It has been less than three months since the most recent factory collapse occurred in Bangladesh, and the fashion community has taken many steps to prevent such future tragedies since the collapse. For those of you who are looking to become part of the solution, here's a quick guide to building a healthy value-chain based on one tested in Bangladesh by Evolvemint.
Here are five steps Evolvemint recommends for small businesses and large corporations looking to develop ethical value-chains:
STEP 1: Think forward by thinking backwards
As you begin your search for manufacturers and suppliers who will produce your goods, know what questions to ask to ensure you're making the right decision. A list of questions Evolvemint asks all of its potential manufacturers and suppliers include:
- Copy of the most recent building code certification
- Layout of the building identifying maximum occupancy and clearly marked exist signs in case of emergency
- In-depth employer profile -- company values, company culture, former and current clients, corporate social responsibility, commitment to sustainability
- Employee wages, benefits, and work-day schedules
I encourage you to put together a criteria which you can use to measure and compare your potential manufacturers and suppliers. Like any long-term relationship, you want to make sure the two of you are compatible before you make a commitment!
STEP 2: Map your value-chain
If your goal is to develop a more efficient value-chain then you'll need to know it forward and backward. Spend time mapping your current value-chain and pay close attention to its gaps and grey areas. Are you finding yourself unable to answer the question "What are the wages of the employees at the cut & sew manufacturing facility located in Rana Plaza?" Or do you find yourself unsure of how the factory handles all of the fabric scraps created from the production of your shirts?
Once you have identified the gaps and grey areas present in your current value-chain, refer back to your criteria for conducting business with manufacturers and suppliers (Step 1). Get in touch with those you already have a working relationship and ask the questions for which you need answers. If the manufacturer or supplier is hesitant in giving you an answer, that's a red flag!
STEP 3: Where possible, find the answers on your own
Evolvemint, like many other brands, operates within the global textiles and fashion industry. This means we often communicate with our manufacturers and suppliers via email, phone calls, or other telecommunication methods. To ensure those we are working with are giving us accurate and honest information, we travel to the facilities where our products are being manufactured. From the textile producer to the clutch makers, we visit every location and during our visit we take pictures, talk to the employees and employers, and pay close attention to the working environments.
STEP 4: Establish relationships with your suppliers
If you've reached this step, then you've made a commitment to work through the necessary issues with your manufacturer or supplier. Aim to make your working relationships mutually beneficial by helping your manufacturers and suppliers continue to progress towards more efficient and ethical practices. Encourage a transparent line of communication so you can grow and learn together! Negating contracts and/or rejecting work orders after a tragedy has struck will not fix the problem -- it will only hinder the operating economy.
STEP 5: Maintain transparency with your customers
Your customers should be one of your greatest sources of inspiration as your brand continues to evolve over time. Maintaining transparency with your customers will lead them to ask more informed questions, which may assist you with the gaps you're facing or have yet to identify. Share transparent information with your customers, and they will help you establish a more efficient and ethical value-chain and champion your continuous efforts!
These five steps lay the foundation for establishing an efficient and ethical value-chain that you can be proud of sharing with others! If you remember nothing else, remember this: ask your potential manufacturers and suppliers the kinds of questions you would following a tragedy such as the Bangladesh factory collapse. Intimate knowledge of your value-chain will reduce overall carbon footprint, prevent another tragedy, and will save your brand from potential embarrassment.
Let’s keep this momentum going! What are you curious about? What are your thoughts? Email me at email@example.com
Written by Sophia Hyder and Mor Aframian