Thursday, December 2, 2010

Volcom, etnies, and L.E.A.F. Challenge Teens To Think Green

While most companies are making efforts to improve sustainability when it comes to products and daily operations, Volcom and etnies have taken it one step further by partnering with Leaders Of Environmental Action Films, or L.E.A.F., an organization that encourages teenagers to find creative ways to enact change locally and globally when it comes to protecting the environment.

Volcom jumped on board last year to kick off the first-ever contest where Orange County, California students were challenged to create an original 30 to 60 second “E-commercial” focused on raising awareness about key environmental issues such as clean oceans, plastic pollution, efficient water use, organic farming, renewable energy, recycling, repurposing, sustainability, and permaculture. This year etnies has joined forces with the program, which has expanded to include high schools throughout the state.

Transworld Business caught up with Sole Tech’s founder and CEO Pierre-Andre Senizergues and the head of Volcom’s Department of Sustainability and Corporate Social Responsibility Derek Sabori to find out more about why the brands got involved in the L.E.A.F. contest and what they hope to accomplish with the program and similar initiatives down the road.

How did Volcom get involved in the LEAF contest?

Derek Sabori: Last year, L.E.A.F.’s founder, Ana Rothwell came to us with the idea. She was inspired by the work that she was doing with high school kids on water conservation and was looking for a partner to help make the idea of empowering youth through film a reality.

Why did Sole Tech decide to work with this organization on this particular contest?

Pierre-Andre Senizergues: As you know, I’ve been a part of raising awareness about the environment through film with my work on Leonardo Di Caprio’s eco-documentary, The 11th Hour. Since that time, I’ve realized the power of film to educate. I strongly believe that high school students have the ability to create change in our world and what a powerful combination of incorporating their voice through film to raise awareness about the need to take action to protect our planet.

Why do you think these types of programs are so important for your brand to be involved in?

Sabori: It’s just something different and it’s a way for us to create a dialogue with our demographic and it’s a way for us to build community, and hopefully, create change. If one of those students gets the bug after building and submitting an ECOmmercial - even if they don’t win - and goes on to be an activist in the community or even in their own sphere of influence, then it’s a victory. Ultimately, it’s important because we have an influential voice and using it to get kids thinking about global and social awareness is something that we’re happy to do.

Senizergues: It’s about giving back and since our consumers are in high school, it makes sense to involve them in being a part of something that we as a brand care about. As skateboarders, snowboarders, surfers and more, we need the outdoors to do what we love to do. Bringing people together to make a difference in this cause makes sense for etnies.

Have you learned anything since getting involved with this organization and program?

Senizergues: Since I’m active in the issues surrounding the environment, I’m usually pretty up-to-speed on things - especially because we have an Environmental Affairs department, which I meet with regularly to stay informed and create change within etnies. However, what has impressed me the most about L.E.A.F. is their incredible passion to push forward and create connections and awareness about the project. It’s inspiring to see the energy surrounding this and to listen to the excitement that people have when they learn about such a great way to give back.

Sabori: I think we’ve learned that it’s best to start small. Start small, build strong partnerships, keep it simple, and do it for the right reasons and things will go a lot smoother. Last year we limited the contest to Orange County High School students. This year we’ve opened it to all of California. Next year? Who knows?  Programs like this, however, require quite the commitment and coordination so it takes a good, solid team to keep it together and running smoothly.

How aware of environmental issues do you think today’s teens are? 

Sabori: That’s sort of a loaded question and I have mixed feelings on that. There are times when I’m blown away about what’s NOT being discussed in schools, and then other times I’m impressed with what teens are doing – often on their own, outside of school – to tackle some of the environmental and social issues that we are facing. End of the day, I think it boils down to getting the information to them. If we can reach them, and highlight some of the sustainability challenges we are faced with they are going to be our greatest voices and our strongest fighters. That’s where’ L.E.A.F. comes in. Have a look at last year’s winners ( and you’ll get a sense of the power they hold.

Senizergues: I think generally, public awareness has increased over the past few years and more and more we hear from kids their concern about their impact on the planet. When we started this quest over a decade ago, the topic was not widely discussed. It’s encouraging to see that it has risen to such prominence in mainstream conversations. Yet, awareness and education is a continual process, so no matter what, we need to keep promoting the discovery of the issues we are facing as it keeps igniting the fire for innovation and change.

What other initiatives do you have in place to educate your consumers about the environment?

Senizergues: Next year, etnies is celebrating our 25 year anniversary and instead of looking to the past, we’re pushing toward the future and looking at what the NEXT 25 will look like for us. We believe that remaining an environmentally-driven company is the future not only for us, but for the world. As part of celebrating our NEXT 25, we’re rolling out several environmental consumer programs for kids to be a part of…stay tuned for more info. L.E.A.F. is a tangible way for people to get involved and we’re proud to be a part of it, as we do believe that we’re supporting the future by getting behind this project.

Sabori: While we don’t necessarily focus on “educating” we do focus on creating dialogue and promoting choices. We have our V.Co-logical Series where we’ve teamed up with 1% for the Planet and we do our best to continuously discuss our story (and sometimes the story of others) on our New Future blog ( Additionally, we’ll set up a small display booth featuring V.Co-logical product as sort of an outreach to the consumer from time to time at different events and we’ve been known to do a chat or two at schools or other public functions in support of creating a more sustainable culture.

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