Buyer for family company Bel&Bo
"Sustainable sourcing is the only way in the long run for clothes that are affordable, but that have been made in fair circumstances."
Who are you?
I'm a buyer for our family company Bel&Bo: a retail company selling clothing with over 90 stores in Belgium. Our company tries to be as sustainable as possible. As a buyer my focus is on sourcing our products, a non-profit organization (Fair Wear Foundation) helps us source more sustainably. A part of my job is visiting the factories and to evaluate their performance, especially the treatment of workers. We try to make step-by-step improvements with the factory managers. My biggest motivation is to sell clothes that are affordable, but that have been made in fair circumstances. Sustainable sourcing is the only way in the long run. All parties and people involved in the process should gain from the collaboration.
Why are you part of Generation T?
I can show how an existing company can make small changes in order to be more sustainable. Unlike start-ups we have existing frameworks. This doesn't always makes it easy to implement changes. I believe every company (big, small, new and old) should try to be as sustainable as possible. Companies are the entities that have the money and power to implement changes and to show the world how to do business differently and, more importantly, better. There are still a lot of changes I can make as a person and we can make as a company. I hope I can share my thoughts with others and together we can find creative solutions.
A specific example on how your project or activities make a difference and initiate change:
In May I visited several suppliers in India. One factory was very disappointing. The circumstances for workers were just unacceptable: no emergency exits, loose hanging ceiling, unsafe entrance, etc. And this doesn’t account for invisible problems such as wages, overtime, forced labour or no maternity leave. We realised that stopping our collaboration with the factory wouldn't help anyone, especially not the workers. The solution: an external social audit of the factory. Together with the owner we can then implement the necessary changes. This way, we are raise awareness among factory owners that improving the circumstances for workers helps them increase turnover in the long run. Otherwise they will lose partners such as Bel&Bo.