So, you’ve been thinking of how you can become an ethical, sustainable, or eco-fashion brand? There is no hard or fast way to guarantee ethics in your supply chain.
For Fashion Designers manufacturing in Developing Countries
6 minute read
Nov 25, 2020
And, for those startups or small labels, a certification may have its financial and human resource barriers. In the meantime, there are several ways you can get started on ensuring ethics in your supply chain. Acknowledging that this change process requires patience, perseverance, and your personal investment will aid in making your journey enjoyable.
Specific to Fashion Designers who choose to manufacture offshore, these 6 considerations will help you get started on your ethical journey.
Communication is the most crucial element to the success of your efforts. Not everyone is a strong communicator so, keep this in mind when planning that first conversation with your suppliers. If communication isn’t your strong point, there are many ways you can improve your communication skills from a full course to short online programs. A great place to start is to evaluate your communication effectiveness by asking for feedback from your colleagues, friends, and family.
Dialogue, a communication process, is characterized by focusing on listening for understanding how the experience of another shapes their beliefs. Be honest and upfront about your intentions and why social and environmental impact is important to you, personally. By using a dialogue approach to discussing ethics in your supply chain you are able to identify differences of opinion (and why that may be so) as well as identify commonalities for which to build upon.
For example, you might discuss something objective like a statistic or a local report on waste, you then might explore your personal beliefs on waste and what you would like to see change or an end goal. You might ask what your suppliers' opinion is and what they would like to see change. Try not to rush the process and expect a definitive outcome or action in the first discussions as this may stunt further dialogue.
Educate yourself on the cultural landscape of your suppliers. A great place to start is SBS Cultural Atlas, a free and easy-to-use resource. In Indonesia, trust is a key component of a successful business relationship. Cultural guides can assist you in understanding practical ways to build strong cross-cultural relationships in your supply chain. Just bear in mind, culture can also be a complex mix of lived experiences within our globalized society. Fashion, music, language, religion, art, people, and non-human species move freely across borders blurring the lines of a nation-states culture.
“We are never just members of a nation but perform many identities, too, simultaneously and at different points in our lives” (
Piller, I. 2011, “Intercultural Communication: A Critical Introduction, p.68).
Find out what local issues persist in your place of manufacture before you engage in dialogue with your suppliers. By understanding the history of and current impacts to human rights you will be in a better position to discuss, define, and reach your social impact goals.
Take a look at local non-government organizations (NGOs) or charities (in Indonesia these are known as Yayasan) and get to know some of the pressing issues on the ground.
For an overarching framework on human rights check out the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and its 30 articles.
Water, land, and waste management are the top three most critical environmental issues for fashion manufacturing, globally. To better tailor, your environmental impact assessment finds out what issues exist in your place of manufacture. Conduct the same inquiry as for social issues listed above.
Water scarcity is a major global issue, you might consider understanding whether your operations impede on water sources for local populations. Does your production have an impact on soil quality? Do you have the necessary technology in place to ensure land is not adversely impacted by your clothing line?
Local capacity to manage waste will greatly differ across the world. Find out what municipal services exist, if at all, in order to understand how you might ensure you are not adding to our global waste problem.
Why are personal goals important? Your personal social and environmental goals will be the drive that fuels you throughout this process. Try to be as “blue sky” (brainstorm with no limits) as possible to reveal what motivates you. This will also assist you by providing personal dialogue points for your suppliers. Without connecting your personal goals with your professional goals, over time your plans may derail, or may lose sight of why am I doing this? Set yourself up for success and discover what motivates you.
Consider integrating your social and environmental goals into your business plan. Ever heard of the triple bottom line? Measuring your economic, environmental and social impact is a great way to track your progress. This data need not sit tucked away in your computer file or collect dust on the shelf. Professional goals can be creatively communicated (content!) with your stakeholders to show how you are helping achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, your leadership in working collaboratively in a developing country, and your progress toward an ethical supply chain.
If you would like to discuss any of the concepts above or are needing tailored support, contact Melissa for your first free 15-minute consult.