Responsibility beyond semantics

Responsible Fashion should not just be one of the hottest “topics” of our time, or a diner table conversation piece. It needs to become part of the way we do business, and an integral part of the business formula

Blurb: Committed leadership from the top is important but that’s not all: buyers, designer and the entire supply chain has a major role to play – creating a more socially responsible organisational culture.

Anusha Alles
The inaugural edition of Responsible Fashion Summit, the first of a series of events held to mark Colombo Fashion Week 2018, was much-needed and long overdue. This was a summit, we wish was unnecessary. We wish that as an industry, we in no way contribute to the exploitation of the environment, and in some instances people. But, the story, unfortunately is quite different here.

No doubt, the programme and the discussions on that day were spectacular. The broad range of perspectives and views represented in the panels pleased me: from the global sustainability fashion personality and UNESCO Ambassador Bibi Russel, sharing insights on engaging communities to create responsible fashion, to Lynn Franks, working on a sustainable mandate to steer fashion in the right direction.

Brandix was honored to be part of a panel, comprising of the other two apparel giants in Sri Lanka – MAS and Hirdaramani – that discussed how as an industry in Sri Lanka, we have significantly engaged to support social responsibility, not just because it’s fashionable but as part of our respective core values. The three giants of the apparel industry in Sri Lanka showcased one of the best corporate accounts of position, practice, performance and intention on this subject and again, raised the bar for advancing sustainability practice.

While there is so much to social responsibility, it all starts with good-old fashion commitment and passion. This is irrespective of who you are, which company you belong to, or the size of the company. Being socially responsible as a business, goes beyond meeting legal and ethical standards. It means functioning in a manner that shows concern for the public at large.

Brandix emphasised on the significance it places on its employees, the backbone of the organisation, and the centric role its base of over 45,000 employees play, in the development of the company’s socially-responsible initiatives.
Because we know that our business processes have an impact on our direct operations, we also strongly believe that our social and environmental performances is equally critical for the sustainability of the business.

In this context, Brandix developed the ‘Care for our Own’ initiative in 2006 to respond to the desperate need for clean water supply systems among its Associates (Production Floor Associates) and their communities, and to contribute to the national goal of providing safe drinking water and sanitation for the entire populace by 2025. The focus on water was also prompted by the pivotal role it plays in the manufacturing process in the apparel industry.

Since 2006, Brandix has been working to alleviate the stress of water poverty for the lives of women across Sri Lanka. The company’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) efforts were initiated following a comprehensive survey of its workforce, with over 90 per cent being females. The survey highlighted that lack of access to clean water was the most pressing concern for its female associates, which resulted in the initiatives focusing on water and women’s work as the core offering for the communities of Sri Lanka.

The company’s approach to engaging in its operations in a responsible and sustainable manner stems from an understanding that the survival of its operations is dependent on nature and the environment. As such, Brandix has a deep-seated reverence for the environment and takes special measures to reuse, recycle, and promote sustainable practices in and out of our work.

To cite a few such measures – over 50 per cent of the Brandix factories outside of the Board of Investment ( BOI) zone contain water recycling plants, sewage treatment plants and systems for rainwater harvesting; sludge –which is produced as a result of the manufacturing operations — is incinerated due to its toxic content. Likewise, water that is utilised for domestic purposes is 100 per cent recycled and used for irrigation and gardening across Brandix. The discharge from the finishing, dyeing and fabric units is pretreated to meet local regulations and sent to BOI treatment plants.

Aside from these measures, Brandix has also effectively rolled out a ‘no plastic’ policy where employees have completely done away with the use of PET bottles for drinking water, and instead use UV purified water drinking facilities provided by the company.

The results have provided a great deal of encouragement to company leaders wondering about whether they should look at corporate responsibility as a distraction or as an investment.

Also, it’s no longer enough just to sell a good product. Consumers should demand more from businesses. Even employees should expect more from their companies and themselves as employees- to use their individual power to demand real, meaningful social impact. Committed leadership at the top is important but that’s not all. Buyers, designer and the entire supply chain has a role to play in creating a more socially responsible organisational culture.

In sum, Responsible Fashion should not just be one among the several hot “topics” of our time. It should not just be a conversation piece at the dinner table. It needs to become part of the way we do business, it needs to be an integral part of our business formula.

Having said that, there is no one size that fits all. Not every business will be able to carry out their engagement in the same form or manner. Or have similar impacts. But it is important that every business takes that step towards greater responsibility – individually and collectively. Be part of the solution, not part of the problem. Use your passion to promote responsibility until it is expected. And work together to make social responsibility practices the global industry standards!

(The author heads Corporate Social Responsibility and Corporate Communications at
Brandix Lanka Ltd. The views expressed here are her own.).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *