This is a follow on from last week's blog from our co-founder Lucy - if you didn't catch it, you can read it here to get a full understanding of what I am talking about!
Last week we looked at Ismail’s story and Ismail’s challenges of setting up and running a factory in a rural village in India, plus growing a team of 70 people (including 45 tailors) in just 2 years. The challenges are there and there is a lot of room for improvement!
Anyway, you’ve heard about the struggles, now let’s talk about our plans to improve things and how we will deal with the challenge of growth! One thing we get asked is; 'how will you keep an eye on your supply chain as the brand grows?'
It’s a great question and one we worry about too - the honest answer is, we don’t know until we come to it, all we can do is keep implementing things that will protect the workers, keep a close relationship with our suppliers and always be on the ground in India at least a few times per year. We know we can trust Ismail to always put his team first, but he needs some support in doing that.
We know India pretty well, but we will never know fully understand the culture, so instead of us trying get the team to do everything our way, we decided the best thing we could do is employ someone from India, that lives there day to day, and has the experience to support Ismail and help him to take his business to the next level whilst maintaining the great working environment that he has created. We are so happy to share with you our new team member Sonia Sethi.
Sonia has a kind but firm way about her, she is one of the most inspiring women I have ever met, she knows what she wants, and is extremely likeable. Ismail has also met her and agrees that they are going to work well together. Sonia lives in New Delhi and actually used to work for one of our other suppliers, she left that job a few months ago and we met with her a few weeks back, just for a catch up. Sonia was looking for a new job and it dawned on us instantly that we would love to have her in our team, and we really need her expertise!
Me, Chris, Ismail, Sonia and Surendra (Ismail’s floor manager) sat down last week to put a plan into place. We want to get Ismail’s factory GOTS approved and ethically certified by an external body. We want to help Ismail to get his factory into a great position for attracting new customers, giving it a stable foundation to maintain the ethical practices and longevity. At the moment Ismail only supplies us, and as much as we want L&Y to last forever, we also know some things end, and we don’t want Ismail’s business to rely so heavily on Lucy & Yak, that said we have built our businesses together and they will always remain together while they are here, but a few extra customers for him would be amazing.
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Happy Monday! 👋⠀ ⠀ Hope you all have a wonderful week ahead 💃🕺 The joy of wearing ethically made clothes is that you know that the person who made it can too have a wonderful week, and a fair wage! We're in India at the moment catching up with the gang there so keep your eyes peeled for updates! ⠀ ⠀ (This is Raju, he was one of Ismail's first tailors, he had no idea how to sew before Ismail took him under his wing. He's now a pro dungaree maker and has been making lots of Limited Editions for ya! - If you have any dungas with the number 2 in the leg, Raju is your man!)
Anyway, here are our goals for the next 6-12 months, some can be implemented quite quickly, others will take more time.
Short term goals for improving the factory:
1. Implement a strict health and safety procedure, with Ismail and Sonia constantly reminding the team to follow them
2. Team training; fire Marshall & first aider
3. Put a system in place to keep the factory clean inside and out; full time cleaner + maintenance person to touch up the white walls regularly and every 6 month full re-paint
4. Hygiene, make sure toilets are kept clean and soap is always available
5. Sonia to come up with full recycling scheme for fabric, as close to 100% as possible, we currently recycle a lot of the fabric ourselves by making tote bags and we have some new scrunchies on their way too, but it’s the smaller bits that we need to find a circular life for.
Long term goals:
1. Environmental policy, proper recycling for as many materials as can be recycled
2. Create a creche for the women who work in the factory to be able to bring their children, allowing more women to work, provide food for the children
3. Create a HR department
4. Create a small union allowing the tailors to have someone other than Ismail or Surendra to go to
5. Training for all staff on harassment / sexual harassment in the workplace, and a clear step by step procedure for reporting any cases of this confidentially to someone other than their manager
6. Create a designated canteen / lunch area
7. Medical insurance for all of the staff and their families
8. Encourage Ismail to Introduce structured holiday pay, the workers earn well and take time off whenever they like, this was how it worked wherever Ismail has worked in the past, but with much lower pay. Sonia will be helping Ismail to implement holiday pay with our support in the next few months
Social responsibility to village:
1. Keeping the environment around the factory clean and taking responsibility for areas that might not be part of the factory, but that are near it
2. We would love to start a project to cover all of the open sewerage in the village, to make the area safer for the children, but this one is dependent on the head of the village agreeing to us doing this. This is a long term project, but one we will be starting to look into very soon
3. Creating a structured training programme for people in the village that want to learn to sew
As you can see Ismail and the team have a lot of work to do and we will absolutely be there to support them through it all - we want his factory to have the stability and longevity it deserves, for all of the work the whole team have put in over the past 2 years. If you have any suggestions or expertise that you think might help, we would love to hear from you!
You can email your ideas to our sustainability coordinator Natasha at firstname.lastname@example.org