HOW TO BE A SUSTAINABLE BRAND WHEN THAT ISN’T THE NORM
In a world where consumerism often prioritizes profit over the planet, the path to becoming a sustainable business can be extremely challenging. On top of that, what if your suppliers and contractors don’t have the same values as yours?
Here's our experience trying to change the status quo!
It’s no secret that the fashion supply chain is distributed and often globalized. It’s a complex network that involves numerous stages, from design and production to distribution and retails. Clothes that are sold in the West are manufactured tens of thousands of miles away from their place of sale. The geographical separation hampers effective oversight and control, making it difficult to ensure adherence to both ethics and sustainability. Limited visibility into working conditions, labour rights, and environmental standards in far-flung factories poses ethical dilemmas for brands aiming to uphold their commitments.
Here in India, the distances are not so large, but that doesn’t make the hurdles any less difficult. At Tamarind Chutney, someone from our team visits our tailors daily, but our fabric artisans are spread across India which makes it difficult for us to keep track of or have direct control over their daily operations.
SO WHAT DO WE DO TO ENSURE SUSTAINABILITY IN SUCH A CONTEXT?
We start with controlling what we can control.
Image source: humornama.com
For us, that means our design and tailoring. For instance, we minimize wastage during the fabric-cutting process and additionally repurpose the scraps for accessories or quilting. This ensures reduced waste and circularity.
For our external vendors, we start with simple practices- such as asking them not to individually wrap everything in plastic and use jumbo cloth bags instead. We then move on to more complicated requests, like sending them our fabric to print on, or experimenting with a specific type of dye.
WHAT WORKS AND WHAT DOES NOT
We communicate our values and expectations to our vendors. The key is to be respectful. No one responds well to self-righteousness or judgment. So telling a supplier or vendor to overhaul their practices probably won’t work. What has worked for us is to make a specific request just for our order and explain our reasoning for it. After repeat orders they have understood our priorities and we don’t need to specially request them anymore.
ONE STEP AT A TIME
Image source: www.cleveland.com
Though convincing a single supplier to alter their practices for our order may appear insignificant, it marks a significant beginning. It sparks a shift in mindset towards the concept of sustainable manufacturing, and if more customers and buyers increasingly demand better practices, suppliers will take notice of market signals and changes can happen at a larger scale. So whether you’re an individual consumer or a brand looking to source sustainably- don’t hesitate to ask!
Being a sustainable brand in the fashion industry is undoubtedly challenging, particularly when operating within the complexities of the global supply chain. The geographic distance, lack of transparency, complex supplier networks, varying standards, and cost-efficiency pressures formidable obstacles to ensure sustainable practices throughout the production process. However, at Tamarind Chutney, we are committed to overcoming these challenges through continuous improvement and innovation, and we believe that every step towards sustainability counts, no matter how small.