words by Olga Cieslak
October 2, 2020
Interview with Jane Mosbacher Morris, Founder and CEO of TO THE MARKET.
“As an ethical business owner you have to think about sustainability, not just environmental sustainability, but the sustainability of your business – the pragmatic sustainability”.
Transparency in the supply chain is an area of scrutiny both from the consumers as well as brands and retailers in an effort to drive more transparency in the fashion industry. While there are measures which are gradually being implemented, the convoluted process of vetting ethical suppliers is still affecting millions of garment workers across the globe. In an open conversation, Jane Mosbacher Morris shares first hand experiences with setting up TO THE MARKET (TTM) and paints a snapshot of where we are on the journey towards more ethical supply chains.
Jane’s journey with TO THE MARKET was as she describes herself, a little bit “accidental”. Jane began her journey at the US Department of State where she worked in really challenging environments. While working in counter-terrorism in countries like Afghanistan, the local communities shared a very profound message with her “If we don’t have money we don’t have power”. For Jane, this ultimately meant that without necessary resources, the local communities do not have the power to make positive change. This put her on the path of job creation and job sustainment in vulnerable communities. Fast forward and TO THE MARKET is born. With the vision to change the way that retail manufacturing is done, empower people and protect the planet.
Jane, the CEO and Founder of TO THE MARKET started the company with the hope of changing the types of suppliers that companies had access to. She soon learnt that major corporations, retailers and brands were really struggling to have transparent and ethical supply chains because they were reliant on brokers to identify factories for them and often used the same old factories who had questionable environmental and questionable social practices. TO THE MARKET is helping democratise the access to the Global Marketplace by supporting non-traditional suppliers including women-owned and operated factories, artisan groups or Fair Trade factories.
Originating from Jane’s experience in working with human trafficking and labour explotiation, in its initial stages, TTM worked closely with organisations that focused heavily on job creation for women and blossomed into a supplier vetting process developed by TTM. TO THE MARKET places emphasis on a safe work environment, freedom of movement and a fair labour contract in the process of choosing its suppliers in both the Global South and North.
Working in sectors across the globe, we wanted to learn more about TTM’s experience with the Global South. TO THE MARKET does a tremendous amount of work in India as the artisans there have numerous skills and techniques that date back decades. Similarly, in Kenya where the unique skill sets are really compelling to the TTM’s Founder. Jane has painted a positive picture when asked about incentives put forward by governments in the Global South. She emphasised efforts taken by Governments to attract retailers and brands to engage with the country’s artisan sectors. The TO THE MARKET team have been hosted in Tunisia and Morocco to learn about the artisan sectors within their country, as part of an effort to attract Northern corporations to the South. From her experience, there is an increasing awareness coming from suppliers based in the Global South about what it means to be an ethical workplace. Many are moving away from poor practices, which were more ‘acceptable’ in the past and often passed from one generation to another followed by a growing understanding why this needs to be addressed. This is in part driven by the understanding that sustainable practices allow access to bigger market share and is becoming a source of competitive advantage.
In an honest exchange from Jane, we learn about ‘Pragmatic Sustainability’ and how she views profitability in relation to over-consumption as well as the many problems inherent in the fashion supply chain. Jane highlights the importance of survival but in a way that aligns with your business values and stresses the importance of balancing your desire to do good with pragmatism. Janes believes that “As an ethical business owner you have to think about sustainability, not just environmental sustainability, but the sustainability of your business – the pragmatic sustainability”. It is about finding balance as it is natural to be driven by emotion and want to give as much as possible, but this needs to be done in a way that has longevity. Jane with TO THE MARKET focuses on supporting ethical producers long term rather than achieving short term gains. Her vision and hope for TTM is to be the go-to source for ethical sourcing and manufacturing.
Jane’s Tip to Consumers
Vote with your dollar and refuse the current poor practices.
Buy from companies who align with your values and call out those that do not.