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How much should an ethical cap cost? Our price guide for sustainable, Fair Trade caps

Updated: Mar 19

At Purnaa we specialize in producing sustainable and ethical hats for brands. But what is an ethical cap? What is the difference between a sustainable cap and an ethical one? How much should an ethical or Fair Trade cap cost?


In this article, we define ethically made and sustainable hats and share our pricing research.

a women sewing part of a cap on a machine


What is a sustainable cap?


Plenty of brands and manufacturers market their caps as sustainable. The term 'sustainable' most commonly indicates a product is made from fabric with an environmental credential such as certified organic or recycled material. This fabric is made in a different way to 'conventional' fabrics and has less of an environmental impact.


While the term "sustainable" is usually used to focus on the environmental impact of materials, it's essential to recognize that sustainability should include reducing negative environmental and social impacts from the entire production process. A full sustainability analysis should consider the environmental impact of the rest of the manufacturing process beyond the material fibers, such as emissions from processing and transport, waste created in manufacturing, and the impact of packaging. Beyond environmental impacts, sustainability analysis should consider the social impact on workers in the supply chain and the communities surrounding it.


What is an ethical cap?


Typically, the phrase ‘Ethically Made’ indicates that a product is manufactured in a way that considers both social and environmental impact. When you choose an ethical cap or Fair Trade cap, you're supporting both fair labor practices and environmental sustainability. 


To support “ethically-made” claims, a manufacturer may need credentials for both social compliance and material sustainability requirements. Examples of social compliance credentials would include certification or membership from Fair Wear Foundation, Fair Labour Association, or Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production (WRAP). Examples of sustainability credentials include OEKO-TEX, Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), and Global Recycled Standard (GRS). Most sustainability credentials include some social compliance checks as part of their audit process. Most fair trade cap requirements, such as World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO), try to certify both the social and environmental categories.


At Purnaa, we define ethical manufacturing as a holistic approach that considers both environmental stewardship and social responsibility as the two are interconnected. 


What cap materials are sustainable?


When evaluating the sustainability of cap materials, achieving complete sustainability is a complex challenge, no option is ‘100% sustainable’. Each material has its own set of advantages and drawbacks, influencing its environmental and social impact. Here's a deeper look into the pros and cons of commonly used cap materials:


Cotton

Pros: As a natural fiber, cotton is biodegradable, breathable, soft and comfortable

Cons: Cotton cultivation can be resource-intensive, and (depending on where it is grown) requires significant amounts of water, land, and chemicals such as pesticides. Cotton caps may lose color and shape after repeated use and washing. Although some prefer this aged aesthetic, it will not last as long as caps made with synthetic materials.


Organic Cotton

Pros: Organic cotton eliminates the use of harmful chemicals and pesticides, promoting healthier ecosystems. Responsible farming practices such as crop rotation can enhance soil health and biodiversity.

Cons: Organic cotton produces smaller yields than conventional cotton. Despite its environmental benefits, the organic cotton market faces challenges such as fraudulent labeling. Without robust traceability systems, verifying the authenticity of organic cotton can be challenging, especially as demand outweighs supply.


Cotton/Polyester Blend

Pros: Blending cotton with polyester combines the natural properties of cotton with the durability and wrinkle resistance of polyester.

Cons: The production of polyester involves the use of fossil fuels, contributing to carbon emissions. Conventional cotton also has environmental drawbacks. Blended fabrics are generally non-recyclable, due to the difficulty of separating the different fiber types.


Recycled Polyester

Pros: Utilizing recycled polyester reduces dependence on virgin materials and diverts plastic waste from landfills. The process involves transforming discarded plastic bottles into fabric. Polyester works well for durability, particularly for long-lasting strength and resistance to deterioration and color fastness when subject to sun and sweat. 

Cons: the sourcing of guaranteed recycled fabrics can also be challenging to verify. The fabric is made from recycled bottles, however once turned into fabric, it is no longer easy to recycle. When washed, polyester releases microplastics



What should a sustainable vs ethical cap cost?


To help customers understand the cost difference between conventional, sustainable and ethical hats, we researched different options on the market to determine the unit cost, the cost to produce the product in a factory, and the retail cost (what the cap is sold for). We researched a classic trucker cap at all companies, selected the quality options we thought would most resonate with our customers and looked at an order of 1000 pieces. We have categorized the caps into:


No credentials - there are no environmental or social credentials listed on the product’s site. Also known as ‘conventional’.

Eco-conscious fabric only - the fabric alone has some environmentally conscious credentials. Also known as ‘sustainable’.

Social & Eco credentials - the company provides information about the social and environmental credentials in the production of the product. Also known as ‘ethically-made’.


*Applies to brands who use our SFS system to order hats


Our results are surprising, caps that use eco-conscious fabrics are the same cost or very similar to those that have both environmental and social credentials.  And the most competitive offering from both categories is Purnaa's Fair Trade cap, illustrating that hats that prioritize both people and the planet do not have to be expensive.

How should I communicate my ethical / sustainable cap credentials with customers?


Sharing the story of your hats and providing product-level traceability information is not only a valuable marketing tool but also a demonstration of your commitment to transparency and ethical practices. Here are two effective ways to accomplish this:


  • QR Codes on Labels: Incorporating QR codes on cap labels is a user-friendly method for consumers to access detailed information about the product's journey. When scanned, these QR codes reveal information, such as the materials used, the manufacturing process, and the origins of each component. This level of transparency creates trust and allows customers to make informed purchasing decisions aligned with their values.


  • Collaboration with Traceability Providers: Partnering with a reputable traceability provider can streamline the process of tracking and sharing supply chain information. These providers utilize advanced technology and data management systems to ensure the accuracy and integrity of the information provided. By working with a traceability provider, you can offer comprehensive insights into your cap's production journey, from raw materials sourcing to final assembly, enhancing accountability and authenticity.


Incorporating these traceability measures meets the growing demand for transparency and can help you position your brand as a leader in ethical and sustainable practices. At Purnaa, we can print QR codes onto labels and help customers create content that shares the story of how their products are ethically made.


Manufacturing caps with Purnaa 

We specialize in providing caps that can meet customer’s environmental and social goals. We publish an annual Impact Report to communicate the benefits ordering with us has to our community as well as how we measure and try to reduce our environmental impact. 

Our caps Fair Trade cap options are made from GRS-certified 100% recycled polyester, as standard. MOQs start from 48 pieces and lead-times from 2 weeks for orders under 250 pieces. We have our own sublimation printer, so color and print options are endless on hats. Plus, if you’re importing into the US, Nepal enjoys duty-free imports on all caps!


Reach out today to speak to a sales rep and start your ethical production journey! 


To learn more about how our manufacturing process works, check out these other posts:

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