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Locally Produced: Is it better?

by Alex Sinanan |

So many brands around the world are turning to local manufacturing as a way to satisfy consumer’s drive to a more sustainable way of living. Modern consumers have become much more aware of the manufacturing process, while looking to take ownership of their own carbon footprint, and also not wanting to facilitate the cost-cutting antics of large corporations, like sweat-shop labor. 

But is shopping locally produced items always a guarantee of a better standard of product? Are the commitments they are making to serving their base with a more conscious option really having much of an effect on sustainability? 

Most people will most probably say yes to those questions, and with plenty of good reasons. However, there are also a few disadvantages that are also worth mentioning, and we will cover those as well.

 

Sustainability

One thing people are increasingly making decisions upon is the sustainability of products that they are purchasing, and whether the raw materials used in the process are environmentally damaging, either locally or globally. More often than not, the manufacturing process that products go through in out of country factories is detrimental to their local area, as factory owners strive to make their business as profitable as possible. Unfortunately, that often means cutting corners when it comes to things like waste disposal, as often the codes and regulations in the ‘big manufacturing’ nations are lapsed or non-existent. 

You only need to look at the carbon output for nations like India and China, and their corresponding air quality issues to understand that proper disposal of waste is of no concern to either their governments or their local manufacturing community. Both India and China both top the world numbers for annual pollution related deaths, both posting numbers up to 10 times higher than the next nation on the list. It’s testament to the increased awareness of consumers that they are beginning to understand the serious lack of care exhibited in these countries for their own citizens and people are turning their back on these practices. 

Another lesser known factor that has become much more prominent over the last few years is the pollution caused by the global shipping sector. While it’s possible to manufacture completely sustainably in another country, you still need to get those products to your market, and with current technology in shipping, that’s simply not possible. This practice accounts for 17% of global co2 emissions and climbing, a figure that simply has to be reduced in the global fight against climate change. 

Shopping locally produced products vastly decreases your carbon footprint and also sends a message to other retailers that it's time to change the way they look at their own products. The more people that choose to reject traditional manufacturing and make it clear that they are looking to brands that care more about our world and local economy, then the more brands will make that positive switch as drop in demand outweighs their cost-cutting outsourcing.


Quality

It’s important to understand the nature of overseas manufacturing when you’re looking at clothing and its quality. One of the issues most commonly experienced is difficulty in receiving a continuity of product and standards. Often with regards to many smaller brands, products are not being produced by their own factories, as the case can be with a large multinational. They are essentially outsourcing their manufacturing to an independent factory that produces products for countless other brands. They send designs and specifications to the factory, or a number of factories, they receive samples and prices, then agree a deal with the one that produces the best product, or the cheapest product. 

The problem arises when a few runs of products have been sent off without issue, the factory owners often use shady practices to cut costs of the product they are producing, whether that be by changing fabrics, using poorer quality threads, cutting safety checks, or any other way they can save money. Brands are then left with a difficult choice. Do they use the products and hope no issues arise with customers? Or do they sideline a large and costly order and write off their investment? And remember, they still have to be thorough enough to notice that this has happened. 

Locally manufactured products go through a much more rigorous quality-check process, whether it be because they are made ‘in-house’ or because they are made very close by. It’s much more difficult for a local producer to side-step brand’s quality requirements, mostly because it’s much easier to pursue someone legally in your own country, as they are well protected by the law, but also because in a much smaller market, reputation is everything. A public case of a manufacturer doing anything of this nature could be the end of any contracts from other brands in the future. 


Price

The only negative that you may associate with locally produced products is price. Although there’s a perception that local products are much more expensive, that’s certainly less true today than it was around a decade ago. Likely because global shipping is becoming ever more expensive. The industry is operating at its maximum level, and as it has become more and more clear that shipping cannot sustain much more expansion, and demand for shipping is still rising, this means that costs go up and people are being asked to pay more to ensure that their products keep moving. These costs then have to be passed on to the customer. 

It’s certainly not true even now that it is more cost-effective to locally produce products, but the difference is becoming smaller all of the time, especially with the effect that the global pandemic has had on the market, with costs 547% higher than the five year average, who can say whether the prices or the industry will ever make a recovery. 


Conclusion

So as you can see, the perception around whether locally produced is better is completely subjective and a matter of what you want from the products that you purchase. Our brand is geared to support a specific lifestyle and people that are conscious of the choices they make in their lives and products they buy.  We do not support overseas sweatshop labour and we will never use it. All of our products are manufactured ethically and sustainably in Canada and in Vancouver whenever possible. The Navas bamboo fabric is milled in Ontario, Canada and is one of the most sustainable forms of fabric there is - oh, and it’s also comfy as hell!

Navas is a hands-on company and we are present at every step of the process in order to be able to make ethical decisions at every step of the way and guarantee the utmost quality to our customers.