Surprisingly, the $3 trillion clothing industry is the world's second largest polluter--behind only oil production--accounting for 10 percent of global carbon emissions. The apparel market in the U.S. is responsible for nearly a third of the global totals.
More than 150 billion garments made throughout the world every year, and a majority of the clothing produced has adverse effects on the environment during and after production. For example, cotton, the world's single largest pesticide-consuming crop, is responsible for the use of nearly a quarter of all insecticides.
Celebrity entrepreneur Brendan Synnott, who co-founded organic food brand Bear Naked Granola and later sold it to Kellogg for more than $80 million in 2007, is now trying to change clothing with PACT | ORGANIC.
The organic cotton apparel company, based in Boulder, CO, is leading the way as a sustainable, environmentally-friendly clothing manufacturer.
"We are cleaning up a dirty industry," says Synnott, who acquired PACT | ORGANIC five years ago. "Our company prides itself on making clothes that don't hurt people."
PACT's trademark non-GMO organic cotton offers extra softness and comfortability while avoiding harmful dyes and other hazardous chemical fertilizers that actually hurt farmers' bottom lines. Just a couple of months ago, the company launched the first organic cotton line of Fair Trade Certified products at 460 participating Target locations across the country.
Aside from profits and bottom lines, Synnott prides himself more than anything on making a lasting impact on the clothing industry, helping save the environment, and paying workers in his Indian factory a fair wage.
"Real people make your clothing. We care about the process and the people who are a part of it -- from the farmer planting the seed to the sewers making the final stitch. Our clothing is sweatshop free, ethically produced, and part of a movement transforming the way apparel is made," says Synnott, who once starred on CBS's reality show Survivor.
"Our cut + sew factories are top tier in environmental and social standards. There are no child workers," Synnott says. "We only partner with factories that treat workers well and compensate them well, too, so their families and communities can thrive."
PACT | ORGANIC's vision is to "change the apparel industry for good" by connecting buyers to makers with a traceable supply chain that empowers its people. All apparel made in India is certified by the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) and made with Fair Trade Certified organic cotton. The brand sold $5 million in under garments last year and is on target to sell $20 million by the end of 2016. The company is a great example of "doing well by doing good."
Many companies incorporate social responsibility as part of their mission. Newman's Own donates its profits to a wide variety of causes supported by the late Paul Newman and Ben & Jerry's, which established a foundation supported by 7.5% of the ice cream company's annual pre-tax profits to fund community-oriented projects. Ben & Jerry's started as a small business in Vermont in 1978; its social responsibility helped catapult it to a national brand. In 1988, the two co-founders of the company were honored as U.S. Small Business Persons of The Year by President Ronald Reagan.
American Express brought cause-related marketing to new heights when it contributed a penny for each transaction and $1 for each new credit card issued as part of its effort to help restore the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island in 1983. The campaign raised $1.7 million for the restoration project and resulted in a 27% jump in card usage and a 10% increase in new card applications (Mintel Marketing Intelligence, February 1998).
In the early 1990s, the American Express "Charge Against Hunger" partnered with Share Our Strength (SOS), a non-profit organization focused on tackling the problem of hunger in America. The initiative raised in excess of $21 million and benefited over 600 anti-hunger groups nation-wide while at the same time improving American Express's standing with its restaurant partners.
Small businesses can grow into large ones -- even into corporate giants -- by aligning with causes that their customers believe in and want to support. Aspiring entrepreneurs can learn from the examples set by entrepreneurs such as Paul Newman, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield (Ben & Jerry), and Brendan Synnott of PACT | ORGANIC.