In our fifth episode of season two of 15 Minutes With we’re talking to Madison Kranis. Madison is a Social Impact Expert from the Department of Corporate Responsibility at Fenwick.

Madison has a BA in International Justice and Justice Systems Studies from Montclair State University and an MA in Human Trafficking, Migration, and Organised Crime from St Mary’s University. Her work with the charity A21 led her to a career in Corporate Responsibility where she is working to highlight the issues within the fashion industry, both for the people involved and the environmental impact.

In this episode, she talks to us about how consumers are becoming more aware and discerning about supply chains and labour, how conscious consumerism is helping to apply pressure on businesses to ensure that they’re prioritising ethical practices, examples of what lies beneath low-priced goods, and how businesses and individuals can take steps to ensure they aren’t unwittingly feeling crime, poverty and exploitation.


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Shelley  00:14

Today on 15 minutes with we are talking to Madison Kranis Social Impact Expert from the Department of Corporate Responsibility at Fenwick. She’s talking to us about how consumers are becoming more aware and discerning around supply chains and labour, how conscious consumerism is helping to apply pressure to businesses to ensure that they’re prioritising ethical practice, examples of what lies beneath low priced goods, and how businesses and individuals can take steps to ensure they aren’t unwittingly fueling the crime, poverty and exploitation cycle.

Graham  00:44

I’m Madi, welcome to the podcast.

Madison  00:46

Hi, how are you?

Graham  00:47

Very well. Thank you. It’s great to have you here.

Madison  00:49

Thank you for having me.

Graham  00:51

Yeah, no, not a problem at all. Can you tell us a little bit about responsible business and how you found yourself working in that industry? I guess.

Madison  00:58

Yes. So I first realised this was kind of the realm that I was looking to go in during my undergrad. So I was introduced to this charity called A21. Essentially, it’s just a charity that focuses on sex trafficking and human trafficking. And so that really was quite interesting to me. Then after that, I kind of started taking courses at uni. And I started a course in human trafficking. And I fell in love, it was so interesting, and just felt quite natural. It kind of aligned all my passions, my interest, but all that really had one thing in common, and that’s people. So helping people really comes quite naturally to me. Then with that, I decided to move to the UK get my master’s. It’s in Human Trafficking, Migration and Organised Crime. And that kind of flipped its way into responsible business for me.

Shelley  01:41

Quite the introduction. I mean, it’s such a heavy subject, but I think people are slowly becoming more aware of just how much all of this is really a part of the world, I guess. But you know, it’s happening around them without realising. Have you noticed? Is there some sort of awakening happening amongst consumers where people are now becoming a bit more aware of all of these things that go on the background of what we sort of consider to be everyday business?

Madison  02:10

Yeah, I would say definitely, there’s an upswing within the Gen Z and Millennial generations, I think it’s about 62%, are really focused on kind of the environmental side, but also to that there’s a bit with the social aspect, where a lot of businesses need to report in to their stakeholders, and that’s not as appealing to them, it’s a bit harder to see it from that kind of angle, because you see all of the younger generations who are really focused on that kind of environmental side, and really, for your business to be able to focus on those younger generations, they focus on fast fashion, but they still want a sustainable product, they’re not willing to pay for that premium for that product. And they’re not willing for a lower quality, who would, you know, it’s you, you want everything and more. And it’s understandable, because in this kind of fast fashion industry, we’re seeing a lot of products going to waste going to landfill. And we’re seeing a quick turnaround, with quick turnaround comes a lot of room for exploitation and poverty. And with that, it’s very easy for your business to fall into the more and more and more and more and more category instead of. Well, where’s our traceability? Where’s this product coming from? And how can we make sure that it’s being sourced ethically and sustainably essentially, I think, with that disconnect between where our businesses and where is the conscious consumer, and generally speaking, that conscious consumer is going to be of those generation, there needs to be some type of linkage between them. And I think really traceability and transparency, although they’re two completely separate entity, that’s where it goes hand in hand. The younger generation is really sceptical of what brands are doing, and to see what’s happening around the world. We’re asking the questions, we want businesses to be held accountable. And it’s the older generations are typically it’s based in trust. So they trust what your business is doing. They trust that you’re doing the right thing, I trust that what they’re buying is ethically sourced because you’ve got branch notability with that branch notability, you may or may not have it or you might not have that traceability and that traceability is really important because an aspects like food or fashion, you need to know is those ingredients that I’m putting in? Do you say actually that ingredient? Is it a variation of that ingredient? Is this cashmere? 100% cashmere, or is it 97%? And there’s a little bit of wool or cotton thrown in with it to make it you know, maybe a cheaper buy or something like that. So these conscious consumers are asking the questions that never had really been asked before. And I think with the transparency, that’s what they’re asking you to provide as a business. You have the traceability and I believe that that’s something that businesses should have. But that transparency is the question that the conscious consumer is asking now. So I think that Upswing has really provoked businesses to do more. And with that it’s making for really interesting conversations between you know, your internal sustainability team, any stakeholders, your executives and your customer, your customer is willing to reach out and ask those questions and that’s something that you really can do as a customer, you can ask the question to say, where is my products coming from? And as a business, you want to be the ones to be able to then answer that question. Ultimately.

Graham  05:08

It’s interesting, because I was just thinking, you can’t just assume that because you’re spending more money, or you’re buying it from a bigger brand, that everything is just ethically happening in the background, right? Because the assumption would be, well, if I move away from fast fashion, and I spend, you know, instead of spending 20 pounds on a t shirt, I’ll spend 100 pounds on a t shirt, surely that must be doing them, and they must be doing the right thing. That isn’t that isn’t always the case. Right? It’s not foolproof.

Madison  05:32

Absolutely. And I think a lot of times with a premium product people are, they’re willing to pay that extra premium, as opposed to fast fashion, where people generally speaking are from a lower socio economic standard, where they are then purchasing those fast fashion. But there’s ways that businesses can also tie that in, you know, are you paying your employees a livable wage for them to then be able to choose or pay for that premium product? So it would, that’s really where it goes hand in hand between traceability transparency. And that’s how you can get everybody involved within your company, I think it’s three out of five global consumers are willing to pay a premium for a product that they know is ethically and environmentally sourced. And with that, if you don’t have the transparency, you won’t now if you’re transparent about it, your customer makes that conscious decision, because you’ve publicly posted that you’ve publicly said, this is where the products have come from, it’s come from this region. And you can make an informed decision

Shelley  06:28

Before you touched on how consumers are increasingly wanting more for less. And I guess I wanted to just dive a little bit into what the true costs are for getting products at the absolute cheapest cost,

Madison  06:42

Right, Ultimately, the way that the supply chain is composed of its third party after, or a third party after, or third party after or third party until you finally get down to those raw materials. And realistically, if you’re paying $5, say £5 for, you know, a cotton t shirt, if you track that all the way back to the raw materials that are coming from, say, Middle East, East Asia, you’re not contributing to the costs of that entire supply chain. So what’s happening is the people who are factory workers, garment workers aren’t earning livable wages, and then with that comes a lot of lack of education. So then, you know, they’re going into these contracts, because they can’t read these contracts, they sign a contract and say, I will work for this company, I will do this, I will do that. And the third are they’re unable to see the implications that come with that, because they weren’t able to actually read that contract themselves. So then it kind of adds to a generational problem. It’s reoccurring, that’s where you end up getting, say child labour involved. Children aren’t aware that this is something that they can break free from and they don’t have the resources or the opportunity to then be able to do so

Shelley  07:47

it’s just awful. And I mean, those are the social impacts. And of course, there are environmental impacts. I know that Primark is talking in some respects about a cotton fingerprint. Are you able to tell us a little bit about that and how other impacts are realised as well?

Madison  08:01

Yes. So I know Primark has really taken a focus on their soil health and having a regenerative cotton programme, where, you know, a lot of brands are missing out on things like that. They can’t necessarily change the world, but they can focus on one thing, and they could do that well. And as a brand, I think that’s quite important to find something that you can actually tangibly change and then change it. If you become that disrupter like Primark is trying to do with that cotton regenerative programme, I like to call it the cotton fingerprint, then you can be that disrupter in that space, and actually create change for others to then follow, you’re pushing them to think outside of that box. And that’s where the change will come from you yourself might not be able to make a massive headway, but you’ll be able to push others to do so also, all of these businesses all together, will be able to move forwards.

Shelley  08:50

So it’s really, really about inspiring others as well, as you said, you can pick one thing and you can do it really well. And obviously that’s an improvement to that one business. But the hope is that, obviously that technique, and that methodology catches on to other businesses. And all of these things can kind of snowball. So how can businesses and individuals take steps to ensure that they aren’t unwittingly fueling this crime poverty exploitation cycle,

Madison  09:17

I’d say because you’ve got the traceability. And because you’ve got that transparency, you’ve got to begin with what you can change. After you focused on those things. You then should report into your stakeholders what is exactly happening, lay it out for them like we’ve just done, Child labour is happening. There’s a lack of education, women’s empowerment is needed, giving them those key statistics and facts are going to pique their interest, it’s going to make them want to own and deliver what they see value in and generally speaking, your stakeholders see value and where it can be monetized or changed. So when it’s monetized, that change kind of comes in where your customers see the change, and now they’re feeding into your business because they’re a conscious consumer. They’re choosing to purchase from you because You’ve made that change, because ultimately you want to monetize. I think conducting a materiality assessment is really the easiest way you can get your stakeholders involved giving them that overview of what it is that you can change what those stats are. So that way they can make an informed decision. They do this materiality assessment, which essentially says everything is obviously important. We want to focus on everything, but we can’t realistically or one business, we’re not able to focus so so broadly, but what are the three things that we can pinpoint and make an actual change. And so for example, if you are producing your own branded products, and you found through that traceability that your products are using dye and factories that are in Tarapore India, knowing the region, knowing the exploitation that comes out of that region, as well as what’s happening there, you can then make a conscious change, make an informed decision and say, we’re going to focus on drinkable water for everybody in that region. And we’re going to base that off of we’re not using toxic chemicals to dye our fabrics. And we’re educating the factories within that area. At the moment in Tarapore, what’s happening is a lot of dyes and bleaching is having a lot of runoff and being dumped into rivers and into the water, it’s ultimately affecting the water table. So locals aren’t then able to have that same type of access. So that’s where an environmental problem and that social problem are then going to come together. What you can do as a business is say, this is something we clearly contribute to, and this is a way that we can clearly make that change, you’re not changing the world, you’re changing somebody’s world, you’re changing the world in that local region, that entire lifecycle of the people who rely on working in the garment factory, it’s completely affected by what your brand is, is seeking to do. I think that’s a really good way that businesses can prioritise and then make an actual change, be the disrupter of those three things and push others to think that way. Also, I think being a conscious consumer, that’s what is going to continue to push those businesses to continue down this path to continue towards responsible business practices, if they ask the questions you’re gonna have to answer. And if you don’t have the traceability or the transparency, you’re not going to be able to answer you can be transparent, and have no form of traceability. But then you’ll be losing all the business from it, you can have traceability without having transparency, somebody could have maybe forgot to click on a digital form, that report that you were looking for, as the conscious consumer could have been ready to be published, someone simply forgot to publish it. Maybe they weren’t ready to publish it quite yet. But you won’t know unless you ask the question.

Graham  12:37

Amazing. You’ve given us so much information. And so much usable kind of guidance in terms of these are things that you can do right now, both as a consumer and as a business to take corrective action. And I guess, even just to stop and think, you know, wherever you’re listening to this right now, look at what you’re wearing, look at what’s around you in the room and ask the question, where did it Where did it truly come from? It’s a really important conversation to have with yourself and your family and your friends. And then you know, kind of spread it out there. Because unless people are talking about it will just don’t know, right? They’re kind of choosing to put the blinkers on and go, what doesn’t really matter, because it’s so far away from me, that actually doesn’t affect my day to day life, especially in the UK, considering our manufacturing history and kind of heritage, we understand the environmental impacts of some of these things in some of the areas, certainly in the north and the Northwest, where the all manufacturing and all that sort of stuff was huge. For a long time. We’ve dealt with all of that. And you know, we’re talking about stuff that sounds like Victorian England, and it’s happening right now. It’s just insanity to think that the stuff is still going on. But it’s just so far away that we don’t see it, I guess, is there anything else that you can say from a kind of a practical point, or either for consumer business where they can actually have immediate effect today, by just taking this step and running with it?

Madison  13:57

I’d say the best way that you can get people involved is to get them informed. Let them know what is happening, what you contribute to, if you’ve already got that traceability, bring out the transparency, your colleagues are the ones who are going to be asked those questions to let them be the ones that informed people let them say, actually this shirt that you’re purchasing, we know exactly where this came from. This is 100% Cotton, if there’s an actual certification, this is organic certified cotton, they will then go out and tell their friends about the experience that they have the entire customer journey that they had while shopping at your store, and they’re going to come back it had a narrative having that narrative is super important because it brings it to life for people brings it to life for your stakeholders. bring it to life for your colleagues and for your customers. And having that is going to ultimately monetize your business even more.

Shelley  14:44

Are there any tools, any resources, anything like that whether you’re a business or whether you’re an individual, they may be different depending on which angle you’re going to take that might be useful for people and getting started on their journey towards being more conscious and supporting more responsible business.

Madison  15:01

Yeah, there’s a bunch of different material certifications that you can get for your own brand. Even in your actual company itself, something such as using FSC certified paper or packaging, that’s a really, really easy first step that you can take to do immediately. It’s something people bring into their house all the time, they ask does this go into recycling. So now they know that you recycle, it’s a very simple step, there’s also getting that certified cotton, you can also become members of something such as Sedex, and you’re able to have in this world of resource that they help you with and provide you with. So I think that’s some really quick wins that you can get out of that.

Shelley  15:36

Thank you. So, so much for all of this information. It has been, it’s been a learning curve from start to finish. And I think a lot of people are going to find this so interesting, because it really is the dark underbelly of basically our whole lives of shopping, whether we shop online, whether we go in store, whether we’re talking about food or clothing, it really affects us all and we affect it, too. So thank you so much for sharing your insights. I think it’s going to inform a lot of people, and of course, we hope improve our buying behaviours in the future.

Madison  16:09

Yeah, absolutely. Thank you for having me.

Shelley  16:11

That was Madison Kranis from Corporate Responsibility at Fenwick talking to us about how as a business, you can begin with what you can change. For example, She recommends focusing internally on traceability, such as reporting to stakeholders in a transparent fashion, along with support of key statistics and facts. She recommends conducting materiality assessments and having a responsible business programme that provides traceability and trust that can enhance your brand and build brand loyalty for the conscious consumer.