The New Capitalism brings together business values and practices to make a product, make some money, and change the world. The business values that are being built into these new companies from the beginning include fair labor practices, environmental stewardship, a supply chain with a conscience and transparency, and a social justice heart. They are also using new capital funding options such as crowdfunding to build sustainability into the bones of the enterprise.
Several successful textiles industry startups are using the new models to build companies that address, first and foremost, the issues of unfair labor practices and supply chain fixing. The textile industry is the source for some of our most shameful practices, including sweatshops that use child and forced labor and keep workers living in poverty, practices to fix prices of raw materials so farmers and shepherds continue to live in poverty without access to markets, and use of hazardous materials, such as heavy metal dyes for silk and other natural fibers that bring disease and environmental degradation to communities of craftsmen.
The new models are building environmental stewardship and fair labor practices into their companies through company values that address these areas, and many are structuring a business model with both profit and non-profit arms. Everlane is a clothing company that uses what they describe as radical transparency to give consumers a look into their supply chain and factories. They recently took their Black Friday profits and turned them over, providing worker-focused benefits. A couple of shipping container hydroponic gardens will be moving across the ocean to live outside the cafeteria of the factory in Ho Chi Mihn City, where many of their clothes are made, to supply the workers with fresh leafy greens.
Naadam Cashmere, a company that used nontraditional funding, including a successful Kickstarter campaign to raise initial capital, is addressing the issue of raw materials supply chain price fixing by moving outside the traditional supply chain to source their cashmere directly from sherherds in Mongolia. With a non-profit arm that provides needed service to the families, such as medical care for shepherds and their herds, they are building sustainability into the company by caring for the people who supply the raw materials first.
Naadam also developed what all successful crowdfunding campaigns need: a great story. Their two young co-founders, hanging out in the Gobi with Mongolian cashmere goat herders, playing cards in a yurt, was a scene like something out of Indiana Jones, only sweeter. But they were already in Mongolia, working on a nonprofit social justice project, when they began to understand the price fixing of the cashmere supply chain and market that kept the shepherds living in poverty. When they set up their company, the bones included this non-profit arm as fundamental.
While many companies are addressing the elements of social justice, environmental stewardship, transparency, and fair labor practices in their company values, not all are taking the radical stand to build sustainability and profit through these practices. While adding these values to a for-profit company, and meaning them, is increasingly common, a company design that begins with a goal of sustainability, and accomplishes that through fair labor practices, social justice, and environmental stewardship, is less common.
The new capitalism will be a model that begins with sustainability as the company goal, rather than profit; profit will be one of the tools needed to develop, grow, and maintain a sustainable company. Tools used include crowdfunding capital, crowdsourcing ideas, transparency and social justice, including fair labor practices. The goal of commerce, then, will be to support the human development of the workforce.
Ready to launch the next great sustainable textile company? Contact us for information about crowdfunding and business development.