Get To Know Beckett Simonon’s Responsibility ObjectivesWritten by Tigre Haller
With so many companies, large and small, transforming themselves into so-called “responsible brands,” customers have come to expect transparency and to be informed on what efforts are being made. That makes sense, doesn’t it?
At Beckett Simonon we didn’t just jump on the bandwagon - responsibility and transparency have been at the core of our business from the beginning. But we realized our customers and audience at large might not really know what that involves, or means for us.
This article aims to address the issue head on, and to close the knowledge gap. This way you can gain an understanding about the important initiatives we are working on, the progress made and what has to be accomplished.
That’s not all.
You are invited to come along on this exciting journey with us, and to offer your suggestions on how we can improve our processes and make our milestones more accessible to the general public.
I’ll let you know how to submit your ideas a little later on.
Our strategy is designed following the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), “A blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all people and the world by 2030.”
Although we are concentrating on numbers 8 and 12, “Decent work and economic growth” and “Responsible consumption and production,” respectively, all 17 SDGs are interrelated. This means that when we work on one, there is a domino effect and the others are impacted.
Heading-up these efforts is our Responsibility Coordinator, Adela, who said in this interview she, “works to realize the vision of the founders of Beckett Simonon: that their company is a force for good every day, for both people and for the planet.”
As we accomplish this work, we will also get closer to becoming a Certified B Corporation, and globally recognized as a company which “considers the impact of their decisions on their workers, customers, suppliers, community, and the environment.” Our application has been submitted and is pending review.
We know that no company is perfect, nor can possibly transform the entire world. What we can do is stay true to our mission, focus on what is important to us and help improve conditions for our team, our customers and the environment one step at a time.
Stick with me to find out about what we are working on and why it should matter to you.
The Responsibility Objectives
1. Enjoyable and Healthy Working Conditions
It might seem to be a given that a safe, enjoyable and healthy working environment is the very least employees can expect. However, this isn’t always the case and the fashion industry has a long, dark history of not treating workers fairly (to say the least).
Beckett Simonon takes this very seriously, not only for our own team, but also for the employees of our workshop partners and suppliers. To help ensure these companies are adhering to ethical practices, we expect them to comply with our Code of Conduct which “reflects relevant conventions around labor practices made by the International Labor Organization (ILO).”
An important part of our overall wellness philosophy encourages our employees to enrich their lives through learning and experiences.
To that end, 100% all of our employees receive the following opportunities:
- Professional training directly related to their position and responsibilities, which is available year-round.
- Personal development seminars are delivered quarterly as a group activity by experts in different fields, such as work-life balance, financial management, nutrition, diversity and gender issues.
- A monthly bonus afforded to employees who have been with Beckett Simonon for at least three months, can be used to pay for classes or activities which contribute to the person’s overall physical, mental and / or spiritual well-being.
Another important part of this objective is to encourage our employees to volunteer for select organizations. In doing so, they will become involved with their community and engage in something bigger than themselves. So far only one person is volunteering but we are hopeful others will start to do so soon.
2. Manufacturing Under Ethical Conditions
Slavery, poverty pay, extremely long working hours, limited (if any) breaks, no benefits, risks to health and well-being, unsafe working environments and assault are just some of the exploitative and abusive conditions which pervade the factories where most of the world’s garments are made.
At Beckett Simonon we reject all forms of abuse, exploitation and discrimination. In addition to working in a safe and comfortable environment, all Beckett Simonon employees and artisans receive a salary which is considerably higher than the minimum wage, receive a comprehensive benefits package, including (but not limited to) an annual bonus, healthcare and pension contributions, sick leave, maternity and secondary caregiver leave.
This work we do here will improve upon what the individual studios have already done, and further improve the working conditions and well-being of the artisans.
In order to achieve this objective by the year 2022, we aim to:
- Ensure 100% of the artisans and management are able to take at least one personal development seminar per year. Surveys have been sent to the workshops to find out what topics they’re interested in. To begin with, the accessories studio is providing their team with personal financial management training.
The success of this initiative will be measured by the percentage of employees who actually receive such training and the number of courses each workshop participates in per year.
- Assist the studio owners and management to establish their own ethics policies, and whistle blowing procedures.
This initiative will be measured by the number of studios with such policies in place.
- Provide the artisans with information and/or training about human rights, and education about their rights under Colombian law.
Success will be determined by the number of training sessions given which focus on women’s rights and workers’ rights. And the percentage of artisans who attend the workshops.
- The studios will also be required to establish a way to monitor working conditions based on the methods established by &Wider, an organization that helps companies to “identify, address and prevent human rights violations along supply chains.”
The dress shoes and boots studio already has an &Wider account and is showing results. The other studios need to do so in order to fulfill this initiative.
- Donate $1,000 USD to the Global Living Wage Coalition to support them in their work to calculate a living wage estimate for Bogotá, Colombia by 2022.
This donation has already been made.
Reduce Leather Waste
Leather trimmings, shavings and dust are a natural consequence of shoemaking, and untold tons of this waste is generated annually by the footwear industry. Unfortunately, there is no way for us to completely eliminate this waste.
With a focus on reducing the amount of leather wasted through a sustainable management program, we will help the studios implement programs to prevent, reduce, recycle and reuse as much of the leather scraps as possible.
The methods will include:
- Repurposing or properly disposing of the leather waste already produced.
- Monitoring the weight of such waste on a quarterly or yearly basis.
- Reducing the tons or percentage or leather wasted.
In order to complete this objective by the end of 2021, we will partner with organizations that can actually repurpose or recycle the waste.
3. Overproduction and Overconsumption
Overproduction and overconsumption in the fashion industry is a serious problem. Since brands have no actual way to determine how much of their product line will actually sell, they tend to overproduce goods. When only a fraction of those items are actually bought, the remaining inventory, or “deadstock,” is either incinerated or ends up in landfills. As you can imagine, this adds to environmental damage and to the ever-growing problem of waste management.
According to the Fashion Revolution website “an estimated 92 million tons of textile waste is created annually from the fashion industry. Shockingly, every second, the equivalent of one garbage truck of textiles is landfilled or burned globally.”
It is up to all of us, suppliers, brands, consumers and officials, to do what we can to change this unsustainable system.
At Beckett Simonon we follow a Made-to-Order (MTO) model which means that no product is made until someone actually orders it. This helps us eliminate the need for inventory and significantly helps us manage our consumption and waste of resources such as raw materials, energy, water and fuel.
4. Materials That Reduce Environmental Impact
Sourcing Better Leather
As you may know, the use of certain materials, such as plastic and chemical compounds, contributes to greenhouse gas emissions and environmental damage. However, it’s not only synthetic materials - the global leather industry has a significant impact on the environment, including increased gas emissions, deforestation, and overconsumption of water and land.
The toxic chemicals used in chromium tanning by some tanneries run off into local waterways, which has an immediate effect upon wildlife, plants and the people who depend on that water supply.
How Can We Combat This?
By using materials which have been produced under the strictest protocols to ensure the lowest possible environmental impact - and potentially have a positive effect.
One of our biggest goals was to source leathers from a tannery that has been Gold-rated by the Leather Working Group (LWG), an international body made up of stakeholders across the leather industry.
The LWG uses an auditing system to assess the environmental practices of tanneries across the world, and a gold rating is the highest level of compliance one can achieve.
After much research and testing, we found a Gold-rated tannery in Arzignano, Italy with a longstanding reputation for producing their leathers under the most stringent protocols. And, we are happy to report that 100% of the leather used by Beckett Simonon is Gold-rated.
For an in-depth look at the LWG and the rating process be sure to read this insightful article “What Is Gold-Rated Leather?” by my colleague, Gavin.
There is still work to be done…
Using Better Rubber
At Beckett Simonon we use a natural rubber compound for the soles of our sneakers, which are made following REACH regulations. Per the European Chemicals Agency, REACH aims “to ensure a high level of protection of human health and the environment from the risks that can be posed by chemicals.”
Beckett Simonon’s goal is to make 100% of our sneaker soles from a compound called Green EVA (ethylene vinyl acetate) by 2023. This compound is a derivative of sugar cane, not petroleum.
According to the manufacturer, “The I’m green™ EVA rubber outsoles are a bio-based alternative to the traditional petroleum-based ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA)...Sugarcane-based EVA, on the other hand, is recyclable, reusable and compostable and is considered carbon-negative.”
A better choice for our brand, our customers and the environment, this material is currently being tested for durability and longevity. If all goes well, we hope to start using Green EVA for our sneakers’ soles in the near future.
For an in-depth look at the types of rubber we use for our sneakers, shoes and boots, be sure to read Gavin’s article “Why Are Rubber Soles So Good?” wherein he explains:
“The rubber for our footwear is made from natural rubber, with a mix of other materials to make it more sturdy, durable, and flexible. Mixing the natural rubber with secondary materials makes it more appropriate for modern uses and surfaces.
These additional ingredients are synthetic rubbers (which improve toughness) and white carbon black (which increases the lifespan of rubber).
For our sneakers soles we also mix in 20% recycled rubber. This contributes to reducing waste and contamination.
Beckett Simonon would clearly prefer to use 100% natural ingredients - but there is also an important offset to take into account. Stronger, longer-lasting products need to be replaced less often, so the environmental balance is often difficult to measure.”
We also use EVA, a highly durable and lightweight petroleum based compound blended with flexible natural rubber, for the soles of select products, like our Jones Slippers and Fuentes Loafers.
Do Away With Plastic
Plastic has been an important part of everyday life since it was first introduced in the 1940s, which makes sense given its seemingly endless applications. However, this endlessness is a huge part of the problem. Plastic is not biodegradable or compostable and it takes up to a thousand years for a plastic product to decompose.
The extremely harmful effects of plastic waste on wildlife, bodies of water, forests, the environment and humans has been well-documented and widely discussed. Yet, even with all of this “bad press” consumption and disposal of plastics hasn’t decreased significantly. It may have even increased during the pandemic.
In an April 2020 article for Environmental Health News, Jessica A. Knoblauch reported, “Plastic manufacturing in the first ten years of this century eclipsed the total produced in the entire last century: Now we’re producing – and discarding – almost 360 million tons a year.”
If that’s not a call to action, what is?
The overall goal of this objective is to “substantially reduce waste generation through prevention, reduction, recycling and reuse by 2030.”
Even though Beckett Simonon follows stringent waste management and environmentally sound practices, we assessed our operations and determined that lowering the environmental impact of our packaging was a priority.
To that end, we have designed a new box for our 5 pack of belts that can also be used as a handy belt holder. This eliminates the old plastic packaging and also the need to discard the box. The prototype is being developed with the goal to test and implement the new packaging no later than the third quarter of 2021.
Being able to trace the origins of the raw materials and components we use in our products is vitally important to us, the fashion industry - and to you.
Because we all should know where and how these elements were created and sourced. This applies to everything including the leather, the thread, the waxed cotton laces, the hardware, and so on.
As a shoe brand, this information will help us identify which suppliers are truly following ethical practices, and weed out those who aren’t. The traceability effort goes beyond our immediate suppliers and extends to their suppliers, as far back as possible to the origins and production cycle of singular elements.
To date we have traced 54% of our components and the work continues. However, some components are more difficult to trace than others. For example, we are endeavoring to trace the leather we use all the way back to the cattle farm where the cows were raised which has proved to be challenging.
5. Increasing Lifespan of Our Products
The lifespan of our products doesn’t end when someone no longer wants to wear them. At least it shouldn’t.
With this objective we are encouraging our customers to reduce waste through prevention, reduction, recycling and reuse.
That’s why we have partnered with Soles4Souls, an organization that accepts, sorts and distributes formerly loved footwear to centers around the world. The donated shoes are distributed in Africa, Central America, the United States, Asia, among other countries.
From there the shoes are either given directly to their new owner, or sold to micro-enterprises in poverty-ridden zones. This means unwanted shoes become an opportunity for a local entrepreneur to build a business and create a stream of income to sustain her or his family’s livelihood.
To make it easy for our customers to donate, Beckett Simonon covers the shipping costs. As of publication on August 26, 2021 twenty-nine donations have been made. This is an ongoing effort which we will continue to support.
We also encourage you to pass down your Beckett Simonon products to a loved one, who will treasure them as much as you have.
These are legacy items meant to be repaired, not replaced. To be worn for years, not seasons. To be enjoyed from one generation to the next.
Thank you for reading this article. Hopefully you feel more informed about our responsibility efforts, and understand how they directly affect you.
We are a small brand trying to make big changes, but we can’t do it alone. Your suggestions and feedback are critical to the success of these initiatives.
We would truly appreciate your comments and suggestions on how we can improve, and how best to inform you on our progress.
To share your thoughts, please send an email directly to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Have a great day.