16SEVEN social value in clothing

Helping a start-up apply the social values of ethical business within a real world business environment

The client

16SEVEN is an eco-ethical clothing company. They specialise in plain t-shirts and ranges with original artwork all manufactured in the UK. 

The brief

16SEVEN is committed to running their business in an ethical and sustainable way. As a new start-up company seeking to follow the values of ethical trade in a transparent way, the task was daunting. They wanted help navigating how to translate a set of personal values and ideals into a real world business context.

Our approach

The challenge when starting up any business is working out what you don’t know but should, what is important to focus on now and what can be set to one side. When setting up an ethical business this is accompanied by the challenge of ensuring that you don’t compromise your values  while remaining commercially viable.

Pins helped 16SEVEN work through these start-up concerns by providing a step-by-step framework to address them. Her extensive experience of producer conditions and supply chains also gave them peace of mind that they were covering all the bases necessary for an ethical business. This has helped prepare them to confidently market themselves as such.

Firstly Pins worked with 16SEVEN to help them appreciate what ethical consumers have a right to expect. She sought to understand the company values and represent this within a set of principles against which SmartArt Clothing can both measure themselves and be measured by their customers.

The next step on the journey for 16SEVEN was to navigate accreditations such as the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), Fairtrade and World Fair Trade Organisation (WFTO) to understand what they can offer. Pins guided them through those standards, as well as through the social value in sourcing from suppliers who need market access (such as smallholder cotton farming families) versus large producers who do not.  

The next stage was to help 16SEVEN consider the business implications of ethical decisions – for example financial forecasts based on a living wage, taking into account likely future rises, and what this means for production costs and profitability and the overall business model. 

The result

Work with 16SEVEN is ongoing. Results for 16SEVEN so far have included:

  • Having a clear standard of social and environmental ethics and what it will mean to demonstrate them in practice.
  • Finding and building relationships with suppliers who share and can demonstrate the same values.
  • Establishing appropriate systems from the outset so that the company is prepared for challenges to their ethical business model, and can show how they have responded to them.
  • Financial and business planning which fully incorporates ethical values.

16SEVEN have now found a suitable supplier of cotton, have produced samples and are planning their manufacturing activity to be in line with all ethical criteria.