Each year, AEO honors one associate who has achieved significant accomplishments, personifies our values and who has left an indelible impact on our company and people. Over the next several weeks we will spotlight the top three finalists for the 2020 AEO ICON.
Meet Michelle, Sr. Director, Responsible Sourcing and 2020 AEO Icon Finalist! In her role, Michelle ensures that factories making AEO’s products meet our requirements for working standards – this means verifying that workers are treated fairly and with respect, and that factories are safe. Michelle led the company’s efforts with joining the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, a leading industry association on factory safety. She also put programs in place specifically to address female workers’ health needs, which has led to lower worker turnover and higher productivity. Michelle’s role was especially critical in 2020, overseeing that AEO factories continued to provide safe working conditions when they reopened during the pandemic.
In addition to responsible sourcing, Michelle spearheads AEO’s sustainability efforts. She led the development of AEO’s Corporate Sustainability goals in 2019 around Greenhouse Gas reduction, water reduction, increased sustainable raw materials, and waste reduction, which includes AEO’s plan to be carbon neutral in our own operations by 2030. These goals are key in empowering AEO to do our part in helping to save the planet.
Michelle partners with more than 100 cross-functional associates to tackle different areas of sustainability and humbly recognizes that this work is a team effort. This is most notably evident through the 2020 launch of “REAL Good” merchandise by AE and Aerie. Michelle created the guidelines for REAL Good, and customers are now able to identify responsibly sourced styles with the REAL Good badge. This icon is featured on products made from more sustainable, raw materials like recycled polyester and sustainably sourced cotton. REAL Good jeans are manufactured in a factory that meet our expectations in AEO’s Water Leadership Program for water reduction and recycling. Michelle engaged closely with suppliers on water savings initiatives that led to the development of this powerful program. Since inception, factories in this program have saved over three billion gallons of fresh water through water recycling and are making steady progress toward our ambitious corporate sustainability goals.
AEO learns and shares best practices in sustainability and responsible sourcing with its peers because of Michelle’s guidance in joining several industry coalitions including the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, Textile Exchange, Better Cotton Initiative, Better Work, United Nations Convention on Climate Change, RE100, Science Based Targets Initiative, and ILO’s Global Garment Industry Call to Action.
Thank you, Michelle, for your leadership and contributions to AEO! Congratulations on your nomination!