Alabama Chanin: A Home-Grown Sustainable Fashion Pioneer; Setting the Standards for Sustainable Business

How Can a Product or Business Be Termed Sustainable With No Clear Standards to Follow?

Thomas Cox, Connie Ulasewicz, Rachel Eike

Business Case
Source: Bloomsbury Fashion Business Cases
DOI: 10.5040/9781350197046.011
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The operations of a sustainable apparel company are challenging, potentially including smaller production runs, sourcing sustainable fibers, and affording fair wages for production costs for workers. Various models and principles of sustainability have developed for fashion and apparel companies that include: traceability and transparency; local and light sourcing and production; and a cradle-to-cradle methodology. These principles and models intersect with wider ethical considerations of good corporate citizenship set by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These goals include wider calls for “decent work and economic growth” and “responsible production and consumption” (United Nations n.d.). In its development as a business, Alabama Chanin, a US-based lifestyle brand, provides an example of varying approaches and challenges to implementing these models, principles, and goals. Founded in 2000 by Natalie Chanin, the business considerations for local production support the interdependence of the local community who are involved in the supply chain with support for sustainable growth and the well-being of the community members is included in the company’s business model. Light considerations in apparel production require minimizing and offsetting environmental harm. Transparently traceable supply chains mean that the entire life cycle of products are known and accounted for. However, with no single definition or standard for what makes a clothing product or a fashion business sustainable, how do companies choose an approach or path that best suits their business plan? This case study focuses on analyzing business decisions and sustainability approaches and challenges enacted by Alabama Chanin as a home-grown, sustainable fashion line.

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