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Leadership and power

Model twins Brett and Scott Staniland on why authentic leadership is often found in unlikely places
Brett and Scott Staniland

This article first appeared in our COP27 special issue of My Green Pod Magazine, published on 11 November 2022. Click here to subscribe to our digital edition and get each issue delivered straight to your inbox

We don’t exactly live in a golden era of leadership.

Look around and examples of great leaders prove somewhat elusive; where are the people we can rely on to lead the way, use their voices and show us where to go?

Good leaders will be followed into adversity, but they don’t need to be, nor perhaps should be, people in power. 

When Liz Truss took the helm at No 10, her government immediately made decisions to lift the ban on fracking and allow oil giants billions in profits and bonuses, while the rest of us faced the stark reality of an energy and cost-of-living crisis.

The planet simply cannot cope with this brand of leadership – and, thankfully, nor could we.

Similarly, in fashion the leaders who are genuine and authentic – whose voices can’t be purchased – are hard to find, whether we’re talking CEOs, designers, editors, journalists or influencers.

Leadership in fashion

We’ve had recent examples of people we may define as leaders heading into muddy waters: The Global Fashion Exchange got into bed with Boohoo Group, while the Kardashians – who many people follow – work with brands such as Dolce & Gabbana (which may never fully recover from the racially insensitive #DGLovesChina videos it released in 2018) and Alexander Wang (who has faced a string of sexual assault allegations).

However, we do have Yvon Chouinard – the founder of Patagonia and ‘reluctant billionaire’ who recently announced he was giving up his company for the sake of saving the Earth.

Yvon liquidated his stock and will put profits – some $100m a year – into a specially designed fund tasked with combating climate change and protecting undeveloped land around the globe.

The remarkable thing about Patagonia, and the Holdfast Collective it has set up, is that there have been no tax benefits to the Chouinards, and the fund is able to lobby the government and donate to political campaigns as well as grassroots initiatives and environmentalists.

This uncommon message – that ‘this money is better out of my possession’ – coincides with the Chouinards’ belief that ‘every billionaire represents a policy failure’.

And so with these examples, we ask ourselves: who is sacrificing money for values and beliefs, who is leading and caring because they were paid to, and who can we trust?

Who to trust

King Charles’ interest in sustainability and sustainable fashion stretches over 50 years and far predates the trend-hopping activism we see from so many others. For years he has campaigned for better treatment of the planet, and sources have recently suggested he will attend COP27 – against the advice of our new prime minister.

Other leaders, whose names you may not know, are also doing the right thing and rallying small communities with great reach and change-making potential.

We steadfastly believe these are the individuals to trust: no one is able to hijack their pockets, sway their decisions or pervert their morals.

They may have worked in this space for a long time, with no exposure and certainly no monetary rewards.

We must seek these people out and help them to challenge the people in power. We need those who cannot be bought, those who do not shy away from challenging conversations and those who make sacrifices for the greater cause.

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