The fashion industry is fundamentally built on a system where supply is ordered based off of predicted demand prior to any factual determination. Trends are determined seasons ahead of time, demand is hypothesized and the orders are placed by brands before they can know the actual consumer demand. A system like this has proven to be unsustainable over the years and has resulted in overproduction in the garment factories. In a study released by the SAC and Higg Co in April it is stated that, “Further back in the global supply chain, a survey of over 500 manufacturing facilities across all main production regions...shows 86% of all facilities have been impacted by cancelled or suspended orders. As a direct consequence, 40% now struggle with paying employees, leading to layoffs and factory closures.” Yet there are still some garment factories managing to keep their doors open despite the hardships and how they are doing so might surprise you.
India - Social Distanced Commuting & Mental Health Support
One of the factories on the THR3EFOLD Ethical Manufacturing Platform is a prime example of how some garment manufacturing facilities have had to change their operations. Based in Agra, India, this factory has transitioned to making Personal Protective Equipment or PPE due to the global demand skyrocketing as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic. This is a pretty common switch that most factories are doing to keep their doors open, but what really makes this factory in India stand out is their newly implemented hygienic practices.
First of all, they are adhering to social distancing practices by way of sitting every other seat on the bus commute to work, wearing masks and face shields, working 6 feet apart, participating in hourly hand sanitization, and regular disinfection of the factory and equipment. In addition to this, the factory employees take part in regular morning yoga and breathing exercises, regular hygiene training and awareness sessions, and there are multiple educational displays throughout the factory on COVID-19 as a way of addressing both physical and mental health while promoting a healthy work environment. Lastly, management distributes ayurvedic treatments, a several thousand years old holistic Indian medicinal system to the employees to ensure their individual health and safety as each one of them is taking a health risk to come into work. Between the demand for PPE across the world right now and this factory's creative and holistic approach to production during a pandemic, they have successfully avoided furloughing any of their employees.
Colombia - Working from Home and Community Aid
Another THR3EFOLD factory partner that is based out of Colombia has taken a slightly different approach to business these days. Similarly to the factory in India, they have transitioned to producing PPE. However, in communication with them, they mentioned that much of their PPE production is donated and distributed in their own city. This factory has chosen to come to the aid of it’s own community before seeking out a profit from producing for the rest of the world. That being said, they have developed a product offering of PPE that they are now taking orders for in order to maintain a cash flow. This particular factory is enforcing social distancing practices by having their employees work from home. They have provided the equipment and resources necessary for their employees to stay in their homes and meet daily production quotas as they make all the PPE for their city and the rest of the world. For this factory, it made more sense to take the production into homes than reimagine their work flow in the factory itself. Both methods have proven to be effective ways for manufacturing companies to stay in business during the global pandemic.
Vietnam - Combatting Cancelled Orders to Stay Afloat
Unfortunately, not all garment manufacturers have been able to transition so successfully or seamlessly. More and more stories continue to emerge of brands cancelling orders and not even paying for completed orders which has resulted in factories not only being forced to furlough their employees, but also withhold their earned wages from them. On top of this, overproduction of PPE has actually become a concern as well. Most people are buying reusable masks, therefore the demand for them while still high, is being curbed. With demand on the decline again, even more garment workers jobs are on the line and more factories are at risk of being forced to shut their doors.
However, it seems that having a purpose driven business vs a profit driven business makes you more resilient in times of financial crisis. Sanjeev Bahl runs Saitex, a The Blue Sign, Fair Trade, LEED and B Corp certified sustainable denim producer out of Vietnam that produces for brands such as Everlane, G-Star Raw, Madewell, and more. Bahl has experienced his share of hits from the pandemic. But all things considered, it could have been worse. He has only furloughed 12% of his employees and only cut denim production from 20,000 pairs of jeans a day to 15,000. His employees are still able to work 6 days a week with the workload he has maintained. He runs his business with a growth mindset that doesn’t compromise purpose, ethics, or sustainability. Business of Fashion reports that “If the business was driven by profits and greed, Bahl reckons five out of six factories running would have been forced to shut down.”
If you are looking for an ethical factory to manufacture your apparel or soft accessories, schedule a demo call to test drive the THR3EFOLD Ethical Manufacturing Platform and find the factory that's perfect for you.