Last week, People Tree attended a conference hosted by BSR (Business for Social Responsibility) about building Climate Resilience in the Supply Chain. The conference was attended by many of the world’s leading fashion, manufacturing and food and beverage retailers. BSR believe that by facilitating discussion and engagement across different industries, that there can be renewed commitment to take responsibility for reducing carbon emissions within each sectors’ supply chain.
The main themes were about how global warming is impacting the supply chain and how each industry has a responsibility towards reducing their carbon emissions within their supply chains (referred to as a “climate wedge”) to help regulate the planet’s core temperature within 2 degrees of the average.
People Tree were able to share, in different focus groups, how we promote natural and organic cotton farming. Over 80% of our collection is now made from organic cotton. This helps reduce our carbon footprint by eliminating the carbon emissions created in the manufacturing of the pesticides. Using organic cotton helps to reduce water waste by encouraging the use of drip irrigation methods as opposed to the spraying of plants. Farmers can irrigate double the land compared to normal irrigation. This means that farmers can save up to 50% of water through using a drip irrigation system. People Tree avoids using damaging chemicals in production (where possible, we use recycled and biodegradable substances instead). Also, we recycle what we can and we always aim to protect water supplies and forests in the environments we work in. We sea-freight our goods where possible, rather than air freight. All of these considerations reduces our carbon footprint within the supply chain.
At the start of the conference, we were given a definition of resilience:
“Resilience has always been understood as the ability to manage and rebound from risk, but what if some risks are so severe that they breach irreversible thresholds?… Under these circumstances a sensible approach to resilience must include a balance between ‘avoiding the unmanageable while managing the avoidable’. “
The urgency in that statement, especially with the rather ominous question posed ‘what if some risks are so severe that they breach irreversible thresholds?’ is prompting a variety of activity from both the business community and governments; with all eyes on the COP21 sustainability forum in Paris at the end of this year. This sustainability forum is hugely significant, with 197 countries involved and will “for the first time in over 20 years of UN negotiations, aim to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate, with the aim of keeping global warming below 2°C.”
Examples of good practice, of course, were shared. There was a very brief but interesting talk given by Mike Barry, Director of Sustainability for Marks & Spencer, who raised the challenge of reducing carbon emissions when 95% of your supply chain is outsourced is tough, but pointed to one food retailer as a case in point. When they disclosed their carbon emission report to the Carbon Disclosure Group, they found that there was a significant opportunity to reduce carbon emission in their refrigeration systems. The solution- they put a door on all of their freezers!
Seated around People Tree’s table were an interesting mix of people: the sustainability officer for Burberry, a Policy Advisor for Oxfam Novib and amongst many others, a gentleman representing LEGO; disappointingly, he had not brought any Lego with him!
Oxfam, UNICEF and People Tree voiced concerns regarding the human and social cost of climate change. Highlighting that some of the worst affected countries in the world, are the ones heavily relied on for raw materials and manufacturing. We are already witnessing this in Bangladesh as powerfully shown in The True Cost documentary. These so- called ‘developing’ countries, are often home to the world’s most vulnerable and economically marginalised people.
Together we discussed and examined what our respective industries were already doing to reduce carbon emissions in the supply chain. We had various exercises to participate in to help delineate for us what our various risks/modifications and adaptions are in relation to the supply chain.
It was a wonderful opportunity to exchange ideas, but also for People Tree to be able to represent a different way of doing business; how we have transparency in our supply chain and how our manufacturing processes already emphasises carbon neutral production such as hand weaving and hand craft skills (e.g. hand block printing and hand embroidery) which of course is a carbon free way of manufacturing.
People Tree is mitigating climate change through eco-friendly production methods, using organic cotton, using mixed crop rotation methods and supporting tree planting schemes.