By Alex Berryman
Transparency is a powerful tool for change. When companies communicate effectively about their supply chain, it can build brand loyalty and trust with the customer. In this two-part blog series, we will explore strategies on how to become more transparent and how to communicate effectively with customers.
But first, how does transparency create change in the industry?
According to Fashion Revolution, the key to transparency is public disclosure. When a company discloses how and where their product is made, workers in the supply chain can advocate for better working conditions and the wider industry can shed light on environmental abuse. Simply put, public disclosure creates accountability, and accountability creates change in the industry, solidifying better business practices.
Transparency: Not Just the Supply Chain
Being transparent begins with recognizing what you know, and what you do not know about your impact - evaluating not just the supply chain, but the whole lifecycle of your product.
Value chain mapping is a good tool for understanding the lifecycle of your product. It is a roadmap of how your product is created, sold, and disposed of once used.
Using the above table as a guide, establish the journey of your product, from raw material to its final disposal. Once established, consider all those that come in direct or indirect contact with your product (i.e. your stakeholder). Stakeholders include any companies or individuals impacted by the production, distribution, sales, use, and disposal of your product.
What are the social and environmental impacts of your product’s production, transportation, usage, and disposal on each kind of stakeholder?
Impact in Your Supply Chain
What are the work conditions of laborers at each facility?
Do they have access to benefits?
Are they regular workers or contract staff? Are they protected by any legal entity?
How are raw materials or goods transported between different stages?
What processes (dying, washing, treating) are used to create your product and what are the wider impacts of these processes on the environment?
Do any of your supplies use renewable energy sources?
If you can, find out the names of the farms, fabric mills, and manufacturing facilities needed to create your product. If your manufacturer does not supply the names or even details about the process, this is a red flag that they are using less than ethical practices.
Impacts at the Facility Level
What are the work conditions within your own facilities? Are all workers compensated for their work and have access to benefits?
How can you improve the health and wellbeing of your staff?
What is the relationship with the wider community around your facilities? Can these be improved?
Can any adjustments be made to decrease wastage or promote recycling waste?
Can you use sustainable energy sources instead of fossil fuels?
Are there ways for your track your companies, water, energy, and oil usage?
Impact at the Customer Level
Could your product measurably better the lives of a certain group of people? If so, how accessible is your product to that group?
How does your customer receive their product - how is it transported to them and in what sort of packaging?
During the product usage, is waste created? Can it be reduced or recycled?
How will it be disposed of once it has been used?
Are there aspects of the design that can be changed to decrease wastage or make it more recyclable?
Let’s be clear, no value chain is perfect. Through this mapping process, you will identify the strengths, weaknesses, and knowledge gaps in your value chain. Your next step is to enhance the strengths and eliminate the weaknesses and knowledge gaps by creating measurable goals to improve.
In the manufacturing industry, old habits die hard - so a majority of the weaknesses and knowledge gaps will likely exist at the supply chain level, which can make it difficult to execute these goals.
Here at Purnaa, we see the important role we have to play as the manufacturer in our clients' supply chains. We are committed to improving our social and environmental impacts and to operating with transparency. Some of the ways we do this are by:
ensuring that our workers have fair wages and a safe workplace. We exceed Nepal's minimum wage and instead pay a fair "living wage" that also includes benefits. Read this post on Purnaa's Living Wage. We also create a communications pack for our clients so that they have the option to share about the people behind their products.
actively working to expand our sourcing efforts so we can offer even more options for sustainably and ethically made materials. Read about some of these sustainable material options here.
sourcing from locally made goods whenever possible
communicating openly with our clients so they know where and how their items were made.
implementing energy-saving practices at the factory
partnering with Doko Recycling
Upcycling by using excess materials and scrap fabrics
using hydro-generated electricity
As you work to make your supply chain (and entire product lifecycle) more ethical, partner with a manufacture that shares these values and partner with you to make transparency possible.