Using social enterprise to wear out poverty

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As retail becomes increasingly transparent by way of consumer demand, retailers are constantly being challenged in their business practices and core values. Companies need students like us to bring a fresh take on the retail industry’s impact on the world.

On Saturday, student programming kicked off with “Inspired Entrepreneurship” by Buddy Teaster, president and CEO of Soles4Souls and an honoree on The List of People Shaping Retail’s Future 2018. Soles4Souls is a nonprofit social enterprise based in Nashville with a mission to create sustainable jobs and provide relief for people in poverty around the world through the distribution of unwanted clothing.

Teaster highlighted how Soles4Souls utilizes entrepreneurs, direct partners, volunteers and corporate partners, all of whom play a part in the distribution of these textiles and changing the lives of people who need it the most.

As a fourth-year attendee of the NRF Student Program, I always find it invigorating when a speaker represents a company whose core values lie in helping others achieve a better life for themselves and those surrounding them. This was a refreshing start to the day, as Teaster inspired students to get involved by hosting shoe and clothing drives at their schools and rethinking the practice of throwing away unwanted clothing.

Teaster reminded attendees that the future is in our hands and we have a voice in the retail industry. There is a huge problem with the amount of textile waste that ends up in landfills — more than 15 million tons of textile waste is generated each year in the United States alone — and Soles4Souls’ programs have only just touched the tip of the problem. As future leaders in retail, students have an obligation to bring social change to the corporations in which they are employed or the entrepreneurial ventures they may begin one day.

STORES’ Student Correspondent Charlotte Sandness is a fashion marketing major at LIM College in New York City. This is her fourth year attending the NRF Student Program.

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