BUSI­NESSES WITH SO­CIAL CAUSE: SO­CIAL EN­TREPRENEURS HERALD­ING A CHANGE

SO­CIAL EN­TREPRENEURS HERALD­ING A CHANGE

Stitch World - - NEWS -

The fore­most rule of run­ning a busi­ness is to earn prof­its, but what if the mo­ti­va­tion and the pri­mary rea­son be­hind es­tab­lish­ing a new busi­ness is the up­lift­ment of a so­ci­ety, a com­mu­nity or a hub with poverty. Ap­parel man­u­fac­tur­ing, the old­est busi­ness in the in­dus­trial rev­o­lu­tion to­day, has be­come a means for earn­ing money and liv­ing a life of dig­nity. Wil­liam B. Eim­icke, au­thor of So­cial Value In­vest­ing: A Man­age­ment Frame­work for Ef­fec­tive Part­ner­ships be­lieves that profit and pur­pose can go to­gether, that you don’t have to choose one or the other. The fore­most rule of run­ning a busi­ness is to earn profit, but what if the mo­ti­va­tion and the pri­mary rea­son be­hind es­tab­lish­ing a new busi­ness is the up­lift­ment of a so­ci­ety, a com­mu­nity or a hub... Go­ing un­no­ticed, some brands and com­pa­nies have in­te­grated ap­parel man­u­fac­tur­ing as an in­stru­ment for the bet­ter­ment of the so­ci­ety. Team StitchWorld presents to our read­ers the sto­ries of such es­tab­lish­ments. Un­quiv­er­ing faith of Chid Lib­erty

“It’s not gonna work…” Isn’t this the phrase that we all have heard from other peo­ple when­ever we have thought of do­ing some­thing dif­fer­ent or have come up with a break­through idea. Chal­lenges lie ahead, but it takes just one step as a start to con­quer mile­stones ahead. That’s what Chid Lib­erty, a So­cial En­tre­pre­neur born in Liberia and raised in Ger­many, did. Hav­ing worked in the US for a long time, this Amer­i­can pro­fes­sional re­turned back to his moth­er­land to bet­ter the lives of peo­ple liv­ing there.

Liberia, a coun­try of civil war, sex­ual as­saults, and poverty, is def­i­nitely not any­one’s choice to start a gar­ment man­u­fac­tur­ing unit or any other busi­ness. What mo­ti­vated Chid for this ex­tra­or­di­nary step was the Peace Move­ment started by Liberian women which ended the rav­aging civil war in Liberia – a 14-year-long civil war. In 2010, Chid moved back to Liberia. With 80 per cent un­em­ploy­ment rate and equal per­cent­age of poverty rate, Chid tar­geted women as its part­ners to start a man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­ity, which would even­tu­ally up­lift hun­dreds and hun­dreds of fam­i­lies in the coun­try.

The ut­most chal­lenge was no sup­ply of power, wa­ter, or raw ma­te­rial to man­u­fac­ture a gar­ment. With help from friends and fam­ily and var­i­ous other fund­ing net­works like BALLE, In­vestors’ Cir­cle, So­cial Ven­ture Net­work, Root Cap­i­tal, Eleos Foun­da­tion, the fac­tory kicked off its op­er­a­tions with 300 ma­chines and 300 op­er­a­tors to trans­form the lives of Liberian fam­i­lies.

Thus, Lib­erty & Jus­tice, the first fair trade ap­parel man­u­fac­tur­ing com­pany in Africa was for­mu­lated, where gar­ments are eth­i­cally man­u­fac­tured with African or­ganic cot­ton by 90 per cent of the fe­male work­force. The com­pany got gi­ant or­ders from Amer­i­can buy­ers which were around US $ 40 mil­lion an­nual rev­enue. But, the chal­lenges that lay ahead were un­der no one’s con­trol. The out­break of Ebola virus forced the fac­tory to shut its op­er­a­tions and the fac­tory lost all its or­ders, with fab­ric ly­ing in-house.

Sadly, the shut­ting down of the fac­tory meant work­ers go­ing back to un­em­ploy­ment and poverty. An en­tre­pre­neur is some­one who does not give up on his busi­ness idea and fights to find ways for it to work. Since the fac­tory had enough fab­ric to make half-a-mil­lion pants, Chid Lib­erty thought of mak­ing uni­forms for school chil­dren.

Lib­erty & Jus­tice, the first fair trade ap­parel man­u­fac­tur­ing com­pany in Africa was for­mu­lated where gar­ments are eth­i­cally man­u­fac­tured with African or­ganic cot­ton by 90 per cent of the fe­male work­force.

But, a coun­try where only 40 per cent of chil­dren go to school and 80 per cent suf­fer from poverty, was this idea go­ing to work? Chid worked on one-for-one model and put its uni­forms on Kick­starter which caught peo­ple’s at­ten­tion. Luck­ily, Bloom­ing­dales started sell­ing these T-shirts un­der the la­bel UNI­FORM. For ev­ery piece of cloth­ing sold, it promised a school uni­form to a Liberian child. An MIT study from 2010 found that free school uni­forms low­ered the in­ci­dence of teen mar­riage by 20 per cent and teen preg­nancy by 17 per cent.

Be­sides, the work­ers of this com­pany to­day own 49 per cent of its shares, and its prof­its are pledged for the Lib­erty & Jus­tice Foun­da­tion, which rein­vests in the com­mu­nity via pro­grams of eco­nomic em­pow­er­ment, ed­u­ca­tion, and health­care.

Ap­parel gives pris­on­ers a chance to trans­form their lives

Re­silience Gar­ment In­dus­try, a gar­ment fac­tory in Bangladesh, is dif­fer­ent from other fac­to­ries op­er­at­ing in the coun­try, since it is run­ning in a prison. The fa­cil­ity is set up to give pris­on­ers an op­por­tu­nity to earn and con­trib­ute to the state cof­fers.

Sit­u­ated in Narayan­ganj Dis­trict Jail with 57 ma­chines, the knitwear fa­cil­ity can de­liver up to US $ 1.5 mil­lion per an­num. It is a sta­te­owned en­tity that oc­cu­pies a 5,000 sq. ft. space in­side the 12-acre com­pound of the Jail. The rev­enue it gen­er­ates is split into three quar­ters – one part makes up for the wages of the work­ers, and the other two frac­tions are di­vided be­tween the Jail and the state cof­fer.

There are about 2,150 pris­on­ers in the prison and about 300 pris­on­ers would be work­ing at the fac­tory in two shifts. BKMEA is pro­vid­ing the nec­es­sary as­sis­tance and fi­nanc­ing to Narayan­ganj Dis­trict Jail to make the project a re­al­ity.

Shivam Pun­jya ‘Behno’ ethos pro­motes ethics and sus­tain­abil­ity

Shivam Pun­jya never thought that his visit to In­dia for the­sis re­search on global health would give birth to a New-York based eth­i­cal and sus­tain­able brand ‘ Behno’ which means sis­ters in Hindi. On his visit to Gu­jarat (In­dia), he no­ticed the qual­ity of gar­ments pro­duced by work­ers and the pen­nies they earned. He was also per­turbed by the per­cep­tion which con­sid­ers ‘Made in In­dia’ as in­fe­rior qual­ity. This un­der­stand­ing and the Rana Plaza col­lapse in­ci­dent that hap­pened at the same time, gave birth to the fash­ion la­bel Behno in July 2016.

De­signed in New York, Behno prod­ucts are man­u­fac­tured in In­dia un­der eth­i­cal work­ing con­di­tions. It has part­nered with the non-profit MSA, which stands for ‘Muni Sewa Ashram’ in Gu­jarat. Its fac­tory part­ner (MSA Ethos), not only sets a new stan­dard for In­dian ap­parel man­u­fac­tur­ing but also im­proves the qual­ity of life and safety of women in the trade.

The story of MSA Ethos is equally in­ter­est­ing. Mukesh Kothari, MD of the com­pany started the com­pany on so­cial plat­form to pro­vide em­ploy­ment to women in nearby vil­lages. The Ashram also has fa­cil­i­ties like bank, hos­pi­tal, and kinder­garten. MSA Ethos also im­ple­ments ‘ The Behno Stan­dard’, which is bro­ken into six cat­e­gories: health, gar­ment worker mo­bil­ity, fam­ily plan­ning, women’s rights, worker

sat­is­fac­tion and ben­e­fits, and eco-con­scious­ness.

An­other in­ter­est­ing fact is that Mukesh used to work as the Pres­i­dent of Adi­das in Ger­many. He has also worked in Europe ex­ten­sively be­fore he started sev­eral gar­ment fac­to­ries in In­dia and is greatly fa­mil­iar with the strict in­ter­na­tional qual­ity stan­dards.

Shanon Keith finds ap­parel as a tool to end sex traf­fick­ing

A decade back, on her trip to ‘In­cred­i­ble In­dia’, Shanon Keith was shocked and dis­heart­ened to lis­ten to sto­ries of women and chil­dren in a small vil­lage. Tricked and forced into sex trade, women in the vil­lage had no other choice but to join the trade in or­der to feed their fam­i­lies and chil­dren. See­ing their plight, Shanon Keith then de­cided to give these sur­vivors of hu­man traf­fick­ing a liveli­hood and founded ‘ Su­dara’.

Mean­ing beau­ti­ful in San­skrit, the eth­i­cal fash­ion com­pany man­u­fac­tures ‘Pun­jam­mies’ which are tra­di­tional Pun­jabi trouser pants. The brand has part­nered with var­i­ous sewing cen­tres across In­dia and US like Freeset, Ivana, and Ben Holis­tic. These part­ners pro­vide jobs and train­ing to the sur­vivors of sex traf­fick­ing and also align with Su­dara’s goal to em­power women and free them from sex-slav­ery through safe, sus­tain­able liv­ing-wage em­ploy­ment.

Over 10 years since its start, many women have grad­u­ated from the train­ing pro­grammes and have also started their own tailor­ing busi­ness. And in the course of time, a non-profit fund has also been cre­ated called Su­dara Free­dom Fund that helps women with ed­u­ca­tion, hous­ing, and mi­cro-loans, equip­ment for new or grow­ing sewing cen­tres and back-to-school pro­grammes.

‘Pur­naa’ help­ing marginalised peo­ple in Nepal

Cor­ban Bryant and Richard Faber started with a world­class, eth­i­cal man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­ity in 2013 in Nepal to em­power marginalised peo­ple and sur­vivors of ex­ploita­tion. Nepal, one of the least de­vel­oped coun­tries, has an un­em­ploy­ment rate of 40 per cent.

With 75-peo­ple staff, the gar­ment man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­ity named ‘ Pur­naa’ pro­vides cus­tom cut-and­sew, pri­vate-la­bel, con­tract man­u­fac­tur­ing ser­vices to eth­i­cal and sus­tain­able brands around the world. The prod­uct range con­sists of knit tops, hand­bags, and hats. Recog­nised by World Fair Trade Or­ga­ni­za­tion ( WFTO), the fac­tory uses sus­tain­able raw ma­te­ri­als such as bam­boo, or­ganic cot­ton, chrome-free veg­etable tanned leather, and hemp for gar­ment pro­duc­tion.

An en­tre­pre­neur is some­one who fights and finds ways for busi­ness idea to work. Since the fac­tory had enough fab­ric to make half a mil­lion pants, Chid Lib­erty thought of mak­ing uni­forms for school chil­dren.

Work­force at Lib­erty & Jus­tice con­sists of 90 per cent women

Bangladesh Home Min­is­ter Asaduz­za­man Khan (third from left) ac­com­pa­nied by Pres­i­dent of Bangladesh Knitwear Man­u­fac­tur­ers and Ex­porters As­so­ci­a­tion (BKMEA) Se­lim Os­man (be­hind him) in­spect­ing the new fac­tory housed in­side Narayan­ganj Dis­trict Jail

Mukesh Kothari used to work as the Pres­i­dent of Adi­das in Ger­many. He has also worked in Europe ex­ten­sively be­fore he started sev­eral gar­ment fac­to­ries in In­dia.

On his visit to Gu­jarat (In­dia), Shivam Pun­jya no­ticed the qual­ity of gar­ment pro­duced by work­ers and the small money they earned, and was per­turbed by it.

MSA Ethos has given em­ploy­ment to women in the vil­lages of Gu­jarat

A decade back, on her trip to In­cred­i­ble In­dia, Shanon Keith was shocked and dis­heart­ened to lis­ten to sto­ries of women and chil­dren in a small vil­lage. See­ing their plight, Shanon Keith then de­cided to give these sur­vivors of hu­man traf­fick­ing a liveli­hood and founded ‘ Su­dara’.

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