisingly, a heroine, Helen Sahi, Avery Dennison’s Senior Director of Sustainability and a career-long environmental champion spearheaded the collaboration. RBIS’ partnership with Outerknown resulted in the most innovative new tags and care labels we’ve ever seen made from dissolvable paper, yarns from recycled fishing nets and polybags.

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The new Econyl label is made of soy-based ink and dissolves in water. (Brilliant!)

Sahi says that because Avery Dennison sits in the middle of a supply chain, the company is uniquely positioned to profoundly influence what’s happening from a sustainability standpoint. Avery Dennison is a Fortune 500 company, and so they can harness this unique position to global scale by affecting and measuring positive environmental and social change around the world. Avery Dennison RBIS operates 3 state-of-the-art Customer Design and Innovation Centers (CDICs) in New York City, Los Angeles and Miamisburg where Avery Dennison’s design and branding experts share new trends and consumer insights, innovations and sustainable solutions with its clients.

Watch Creating Sustainability with Style: Avery Dennison RBIS x Outerknown 

Sahi’s love of our earth and passion to protect it predates the overused terms associated with our work. “When I started in this field, it wasn’t even called sustainability!” Sahi told Eco-Chick. After studying Geology at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Sahi worked as a geologist at an environmental consulting firm. “I was doing hard rock geology and environmental cleanup and I watched people’s consciousness change.” Before joining Avery Dennison in 2011, Sahi held numerous executive environmental affairs positions at major corporations. In her role as Environmental Specialist at Bank of America which she held for 5 years, Sahi spearheaded the use of the Equator Principles (a World Bank guideline) in assessing environmental impact on large infrastructure projects. There she also provided environmental guidance on issues with hundreds of bank-owned facilities, including remediation of soil, groundwater, asbestos and lead-based paint.

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Sahi says Avery Dennison met or exceeded its 2015 sustainability goals, and looked to set aggressive targets for the next decade. “We looked at our next set of goals and said ‘where do we need to be?'” “Our 2025 Goals come out of the sustainable principles of The Natural Step Framework out of Sweden.” Sahi says these key principles guide how Avery Dennison creates more sustainable products and processes.

Earlier this year, Avery Dennison RBIS took members of its Branding, Innovation and RFID teams to Iceland, one of the most vulnerable regions in our world, to allow its employees to experience the direct impact of sustainability and kick off the company’s Natural Step Training. “If I’m leading and no one is following, I fail,” says Sahi. “If everyone can speak the language then I’ve done my job. I believe in the power of one.”

The Team’s Trip to Iceland

 

About Lindsay E. Brown
Lindsay has spent her career at the intersection of media and social change. In her role at Eco-Chick, Lindsay has established partnerships and campaigns with some of the world’s most-recognized companies committed to sustainability and CSR. She co-created the popular interview series “Heroines for the Planet” that features groundbreaking women who share courage and a deep passion for protecting people and the Earth. Lindsay currently manages field marketing for Health-Ade Kombucha in the New York region and previously served as Director of Communications at the social enterprise CBS EcoMedia where she directed corporate advertising dollars to the nation’s most effective non-profits tackling urgent social issues in local communities. There she was awarded CBS Corporation’s prestigious Share-the-Vision award. She has written for Whole Living Magazine, Edible, Cottages & Gardens, From The Grapevine, EarthHour.org, Eco-Age.com, and for environmentalists Laura Turner Seydel and Susan Rockefeller. Lindsay holds a BS in Global Business Studies and Marketing from Manhattan College, and received the 2012 Honors Award at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

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