Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Me to We Responsible Style

In keeping with our promise to let our readers know about other social enterprises, I think it's time to share with you some info about a company that we've come to greatly respect.

Co-founded by brothers Marc & Craig Kielburger, authors of the book, Me To We, which became the catalyst for the development of the company, Me to We Style as well as a growing global social movement that has lead to the development of charities, Free the Children and Leaders Today. Me to We Style is setting new standards for the production of ethically manufactured clothing for the socially-conscious consumer.

Me to We Style is already producing custom designed shirts for a number of organizations and has now made a basic and affordable line available on their website.

"Our product line is domestically produced, sweatshop-free and made using certified organic cotton.

In addition, 50 per cent of our profit goes to our charity partner, Free The Children, to support development projects in rural and impoverished areas around the world."

It's probably safe to assume that the days of shopping with blisful ignorance is coming to an end - if it hasn't already. Consumers are becoming more educated about what they're buying and finally we're all beginning to ask more questions about where the products we buy and use everyday are coming from.

Organizational transparency is no longer an option, it's becoming a must.

At a lunch meeting way back in late October with Me to We Style co-founder & CEO, Oliver Madison, I recall a lengthy discussion about supply chain management. It was a great opportunity for me to learn about and compare the challenges faced by our two social enterprises in two different industries - clothing and beauty respectively.

It was clear that we both face the same challenge of continuously checking, double checking and triple checking the integrity and quality of our supply. Of course, most companies already do this. Checking on supply is nothing new. But when we consider that a typical beauty company likely demands that the palm oil they use be of a certain quality, clarity, and grade they may not necessarily demand to know where it came from. Besides, whether it's palm oil from South America or South Asia isn't likely going to affect the quality of the product. However, if we consider that the supply is coming from illegal farming where rain forest regions are being clearcut in order to create factory farms with less than desireable environmental practices, than we have a problem. Or what about ingredients that come from regions where small communities are being exploited or where children are being enslaved or illegally employed.

These are but a few of the challenges our two social enterprises face on a regular basis. So grilling our suppliers is common place for us and just part of doing business. Plus, as consumer consciousness of product supply grows, excellent global organizations are making great strides to ensure that supply of various products and inputs are what they claim to be. Organizations like the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) is having a tremendous impact on maintaining ethical, and environmentlally sound supply of oils.

So it comes down to the integrity of the company and the people running it to be good investigators, and of course the consumer is at the receiving end.

So where does this leave Me to We Style? All I can say is that the integrity of the individuals running it is more than evident the moment you visit their website or crack the spine of one of the Kielburger's books.

There are a hand-full of people and organizations that Michelle & I look to for inspiration and guidance, and Me to We Style is definately one of them.

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