April '20

For the Business of Apparel Decorating

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4 2 P R I N T W E A R A P R I L 2 0 2 0 Printing for the Planet HOW SHOPS CAN MAINTAIN A CULTURE OF SUSTAINABILITY M I K E C L A R K S ustainability has become a buzzword that gets tossed around everywhere from major food and beverage com- panies to retail giants to organizations closer to the deco- rated apparel industry, like garment and ink manufac- turers. Despite the popularity of the term, walking the walk is a bit more of a complicated process. And, it can take a while for a shop or a decorator to get on board with the trend. In this feature, Print- wear chats with a few industry experts to explore what it means to be sustainable, and how business owners can insert themselves into the conversation. WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE Initially, the idea of a sustainable, eco-conscious business equat- ed to some primary initiatives like recycling and reduced use of electricity. Today, being sustainable is viewed as more of a holistic concept. Marc Vitulli, S&S Activewear, explains that the idea en- compasses everything a business does. "Sustainability has become a broader term as Corporate Social Responsibility has evolved in today's modern business world from a social and environmental perspective," he notes. "As it relates to the environment, it is ab- solutely achievable for all organizations; however, this is a very big and difficult challenge." What's also made things slightly more complicated is that on the apparel side, sustainability and ethicality have become more inter- woven. With the open access to information on the internet to news, videos, and social media, buyers have become more engaged with the garment companies they purchase from. Manufacturers using sweatshop labor, volatile chemical disposal processes, and excessive waste of fabric scraps have been put under the microscope in recent years, pushing many to change their supply chain and business mod- el. Others have sought to get ahead of the trend and implemented more sustainable and ethical systems like innovative wastewater treatment, sourcing domestic cotton, and producing garments with partially or fully recycled fiber materials. For a shop to truly call themselves sustainable, it'll require some research in terms of working with apparel companies, ink providers, and even local entities like energy providers and waste-management companies. "I think making a business sustainable is hard to show and prove as well as do," contends Clayton Hunt, SoftShirts, add- ing that even if a business is adhering to sustainable practices, they'll have to be transparent on what level they're implementing it. And regardless of the type of business, sources say that making the shift towards a more earth-conscious, less wasteful model is achiev- able for all types of markets.

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