Changing The Way We Source Necessary Materials For Our Brands

For the past several years it feels like our world has shifted towards a full blown environmental movement, but are we really doing enough or is it all just marketing? I see sustainable brands that are doing everything they can to set an example of being truly environmentally friendly, and I also see some greenwashing. The majority however, I feel are trying their best to do the right thing but are missing the bigger picture. Whether it be intentional or a lack of resources the question we should all start asking ourselves is where do our materials, critical to our businesses, come from and how can we bring business back into our communities? Now more than ever is the time to take a good hard look and reflect on our decisions, because as business owners we are consumers too. Support from our communities is crucial to our livelihood, so why not give back and do the same to our fellow neighbors.

If anything good shall come from the COVID-19 outbreak it should be the fact that it has really been an eye opener to a lot of people on just how fragile our economy truly is. In my mind I am wishfully hoping it will be a new beginning for change. Reality is however, that wishing is not enough. With China being the source of most of our everyday items, it’s scary to think that it was our own decisions which led us to become so powerless and unable to fend for ourselves, not only in a time of crisis but also in our daily lives.

Sourcing abroad contributes to excessive pollution during  shipping for processing which some people don’t even realize, shipping of the final product or material, as well as the individual travels between business members to make sure everything runs smoothly. It is not an effective method by any means, thus making anyone trying to be eco-conscious not entirely so.

For me buying cheap materials, good quality or not which come from overseas is not worth the true cost that is sacrificed in the process. It leaves us less in control of not only our economy, health, and the detachment from our own community, but what about the workers and their families a world away. In foreign counties there are different rules, regulations, and standards, and who is to say that they are living up to yours or your brand’s values. This suffering is made out to be a way of life, where people in richer countries can take advantage of the poor. It is the power of greed that drives this control. When we cut the ties to this suffering, people will regain their power. 

Take a look at Patagonia for example, where a 2011 audit found that one-quarter of their mills, that produce their fabric, in Taiwan to be involved with human trafficking and exploitation. Patagonia is a leader in environmental practices, and a member of the Fair Labor Association. An article in The Atlantic states, ” the news is less surprising when taking into account how the apparel industry operates: with unwieldy, complicated supply chains that reach around the globe. And, considering this, the findings of Patagonia’s audits take on a different cast, a sign not of corporate hypocrisy, but of the near impossibility of treating workers well at every step in the production process, even when a company is genuine in its desire to do so.” If Patagonia is dealing with these issues think about the number of companies producing cheap clothing that aren’t even regulated. “Labor trafficking is a huge problem globally. There really isn’t any industry that is immune to this problem.” states Agatha Tan – senior adviser on labor trafficking for Polaris Project. There is no way to fight this but to stop supporting it.

For me, building a truly sustainable brand has been no easy feat. Factor in being a perfectionist, and the lack of local resources has been a challenge to say the least. I am determined however, because I can see that by us demanding more products made locally we are supporting our surrounding communities causing them to flourish, and by creating that demand it will in turn create jobs, keep ethics in check, make resources more abundant and accessible, and over time keep costs competitive. 

It is so important that what we deliver to the public reflects our true values from beginning to end, and that is just not attainable when so many barriers are involved. When all is said and done it will have been worthwhile to say I took the risk, I encouraged others to also look in their own backyards, and to see the quality and pride I brought to the table is uplifting in itself. If we all stood up and stood together we can all be proud of what we can in fact accomplish. Knowing that we can hold our own keeping our values visible in our products and business flowing in our communities.