Marimekko’s internationalisation and goal of promoting sustainable development bring new challenges and risks that we need to address and respond to. At the same time, many opportunities are opened up for ensuring sustainable business operations. We have identified the following risks as the most significant:
- changing consumer expectations
- working conditions in the supply chain and violations of the Supplier Code of Conduct
- non-living wages in the supply chain
- violations of human rights, in particular in cotton cultivation
- impacts of climate change on the availability and price of raw materials such as cotton
- use of prohibited and restricted chemicals in production
- environmentally harmful production processes in the supply chain
- lack of transparency in the supply chain.
Changing consumer expectations
Through Marimekko’s international expansion, we have the opportunity to conquer the hearts of new customers. Marimekko’s new friends in different markets have different expectations for us, for example, regarding the collections and materials used. Also the consumer attitudes and expectations towards for example, a products or materials ecological qualities or the manufacturing country varies by location. Common, however, is that consumers want to know the origin of products and require a fair manufacturing conditions.
Taking into account the market-specific needs and expectations in collection work and store concept development is important. On the other hand we must hold on to Marimekko’s distinctive look and design. So we have to know our customers better – wherever we operate.
Working conditions in the supply chain
Marimekko’s interior fabrics sold by the metre and some materials for clothing, bags and home products are printed at our own textile printing factory in Helsinki. Our other products are manufactured on an outsourced basis in Europe and Asia. Ensuring appropriate manufacturing conditions by means of, for instance, regular factory visits and audits, is crucial but also challenging, as we cannot be on site all the time. It is therefore important to choose contract manufacturers with care and to devote effort to long-term partners committed to responsible operations who share our set of values.
Human rights in cotton cultivation
Cotton is Marimekko’s most traditional, the most widely used material. We want that the cotton we use, has been produced in fair working conditions and that the farmers have received an appropriate compensation for the work. However, cotton is challenging to trace which also makes it challenging to monitor the realisation of human rights. The challenge is common to the industry. Child labour and forced labour still exists in certain cotton-growing areas. In some cases, it is also possible that cotton originating from different countries gets mixed with each other to conceal the true origin.
Information of the origin of cotton does not currently necessarily flow well enough from the farmer to the ginner to the trader to the spinner to weaver of the fabric and to the end user. When one has thousands of products and many links in the supply chain like Marimekko does, accurate traceability of all products is practically impossible.
In 2013, we took an important step towards better cotton by joining the international Better Cotton Initiative (BCI), which aims to make global cotton production more sustainable by training farmers in more efficient cultivation methods using less water and chemicals. Together with the other members of BCI, we are able to influence global cotton production on a much broader front than if we acted alone.
Climate change – a challenge and opportunity
Climate change brings along many challenges – energy, water and raw materials scarcity and the threat of narrowing biodiversity. Climate change has a direct impact, for example, for the production of Marimekko’s main raw material cotton and its price and availability. Increased amount of extreme weather conditions also affects the cultivation conditions.
We see these challenges also as opportunities that we can take advantage of in business development. We can improve the energy, water and material efficiency with technology that already exists, for example with digital printing. New business models and production technologies also offer opportunities. For example, new energy sources and material innovations reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and traditional natural fibres and therefore reduce the environmental impacts of the production chain.
Prohibited and restricted chemicals
In the textile and clothing industry, chemicals are an essential ingredient of making beautiful, colourful and pleasant-to-the-touch products. The same results can often be obtained with different chemical agents. Research information on the potential harmful effects of various substances is constantly accumulating, and consumers are also more aware. It is very important for us to take care that our products meet the requirements set for them. We have the use of a list of prohibited and restricted substances both for our own production and for the supply chain. Furthermore, the products are also constantly tested for chemical concentrations in accordance with the testing schedule drawn up for this.
Manufacturing that burden the environment
In the textile industry, particularly the manufacture of materials is a highly resource-intensive process. The production and treatment of fabrics consume a considerable amount of water, energy and chemicals. Official regulation to secure environmentally friendly production is important, but monitoring compliance with regulations to protect the environment is especially important. At our in-house textile printing factory in Helsinki, wastewater is monitored regularly and actions in accordance with the environmental permit are taken care of in compliance with the requirements set. We also require wastewater to be dealt with appropriately by all our material suppliers. We in no way accept wastewater being released untreated into the waterways. Compliance with environmental regulations is monitored as part of factory inspections.
Transparency demonstrates responsibility
As customer awareness grows, the amount of conscious consumption choices also increases. We are continually working to make our operations more transparent and to provide our customers with more detailed information about our products, their origin and the manufacturing conditions. Increasing openness is long-term work that we do together with our supply chain partners. See the list of our suppliers and factories here.
Sustainability risk management
Marimekko’s sustainability risk management process is aligned with the company’s overall risk management process. The risks are assessed systematically on an annual basis we define measures to respond to the risks identified. We monitor the implementation of measures on a regular basis. The management group addresses the identified risks and measures to address them on an annual basis.