“Ethical Manufacturing” is an increasingly common expression being used when presenting products made from overseas. However there’s currently no set standard here in Australia for what can be describes as ethical or not. I wanted to take the time to explain to our customers what our view of what makes manufacturing ethical is and what are the must have legislations in place for us to use an overseas manufacturer for our business.
For Wren & Myrtle, our view is that Ethical manufacturing is focused on the good health, safety, and fair compensation of the employees that our manufacturers employ.
To us, best practices also include a commitment to minimising waste, thorough product testing, and proper labelling.
For us, sourcing products ethically means we’re looking to support companies that respect the time, energy, and talent that goes into each and every product made.
It is important to us, and in alignment with our values, to seek out ethical manufacturing. Our first range came about sourcing a more ethical and affordable Nappy for our store, we have since expanded our range and manufacturers.
Our first manufacturer (who produces our Basics Range) is BSCI compliant, they are CPSC (CPSIA) certified, BPA-free products, comply with RoHS guidelines, they have quality assurance systems in place; and we work with them in our design and ordering to make sure that our production is as waste free as possible.
BSCI - this stands for Business Social Compliance Initiative - a regular BSCI audit helps the manufacturers to monitor their supply chain to ensure that all suppliers are treating workers ethically and legally.
CPSC - Consumer Product Safety Commission - protects the public from unreasonable risks of serious injury or death from thousands of types of consumer products under its jurisdiction, including products that pose a fire, electrical, chemical, or mechanical hazard or can injure children.
CPSIA- Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act - includes provisions addressing, for example, lead, phthalates, toy safety, durable infant or toddler products, and more; it is recorded in a publically-searchable database of reports of harm.
BPA - bisphenol A - a chemical that is added to many commercial products, including food containers and hygiene products.
RoHS - restriction of hazardous substances,
These were the minimum standards for us to accept that the manufacturer is “ethical” in production. I also discussed work hours and breaks with them to make sure that employees had good working conditions.
We have recently moved the bulk of our complex product manufacturing to a company who is also SEDEX certified, OEKO-Tex standard 100; textiles are also certified organic GOTS.
SEDEX - this certification assesses the manufacturer based on their standards of labour, health and safety, environment and business ethics. SEDEX believes these are the key areas for assessing an organisations responsible business practices and meeting social compliance.
Meeting the OEKO-tek standard 100 demonstrates that every thread, fibre, button or accessory, have been tested for harmful substances and that the article is harmless to human health.
GOTS stands for global organic textile standard, it is the leading standard for organic fibres, including ecological and social criteria, it is backed up by an independent certification of the entire textile supply chain.
We have also set the same standard with them in managing the prevention of waste.
When our orders are sent, we opt to have no OPPO (individual plastic) bags, and have it sent as plastic free as possible.
We have made sure our manufacturing is not only Ethical but as Eco as it can be, this is important as it is in line with our values.
What kinds of processes do we go through to get our products made?
When I wanted to design the change mats, I preferred a generous size like 70cm x 90cm, I spoke with my contact about options to make samples for testing, I submitted my designs and received feedback from the samples team. They advised me that the PUL (polyurethane laminate) is made 1.4m wide to to do the size I wanted would create lots of waste, we then reviewed with sample team what size we could do that would use as much PUL as possible without creating wastage. So we ended up having 3 types of samples made and ended up settling on the one that uses the most PUL possible without wastage. As we are supplying our own pattern designs the factory can’t use any left over material, so I generally order ‘x’ amount of mats, but they will come back to me and give me the option to utilise the remainder of the material (at a cost to us) to eliminate wastage.
Similarly, when our most recent nappies were made, there was a significant amount of material left over, as it features our exclusive patterns they can't use it for anyone else, so I have opted for all the additional material has been made into "Shell only" nappies, which is resulting in our order having 40-50 extra nappies per print, as this is so significant we are then forced to adjust plans for future releases, delaying them due to the extra stock coming. We pay for all extra products made, and its part of our business ethics not to waste products in manufacturing.
We also take any “seconds” products, I usually gift these to customers with orders (informing of any faults), or keep them and utilise them for ourselves. We also continue to use any samples made so nothing goes to waste. Through our design process we have had the Essentials made 6 times, and have kept and used each version as it was refined.
How does that ethical Manufacturing affect our retail value?
With Ethical Manufacturing and maintaining the above standards and licensing, our manufacturers charge a higher price. To keep our product costs affordable for our customers we have to eliminate as many overheads back home as we can, we don’t hire photographers or models for our products, we minimise packaging and currently run our business from home so we don’t pay rent on extra spaces.
It is Mass Production?
A lot of people get the impression that when products are made offshore, that it is manufactured in mass production. We are a small business and only manufacture to the minimum allowable for each product, we are careful not to flood the cloth nappy market. Larger retail chains that are able to manufacture larger amounts are often able to offer lower prices because manufacturers offer discounted rates for larger scale orders. As a sole trader and work at home mum, ordering at these levels is not an option, so we don’t receive manufacturing in bulk discounts. This is also factored into our pricing as we pay a higher amount per item, than say a larger retail chain that is offering a similar manufactured product.
Do you have any questions about our manufacturing? Or any other topics you’d like me to address?
Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org