Storytelling has always been intrinsically linked to successful selling. In today’s retail market, it has become almost crucial. Being able to communicate what to buy is one thing. Today’s consumers are far more motivated to buy when they understand clearly, why they should buy it. Within this ‘why buy’ scenario, there’s a story to tell, and then there’s the story behind the story. Of the maker, the origin, method and artistry. The only way to truly communicate that, is by understanding traceability, provenance with transparency. When it comes to Bags for Life and retaining your trust, it’s important to us that you’re able to understand our story in four key ways:
- Roots & Values
- Where our bags come from
- The auditing methods we use to record traceability throughout the supply chain.
ROOTS & VALUES
“2018 is seeing a huge wave of customers looking for slightly better quality and more buying justification based on product ‘roots’ and ‘value’.” Eve Reid, Retail Trends Expert
Traceability can be defined as an unbroken record of documentation. It’s the supply chain under a microscope. On the one hand for the retail buyer, traceability is concerned with safety and public health. It traces the origins of products within the supply chain, giving us a quick way to recall products, track production and match replacement parts.
It’s often a series of tick boxes and hoops to jump through. Sometimes with little personal responsibility other than keeping the board happy. It’s possibly why so many of us are obsessed with Fair Trade labels or whether our food is organic. It’s a signpost, rarely a true understanding of what it means in practice.
But for the consumer in 2018, traceability stands for so much more than documentation. We see traceability and safety as interlinked with quality. And the consumer is looking for brands that have a commitment to all three. Consumers are savvy. They may not need a SEDEX stamp on their bag, but being able to tell the story of the bag and its value, can secure the sale sometimes more than its price tag.
WHERE DO OUR BAGS COME FROM?
We started our story as Canby Bags. Canby was one of the first businesses to bring eco bags from India to the UK. Still today, the vast majority of our bags our made in India where sustainable jute material is grown and cultivated.
For geographical and historical reasons the jute business in India is based in Kolkata, West Bengal. Kolkata is close to the border with Bangladesh and built on the mighty Ganges and its flood plains. Originally the capital and administrative heart of India, it was where the East India Company built its base and established a port in the early days of British Colonialism. Therefore, Kolkata is no stranger to trade with Britain.
People sometimes ask us why we make bags in India and not closer to home. The simple and honest answer is, it’s where the material comes from and where our expert bag makers are. In India we partner with the Lohariwal family business who have been making bags for well over 75 years.
Our bags for life are unique because together with our Indian partners Eco Jute, we own and control every part of the production process. Each step carefully managed and quality controlled. Firstly the best jute is chosen from their very own crops. Then they create the twine. They weave it, dye it, laminate it, cut it, print it and sew it. Which is the secret behind our successful joint venture and something very few can match. We’re proud to play our part in such a long-standing family tradition.
THE AUDITING METHODS WE USE
Sedex is a not for profit, membership organisation that’s dedicated to driving improvements in ethical and responsible business practices in global supply chains. Through its secure online database, Sedex shares ethical supply chain data so that brands and retailers can see how their suppliers are meeting their social and ethical responsibilities. Sedex currently has more than 36,000 members in over 150 countries.
Sedex aims to achieve two important things:
- Ease the burden on suppliers by reducing the need for numerous audits, questionnaires and certifications.
- Improve the ethical performance of global supply chains.
What this means is that suppliers can have audits performed at their sites that check they are meeting all of their responsibilities in terms of employees and the working environment.
Slightly different from SEDEX, WBC bags for life is also SA 8000 certified. The accreditation encourages businesses to develop, maintain, and apply socially acceptable practices within the workplace. What does that mean in practice? Well it includes eight performance criteria every member must meet.
- Child Labour: No use or support of child labor. Providing adequate financial and other support to enable such children to attend school; and employment of young workers conditional.
- Forced and Compulsory Labour: No use or support for forced or compulsory labor; no required ‘deposits’ – financial or otherwise; no withholding salary, benefits, property or documents to force personnel to continue work; personnel right to leave premises after workday; personnel free to terminate their employment; and no use nor support for human trafficking. In fact WBC, has a zero tolerance policy towards modern slavery too, and will refrain from entering into business anyone found to be non compliant.
- Health and Safety: Provide a safe and healthy workplace including providing personal protection equipment and medical attention in event of work-related injury; but also hygiene- toilet, potable water, sanitary food storage; decent dormitories- clean, safe, meet basic needs for workers.
- Freedom of Association and Right to Collective Bargaining: That’s basically the right to form and join trade unions and bargain collectively. No problems there.
- Discrimination: No discrimination based on race, national or social origin, caste, birth, religion, disability, gender, sexual orientation, union membership, political opinions and age. No discrimination in hiring, remuneration, access to training, promotion, termination, and retirement.
- Disciplinary Practices: Treat all personnel with dignity and respect. Zero tolerance of corporal punishment, mental or physical abuse of personnel. No harsh or inhumane treatment.
- Working Hours: Compliance with laws & industry standards; normal workweek, not including overtime, shall not exceed 48 hours. Overtime is voluntary, not regular.
- Remuneration: Respect right of personnel to living wage. Wages sufficient to meet basic needs & provide discretionary income. Deductions not for disciplinary purposes.
WBC bags for life production facilities are also GOTS certified which is a handy acronym for The Global Organic Textile Standard. GOTS is the worldwide leading textile processing standard for organic fibres. It considers both ecological and social criteria, and is backed up by independent certification of the entire textile supply chain.
That’s not to say that all of the cotton we use in your bags for life is organic. The question of organic and fair trade cotton is complicated. Bag guru, David Gould, the original founder of WBC bags for life takes us through all that in Fair trade or organic cotton, what’s all the fuss about?
The bottom line is, if you want organic cotton, just ask us about it. Obviously you’ll pay a premium, but it’s certainly a service we offer. But before you decide, we advise you read more into it. Certificates or no certificates, organic cotton in reality, is a dubious thing and hard to trace.
You may decide after properly looking into us and the organic cotton industry that our conventional cotton while not GOTS certified, comes with every inch the same highest of ethical standards.
WHAT DOES ALL THIS MEAN FOR YOU?
Whoever you buy bags from, it is important they demonstrate that ethical trade and corporate social responsibility is taken seriously. Sedex and SA 8000 are both convenient and practical ways for you to ensure our transparency has been met, but they’re only part of the story.
The next one is communicating to your customer that when they buy a bag from you, it’s one that has been ethically and lovingly made.
After all, by paying fair prices and looking after the maker, you end up with a product that looks and performs better. And that translates into more sales and happier customers.