A Tale of Two Sustainable Supply Chains: Part I

This is a guest post by Beth Stewart, Strategic Director of Redress Raleigh.

When the words “supply chain” are used today, many people envision a long trail of suppliers spread out across the globe in faraway locations — difficult to contact and not necessarily trustworthy. Recent media attention, particularly on textile disasters and human rights issues, has highlighted how non-transparent most of the industry is when it comes to where their products come from and who makes them.

However, there are those companies who recognize the benefits of knowing who you’re working with while developing more sustainable, community-oriented supply chains. Over the course of two guest posts, I’m going to introduce you to two of those companies. The first one is Appalatch.

Tale One: Appalatch – Echoview – Opportunity Threads

AppalatchWeaverville, NC, is located about 20 minutes north of Asheville in the beautiful Appalachian mountains. A small community with a rich heritage, the town now has about 3,500 residents and is home to a number of large manufacturers. It is also home to Appalatch Outdoor Apparel Co., clothing sewn from sustainable fibers made for the modern-day Mr. and Ms. Indiana Jones.

Appalatch is intent on creating honest, high-quality goods and it shows in their supply chain. Working closely with Echoview Fiber Mill, an eco-friendly, living-wage-certified animal fiber processing mill, they are constantly seeking ways to create the best sweater. The founders have gone so far as to further their education on:

 

  • How to research every type of knitwear to better understand the softest, most durable stitches.
  • What works best in each piece they make.
  • An automated knitting machine to incorporate their knowledge with higher levels of production.
  • Creating a partnership with the fiber mill that has not only enabled each company to learn from each others needs, but provide a unique office environment for their everyday business.

Drive down the road about an hour and a half to Morganton, North Carolina, and you will visit Opportunity Threads, a cut and sew cooperative that has created a new business model for the textile industry. When I visited in mid-September, some of Appalatch’s long sleeve henleys were being prepped to be sent out. Opportunity Threads also works with other businesses such as Project Repat, a Boston-based company that upcycles t-shirts into cozy t-shirt blankets.

opportunity-threads copy

It’s a common misconception that companies have to pay significantly more to manufacture in the U.S. Because so many elements of the supply chain are within close proximity of each other, while working directly with the company, Appalatch is able to keep prices reasonable and keep their waste and carbon footprint to a minimum.

Tomorrow I’ll share Tale Two — the story of TS Designs.

For more about Redress Raleigh, check it out here.

[Photo credit: Appalatch, Opportunity Threads, Project Repat]