THINKING OUTSIDE THE BOX ABOUT ‘THE BOX’
Building a responsible clothing brand is complicated. It means constantly questioning what, where, and how we get the materials we need for our business. It also means pitting our ideals and expectations against reality. Often, educating ourselves is key to understanding what “sustainable” or “responsible” even means given the situation. When we were sourcing our boxes for our web shop we ran headlong into this kind of challenge.
Because one of our missions at AMENDI is to elevate clothing, we wanted our web-shop packaging to be above par. While some of our favorite contemporary brands, who share similar values around responsibility, were using recycled cardboard and paper options, we couldn’t find a source with the quality and presentation we wanted. We started to look for alternatives. We found two.
Both boxes were basically the same. They were both stiff and sturdy with pull out drawers and the same look and feel as luxury fashion house boxes. They both were made from mixed recycled paper board managed by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) which guaranteed any virgin material used was sustainably managed. There were, however, two significant differences in the boxes. One was made in Europe and the other was made in China.
Originally, we thought we would go with the European made box. Even though it was the same exact box and was significantly more expensive, we thought being able to say “made in Europe” was somehow better. But there was one problem. The European manufacturer could not flat-pack the boxes. This meant each box had to be shipped already assembled, increasing freight cost and burning more fossil fuels, just so we could say, “made in Europe.”
The Chinese manufacturer could flat-pack the boxes. This meant saving on freight costs and lowering our carbon footprint. Even though the boxes were the same material, the total cost of production was also lower, which was great news for our boot-strapped operation. But we were nervous. We didn’t know much about Chinese suppliers or Chinese culture, and we didn’t know what that meant for our business. We were also naïve about Chinese working conditions and didn’t want to commit to any supplier that wasn’t up to par.
When we consulted our Swedish partner, Instore Agency, who manages the relationships with both the European and Chinese manufacturers, they verified our bias about European versus Chinese manufacturing. There are, of course, innovative, clean, factories in China that make high-quality products in good working conditions. And this is the case with our box manufacturer. For evidence, Instore Agency shared with us their Code of Conduct that they and the Chinese manufacturer had agreed to years ago. You can read it in full here. The Chinese manufacturer also submits to random third-party audits to ensure the Code of Conduct is being followed.
After consulting with Instore Agency, our decision was easy. With our Chinese supplier, we could provide flat-packed quality boxes at a better cost with a lower carbon footprint that met all our standards. Now, after receiving our first shipment, we know we made the right choice. Of course, our intention is to continuously oversee our supply chain. While we grow and learn as a brand, we will frequently reevaluate all our partnerships to understand where and how we can improve. AMENDI, is a moniker for amendments. That’s what we do.
For more information about our Swedish Partner who facilitates our Chinese warehouse partnership check out their website: https://instoreagency.se/en/
For more information about the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) check out their website here: https://www.fsc.org/en
For an illuminating article on common “Made In China” myths check out this Medium article: https://medium.com/@BrassClo/5-myths-about-chinese-factories-9e9b0cbf47c1.
Finally, while you can easily recycle your AMENDI box by placing it with your cardboard recyclables, you can also re-use it in some fun ways. Check out the below pictures for some examples. Get creative with your box and show us your creative re-use techniques at #amendi or send it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Instore Agency (Swedish Managing Partner)
Employees: 80 employees
Average salary: Over average according to China national law
Work hours: 8 hour shifts starting at 8:00 am, 3 breaks a day, following regional laws and max overtime for peak seasons
Products: Rigid and foldable paperboard boxes
Certificates: FSC, Instore Agency CoC, ISO 9001, ISO 14001 standards
Last Instore Agency visit on site: May 2019
Employees: 23 employees
Work hours: 8 hours starting 06.00 – 14.00 / 14.00 – 22.00 (2 shifts)
Products: Clothes hangers, shop and e-commerce packaging, mannequins
Certificates: ISO 9001:2015, FSC, Green Electricity, Fair Working Conditions, Code of Conduct
Last AMENDI visit on site: March 2020
Box is made of 1 000 gram FSC certified greyboard and 157 gram art paper with outer embossing and matt lamination.
Interior is made with uncoated white paper. Logo with debossing using hot stamping black foil.