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Icebreaker CEO and Otago alumnus on ice

Friday, 3 February 2017 5:16pm

In a recent lecture, broadcast from a harsh environment where quality merino adventure clothing is a necessity not a luxury, Icebreaker CEO and Otago alumnus Jeremy Moon discussed how businesses at the heart of the climate problem can be at the heart of the solution.

In the TEDx lecture – broadcast from Antarctica’s Scott Base on 25 January – Jeremy explored the complexity of the relationship between consumer behaviour and business - which produces more than two-thirds of the all global carbon emissions -  by sharing the story of his company’s evolution. Icebreaker had consistently tried to reconcile consumers demands for quality products with sustainable and environmentally aware business practices.  

Jeremy gained a Bachelor of Commerce (1991) a Postgraduate Diploma in Marketing Management (1992), and a Master of Commerce in Marketing (1994) from Otago.

Soon after completing his postgraduate studies, the then 24-year-old marketing graduate was shown a prototype fabric developed by a merino grower from 100 per cent merino wool. Convinced of the product’s potential, Jeremy quit his research job and invested everything to launch merino outdoor clothing company Icebreaker. By the mid-2000s, Icebreaker had grown to become New Zealand's leading outdoor clothing producer and exporter with more than 5,000 stores across 50 countries.

In a 2006 Otago Magazine article Jeremy plotted his astronomical rise from “C student” to “A student”, and his company’s dizzying ascent from innovative newcomer to adventure clothing leader.

His enduring belief in ethical and sustainable business practises can be traced back to lectures by Otago academics, he said.

“I had a very inspiring teacher called Dr Wendy Bryce who taught a part of marketing called consumer behaviour, which moved beyond a traditional view into areas of cultural anthropology and how human beings behave in a consumer society.”

Dr Bryce also introduced her students to concepts such as “voluntary simplicity’’, a movement out of the US which suggests people deal with overwhelming consumer choice by having fewer things that do more.

“She taught strong values that were quite anti-consumerism. It was refreshing at a time when I was forming my own values.’’

He credits another lecturer, Dr Victor Gray, with exposing him to the crucial elements of marketing strategy that he would go on to use with Icebreaker.

“He taught tactical marketing, which was more about warfare theory. When you’re up against the big guys you don’t take them on straight-on, you flank them. So ours was to be a kind of flanking approach because here we were with natural New Zealand fibre up against billion-dollar chemical companies from the US who were promoting polypropylene and polyester, and had very big marketing budgets.”

Jeremy is now a champion of the sustainable business movement. He was named a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit (MNZM) in 2008 for his services to business. He also chairs the New Zealand Government's Better by Design group which helps companies become competitive internationally by integrating design principals across their business.