Cause + Affect

Look good, feel good and do good at the same time

Monday 8 June 2009, by Albert Grau, Laura Torres, Miriam Jornet Ramirez, Natasa Medved

Why this company?

While other clothing companies claim to be using environmentally friendly materials for their products, Cause + Affect aims to make stylish clothing as ethically as possible. They are doing this by controlling their whole supply chain. Only in this way we can be sure that they are actually acting rather than just talking about behaving ethically. It was founded to conceive, design, produce and ship clothes in the most ethical way possible.

Being unsatisfied with the passiveness of business entities they serve as a role business model and encourage other agents along the supply chain to follow the same policy. They even are eager to hear the propositions of the others. The mindset is that they are not perfect and might not get everything right the first time round, but they are committed to constantly evaluating the processes, policies and procedures so as to improve their ethical acting.

Also, we are very much fond of their belief that every consumer should have the opportunity to be informed where the product that one is about to purchase comes from.

a) The main facts about the activities of the company.

Cause + Affect focuses on the control of the supply chain. The most important thing to get right is the origin of the cotton, which in their case comes from Vasudha Cotton Project located in India. It covers 22,000 acres of farmland, where complete waste management, recycling and biologically-based growing systems are being conducted.

Their t-shirt manufacturer provides safe labour conditions (among them is assuring of non-exploitation).

Even in the printing process eco-friendly and organic inks are used.

Every step in the process is following this policy and so is the packaging. Each t-shirt is shipped in a 100% recycled and 100% recyclable pillow box that protects the t-shirt during transit but also makes a visual impact each time the customer receives one of their tees.

They also use a rather common technique of sending the so-called elnvoices (an electronic transaction document that contains billing information in an electronic format) instead of printed invoices. This will be improved when they manage to set up a eBusiness.

Their energy provider is Ecotricity, which as already suggested in the name supplies energy from renewable sources.

Finally, the price that the final consumer pays is relatively higher as it reflects the costs of fair-trade production.

b) The ethical challenges this company is addressing.

The aim of Cause + Affect is to ensure that they produce aspirational clothes that have the minimum possible impact on people and the environment.
In fact, they are selling an ideology. It is precisely for that reason that it is in their interest to maintain the added value of their products. As a result, the company has to pay special atention to all issues related with its operations, which includes the control over its whole supply chain. That implies ensuring labour conditions in farmlands and in their t-shirt manufacturer factories, avoiding the risk of exploitation from people outside the company that could appear and which are unforeseeable. Furthermore, they also need to assure that they will be able to continue with their sustainable procedures such as electricity supply, packaging and ink. For the survival of Cause + Affect, it is critical to follow its communication strategy and be consistent with the ethics attached to its product. Nonetheless, opportunism could play a role in this issue. Therefore, the company must put its effort in its prevention.

c) What makes you believe this company is really ethical and why you trust it?

The main differentiation point from its competitors is the ethical side of its clothes. This company is targeting people who are environmentally conscious, who share their ideology and want to contribute to eco-friendly practices. People buy their believes.
Cause + Affect is one of the rare companies based on values, not only profitable oriented goals.
However, scepticism may arise from the terms of real action. We cannot be certain whether they are just trying to communicate their slogan to the public or they are actually acting accordingly to their statements. Therefore, they have offered us some solid proves of their ethical behaviour. Some are safe labour conditions certified by numerous agencies, including Skal, Fair Trade Labelling Organisation (FLO), ISO 9001:2000, Oeko-Tex Standard 100, WRAP, and the Soil Association; or accreditation by The Soil Association that our printers are the only ones to gain organic status and they being licensed as the sole supplier of authentic organic print in the UK.
Thus, we are inclined to believe that it is not in their interest to act otherwise as their business might suffer if inconsistent behaviour is discovered.

d) Possible challenges facing the company in the future and how you think this company may improve.

As its whole ideology is dependent on the supply chain, at some point one of the agents might have problems to maintain the level of ethical practices in its operations which would affect the entire chain. This can force Cause + Affect to find alternative suppliers.

As the company is a rather small entity it is facing the threat of being defeated by more re-known and bigger companies in the clothing industry that decided to implement the same ethical policies. The larger ones have the advantage of having economic resources and strong brand positioning in the market, putting Cause + Affect out of business.

To face these possible challenges, they could expand the range of products offered and keep a track on potential suppliers that could substitute the already existing ones, in the case these fail.

Bibliography

1. Cause + Affect (2008). Ethics & Values. Retrieved May, 27th, 2009 from http://www.causeandaffect.co.uk/ethics_and_values.htm
2. Ethical Junction CIC. (1999-2009). Clothing and Fashion, Fair Trade Clothes: Cause + Affect. Retrieved May, 28th, 2009 from http://www.ethical-junction.org/member/org-7677.html

Location: Berks (United Kingdom of Great Britain)

Sector: 100% organic fair trade fashion

Official website: http://www.causeandaffect.co.uk

Key figures:

To complete the cycle Cause + Affect reinvests 10% of any profits generated back into the communities they work with, assisting projects that help to improve living conditions and eradicate poverty in some of the poorest areas of the world.
The company has been accepted to join three of the leading ethical directories: "Ethical Junction", "The Green Provider" and "A Lot of Organics", which only allow companies that comply with various ethical requirements to be listed on their sites.

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