How to Build a Sustainable Brand for People, Planet, and Profit
Whether you’re searching for a factory that fits your ethical brand ideals, or simply looking to learn how your fashion gets made, Jessica Kelly, Founder and CEO of THR3EFOLD, a tech platform for better fashion, is sharing her tips on how to build a brand that’s sustainable for your employees, the planet, and your bottom line.
See what she shared at the MAGIC Seminar Series about launching a socially conscious brand in today’s market.
Fashion is the largest labor industry in the planet with primarily a female workforce which means when business is conducted in an ethical manner, fashion manufacturing can be one of the largest forces for female empowerment around the world.
In fact, on Jessica’s trip to Ethiopia, she found many of her assumptions about overseas production were wrong. She discovered many ethical factories abroad, many working for some of the most prominent fashion producers like H & M, Target, and Kohl’s.
So what exactly makes a factory ethical and how can you know what to look for?
These are 8 important tenets that are taken into consideration in any ethical certification.
- No child labor. The age of a child varies across countries but often ranges between anyone under 14-17 years of age.
- No slave labor. Employees must be paid.
- Fair wages. Companies provide workers a minimum wage, which varies by economy.
- No discrimination. Employees can’t be hired, fired, promoted, or demoted based on anything other than merit.
- Right to unionize. Workers must be able to advocate for their rights and safety.
- Clear communication from management. Employees must know their duties and what’s expected of them, they must be treated in a respectful manner, and not be subjugated to physical or emotional abuse.
- Safe, healthy workplace conditions. Workers must have access to fire extinguishers and extensive safety precautions and processes.
- An environmental improvement plan. Factories must have a sustainability strategy that seeks to improve year over year.
One of fashion’s biggest impacts on the planet and people is not just the type of textiles that are used, but the way they are processed. For example, not only can chemical processing pollute rivers, cotton farmers are also more likely to get cancer because of the amount of chemicals they come into contact with.
While organic cotton farming can be labor intensive and expensive, there are easier-to-use sustainable options. Jessica recommends materials like tencel made from wood pulp from eucalyptus trees, lab-grown alternative leather, and natural dyes made from algae or even sour-milk. With sustainability being one of the top trends in fashion, access to innovative environmentally friendly materials and ethical, zero-waste options is growing.
Turning a profit is not just essential for you, but everyone on your staff and in your supply chain. In order to properly sell a conscious fashion brand you must first and foremost, find out exactly who your target customer is so you can know how to speak to them. Jessica recommends reading Donald Miller’s book Building a StoryBrand: Clarify your message so Customers Will Listen to learn how to not just sell a product, but a feeling.
As much as ethical fashion pioneers want to revolutionize the industry and make everything perfect now, it’s important to be realistic with yourself and your audience. Let your customers know you are constantly looking to make better choices for people and the planet, and that we’re all on the better fashion journey together.
Want more expert fashion industry tips and insights? Register to attend the next MAGIC Seminar Series this February 5-7, 2019. Featuring 50+ complimentary seminars led by 70+ executive-level speakers, the MAGIC Seminar Series helps exhibitors and attendees succeed in today’s fast-moving market.