BIG LITTLE IMPACT … Part 2: On the Job

This piece is the second in a series of posts meant to inspire those within the apparel supply chain to commit to sustainability on an individual level. Part 2 focuses on small actions to take in the workplace.

I want to reiterate that each one of us sits within an interconnected network, where one slight movement can vibrate an entire web. Remembering this metaphor helps motivate me when I worry that my personal metamorphosis is insignificant. Because we are each important parts of a bigger picture, we indeed have the power as individuals to improve the fashion industry, one simple step at a time.

 

1. Discover how your company already invests in sustainability.

Your employer may already have some sustainability initiatives in place. You may also notice ways to add to them. Get involved. Maybe it’s pricing low-impact dye alternatives or comparing the cost of recycled polyester (rPET) vs. virgin polyester. Maybe it’s a team-building exercise with overseas partners. Maybe it’s organising a 5-minute mindfulness program for the office. If your employer has nothing started yet, continue to step 2.

2. Bring up sustainability in conversation at work. Then do it again. And again.

Depending on your role within the fashion business, you may feel powerless. However, the only way to get management to sign on to a sustainable agenda, what with the stigma that it costs more to operate responsibly, is to present a good argument. No one wants to spend more in a struggling retail environment. But some changes are free. Connecting with people abroad, offering compliments, keeping a positive attitude, being aware of the industry’s impacts and raising the awareness of those around you—these are all free acts toward a sustainable industry. Let’s say there was a fire last night at a factory adjacent to the one you use. Bring it up. Ask questions. Offer solutions. A new waterless dyeing method for denim is available at your factory? Let your team know and show them photos of vendor samples. You’ve read three articles in the last month about how organic cotton and conventional cotton are cost-competitive? Share them!

3. Show gratitude toward your overseas allies and commit yourself to easing pressure on them.

Often, compliance issues abroad can be avoided entirely by timeliness on the product development side. From initial concept to unit commitment, fittings, colour approvals, trim finalisations, and so on – last-minute changes give manufacturers no choice but to demand excess hours of their workforce. Stick to deadlines so that they can stick to theirs. Ask your counterparts what you can do to help their job run more smoothly. Assure them that the amount of business they receive will not be impacted. Many vendor partners are accustomed to saying “yes” to any and every request of a brand or retailer for fear of losing business to another manufacturer who will say yes. We must empower one another to speak up when we are set up for failure and respect one another’s capabilities as human beings. Gone are the days of making incessant and impatient requests of our vendor partners. A two-way, respectful conversation is the way of the future.

Each of these steps can be integrated into your daily routine. If you think about it, they are really just ways to slow down for a moment to stay aware and engaged with humanity. We are not robots and should not attempt to operate as such in the workplace. We need a sense of community, purpose, and gratitude during our 40+ hour work weeks to thrive as employees and humans. The future of our industry depends on it! Stay tuned for the last set of three small steps toward big change!

For the other pieces in the series click here for Part 1 and the final piece, Part 3

Image Credits: Title image Ross Findon and Roman Kraft at Unsplash.

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