Supplier Meet-Ups: The Master Plan(ish)

Supplier Meet-Ups: The Master Plan(ish)

by Kim van der Weerd created 2023-01-09T12:21:27+07:00
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead

A New Year’s confession: hosting monthly Supplier Meet-Ups for the Asia Garment Hub is anxiety-inducing and outside my comfort zone. Will anyone come? Are the sessions useful? In the lead-up to each month’s meet-up, the line between orchestrator of a radical experiment, herder of cats, and harasser of supplier friends and colleagues feels blurry.

This is in part the result of my own insecurities. But it’s also in part because Supplier Meet-Ups started as an intuitive project rooted more in gut feelings than a master plan. We at the Asia Garment Hub shared the conviction that helping suppliers connect with each other in a safe way was something worth doing, but the “why” was harder to articulate.

Shared Intention

A year later, through ongoing conversations between a small but dedicated group of suppliers, it’s become clear that the glue that keeps this group together is not practical tips, swapping technical advice, or even plotting and strategizing to disrupt a highly unjust and unequal balance of power between supply chain actors as we might have expected (though there’s a need for all of that, too).  

Instead, the glue seems to be shared intention. It’s a shared interest in exchange, in questioning the beliefs that underpin the way the industry does sustainability. It’s a space that grants recognition to people who more often than not feel misunderstood.

While these supplier meet-ups remain an endeavor that crosses exactly zero things off of anyone’s to-do lists, the shared convictions and intentions that drive the small group are far from ambiguous. Specifically, Supplier Meet-Ups are for:

  • Suppliers that are skeptical of the belief that consumers shopping differently will drive transformative change.
  • Suppliers who share the conviction that there is no such thing as one sustainable business or one sustainable product.
  • Suppliers who share the conviction that meaningful change requires re-imaging not only one’s own raw materials, one’s own production processes, or one’s own business model, but the entire setting in which their business operates.
  • Suppliers who believe that transformative change will come from working laterally, in cooperation with competitors, rather than simply executing brand requests.

Shared Intention, Remixed

Throughout the year, whenever my anxiety started creeping in, I turned to this quote:

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead

And indeed, the shared intention of this thoughtful group has translated into a few concrete collaborations (as well as a couple of friendships).

For example, one supplier leveraged relationships forged through the Supplier Meet-Ups to initiate a supplier-led mapping of what impending legislation in Europe and North America will mean for suppliers – co-financed by the suppliers championing the project and Transformers Foundation and potentially others. This is due out in the summer of 2023.

Several suppliers, together with GIZ FABRIC, are similarly exploring a supplier-led white paper that would systematically document the inadequacy of existing financial models for funding our collective decarbonization goals.

These practical “spin-offs” have been the organic result of bringing a small group of like-minded individuals together for open exchange, and I am looking forward to seeing what 2023 brings.

How to Participate in Supplier Meet-Ups in 2023

To ensure this remains a small group of individuals that builds real relationships and solidarity, we are asking suppliers who have not previously participated in these sessions to express their interest by applying. This extra step is intended to signal the importance of repeat attendance – applicants will receive a recurring monthly calendar invite in their diaries and are asked to attend as regularly as possible.

The first 30 minutes will be reserved for one supplier to present a specific challenge they are facing and benefit from group feedback and brainstorming. The second 30 minutes will be reserved for open exchange.

The first meet-up of 2023 is on Thursday 12 January at 9:30AM CET.