Moving Toward Sustainability – A New Wool Knitting Mill Supplier for 2012.

2011 was a great year for Cima Coppi, and we have to thank you all for the amazing continued support and feedback you have had for our shared project. With the growth we’ve seen and the orders coming in, we have had to evolve to meet demands. That sentence sounds compromising, doesn’t it? Perhaps not at our scale, but looking forward, it sure sounds like the commercial status-quo.

But hang-on, it doesn’t have to be that way. Maybe because we’ve been taught by conventional business that growth, evolution and meeting demands must be pejorative, we’ve lost faith in what an organization of focused people can do.

A New Wool Mill in the Foothills of the Alps

For 2012, we’re going to be working with a knitting mill in the foothills of the Alps, about 160km NorthEast of Venice, Italy, and they will supply our wool for our jerseys going forward or until a fine quality local solution can be found. We’ve chosen this mill for five reasons, with the three most important being: 1. The quality per cost, 2. The ‘first-world’ labour standards, and 3. The location.

At 8,500km from Vancouver, our wool is going to have to do some significant travelling and every km it moves it uses fossil fuels and produces carbon to get from there to here. However, our new supply mill is also only 1,200km from the Pyrenees in northern Spain – a planned manufacturing hub location for the not-so-distant future.

The current reality is: not only are almost all garments made in China, but almost all raw materials are made there as well. This is even with most raw sheep wool coming from New Zealand. In fact, most companies don’t disclose where materials come from because they aren’t obligated to, and instead, only disclose where the garment is sewn. Comparing a small, decades old European Mill to both our other viable supply options to ship to Vancouver: 1. New Zealand direct (11,800km) and 2. New Zealand via China (19,700km), we’ll save between 3300km and 11,200km of Carbon impact per shipment of wool yardage then to be cut and sewn into jerseys here in East Van. Going forward, if we began to supply a second manufacturing hub in Northern Spain from the same wool mill, it would then be 18,500km less shipping for each order of wool from our mill vs a New Zealand via China route.

From 386lbs up to 3487lbs of CO2 less using this mill location.

The Carbon Footprint calculation below illustrates that by choosing a European mill vs exploiting the Asia-Pacific markets we can save 386lbs of CO2 per shipment to Vancouver today, and up to 3487lbs of CO2 per shipment to a planned hub in Northern Spain.

Average shipment weight: 56kgs (.056ton)
Distance less travelled: A. 3300 (2050mi.) B. 11200 (6959mi.) C. 18500 (11500mi)
Average single shipment (ton-miles) = A. 114.8, B. 389.7, C. 1036
Air cargo =3.366lbs CO2 per Ton-Mile = A. 386 B. 1132 C. 3487
Numbers from Carbon Fund Shipping Calculator

And That’s Only The Shipping!

The four criteria we equally considered when trying to find a supplying wool mill were: 1. Worker conditions 2. Quality of Wool 3. Cost of Wool 4. Carbon/Shipping Impact 5. Location/Strategic Flexibility.

We don’t even want to get involved in the race-to-the-bottom tactics which are consuming other manufacturers. Both the social and economic outlook for ‘third-world’ labour is a mess and manufacturing in China isn’t even something we are going to consider. I personally know the value and effort involved in sewing a jersey and I’m not about to short-change an over-exploited culture just to over-pad my pockets.

In Shenzhen, China’s garment hotbed in the Guangdong province, the garment industry is collapsing as it already has in Cambodia, as it is threatened by even cheaper, more exploitative options in Vietnam and Bangladesh. And in these new locations, there is already concern for raising wages to fair standards for fear the industry will migrate again to save a buck.

Read More: China’s Once Mighty Garment Industry Strating to Unravel
Read More: Bangladesh, With Low Pay, Moves in on China

There are certainly changes happening for us here, but we remain committed to our core sustainability principles and thoroughly investigate the impacts of each change with a sustainable future in mind. It’s certainly more than just carbon impact, but in that consideration alone, we’re confident that we’ve made the best decision currently available for our planet, our customers and Cima Coppi.

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