Sustainable Supply Chains: Online Retailer Everlane Offers a Virtual Tour of Its Factories in China
This Monday, online clothing retailer Everlane opened up its sale of Ryan Collection t-shirts and tanks, and already, the more popular sizes and colors have sold out. So this post is one part rant (as usual, I was slow and didn’t get a t-shirt in time) and ninety-nine parts admiration for Everlane’s supply chain philosophy.
Everlane’s business model is interesting. They do away with the middleman altogether, thus eliminating the risk of unscrupulous subcontractors (read Thomas Kase’s post from last week on sustainable procurement for an explanation on how large retailers can lose track of their subcontracted suppliers). Everlane also opts for supply chain transparency in the full sense of the word, recently having begun publishing photos and videos of domestic and overseas factories on a new blog, Everlane Explores.
The company was gracious enough to allow me to repost a few of their photos. All credits go to Everlane, of course.
Here’s where the supply chain philosophy comes in, at least as I see it. Take the three factors of low prices, fair labor practices, and endless expansion. A retailer might manage two, but probably not all three. I suspect that people who hold up a piece of clothing and deem it not worth $25, $50, $200 are thinking solely of how much the fabric cost, never minding fair wages for garment workers, the costs of factory and retail store upkeep, transportation, and design. For retailers like H&M to profit from selling $10 tanks, of course they are using cheap labor.
In contrast, Everlane is much more reasonable when it comes to how much merchandise they sell. Last year, the company famously shut down its website on Black Friday. Sure, it’s also a way to get press, as is Everlane Explores. But it’s nice to see a business take responsibility of their supply chain, as opposed to turning a blind eye to subcontractors and then pleading “We didn’t know” when a sweatshop scandal breaks out.
There are some gems to be found by reading the factory descriptions. According to Everlane, “the beautiful grounds also make for a lot of romance. We were told that every month there are at least two or three new couples.” Whatever you want to make of that.
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