- Everlane is a popular clothing brand that built a reputation for supply chain transparency.
- Its head of apparel said that its current path to becoming an exceptional sustainable company would have been impossible without a prior dedication to transparency.
- This article is part of our ongoing series on Better Capitalism.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
When you buy a piece of clothing from Everlane, you can check the cost of materials, labour, transport, and duties, and learn about who made it and where it’s been.
Not long after Everlane launched in 2011, achieving this level of transparency became a way to push its team to create its products more ethically. Around that time, the company began moves to focus on sustainability, eventually leading to the launch of a denim collection in 2017.
Everlane now has its ReNew initiative, with a goal of eliminating all virgin plastic from its supply chain (down to packaging) by 2021. It also recently launched the Tread sneaker line, which the company says is fully carbon neutral. It’s successfully linked its brand with the notion of doing good by the planet.
The company’s head of apparel, Kimberly Smith, has been with Everlane for five years, and she told Business Insider that she’s learned that to be a sustainable company, you must be a transparent company.
“As we are evolving and we are working with our suppliers and bringing in new factories where we need to, we can really start to push the envelope on sustainability,” she said. “But I think it would have been really hard to do that if we didn’t have the full transparency on the supply chain.”
The supply chain involves the farmers producing raw materials like cotton, the mills turning that material into fabric or thread, and a factory turning that into clothing. Within the industry, vendors can serve as arbiters in this process, which can leave people back in the office unclear as to where they’re even sourcing their clothes from.
“The factories have a lot of resources and if you are a small company it’s way easier to get going if the factories help you do it,” she says. “But you don’t really know where it’s coming from, you don’t really know who you’re paying; you don’t really know what they’re doing. You just know, that, ‘Hey, I’m getting this fabric that looks good.'”
As Smith explained, if you can’t make this process transparent for yourself, you can’t pursue initiatives like only using recycled plastic or developing jeans in a process that reuses 98% of the water involved in their production. Everlane was able to achieve this by creating teams specifically for establishing relationships with sources, as well as the factory owners.
Another positive side effect of building these relationships was a willingness from producers to work with Everlane on developing materials to meet their sustainability goals. Technology that turns plastic bottles into polyester has existed for many years, for example, but it’s far more difficult to create a variety of clothing items using 100% recycled materials. Smith said she’s been pleasantly surprised with the results so far.
“I’ve been doing this for a while now, and it’s a little pessimistic at times, but that was really encouraging to me,” she said.
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