NPOs, Businesses Examining Responsible Supply Chain

The key to supply chain sustainability is a clean, functioning and responsibly financed process through which the labor force is treated humanely in the workplace. The challenge is what happens when the work is for a major international brand but done at home where conditions are not monitored.

According to leaders of the nonprofit Nest in New York City, between 20 and 60 percent of work in developing countries is leaving those four walls of the workplace and being subcontracted to people in homes. A high percentage of the work is sewing and it has come to be known as the “handworker economy,” according to Kristin Schneider, chief marketing officer of Nest.

The organization held its second annual New Handworker Economy Convening today in New York City. The event addressed financial gaps keeping home and small workshop-based production systems from driving economic growth and social improvement across the fashion and home design industries. The event included a series of solutions-based dialogues led by leaders from public and private sectors to align on strategies for financing. Craft-based work is the second largest employer of women in developing economies, according to Schneider.

Nest Founder and Executive Director Rebecca van Bergen said, “Philanthropy, brands, artisans, and impact investors have operated in silos instead of building complementary strategies that stand to generate amplified impact. Our goal for this year’s Convening is to create this alignment and to start rebuilding the funding ecosystem for the handworker economy.”

The event was hosted at the New York City offices of BNP Paribas USA, which served as the event’s title partner. Discussions included the case for bottom-of-the-pyramid investing; navigating supply chain investing; sustainable flow of market ready craft-based businesses; and building the ecosystem.

BNP Paribas, headquartered in Paris, has been working on supply chain sustainability for three decades, said Hervé P. Duteil, the financial institution’s chief sustainability officer. Duteil participated in the navigating supply chain investing discussion. The bank employs close to 15,000 people and has had a presence in the USA since the late 1800s. It has a presence in 73 countries, with more than 196,000 employees, including around 149,000 in Europe.   Duteil said that the bank’s goal is to ensure that financing and pro bono work provide positive impact business and engagement. “Influence is a gift and you have to use it responsibly,” said Duteil.

Financing provides leverage for change, he said. Others panelists included representatives from Target, Humanity United, J.Crew Group, West Elm, PVH Corp, the Cordes Foundation and Mastercard. Writers Jill Filipovic and Marc Bain also participated.

Nest’s event comes as the culmination of its fourth annual Artisan Leadership Summit, which brought a class of between 15 and 20 artisan leaders from around the world to New York City for five days of industry immersion and hands-on learning from top professionals.