The fashion industry is the second most polluting industry in the world. Because JBC tries to be sustainable in all areas of the supply chain, they directly contribute to solving 16 of the 17 sustainable development goals, according to Valerie Geluykens, Corporate Social Responsibility Manager of JBC. The only goal to which they do not directly contribute is goal 2: “zero hunger.”
Jean-Baptiste Claes founded JBC in 1975. Ten years later, Ann and Bart, his children, joined the company. JBC has always been a family-owned company. At that moment, they drew up a family charter with core values, which they considered most important as a family and as a family business. There is a big focus on the values of respect and corporate responsibility. This indicates that sustainability has long been part of the company because the family Claes always paid a lot of attention.
The innovation we mainly want to talk about is the relationship with the suppliers. JBC imposes a certain standard for suppliers, and before starting a partnership with a supplier, they first check whether this supplier works according to the same standards and values. By doing this, they focus specifically on several SDGs such as goal 8: “decent work and economic growth,” goal 16: “peace, justice, and strong institutions,” and goal 17: “partnerships for the goals.”
As just mentioned, it is imperative to JBC that their suppliers work according to the same standards and values. A supplier must meet a certain basic corporate responsibility level before they have a partnership with JBC. The basic for JBC is respect, but they also have eight other essential working principles: no forced work, freedom to join a union and negotiate, no child labor, no discrimination, payment of a living wage, a safe and healthy working environment, acceptable working hours and finally a legally binding employment contract.
The situations in the factories are monitored in different ways. Firstly, all factories are visited by the Corporate Social Responsibility Manager Valerie Geluykens and by the JBC Sourcing & Production Manager. In this way, they can adequately estimate the situation and discuss any possible improvements with the factory owner or supplier.
“In addition to these visits to the production locations, audit reports are also requested because that can provide an additional evaluation of the conditions in the factories,” according to Valerie. For example, suppliers must send photos of the “worker information sheet” in their factories. This contains information about the employees' rights and a complaints line (a way for the employees to reach JBC themselves in case of problems).
JBC not only assesses the production sites, but it also tries to improve the working conditions. JBC can do this by entering into two partnerships with the Bangladesh Accord and the Fair Wear Foundation. They provide training to managers and employees in the production locations.
Since the establishment of the family charter in 1985, JBC has emphasized respect and corporate responsibility. JBC has always been a family business. They chose to create a family charter with values they considered important. "The fact that the family considers respect and sustainable entrepreneurship important has long been woven into the company," CSR Manager Valerie Geluykens stated during the interview. In the late 1990s, JBC started designing clothing itself, which meant that they had to look for producers: "Ann Claes went to the Far East herself to find producers. She thought it was crucial that they not only could make clothing, but it was important that the supplier also represented the value of JBC and respected the working conditions in the factory ".
JBC continues to push itself to this day to take better steps in sustainable business: "It is not that we are a 100% sustainable company, but it is already in many flares of the company". "Engaging and investing in fairer fashion was and will be an important part of our business in the future.” “We firmly believe that investing in sustainable business is investing in a better future for people that make our clothes, and remains the basis for the sustainable entrepreneurship from JBC,” added Valerie.
JBC's method of scanning suppliers in other parts of the world has a significant impact on employees and consumers on the one hand and efficiency and costs on the other. First of all, sustainability and the scanning of suppliers impact the choice to join JBC. “Two-thirds of the people who apply to JBC choose JBC because of the sustainability policy we pursue,” cites the CSR Manager. Therefore we can conclude that JBC is a flourishing enterprise. A flourishing company is a company whose employees mostly experience positive emotions on the work floor. Employees mainly choose JBC because their sustainability values align with JBC's choice to focus on sustainability. This leads to positive feelings on the work floor, such as employee motivation.
Subsequently, this innovation had a long-term impact on the company's customer loyalty. This impact can be explained by a changing marketing approach of the company itself during a specific period. Instead of offering many discounts to customers, JBC tried to make the customer more aware of the company's values, such as sustainability, including scanning suppliers. This changed marketing approach taught the company that customers are looking for a company that represents the same values as them, with the result that consumers are more loyal to the brand. This is also an example of flourishing. Consumers experience positive feelings because they can buy products that meet their sustainability requirements.
Another long-term effect is increased efficiency. This is a result of tackling the organization. One example is the new method for scanning suppliers, which ensures that they work with suppliers who meet their requirements. This allows JBC to inspect the samples more quickly via 3D models or video images instead of wasting time by having the samples transported to Belgium. The efficiency of the production process is, therefore, improving very rapidly. Not only does scanning suppliers increase efficiency, but the company also saves costs. For example, the transport costs for transferring the samples to Belgium disappear. In the long term, we see that sustainability, including the scanning of suppliers, can also save costs.
According to Valerie, there are a couple of advantages to sustainable entrepreneurship. It has been mentioned before that clients offer more loyalty to the product and JBC. There is also an impact on the company. Valerie said: “All the employees are really loyal and involved. Therefore, they also feel more like an ambassador for JBC”. That is why the staff members have the feeling that, in terms of value, they are also linked to the company and not only because they have an employment contract. “They don’t say that they have that kind of shirt or pants, but they do talk about what we, JBC, are doing around the responsible business,” according to Valerie. This shows that JBC is a flourishing enterprise. The entire company has a sustainable mindset, which means that sustainability is also in the employees' self-esteem. Hence, they are more motivated to implement it in the company.
JBC is not the cheapest because of their choices for specific suppliers. They look for sustainable fabrics, work with organic cotton instead of using cotton, or don’t use certain fabrics and this, of course, impacts the price level and the position that JBC occupies in the market. Furthermore, Valerie stated: “JBC does not let goods fly in but are using a boat, which also results in additional costs. That is why goods arrive later in the shops". These are conscious strategic choices to stay close to the family Claes' ideals, which somehow compensate for themselves. This makes it clear once again that JBC is a flourishing company. They are convinced that the positive consequences have a higher impact than the additional costs.
Subsequently, not much has changed in terms of turnover since the decision on sustainable entrepreneurship. “In recent years, they have given more importance to marketing to promote the value of JBC. This, in turn, has resulted in customer loyalty,” confirmed by Valerie.
For JBC, personal contact with suppliers is an essential part of sustainability management. Issues related to sustainability are mainly global; through the suppliers, you automatically impact countries such as China, Bangladesh, etc. In such countries, you work as a Western company and try to give value, just like your mother and father used to do. That is why JBC does not work with suppliers where child labor, human trafficking, or modern slavery are present. JBC is called a scalable innovation. JBC searches for suppliers who fully agree with the character of JBC. JBC wants to expand these standards and values on a large scale. Valerie has also repeatedly indicated that they ask in advance to send a magazine with working conditions, actually a kind of audit. "If they give it and show it fairly quickly, it's usually okay; if it's difficult, you know in advance that it's not right," Valerie added. That is why JBC is in close contact with the suppliers to help them - if necessary - to discuss, explain, or overcome certain human rights and environmental issues. This shows that scanning suppliers are a radical innovation.
Long-term partnership, transparency, and 'the will to improve' are the JBC sustainability vision keywords. When one of these factors is missing, JBC reconsiders the relationship with a supplier because they cannot support JBC on its way to a sustainable supply chain. By attaching enormous importance to screening their suppliers, JBC only wants to work with suppliers that meet particular objectives. These are mainly numbers 8, 16, and 17 of the goals for sustainable development. Local employees' working environment in developing countries must be as healthy and safe as possible to encourage them in their work. JBC believes that great strides can be made in this way. They are, therefore, not afraid of regulations relating to sustainability policy. Moreover, this positive influence will increase GDP and greater economic productivity in countries like China and Bangladesh.
Valerie Geluykens, Corporate Social Responsibility Manager
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Business Website: https://www.jbc.be
Year Founded: 1975
Number of Employees: 1001 to 5000
JBC is a Belgian family business founded by Jean-Baptiste Claes, later Ann and Bart, his children, joined the company. JBC has been an established name in the fashion world for more than 40 years. They want to be as close as possible to their customers. With their 145 stores spread across Belgium, Luxembourg, and Germany and a few E-shops, it seems successful.
Also, JBC is a member of the Fair Wear Foundation, and they strive for better working conditions in the clothing industry, and they bring fair fashion at a fair price. JBC is also committed to offering sustainable clothing with respect for people & the environment because the fashion industry is the second most polluting industry globally.
Furthermore, JBC is very focused on its mission, which is the thread running through its strategy. They are committed to customer intimacy and social responsibility, translating into long-term relationships with customers and suppliers. They only work with suppliers who match JBC's core values.