Supply Chain
Indigenous Helps 75% of Artisans in Its Fashion Supply Chain Escape Poverty

Fashion company Indigenous says some 75 percent of the artisans in its supply chain are no longer at risk of poverty and many have achieved milestones of financial security, with some even starting their own artisan workshops.

For almost two decades, Indigenous has promoted fair trade and organic fashion. The brand is featured in over 500 boutiques and several catalogs; the company also produces for Eileen Fisher. Over 1,500 artisan knitters in some of South America’s poorest regions participate in the Indigenous supply chain.

In response to the deadly factory collapse in Bangladesh, Indigenous claims to independently survey workers every six months, require participatory and fair labor practices, personally tour workshops and pay prices that make safety, benefits and fair wages easy to achieve.

“No one should suffer or die to make clothing,” said Scott Leonard, co-founder and CEO of Indigenous. “Just the opposite — they and their families should prosper. That’s how it is with our supply chain. That’s how it can be with others. Let’s not make this harder than it is. And let’s not wait. Lives are at stake.”

The company says it is ready to share its successful model to help save lives and promote the well-being of artisans and garment workers everywhere. The model has three key elements:

  • Continuous supply chain monitoring and the promotion of artisan rights and engagement in all aspects of workplace policy and practice. Indigenous uses innovative SMS and voice technology to directly survey workers about their economic, social and workplace well-being. This allows their opinions to be shared privately and confidentially.
  • Transparency. From the provenance of its organically grown fibers to the status of artisans and artisan communities, Indigenous shares information about its supply chain in a way that goes beyond simple, iconic labeling. Video profiles of artisans, artisan workshops and supply chain source maps are just a few of the tools.
  • Consumer engagement in the value of fair trade and organic fashion. This fall, Indigenous says every garment will come with a QR code on the hang tag. The QR code launches Indigenous' proprietary Fair Trace Tool, an application that lets the consumer meet the artisans who made the garment, understand the social impact of purchasing the garment and other facts, delivered in text, video and animated map formats.

The company says it is prepared to share by license its best practices and innovative supply chain transparency tools with any fashion brand that is willing to stand up and take the pledge that “no one will suffer or die to make our clothes. Instead, they will prosper.”

Last week, H&M, M&S, Benetton and Zara were among brands that committed to a fire and building safety agreement in Bangladesh, which strives to protect workers from fires, building collapses and other accidents that can be prevented with reasonable health and safety measures.

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