It’s no surprise that this grammar junky here immediately liked a new infographic from Miva Merchant, an e-commerce software and shopping cart provider. The very beginning starts with defining just how we should write the word…a question I’ve oft debated (albeit an internal debate – I wouldn’t want my coworkers to know how much I think about these kinds of things…though I am now admitting it to the world. What that says, I’m not sure.)
The graphic claims that the correct, official spelling is “e-commerce.” Fine. That settles that.
The graphic then goes on to discuss B2B vs. B2C e-commerce, and highlights a few interesting stats such as the fact that B2B e-commerce sales totaled $3,705 billion in 2012. Here’s a few more highlights:
– B2C e-commerce totaled $169 billion in 2010, only about 20% of the total e-commerce – the rest made up by B2B.
– Examples of companies transacting in B2B e-commerce included IBM, Dell and Cisco, while the B2C examples were companies like Amazon, Target and Barnes & Noble.
– It was in 1979 that Michael Aldrich “invented” online shopping.
See the full graphic below for more stats and interesting factoids about the history of e-commerce.
Start-up ‘unreasonably’ aims to change clothing production
By Jennifer Riggins | April 29, 2013, 3:04 AM PDT
BARCELONA — The true story of 11 tech-based start-ups picked to live on a boat, work together, and incubate their businesses for 100 days, to find out what happens when an international group of minds focus on one thing: saving the world.
The last weekend of April, the Unreasonable at Sea ship made its final docking in Barcelona, after an intense journey to 13 countries with mentors the likes of Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the founders of TedX and WordPress. Each of the 11 Unreasonable at Sea start-ups — chosen among 1,000 applicants — looks to leverage technology to solve a deep global problem, such as pollution and limited access to food, water and medicine.
According to Epstein, the 11 companies have already generated tens of millions of dollars in revenue and are operational in more than 30 nations. “What unites them is a shared belief that their technology will help define progress in our time and a common eagerness to experiment in what it takes to scale globally,” Unreasonable founder Daniel Epstein said from 2,000 nautical miles off the coast of South Africa, when SmartPlanet first chatted with in February.
Spain was the only country to have two start-ups on-board. One was the IOU (I-Owe-You) Project, a clothing e-tailer which uses its website to link weavers, artisan clothing manufacturers and the end wearers in a worldwide measure to beat out factory machines that are mass-producing millions of meters of the same fabric and cookie-cutter clothing. C.E.O. Kavita Parmar, a fashion designer, created the IOU Project out of sheer frustration because she feels the industry has become about being faster and cheaper, with quantity trumping quality. She argues that machine-based design leads to poverty, lost jobs and sameness.
The IOU Project’s mission is to promote responsible consumption by disrupting and transforming existing supply chains into ‘prosperity chains,’ in which products are embedded with full traceability from artisan to consumer,” says Parmar. She says by knowing the entire supply chain, buyers can be rest assured that their clothing was not made with child labor or by mistreated, under-paid workers, for which all of the big three — Gap, H&M and Inditex, which owns Zara — have at least been investigated. Also, without the overhead cost of running stores, IOU can pay the artisans more, and charge the shopper less.
The members of the 18-month-old company truly relished their time on the entrepreneur ship. “To be part of a community of entrepreneurs with the same drive to change the world around them has been a growth experience,” says Parmar. Even before setting sail, she found the Unreasonable team truly understanding of the unique challenges faced by a for-profit social enterprise, particularly one that is lean and self-funded. The access to Epstein and the other mentors was “a real luxury for someone who is from a country with very limited access” to entrepreneurs at that level of collaboration. This includes 20 mentors who are helping IOU and the other start-ups to expand their business, particularly to the 13 countries they’ve visited, including China, India and Ghana.
Parmar told SP of the challenges with running a start-up in Spain. While she says Spain in general does not have a large entrepreneurial scene, it’s especially bad in the fashion and supply chain sectors, leaving her and her team with a sense of being isolated in their venture. She describes starting a company in Spain as bureaucratically painful, particularly when compared with the U.S. and Northern Europe, where the team has built start-ups before. She also says that finding an angel investor was very difficult because the Spanish investor community is “very traditional,” relying usually on banks as the sole funding channel. However, Spain was attractive to them because they could call on their personal network of family and friends, as well as what she refers to as a “big pool of very talented and relatively cheap designers and engineers.”
While the Unreasonable itinerary was set by the Semester at Sea program, with which it shared the ship, it was fortuitous to end its journey in Barcelona. As Epstein says, “I think it was incredibly serendipitous for us to culminate the entire program in Spain. Spain is a country hungry and ripe for an entrepreneurial renaissance.”
One of the most unique points of Unreasonable at Sea is that it only accepts for-profit world changers and maintains a stake in the profit of each. This especially stands out in Europe, where incubators are nearly all publicly funded. Each two- to three-person team has the assumed, all-inclusive cost of about $100,000. Instead of these entrepreneurs putting up that kind of cash,Unreasonable claims a stake of either six percent equity in the venture or up to $100,000 in equity, whichever is less. If, by halfway through the journey, a team is unhappy with the service provided, they can disembark, owing nothing. However, in the maiden voyage of Unreasonable at Sea, none of the teams jumped ship.
Epstein says this makes sure that the Unreasonable team, mentors and the success of the program as a whole are intrinsically linked with the success of the 11 start-ups. This way, “we are in this for the long haul,” he says, chuckling at his pun.
The following 4/26/13 California Apparel News article states that a 26% added duty was imposed by the EU to women’s jeans shipped from the US (read CA) an astounding 216% increase to the category’s 12% RATE, and that this increase from 12% to 38% was announced by the European Union on April 24 after the European Commission issued the regulation on April 17.
After an exhaustive search of the world’s business news and accuracy validation services, I found no corroborating record of this claim. (This writer finds it VERY hard to believe that such a shocking action would have lain there for weeks with NOT A PEEP from anyone who cares about so called “free trade”).
Well, kind readers, I stand corrected on this subject. It is indeed a fact.
Today, Nancy Cook, of Sandler & Travis Trade Advisory Services (STTAS), the largest customs and international trade services provider in the world (sic), was kind enough to provide us with the exact authority on this onerous added duty action of the EU (see comments).
Bud Robinson, guest host of Virtual Fashion Technology (VFT).
EU Slaps Big Duty on Women’s Jeans Made in the USA.
April 26, 2013
Starting May 1, the European Union will be collecting an additional 26 percent import duty on all women’s jeans made in the United States, on top of the jeans’ current 12 percent duty.
The increased duty will be a big slap in the face to the Southern California apparel industry, known for its high-end premium denim jeans made primarily in and around the Los Angeles area.
“This will not only affect the brands that make jeans but all the wash houses and sources that support the industry,” said Ilse Metchek, president of the California Fashion Association. “When you do the numbers, it is not just about dollars but about jobs.”
Metchek fears that many blue jeans brands will shift their production from Southern California to Mexico to get around the added duty. “They won’t be just shifting production of women’s jeans to Mexico, but all the entire collection,” she said.
Calls made to various Los Angeles jeans manufacturers left them stunned. Many had not heard about the new duty. “Certainly it will affect our business. Our products are expensive,” said Sam Ku, vice president and creative director for the high-end blue jeans label AG Adriano Goldschmied, made at the Koos Manufacturing factory in Los Angeles.
Ku said the company has distributors in Great Britain, Germany and Italy for its European sales of AG Adriano Goldschmied jeans that retail for 200 euros, or $260. “This is definitely something we have to look into and discuss,” Ku said.
Deborah Greaves, the in-house attorney for True Religion, said she had just found out about it and was shocked. “Obviously it is not good news. It is not something you ever want to hear. We haven’t had an opportunity to assess how it is going to impact our business and what we can do to mitigate it.”
The CFA’s Metchek was telling people to write their congressional representatives and California’s two U.S. senators, Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, asking them to pressure the Obama administration to get the duty repealed.
The duty was announced by the European Union on April 24 after the European Commission issued a regulation on April 17.
Three U.S. goods currently subject to a 15 percent EU duty—sweet corn, eyewear frames and mountings and crane trucks—will have their duties increased to 26 percent.
But the big hit came to U.S.-made women’s jeans. This category will see its 12 percent duty rise to 38 percent.
The increased duties come from the EU’s World Trade Organization dispute with the United States over the Continued Dumping and Subsidy Offset Act, also known as the Byrd Amendment.
The U.S. Congress approved legislation in 2006 repealing the Byrd Amendment. However, Congress added transitional provisions that allowed U.S. customs to continue collecting duties for distribution until Oct. 1, 2007. The payments continue to be disbursed on antidumping duties collected before that date.
According to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s annual report, issued on Nov. 27, nearly $120 million was paid out to U.S. firms in the 2012 fiscal year, up from $95 million in 2011.
Tom Travis, a customs attorney with Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg in Miami, said the Byrd Amendment was found to be in violation of WTO rules and despite a repeal of the law, its effects were allowed to continue.
As a result, the WTO allows other countries to raise tariffs on goods imported from the United States up to a certain amount, which varies every year.
“What this [new duty] does is eliminates the most promising growth export market for these California products,” Travis said. “It represents a setback for the resurgence of U.S. manufacturers.”
Travis said his law firm is working with its European and U.S. offices to formulate some strategic options.
Many find it odd that the new duties were being added to apparel when most U.S. anti-dumping disputes have been about food products and steel. “In trade wars, you punch people where it hurts,” said Brenda Jacobs, an international trade attorney with Sidley Austin in Washington, D.C. “We have some brands in Los Angeles that are really competitive in Europe.”
Another question is why the European Union is taking this action as it starts free-trade agreement negotiations with the United States. “I think this has taken everyone by surprise,” said Nate Herman, vice president of international trade at the American Apparel & Footwear Association in Arlington, Va.
It may come as no surprise that the majority of new jobs in retail these days are not actually in store (perhaps apart from the holiday surge in employment by brick and mortar retailers).
According to some new research displayed in an infographic from Baynote, consumers’ increased comfort, widespread mobile device usage and retailers’ multi-channel adoption have all contributed to the continuous growth in the US online retail sector. The graphic shows that in 2013, the projected growth for online retail sales is 12 percent.
– A 2013 Forrester report outlined its online retail forecast through 2017, predicting it will reach $262 billion in sales this year; a 13% rise over last year’s $231 billion.
– Forrester estimates that U.S. e-commerce companies will employ about 570,750 people by 2017.
– Currently, there are about 41,389 current marketing positions within online retail making $70K. By 2017, that number will increase another 12,097.
There are certainly some big corporate names that appear to think so, including AOL, Apple, General Mills, Huffington Post, Google, and Procter & Gamble; and some Apparel companies like Nike and Patagonia.
Definition: Mindfulness is a practice that involves the cultivation of a present-oriented, non-judgmental attitude.
23 April | Feature | written by Michael Townsend, Earthshine Solutions Ltd
In the fifth and final part in the Sustainable Business Strategy series, Mike Townsend explores how mindfulness might help us unlock the transformation within ourselves – and in our businesses
“As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world – that is the myth of the atomic age – as in being able to remake ourselves.” Mahatma Gandhi
The further we progress on our journey towards sustainable business, the more fundamental are the constraints and challenges that we encounter. We may improve compliance, and optimize our eco-efficiency initiatives, but then find we need to address our business models, our organizational and ownership formats, if we are to deliver more impact,more benefits.
We may go further still, and explore the need for systemic change, to drive the right behaviours and performance, that will enable our strategies to flourish.
But there is one constant, one common denominator in all these processes, organisations, and systems – people.
And so, we reach the ultimate barrier – ourselves – where the only way forward is to go within, and change our internal world. Only then can we move forward to drive the changes that are truly necessary.
Could it be, that for us to unlock transformational change in business, we must first undergo individual transformation? Could mindfulness help us overcome our deepest fears, as we wrestle with the deep and fundamental changes required, if we are to truly transform to a sustainable future?
Interestingly, the concept of mindfulness appears to be making inroads into the business world, and is almost, dare I say, becoming fashionable.
In a business context, according to Karl Weick at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, “mindful organisations are better able to manage the unexpected in a challenging, highly competitive environment”. This certainly sounds like a good idea, given the massively turbulent times we find ourselves in.
Into the mainstream
There are certainly some big corporate names that appear to think so, including AOL, Apple, General Mills, Huffington Post, Google, Nike, and Procter & Gamble; and at least 2 major apparel companies: Nike and Patagonia.
Even Steve Jobs, Apple’s founder and former CEO, was a Zen Buddhist; and he spoke openly about how his time meditating in India shaped his worldview, and ultimately, Apple’s product design.
In her recent interview with Google’s Rich Fernandez, Dr Bronwen Rees explores the link between the leadership agenda and wellbeing, mindfulness, and wisdom at Google. For Fernandez, what started out as a personal pursuit developed into something much greater. Mindfulness grew to represent a cultural shift within, and across organisations.
Fernandez started running a few sessions on mindfulness, expecting around 20 to 30 people to show, but 200 turned up. Clearly, he had tapped into something on a deeper level; perhaps a latent need to find a better way?
The team at Google then developed a robust set of mindfulness and wisdom practices and courses, including Mindfulness Based on Emotional Intelligence – a seven-week course, meeting once each week, and which includes a full day at a meditation retreat. Another course focused on Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction.
And some courses were designed by, and with specific business units in mind, such as The Software Engineering of the Mind. The mind boggles at the prospect of that one.
Google has also established Wellness Centres, where people can go for yoga, massage, or meditation. These sessions are now very popular, with long waiting lists. They also run a video-conferencing meditation group, they call “meditation hangouts”.
The approach has become increasingly popular, and over 4,000 of Google’s 35,000 employees have now taken some form of mindfulness, wisdom, or wellbeing programme.
But this is not just about wellbeing for its own sake.
Google is a high performance culture; expectations are high and this requires a robust performance management system. For Google, mindfulness was all about achieving peak performance and optimising productivity through more mindful practices. “People at Google aspire to do world-changing things. So wisdom and mindfulness provide some strategies and tools that equip us to be able to sustain that level of performance.” (Rich Fernandez, Senior People Development Lead, Google).
Business schools are also starting to embrace the practice, including the Peter F. Drucker and Masatoshi Ito Graduate School of Management in California.
In a series of four seven-week executive education classes, and a separate course for MBA students, Jeremy Hunter teaches what he calls self-management, “managing your insides so you can deal with your outsides better”. Classes start with a brief meditation, and cover topics like managing emotional reactions, and dealing with change.
Harvard Business School has also take the leap, where courses are run to help business people better understand their emotions, which involves opening up, to share with others their toughest personal experiences.
There’s something in it – but is it possible to quantify tangible benefits?
According to business professors Michael Porter, Elizabeth Teisberg, and Scott Wallace, investing in wellbeing just makes good financial sense. Their studies show that US employers pay 200-300% more for the indirect costs of health care – in the form of absenteeism, sick days, and lower productivity – than they do on actual health care payments. Their recommendation is for companies to “mount an aggressive approach to wellness, prevention, screening and active management of chronic conditions.”
And then there is the relationship between happiness and productivity. The iOpener Institute carried out a study of a company with 1,000 employees; they found that increasing happiness in the workplace reduces the cost of employee turnover by 46%, the cost of sick leave by 19%, and increases performance and productivity by 12%.
On the face of it, these are very significant benefits – for businesses as well as individuals – and way beyond the diminishing returns we perhaps now experience from our often over-worked and mechanistic business efficiency initiatives.
And going further, a key strategic benefit for business also lies in the ability of staff to make better decisions. David Gelles, in a very thorough and interesting piece for the FT, quotes William George, a board member with Goldman Sachs: “The main business case for meditation is that if you’re fully present on the job, you will be more effective as a leader, you will make better decisions, and you will work better with other people.”
This point is intriguing, particularly from the perspective of developing more sustainable business strategies. Better decisions; but better decisions for what, exactly? Can the more sharper, more effective employee deliver more mindful business decisions, for the greater benefit of people and planet, or will it merely increase their capacity to become even more effective capitalists and plunder the planet?
To address this point, we have to go deeper. Mindfulness is not just about meditation and relaxation – to develop sharper, more focused and energised employees – it also challenges some of our belief systems, including some of our most fundamental assumptions about what we do in business, and how we do it.
Let’s get back to Thich Nhat Hanh, and the important notion of conscious choices; through his mindfulness trainings, he calls us to make five deep commitments:
Cherish all life on Earth – cultivating compassion and learning ways to protect our people and planet;
Practice generosity and social justice – become aware of the suffering cause by exploitation, social injustice and oppression, and commit to cultivate wellbeing of people, animals, plants and minerals;
Responsibility in relationships – cultivating responsibility and learning ways to protect the safety and integrity of individuals, couples, families and society;
Loving speech and deep listening – to bring joy and happiness and relieve others of their suffering; and
Mindful consumption and eating – which involves recognising exactly what we need to consume (in all senses of the word), and what not to consume, in order to keep our bodies, minds and the Earth healthy.
If we were all to adopt these teachings in full, there is no doubt in my mind that the effect would be completely transformative. But this will have huge implications for all our businesses, and the ways in which we run our economies.
The consumption challenge
In particular, the notion of mindful consumption, presents a major challenge to our whole economic model and way of life, we have cultured in the West overt the last fifty years or more.
But as George Monbiot reminds us – we have to do this, anyway – we have to stop hiding behind our eco-efficiency initiatives and deal with the fundamental problem of consumption – it lies at the heart of our key sustainability challenges; of climate change, resource scarcity, and a looming energy crisis.
Can we shift towards a low/zero growth model and make the transition away from a damaging and wasteful economy? This is a major topic in its own right, and one that we will aim to explore in more detail in a future article. But, let’s explore a little further, here, how mindfulness might help.
But this, we know, is somewhat at odds with the prevailing corporate business paradigm and our endless pursuit of growth. And while many may privately admit that the goal of endless growthis not sustainable, or even possible; we somehow find it too hard, to move to a different model. Growth pre-occupies our businesses, and our beleaguered governments. And as Jo Confino points out, the fear of radical change and failure holds us back.
Of course, we also know that the current system starts to unravel and ultimately collapse,if we don’t achieve continuous growth – a major inherent design flaw that we will have to address, one day. But another reason that makes it feel like a challenge that is just too hard to resolve. We have become addicted to growth.
But there is some great pioneering economic ‘design work’ by the likes of Peter Victor, Tim Jackson and David Korten, that can help us find a vision and a plan for a better approach. Although, there is less empirical evidence of businesses that have successfully made the transition to a low/no growth economy – optimising, rather than maximising growth.
And while there are an increasing number of businesses getting engaged in the circular economy approach, aiming to maximise the range of resources in use, many of these businesses are still broadly operating within a growth paradigm – still striving towards year-on-year growth in sales.
We may need to come at the challenge form both ends – optimising resource use, certainly, but also optimising growth, and the size of our businesses.
Patagonia, the Californian outdoor clothing company, is perhaps one of the best known examples of a company, that really seems to be engaging with a mindful approach to consumption – by taking the seemingly counterintuitive approach to encouraging its customers to buy less! And really pushing the re-use, repair and recycling business model – in pursuit of the company’s mission of building the best product, causing no unnecessary harm, and using business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.
Yvon Chouinard, the founder of Patagonia, also sees that there is a “proper size” for the company, and as he says in his inspirational talk – The Education of a Reluctant Businessman – “There are no three star French restaurants with fifty tables – it’s impossible.
Patagonia, based on its values and principles, simply cannot become a large company. Yvon Chouinard, the founder of Patagonia, says there is a “proper size” for the company. “There are no three star French restaurants with fifty tables – it’s impossible” ago, small really can be beautiful.
And what influenced the approach at Patagonia? Whether formalised or not, Chouinard points to his life-long study of Buddhist philosophies as being a major influence underpinning his work; a mindful approach to consumption. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NVfy2T0rzMc
Out of the crisis?
There is no doubt that the introduction of mindfulness can have major benefits for businesses and employees; through the reduction of stress, and generating the potential for greater well-being creativity, performance, personal growth, and behavioural change. And, not surprisingly, at this time of stress and challenge, the approach is growing in popularity.
But also, mindfulness presents a way out of our seemingly intractable situations –really challenging the more fundamental and difficult aspects of our sustainability challenges, such as our consumption model of economy. Perhaps we can seek, find, and move to a better way?
Quite importantly, mindfulness helps us to overcome our fears of change and failure. And so, it also presents the key to unlocking the doors to develop and deploy truly sustainable business strategies.
Some businesses may not wish to engage with the deeper aspects of mindfulness – beyond the breathing, relaxation, and yoga – to explore with the five teachings, including mindful consumption and eating. Who knows what might happen if we open that ‘can of worms’, and expose the full range of radical shifts that might be possible?
But perhaps this doesn’t matter? It seems highly likely that by the introduction of mindfulness programmes, by their very presence, will set people on a path of personal discovery, that may then lead to more radical shifts, whether intended, or not.
Will mindfulness take off in business? Will the full implications be allowed to take effect? It remains to be seen where this will all end up, but I for one, will be watching and participating with keen interest.
Take action – be the change
Gandhi nailed it when he said, “Be the change you want to see”.
Such a profound statement, on many levels; we all have the power to change what we do, and this can add up to a worldwide change.
Through becoming more aware, and making more mindful choices – even if they can seem hard at first sight – we can achieve this. But what can we do today? Well, here are three things to get us started on our journey:
Read Thich Nhat Hanh’s book The World We Have – for deeper learning and personal reflection.
Look through the Pictures of Success and reflect on the associated Earth Charter Principles, and how these relate to what you do now, and what you would like to do.
Perhaps visit Dr Bronwen Rees at The East West Sanctuary, near Budapest, and join one of the courses on embedding mindful practice in business?
Whether someone’s a small designer trying to make a name for themselves or a legacy retailer in the apparel business for nearly a century and a half, reaching the consumer is the name of the game. And these days, direct-to-consumer e-commerce is a growing practice among designers.
“Our catalogs don’t generate the same amount of response they used to, so we had to invest more in online media,” says Richard Lowe, international creative director for the 148-year-old Spiegel, whose catalog business allowed it to become the grandfather of direct-to-consumer retailing.
UsTrendy’s Sam Sisakhti founded the company of 15,000 indie designers back in 2008 after four days in a corporate finance job. “I had close friends that were so talented, but there are only so many small spots out there to sell to — and not everyone has the capital to open a brick and mortar store.”
Meanwhile, Tallulah’s Designs, based in Birmingham, AL, was in business for a year-and-a-half before it offered online shopping last October from its own website.
“We started out selling to a store in Birmingham and another in New Orleans,” says designer and founder Heather Williams. “We developed our line and our contacts there, and they gave us excellent feedback and the encouragement to expand with an online presence.”
While the design/retail business model might be intimidating, that direct line to consumers is enticing. After all, (71%) of shoppers browse the Internet for clothes, up from 66% in 2011, according to the Cotton Incorporated Lifestyle MonitorTMSurvey. Consumers still shop in-store more often — about two times per month versus once a month buying online. But they spend about 109 minutes shopping for apparel online, compared to 96 minutes in-store.
“Our site today is really 90% of our core identity,” Lowe says. “We went live on the Internet in 1994 and were the first large retailer to do so. But online, it’s always about being the most technologically advanced. We’ve gone through quite a change in the last six months.”
These days, the 28-year-old Lowe says Spiegel is “fully loaded” on social media. “We’re on Facebook, Twitter and we have a huge Pinterest page. I’ve taken 360-degree videos of the outfits so people can see the true fit. And these videos are all available on Pinterest, Facebook and our website.”
Spiegel is also going after the 2-to-5 million followers of 40 of fashion’s most elite bloggers. “We’re doing a hard push with them to get to their demographics. We’re going to send them product and challenge them to put my quality against any other label out there — and then let them talk about it.”
Social media and blogs that have a major following can be very influential — especially in an age when the notion of online “friendship” and “followers” is very fluid, and strong relationships can be formed without the parties ever formally meeting.
Among consumers, more than half (53% — up significantly from 46% in 2010) say friends are “most likely” to influence them to buy new apparel, followed by relatives (21%) and magazines (20%), the Monitor finds. Consumers ages 13-to-24 (74%) are significantly more likely than older shoppers (47%) to say friends are most likely to influence them.
“I don’t believe in pop up ads anymore,” Lowe says. “Today, people don’t care that there’s an ad telling them what to buy. They care that their friend wore it and posted what they like about it. They trust someone they know.”
For the novice designer, handling social media, courting traditional press andactually designing new apparel could seem daunting. That is where UsTrendy steps in to help the indie newcomer.
“We can reach the consumer directly online through the one million unique visitors we get on our site each month,” Sisakhti says. “For the consumer, we’re offering the rarity and exclusivity of so many designers, many of whom are only selling through us. Often, items can be personalized — so the bust can be this, the waist can be that, or they can change out the color or fabric options.”
UsTrendy also may provide capital, as well as offer advice and connections, and help with product description lines and photo shoots.
This type of support is important toward driving sales, especially as 30% of consumers cite the Internet as a source of apparel ideas, according to the Monitor.
Tallulah’s Designs’ Williams worked in retail before starting her line. Still, the new business has her wearing many different hats.
“When I sell wholesale, I sell to the stores and I’m done,” Williams says. “They market to the customer and worry about returns, exchanges and store credits. Online, you become the retailer. I have to dedicate time to be there for my customer. I spend three hours a day on emails, filling orders, helping with sizing and things like that.
“But I also have complete control of my brand,” Williams continues. “I also won’t run out of selling space like I would with a brick and mortar storefront. The possibilities for growth are endless. Online, you get to cultivate and curate your own space, and that’s wonderful.”
WASHINGTON – The Natural Resource Defense Council, a powerful US environmental action group, has called for a new ‘Five Step Program’ to significantly reduce the use of toxic chemicals in the global textile and clothing industries. This approach, says the NRDC, will go a long-way to helping brands and retailers to implement their stuttering responses to the Greenpeace ‘Detox’ pledges. NRDC Director Linda Greer reveals her thoughts to Ecotextile News.
“Few people think of the fashion industry as a heavy industry like steel or cement,” says Linda Greer, Director of Natural Resource Defense Council’s (NRDC) Health and Environment program. “However, the dyeing and finishing of fabric has an enormous environmental footprint, using large quantities of chemicals to pre-treat fabric and dye it the colors we love, as well as extensive steam and rinse water. The industry places in the highest ranks of industrial water polluters around the world.”
Greer feels that the Greenpeace Zero Discharge campaign, which calls for the phase out of 11 categories of toxic chemicals in textile manufacture by 2020 [Greenpeace Detox Campaign], has provided “a much-needed sense of urgency to the apparel industry to change the way it does business around the world.”
However, she says, “despite an explosion collaborative consultations and meetings among brands and retailers [Roadmap to Zero], the companies who have committed on paper to comply with the Greenpeace and the many others living in fear of imminent Greenpeace targeting, have not come forward with work-plans that inspire confidence they will get the job done.”
Here’s what Greer says is a five-step program for what apparel retailers and brands serious about phasing out their reliance on toxic chemicals should do:
Firstly, create reduction goals that are results, not process, oriented, with explicit dates and milestones for achieving reductions. “Current pledges to ‘convene a group’, ‘explore platforms’, ‘provide updates’, ‘create roadmaps’, ‘demand collective action’, etc., fall far short of what is needed to deliver change on the ground,” she says: “these commitments are the HOW, not the WHAT”.
Instead, Greer says goals should include: “The phase out of all use of chlorinated solvents by 2014. Or, if that is too ambitious: phase out use of chlorinated solvents in all synthetics textile mills by the end of 2014. Or, if even that is too ambitious, how about: phase out all use of chlorinated solvents in 80% of all synthetics mills in China by the end of 2013, require phase out at the next 25 largest mills by the end of 2014.”
Secondly, the NRDC wants retailers and brands to banish the ‘easiest’ chemicals at the ‘easiest’ locations first.
“Start at your vertically integrated facilities. Vertically integrated facilities are the easiest targets, since apparel companies have on-going direct contract relationships with these factories. Fortunately, these facilities often represent large and important strategic suppliers as well.”
As for the chemicals, Greer said that some of those in the Greenpeace (Detox) categories are already largely gone. “(These are) on what I call the ‘dead chemical list’, and those should be explicitly prohibited right away,” she said, “Chlorobenzenes and chlorophenols, as well as azo dyes which form prohibited amines, have been on the Restricted Substance Lists for responsible brands for some time and are thought to be largely out of use in the textile industry. Brands should commit to a 2014 firm phase-out of these chemicals that are already out of use.”
Similarly, she added, the brominated and chlorinated flame retardants, chlorinated solvents, and short-chained chlorinated paraffins (SCCP) should prove relatively easy to phase down. “A 2015 phase out goal for these three categories would perhaps be feasible. Those chemicals/formulations without currently viable alternatives should be scheduled as the last to go to give time for research to take place.”
The NRDC is also suggesting the use of the ’80:20’ rule to gear the commitments up to scale quickly. “Apparel companies rightly point to the hundreds of factories and fabric mills that supply their goods as a key stumbling block to rapid implementation of any new rule book,” she said. “However, most agree that if they look, it is a much, much smaller universe of manufacturing facilities that provide the bulk of production.” Greer goes on to say that apparel brands should target the facilities that ‘matter the most first’, then move to the smaller operators later. “They should develop 80/20 plans: plans that initially target 80% of production, 80% of cotton/blend production, 80% of denim production.”
Key to this approach would be to fill in critical information gaps, according to the NRDC. This could take the form of two types of research: the chemical composition of commonly used formulations and the alternative formulations that are available.
Greer points out that many mills use formulations without knowledge of their chemical composition or buy ‘off brand’ products without realising they are poor substitutes. “Brands must step up to the plate here (either alone or in collaboration) and test the products used at their mills. They should ask their mills to send samples of the products and formulations they use and send those samples to a laboratory for a scan of the Greenpeace chemical categories.” Collaboration across brands would clearly be useful here, with perhaps the creation of a third-party repository and a single list of banned products, but only “if and only if companies can coordinate quickly enough to ensure that they meet their reduction deadlines.”
NRDC believes that research to identify alternatives is also crucial for the change in the industry by 2020. Again, collaboration across brands would clearly be more efficient for the industry, but only “if it is possible to get this up and running expeditiously.”
With results in hand, “retailers/brands should then provide an explicit list of the formulations that contain banned substances to the mills, with dates for their phase-outs, as well as a list of preferred chemicals and formulations. This will provide a clear path forward for factories to transition away from problem uses.”
The final step in the NRDC plan would be for brands to create clear sourcing policies with teeth that deliver business consequences to environmental non-compliance.
“The only way to make the Greenpeace commitments real is for the sourcing team to contractually require them, with consequences – suspension or termination of business – for bad behavior, says Greer. “In fact, it is the sourcing team that needs to own the Greenpeace commitments, not the CSR shop. Any phase-out plan owned and operated solely through the CSR shop is a fake and will not deliver results. This approach is very different from the ‘we’re-all-in-this-sustainability-journey-together’ mentality that many companies have brought to their CSR work to date and will require changes in hierarchies, ownership, and management for many of you.”
The NRDC acknowledges that the implementation of the Greenpeace commitments is a challenge for the global textile industry. “Most brands know their Tier One garment factories but not the Tier Two fabric mills, which is where the chemicals of concern are used and released. Traceability of products through the supply chain is an on-going challenge which to date has been focused largely on small, special product lines (such as organic cotton) and not the bulk of wet processing production. Until now, chemical concerns have been limited to chemicals on the residue of clothing [Restricted Substances Lists from AAFA.pdf] and not on the chemicals used and released in manufacturing. And, let’s be honest with ourselves: only a very small handful of retailers and brands have ever even once assessed overall wastewater compliance at their fabric mills, let alone overseen or enforced a program limiting specific chemicals used and released at these sites.”
However, as Greer says, we can also all agree that the curtain is rising on the environmental problems being generated by textile manufacturing in China and elsewhere in the developing world. “International groups like Greenpeace are routinely showcasing problems to worldwide attention [Hidden Consequences.pdf], and NGOs such as the Institute for Public and Environmental Affairs (IPE), are quickly developing an increasing head-turning capacity in an information-starved China, by outing problem factories across that nation in a highly accessible way [IPE’s Cleaning up the Fashion Industryand IPE’s The Other Side of Apple Report.pdf].
“Given the ready access the public has to the internet and social media around the world, it is becoming increasingly difficult to multinationals to maintain a credible reaction of surprise and dismay to public exposes of the environmental damaged caused by factories in their supply chains around the world.”
Bitter pill to swallow
From this perspective, the Greenpeace campaign can be seen as “bitter but much needed medicine to the apparel sector,” according to Greer. “And it is an important warning to the other industries manufacturing the pharmaceuticals, paper, furniture, plastics, and other consumer goods we use every day. If you guys can manage a supply chain to deliver high quality products, on time and at low cost, from hundreds of factories to thousands of retail outlets around the world, it should also be possible to ensure that those same factories are minimising the damage they pose to the air and water in their surrounding communities.”
She concludes: “public expectations of industry are high and rapidly rising around the world; the fashion industry, so highly respected for its creativity, vision, and power of persuasion with consumers, is well suited to take the lead in responding to the public in this brave new world.”