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Interviewing our factory in Portugal
This year we were able to finally fulfill our longterm sustainability goal to move our production to the European Union. After a long research, we finally found the perfect partner for this – a family-led factory in Guimarães, Portugal. The factory is specialized in high-quality swimwear, activewear and undergarments, of which they have over 20 years of experience. We absolutely love partnering with a company that cherishes the same values as we do and that are equally passionate about their work.
Today we want to share our factory interview with a strong focus on sustainability. All questions have been answered by Filipa, Head of Development Department, and daughter of the founder and CEO of our factory, Filipe.
What are your core values? How do you promote these values at work?
– Our core values are proactivity, competence, innovation and sustainability. Most recently we are trying to promote and align the action of our employees with our values through sessions with a coach specialized in personality types and leadership of organizations. In these sessions we are discussing the values, mission and vision of our company, hoping to solidify them and to make sure everyone is on the same page. Furthermore, these sessions are helping us to understand everyones’ personality and how and why they act and think a certain way, which gives us insights on (a) how to promote these values more easily and effectively, and (b) the psychological barriers that must be “broken down” in order to create a fully optimized work-place.
Can you tell us about the certificates your factory has?
– One of our primary goals has always been to guarantee we deliver both services and products with maximum levels of quality. With this is mind, we created a system based on the norm ISO9001: 2015, where processes, procedures and activities are defined so that the quality requirements for the product can be achieved in the final result; as well as indicators of conformity of processes and products and services with pre-determined requirements. The implementation and certification of the Quality Management System – the ISO9001:2015 Certification was then concluded and obtained in April, 2021.
When it comes to the fabrics used for producing Lilja the Label socks and loungewear:
– The yarn used by our supplier, for both loungewear and socks, is certified by GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard). Additionally, the yarn used for loungewear is certified by GRS (Global Recycle Standard) and OCS (Organic Content Standard).
How would you describe your journey to become more sustainable? Do you have any aims or goals? If so, how will you achieve these?
– Even though quality is one of our top priorities, we also realize that sustainability plays a huge role on today’s reality. Consequently, we are aiming to obtain another certification, the GRS – Global Recycle Standard, in order to develop and deliver products of the highest quality, while being the most environmentally friendly possible.
– The compliance of the international norm Global Recycled Standard allows companies to ensure that their products are produced with minimal impact for the environment, still upholding good labor conditions. This international standard attests the commitment of organizations, and consequently of their products, with the 3 pillars of sustainability: Circular Economy, Social Responsibility and Environment. The GRS standard was strategically selected for being the one that best accommodates our vision of growth.
What type of energy does your factory use?
– The factory uses electrical energy provided by EDP – Energias de Portugal, which has an integrated quality, environment and safety management system, certified by LRQA in accordance with ISO 9001:2015, ISO 14001:2015 and ISO 45001:2018, applicable to the commercialization of products and services. Additionally, it also has a gold medal awarded by ECOVADIS, placing the organization among the top 5% of companies assessed in sustainability by this entity.
How do you deal with the waste generated in your production?
– When it comes to waste, we only have general waste that is created by the normal course of our activity, and fabric waste caused by the fabric cutting process. To deal with the general waste, we implemented a system where we divide the different types of waste (paper, plastic and organic waste) and dispose it according to its typology using the city recycling bins, either ourselves or with the help of the cities’ garbage disposal system.
– To minimize the fabric waste originated by the fabric cutting process, we use highly efficient plan-making programs that reduce this waste to a minimum. However, since it is impossible to reduce this waste to 0, the leftovers are sent out to specialized companies that deal with textile waste.
What happens to the faulty items that cannot be sold? Or scrap fabrics?
– Depending on the defect, the faulty items are mainly used internally as samples. In some cases, they can also be donated to those in need. Typically, when it comes to scrap fabrics, they can either
(a) be reutilized on the production of accessories,
(b) donated (for example, in the past, we donated some fabrics to a dog shelter so they could be used as bandages) or
(c) sent out to specialized companies that deal with textile waste.
What measures have already been implemented to lower the overall energy consumption?
– In order to lower the overall energy consumption, we make sure to reduce energy where ever we can. Even little measures, as turning off unnecessary lamps or machines and switching to LED bulbs, are one of the easiest implementaitons we have succesfully done. Further we make sure to keep our electrical equipment always in good condition and to perform preventive maintenance, so as to reduce unnecessary energy consumption.
Are there any chemicals involved in the production, for example in the fabrics used?
– There are no chemicals involved in the production. The fabrics we use are bought from European suppliers with certifications that guarantee that the guidelines of the REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals) regulation, created by the European Union, are met. This regulation was adopted to improve the protection of human health and the environment from the risks that can be posed by chemicals.
How many employees do you have? How long are their shifts?
– We currently have twenty-eight employees, five male and twenty-three female. Twenty-seven of them work eight hours a day, five days a week, while one of them only works seven hours a day, five days a week, with rest breaks every 2 hours.
Are you able to open the employee pay structure?
– We can guarantee that the pay structure complies with the regulation imposed by the Portuguese government under the Law no 7/2009. In practical terms, this means that: employees are guaranteed a minimum monthly salary, whatever the type of work practiced and employees are entitled, in proportion to the duration of their contract, to vacation pay, vacation and Christmas bonuses, to other regular and periodic benefits, as well as to a daily food allowance.
Do you have a policy to make sure there is a grievance mechanism in place for factory workers?
-We have implemented a mechanism called Caixa de Sugestões (which translates to Suggestions Box). Through this system, any employee has the liberty to fill out a form where they can express their suggestions, criticism and/or complaints. All of these will then be dealt with accordingly. In addition, everyone has easy access to management in order to create a better working environment, where everyone feels welcomed, comfortable, seen and heard.
You work with some external suppliers, how do you audit their working conditions or pay structure?
We work with external suppliers located in Europe, mainly in Portugal. Therefore, all of these suppliers have to comply to every regulation created by their national government and the European Union regarding all aspects of working conditions and pay structure.