Sourcing Site Links Buyers with Responsible Manufacturers

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Sourcing Site Links Buyers with Responsible Manufacturers

09/09/2011
“I believe that most people are good, and they want to do the right thing,” says Prasanna Eswara, founder of Fabrisource.com, a start-up business-to-business textile commerce platform focused exclusively on socially responsible sourcing.
 
Fabrisource.com is a sourcing platform whose mission is to put an end to sweatshops, child labor and pollution and help build a sustainable textile community by connecting apparel companies with socially responsible manufacturing sources around the world. 
 
Eswara believes that most buyers of textiles, clothing and footwear want “sweat-free” products but, he says, “they find it difficult to navigate the complex global environment in which manufacturing of these goods takes place.”

His goal is to build a sourcing platform linking socially conscious buyers to responsible manufacturers, along the way enhancing the lives of workers and generally making the world a better place.
 
It’s a tall task, but years of working as a textile machinery salesman — where he witnessed firsthand the poor social and environmental conditions at many factories — convinced Eswara it was a goal worth tackling. While he acknowledges that there are many compliant factories that offer fair wages, excellent working conditions and benefits such as on-site health care and education, he says that this is far from universal, that many textile and apparel workers still labor in “sweatshop” conditions, and that child labor continues around the globe. Fabrisource’s goal is to build a complete ethical rating system that will allow buyers to make more responsible sourcing decisions.
 
For now, Fabrisource’s suppliers are approved for admission by “expressly declaring” that they are compliant with relevant labor laws, sustainable practices and “green” initiatives, and are willing to open their facilities for inspection at any time. The manufacturers who subscribe to Fabrisource’s e-commerce site explicitly state that they are compliant with the UN's International Labour Organization – Multinational Enterprises Programme. 

Eswara’s goal is to bring multiple parties — including in-country NGOs, compliance organizations and other groups — into the process to provide both oversight and third-party mediation. Several hundred suppliers are currently approved on the site, which also offers workers and NGOs the opportunity to leave feedback about a manufacturer.
 
The latest initiative by Fabrisource is the development of EaRTh or the Ethical Rating Tracker, a free application that allows consumers to locate the ethical rating of the manufacturer of clothes and textiles that they are considering buying. Via the tracker, a product is assigned a unique ERT number that gives consumers visibility into the various stages of the product’s passage through the supply chain. EaRTh will be a free application hosted at Fabrisource.com and made available to the public. It will also be available as a free downloadable app for the iPhone and Android smartphones.
 
Fabrisource’s business model has attracted attention from some unusual sources since its inception. This past spring, Eswara was invited to present his concept at TEDx Greenville, an independently organized event spawned by the popular TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) conference, and this summer was selected by the Pepsi Refresh Team for a competition of ideas that can “Refresh the World.”

What's more, Fabrisource received an award from the Computerworld Honors Program, as a 2011 Laureate, for using IT to benefit society. The annual award program honors visionary applications of information technology promoting positive social, economic and educational change.
 
Fabrisource’s goal is to build a complete web platform and ethical rating system that will allow buyers to make more responsible sourcing decisions “In a world where consumers and businesses alike are looking to make more ethical decisions, Fabrisource is there to help,” says Eswara.
 
Jordan K. Speer is editor in chief of Apparel. She can be reached at [email protected].

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