Want to hear some good news? There has never been a better time to engage with your garment factory to improve social and environmental standards within your supply chain. The combination of increased consumer demand and tightening government regulation is forcing the fashion industry to get serious about its sustainability claims. Suppliers looking for a competitive edge are responding to this demand by improving their social and environmental practices. So, how can you leverage off this momentum to improve the sustainability standards within your supply chain? We tapped Ellen Saville, one of our expert coaches in the Coaching Club and Co-Founder and Creative Director of the The Endery, for a few tips.
Build regular rapport with your garment factory
You can have the best intentions in the world but without the support of your garment factory it is impossible to drive change. This is why building rapport with your garment factory is so important. Consult and collaborate frequently via phone, zoom, and factory visits (when this becomes possible again).
If the factory has a designated person in charge of this area, then speak with them directly and build a relationship." Ellen Saville
Explore what sustainability measures your garment factory already has in place
Before setting goals, it is important to have a good understanding of the state of play in your garment factory. Open up a discussion with your factory to uncover any technologies, certifications and/or programs they may already have in place that support your ethical and/or sustainable goals.
I would start by asking about policies, framework, or if there is anything in place, and keep reminding your factory to build on that. If it's not possible to tour the factory then ask for a 'virtual tour' which can give you an overall view of worker safety / conditions and what the interiors look like. Although not the complete picture, it's helpful." Ellen Saville
Identify sustainability goals and collaborate with your garment factory to drive progress
Once you have built a relationship with your garment factory and have a clearer picture of the sustainability measures currently in place, you are in a better position to leverage your relationship to improve social and environmental impact. Have a conversation with your garment factory around your key sustainability goals and ask them if there is a way they can support you to achieve them.
I find that communication is always key. Reminding why sustainability is important, and how it can improve together is the most important reminder to come back to." Ellen Saville
Think creatively and work with the factory manager to uncover possible solutions. For example if your goal is to reduce textile waste, perhaps your factory has access to deadstock fabric that you could use or maybe they have cutting room technology that minimizes fabric waste. Or if your focus is to eliminate harmful chemicals from your supply chain, perhaps your factory might be open to using natural dyes.
Sometimes factories need actionable items to help get organized" points out Ellen, "my advice would be to get in there and don't be afraid to send information, ask questions and give deadlines. A good partner should be open to this." Ellen Saville
Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day and likewise it will require ongoing discussions, collaboration and a long term commitment to your garment factory to shift practices in a more sustainable direction. But small steps add up and there has never been a better time to start leveraging your garment factory relationship to help transform your supply chain into one that is better for both people and the planet.
* The Endery is a waste textile hub that explores circularity through craft. Using deadstock yarns and other types of textile waste they create beautiful knitwear collections and collaborate with other brands to bring their designs to life. Make sure you check out the inspiring work and beautiful products Ellen and her co-founder Kelly Phenicie are producing.