Jennifer Gootman, Vice President of Social Consciousness and Innovation at West Elm

March 15, 2017

West Elm's Jennifer Gootman joined students, alumni, and guests for a discussion on how the home furnishings retailer embeds innovative programs around craft, supply chain transparency, and sustainability into its business model.

For West Elm, corporate social responsibility is about how to use business to create change in communities and think creatively about its sourcing. For instance, the company has made commitments to artisan groups, which produce about 20% of the company’s offerings. By including the artisanal products, West Elm integrates the products into its design concepts. The company is a member of Fair Trade USA’s factory certification program and in 2014, it became the first-ever home retailer to offer fair trade certified products. With nine factories around the world and over 2,300 workers, its fair trade structure allows the company to explore new and flexible ways to support the workers in its supply chain.

Addressing students, Gootman shared a story about how she landed her job. She met the company's leadership at an Aspen Institute event and actually pitched the new role to them on the spot. She believed in the direction of the company and knew her nonprofit experience would add value. She reminded students that often the most exciting opportunities are those that do not exist yet and encouraged them to seek their own path.