Social Responsibility

Social responsibility is important to the whole business. This is a long and not very exciting read, though it sets out as clearly as possible exactly how The Haberdasher Bee operates and where I already know there are opportunities for improvement as the business grows, both in terms of sustainability and diversity. I believe strongly that businesses (even small ones like mine) have the ability to be profitable and sustainable, whilst also having a fairly represented workforce and guests associated with the business (such as bloggers). This page will be periodically updated as the business meets the goals outlined and makes new ones.

Sustainability and social responsibility at The Haberdasher Bee

Check out my first sustainability report, where I detail what I’ve been doing, how I think I can do better and my plans for the coming year. Sustainability is always a work in progress, but I’m proud to now be able to support climate initiatives and tree planting through Ecologi too.

What I’m already doing

Websites are something that we all visit on a day to day basis, though did you know that you can increase your carbon footprint simply by surfing the internet? It’s all down to who hosts the website and how the server is managed. This website is hosted with a carbon neutral supplier here in the UK, so you can navigate the site to your heart’s content knowing you aren’t increasing your carbon footprint.

As you can see from the dynamic badge above, I offset my carbon emissions and I do this in a number of ways. Firstly, I have a subscription with Ecologi to offset my emissions as an employee of The Haberdasher Bee. In addition to this, I also plant a tree with Ecologi for every order placed through my shop – though as of yet this doesn’t include my shopfront on Bookshop.org. By partnering with Ecologi, I’m taking the first steps towards making my business completely carbon neutral. While Ecologi plant trees all over the world, I’m also able to plant trees here in the UK through them and as the business grows I’ll be adding more UK based trees to my Ecologi subscription. I also intend to purchase carbon credits from Forest Carbon in order to offset specific amounts of carbon emissions and will periodically do this for products, shipping or other items that I’ve calculated the cabon cost of. Forest Carbon support all sorts of UK based carbon absorbing projects, particuarly tree planting and peatland restoration. This is particularly important to me, as the UK is one of the most nature depleted countries in the world with an abysmally low percentage of tree cover – and we’ve also missed almost every target set in the past decade for natural recovery.

I carefully source my products and the bulk materials required in order to put them together for you. Wherever possible I try to source products which don’t come in any plastic packaging. That isn’t to say none enters the business, though I’m very strict on ensuring none makes its way to you, my customer. Any plastic which does enter the business is removed and is either sent back to my supplier for reuse or sent away for recycling. Manchester doesn’t recycle plastic unless it’s in the shape of a plastic bottle (I’ve had discussions with the mayor, local councils and the local MP about this, though nothing’s come of it), so I have to send it to specific companies who deal with recycling plastic for businesses.

Wherever possible, I source packaging material which is made of 100% recycled waste. That means that I’m not cutting down more trees just to substitute plastic for paper packaging. At present, the current pieces of packaging which are made from 100% recycled material is as follows – my cardboard product packaging, the tissue paper and stickers which I pack your orders with, plus the thick brown paper packing which prevents any bumps and bangs during delivery from damaging your items. I was hoping to use mailing boxes and jiffy bags which were made from a minimum of 70% recycled paper content, but these just aren’t cost effective for me at present – perhaps when the business is more established I’ll be able to switch to these. For products packaged using swing tags or scissor items needing to be securely attached to packaging, these are tied with 100% recycled cotton twine.

My office is supplied with 100% renewable electricity and I don’t use any single use cutlery or anything like that in the kitchen. I even use loo paper which is made from 100% recycled paper! Wherever possible I walk to the post office or access point to drop off your orders.

I use Royal Mail and UPS as my delivery partners – all deliveries made with UPS are sent using UPS’s Carbon Neutral parcel services.

My social responsibility goals for the business

  • Become a leading plastic free haberdasher, putting pressure on other businesses to follow suit!
  • Eradicate plastic packaging from my supply chain via sourcing plastic free products and bringing my suppliers on board with the core ethos of the business.
  • Where plastic does enter the business (for example, through ink cartridges required for printers), every effort is made to reuse or otherwise recycle it.
  • Ensure my products are of a high quality yet remain competitively priced.
  • Work towards ensuring 100% of my packaging is made from recycled waste materials.
  • Use a carbon neutral delivery partner.
  • Support more UK based tree planting and nature recovery programmes with the business.

How I intend to achieve these goals

This first goal requires some help from our lovely customers – please tell all your family and friends about The Haberdasher Bee! I do of course do my own marketing (you found me somehow!) though nothing really beats word of mouth referrals. Reviewing my products also helps, especially if I’ve really impressed you with my service – though if you’re underwhelmed by anything, please do tell me. I want to know if there’s anything you weren’t impressed with so that I can rectify any issues and improve on them to ensure all customers have an excellent experience shopping with The Haberdasher Bee.

In order to completely eradicate plastic packaging from my supply chain, I need to have conversations with my suppliers about alternatives to some common packaging solutions they use (for example, bubble wrap could be replaced with raffia or shredded paper). I’ve already had some productive conversations and very little plastic is in my supply chain, but I can always do better.

I use a laser printer rather than an inkjet one, as the toner cartridges last far longer than inkjet printer cartridges do. I’m able to send these directly back to the manufacturer in order to be refilled or properly recycled. I’m aiming to eradicate plastic packaging like cable ties and zip lock bags from my supply chain, but until then I’ll be collecting and recycling as much as I can.

I source all of my products with careful research and many calculations are done to ensure I can provide them to my customers at a competitive rate. No one should feel as though they are unable to do their part for the planet because it’s out of their price range. Some packaging types are expensive due to the nature of the materials and so I’ve chosen not to use these.

My current delivery partners are UPS and Royal Mail, as their network is vast and their rates are very competitive. Royal Mail are taking steps towards being carbon neutral, so while they aren’t quite there yet, it is at least something they’re working on. UPS, however, do provide carbon neutral shipping services, which I have set as standard on my account with them. They are also working towards electrifying their entire dleivery fleet within the next few years and have various plans in place to make their entire business carbon neutral.

As I mentioned in the section above, I’d love to support more UK based tree planting and nature recovery programmes in the UK as Great Britain is losing species (both plant and animal) at depressingly high rates. While I have the ability to plant extra trees in Britain with Ecologi, I would like to also support more local projects in the future – such as the Northern Forest, which will literally be on my doorstep. I’ve already identified a Manchester based tree-planting scheme which forms part of the Northern Forest and they provide several methods of support, from simply funding tree-planting activities to running tree-planting days which I can take part in. This is not something I can currently afford to do, as the business is so young that it doesn’t turn over enough profit to subsidise programmes like this, but it is a goal of mine to be able to do this when the business can afford it.

Diversity at The Haberdasher Bee

What I’m already doing

Currently The Haberdasher Bee is run by a single person. As a white woman myself, I’m well aware that there’s a skew towards white women in this section of the crafting world – though I intend to help change this as I firmly believe that anyone can learn to sew, knit, dye, crochet or craft if they so choose, regardless of their gender, ethnicity or any other factor.

While all posts are currently researched and written by me, a plan for the blog is being formulated which includes reaching out to other sewists, knitters, crocheters and natural dyers to invite guest posts and interviews to take place. Therefore, I’ve been actively looking for crafters and business owners who are of different nationalities, ethnicities and genders who might be interested in hosting a guest post or taking part in an interview. Blogs take time to build an audience for as well as write, so these ideas are forming part of future plans for the blog and the business as a whole.

My diversity goals for the business

  • Ensure a future workforce is hired based on their skills and suitability for positions in the company and that no factor is used to discriminate against any potential candidate
  • Ensure all future staff are paid fairly and proportionately to their position in the company, instilling confidence that all are being paid equally regardless of their gender, ethnicity or any other discriminatory factor
  • Ensure guest posts and interviews hosted via the blog fairly represent a variety of people of different cultures, genders, ethnicities and (dis)abilities
  • Work with suppliers, other businesses and organisations who also take these principals to heart and/or are owned by individuals from diverse backgrounds

How I intend to achieve these goals

The first point is a difficult one to tackle properly. My overarching goal is to ensure that any factor which could contribute to unconscious bias is removed, which means discovering a way to select and interview candidates effectively blindly. The model to build this on is a story from the world of classical music:

Female musicians did not form a proportionate amount of an orchestra’s musicians, so blind auditions were held where all musicians performed in an area screened off from the head of the orchestra in an effort to remove any bias against women. When the number of female performers did not increase, it was realised that the noise of women’s heels was contributing to bias in this hiring procedure, so all musicians were asked to remove their shoes prior to their audition taking place. Without visual or auditory clues that the musician was female, the proportion of women hired to perform in the orchestra shot up, as the hiring procedure was based solely on a candidate’s ability to play their instruments.

The difficulty is in finding a method in which to apply this model to job applications, but it is my goal to have a system fit for use which can somehow apply this blind selection method. My aim is that this is functioning well in time for any positions becoming available within the business – and that it works as planned to ensure future employees fairly represent all genders, ethnicities and other identities.

Representation and social responsibility

Alongside the goal of fair representation amongst any future workforce is a strong commitment to ensure no one feels they are being underpaid compared to any other employee in an equivalent role. Likewise, where there is a new position available higher up, existing staff who apply will be prioritised over new recruits and training will be given wherever required, requested or believed to be advantageous to assist in the promotion of existing staff to new roles within the business. No one should feel under appreciated in their job and so there will be measures in place to assist employees in learning new skills as well as a benefit package (to be decided when the business begins taking on employees) which could include such options as access to sustainable transport.

Human resources would be outsourced in an effort to have a HR department which is truly independent and therefore able to work in the best interests for both the employee and the company. Too many times I’ve been to the HR department of a company I’ve worked for, only for nothing to happen or a complaint to be poorly investigated due to HR being concerned about their own jobs at the business (or someone having undue influence over the department). By outsourcing HR, there is no unfair influence from the company on human resources, giving employees the confidence that the department will take any concerns they may have seriously.

As mentioned in the previous section, plans are being drawn up to invite guest bloggers and interview other crafters. As part of this, I’m searching for crafters of different nationalities, ethnicities, genders, sexualities and abilities to consider contacting when I begin hosting such guest posts or interviews on the blog. All potential guest bloggers and interviewees will be experts in their respective areas, as my intention is for this section of the blog to bring new techniques, materials, tools and ideas to my readers and customers. The other aspect I hope this section of the blog will foster is for more people of different backgrounds to give a new craft a go, particularly if it’s something that might traditionally be frowned upon (for example, male knitters).

As with my commitment to sustainability, I intend to work with potential suppliers to ensure their ethos and goals align with my own. Conversations will take place where necessary and appropriate and I will continue to seek out the best suppliers from all backgrounds, especially those from under represented groups.