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Country Road’s Brand Sustainability Manager Fabia Pryor.

How Country Road came to dominate sustainability marketing in the fashion space

​I’m mindlessly scrolling Instagram on the bus when my attention is called to rest on a sepia-toned video that seems to be about the outback, but also not.

In a series of short, sharp images we move from a woman in a gorgeous cream knit dress set again the moody blues and rich reds of the Australian landscape, to saturated scenes depicting life on a sheep farm.

I could be watching an advert for a Jane Campion film. On closer inspection I realise it’s an educational-slash-promotional video from Country Road, about the brand’s Single Origin Merino fibre.

As both a certified sustainability practitioner and a communications specialist, I take note when brands execute really good ESG marketing campaigns. In the last few years, Country Road has consistently been one of those brands.

The iconic Australian label has managed to find ways to market its sustainability indicators, while educating consumers in a non-patronising way, and remain on brand the entire time.

I sat down with Country Road’s Brand Sustainability Manager Fabia Pryor to really get under the hood of the brand’s approach to sustainability marketing.

When did Country Road really turn its attention to marketing itself as a sustainable brand ESG initiatives, and what prompted that?

We haven’t always spoken about this, however our approach now is deeply rooted in the recognition that it’s important to bring people on our ESG journey.

We have really engaged customers who are interested in our initiatives and brand partnerships. By sharing the backstory, we’re helping them to understand the ‘why’ and ‘how’ behind our designs and design choices.

The last two years, and navigating the pandemic, proved to especially be a time of great reflection and a driver of change for us – we’ve made a conscious effort to look to our own backyard and ask how we can further support local;

local farmers, local manufacturers; local communities. Country Road managing director Elle Roseby has played an instrumental role in driving this direction of the brand.

Some of the ways we’re backing that commitment include more Australian Made products, more products made using Verified Australian fibres, announcing our partnership with Landcare Australia in 2020 to help restore Australian farmlands and partnering with the Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair Foundation in 2020.

Our recent launch of the Country Road Climate Fund, committing $1.5 million over three years to projects driving climate solutions in Australia’s fashion industry, is another example of our commitment to driving positive change with a local focus.

The brand markets its sustainability features keeping consumer education in mind.

How does Country Road test consumer response to its initiatives

We test customer response in numerous ways, including through research such as surveys, in-store conversations and online engagement. Our research shows that 72% of Australian consumers indicate their support for on-shore manufacture even if it’s more expensive. 88% of our members consider Country Road using Australian wool and cotton as very important, and 81% want to know the origins of materials used. With these statistics in mind, for us at Country Road, not only is it important to be supporting local growers and manufacturers but it’s equally important to be sharing product stories with customers so they can engage.

We know that customers want to be brought on the journey and engage with our projects and partnerships. A Red Cross Fashion Trade partnership, where customers can return pre-worn Country Road garment for donation to Red Cross Shops, is the second highest performing Sustainability focused Instagram Reel we’ve ever made. It takes second place to our new video about the reissue of our 80s Chambray Shirt, made in Australia using Australian cotton. Customers are highly engaged in this partnership. Since its launch in 2011, over 280,000 pre-loved Country Road items have been received from brand and customer donations, raising over $810,000 for Red Cross programs.

We equally see great interest in our 5 Star Green Star interior certified stores. In August 2019, we became the first Australian fashion retailer to open a 5 Star Green Star Design Review rated store, certified by the Green Building Council of Australia, marking an important milestone for us and the broader fashion retail industry. Since then we have opened 14 stores across Australia and New Zealand that target a Green Star rating, with others in the works. Innovative store design features include fixtures made from recycled yoghurt containers, parquetry flooring reclaimed from old buildings, recycled paper wall cladding and child seating crafted from recycled plastic toys. Interestingly, we’ve seen approximately a 30% lift in revenue in those stores that have undergone this refurbishment.
We measure the success of our work with First Nations communities in numerous ways, including by seeking community response—when First Nations communities see us as allies, we’re on the right track. Our team and community are incredibly engaged in our First Nations stories. The voice memo on Instagram announcing the DAAFF partnership in July 2020 was our most viewed and highest engaged video that month, with 39,000 views. We consistently see strong engagement when we share First Nations stories—our community spend longer exploring these stories than they do on our average editorial content. And, most importantly, the feedback we get from our First Nations community is affirming.

At the recent National Indigenous Fashion Awards, Denni Francisco spoke about her mentorship with Country Road over the past 12 months, saying she felt completely culturally safe in this space. Responses like these affirm that we’re on the right path.

What have you learnt that works well over the years, and what have you learnt that doesn’t work so well?

We know that by bringing our community on the journey, they form a greater understanding of what each initiative represents. When people are actively involved, not only can they drive positive change but they also often themselves become champions, as is evidenced by the positive impact of Fashion Trade.

One of our greatest challenges is finding new ways to tell the same story. In 2019, we became the first Australian fashion retailer to partner with Oritain to scientifically verify the origin of our fibres. Through Oritain, we can trace our Verified cotton and merino fibres back to local farms. We have focused on numerous angles of this story to date, showcasing the Oritian process, the female scientists at Oritain, and the farmers. In instances like this, it can be easy to think, ‘how else can we tell the same story?’, however we always find a way, through new footage or new talent. Equally, we forget that while we’ve been in the depths of creating and sharing these stories, our community hasn’t, so it can be good to retell a story, to bring it front and centre again.

What’s your approach to developing the campaigns you’ve run to date?

We often use campaigns as a means to tell the stories behind our products and partnerships. Some examples of our campaigns are below, including how they’ve come to life.

The Biodiversity Project with Landcare Australia:

In October 2020, Country Road committed at least $600,000 over 3 years to The Biodiversity Project, a partnership with Landcare Australia and local farmers aimed at increasing biodiversity in Australia’s cotton growing landscapes. The project impacts are set to be broad, including fostering habitat for native species,including those that are threatened, and improving soil health and river water quality.

Telling the story of this partnership is a key focus for us as projects like these are pivotal to the future of our industry and pave a way for a new era of farming and brand-farmer collaboration. We therefore want to ensure we’re sharing the learnings from this project and giving voice to the farmers on the ground.

Robyn Watson is one of those farmers involved in The Biodiversity Project. She and her family have been farming in the Boggabri region for decades and are well known for their conservation work. Robyn’s experience has seen on-farm revegetation result in the return of native birds and bats which eat insects that would otherwise predate the cotton, reducing, and sometimes completely mitigating, the need for pesticides on her cotton crops. This is a win-win approach and a story that needs to be shared for others to understand the broader beneficial impacts of revegetation.

The Watson’s story is here:

Supporting Reconciliation:

Our reconciliation journey is one we’re very proud of. There’s still a long way to go but we’re taking a slow and considered approach, working closely with Indigenous social change agency Cox Inall Ridgeway and the Darwin Aborignal Art Fair Foundation (DAAFF) as key partners. At Country Road, we know first hand there is so much we can learn from the world’s oldest living cultures and when we talk about sustainability and fashion, we need to recognise that there’s 60,000 years of history behind this.

We use our platforms to celebrate and amplify First Nations voices and stories, recognising the importance of First Nations voices telling First Nations stories. In 2020, we introduced the DAAFF partnership to our community with a takeover by Yatu Widders Hunt, General Manager of Cox Inall Ridgeway, interviewing the National Indigenous Fashion Awards (NIFA) finalists. This approach has continued with Yatu now an ongoing Guest Contributor to the Country Road channels.

Some of the subsequent stories Yatu has led on our channels include the 2021 NAIDOC Week Instagram takeover aligned with the theme of ‘Heal Country’, celebrating Country through the eyes of local community members on the ground. Two proud First Nations women, Nina Fitzgerald, from Kakadu, Cape York and the Torres Strait Islands, and Nyikina woman Sara Bergmann, took us ‘on Country’ through Instagram stories, sharing Country through their eyes. This was an incredible opportunity for our community to engage in NAIDOC Week and provided a platform to amplify Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voices while celebrating Country.

In one of her Guest Contributor stories this year, Yatu interviewed Professor Megan Davis about the Uluru Statement from the Heart, using Country Road channels as a means to educate about the Statement, its intent and importance.

Through our DAAFF partnership, we also use our platform to share the stories behind some of the collections that feature in Country to Couture, an annual celebration of First Nations art and design, and the National Indigenous Fashion Awards.

Australian Made:

At the beginning of 2021, Country Road made the return to some Australian Made apparel, with the launch of our 90s Reissue Heritage Sweat. This was a pivotal moment, allowing us to test consumer appetite for local manufacturing: Would our customer be open to supporting Australian Made, even if it was more expensive? The answer was a resounding yes.

Since then, we’ve gone on to release our Australian Made Men’s T-Shirt late last year and the Chambray Shirt this year became our third Australian Made garment, joining locally made scent in Home, as well as accessories in our women’s and men’s collections.


Telling the stories behind these products has been an important part of their launch. The Chambray Shirt is a key example. Proudly made in Australia using Australian cotton, it’s a reissue of the iconic 1980s Country Road Chambray Shirt. Our campaign tells the story behind the product design and make, focusing on key people who enabled to shirt to come to life.

Equally, The Making Of is the story behind the 90s Reissue Sweat. Through this campaign we wanted to focus on our Melbourne-based manufacturers, sharing who they were and what goes into making every garment.


Press releases, collaborations, advertising, eco-project communications and change management


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