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Behind The Scenes of Our Operations

In this post, we share in-depth information about our supply chain and business practices through the lens of the first two pillars of the Nisolo Sustainability Framework, which are People and Planet. To learn more about our framework in general or the other pillars (Transparency, Accountability, and Ecosystem Building), visit here.

We are a Certified B Corporation, and our executive team is required to evaluate each decisions’ impact on people and the planet. To ensure accountability, we’ve written this into Nisolo’s legal operating agreement and by-laws, which our executive team is required to comply with in order to remain in good, compensated standing with the company.

Yes, we take all of this very seriously. Let’s dive in!

People

Rather than continuing in the devastating direction the fashion industry is heading today, we envision it becoming a vehicle for eradicating poverty for hundreds of millions of the world’s most vulnerable people, and, in time, inspiring other industries to pull their stakeholders out of poverty as well. Making this a reality starts by demonstrating it can be done across our own value chain.

We are committed to providing living wages and actively protecting the labor and human rights of all of our producers across our supply chain from our Tier 1 factories to our Tier 4 farms and everywhere in between. In addition, we are committed to ensuring representation of producers and manufacturers’ voices in our conversations about workers’ rights as well as our vision for the company. Our CEO and our Sustainability Lead visit all of our manufacturing facilities and have personally spent extensive time with shoemakers and producers on the factory floor. From time to time, you will see live interviews highlighting the experiences of People within our supply chain across our social media channels such as the ones we’ve done in the past of our CEO and our Sustainability lead interviewing several long-time shoemakers in Peru. To us, producers and shoemakers play a central role in determining our practices and programming through expressing feedback to leadership about how we can improve as separate entities and as an interconnected supply chain.

Apart from these in-person visits, to date, we have done thorough social impact assessments of our Tier 1 factories to ensure that everyone is receiving a living wage and working in a safe and healthy work environment where they can thrive. Tier 1 is in good shape, yet we have a long way to go beyond that. Over the next two years, we will audit the social practices of all of our tanneries and raw material suppliers, and we will execute our plan to ensure they have a positive impact on their workers and dependents.

With that said, let’s unpack some of what we know today:

Our Factories

We currently produce our footwear and accessories in 4 total factories.

CREATRA

  • Location: Trujillo, Peru
  • # of workers: 78
  • Average monthly wage: $427.64
  • Lowest monthly wage: $315.53
  • % of workers receiving an individual living wage: 100%
  • To learn more about living wages in our supply chain, see this post.
  • Average work week: 45 hours
  • Overtime hours: Overtime work is voluntary and compensated at a higher rate. Creatra does not ask for overtime except in preparation for the holiday season when they request an average of 10 overtime hours per week. 60 hours is never exceeded during this production season per requirements from the ILO and our Supplier Code of Conduct.
  • Health & Safety violations: 0
  • Incidences of discrimination / abuse: 0
  • Additional highlights:
    • We own and operate this factory, which is highly unusual in the fashion industry, and we manufacture more products here than at any other factory in the world.
    • Solar powered and complete with an indoor soccer facility inside the factory walls, we built and scaled this facility with a dream factory vision in mind that we hoped would demonstrate what the industry could become if others followed suit.
    • In addition to living wages, we provide healthcare, bonuses, social security contributions, paid time off, professional development opportunities, discounts at local universities where producers can receive continued education, livelihood training on personal finance, preventative health, physical health, and emotional health, and a salary advance program for emergencies.
    • We have systems in place to ensure high standards of health and safety and governance and workers’ rights are met.
    • We’ve established a profit sharing program where producers receive a percentage of the factory’s profits each year, and we also give a monthly stipend to all producers with dependents to support them with their household expenses.
    • Our current satisfaction rate among producers at the factory is 90% and, as we grow, we plan to hire more people to create an even greater social impact within this community.
    • We aim to reduce and eliminate waste in manufacturing, and Creatra developed strategies to reduce waste percentage in leather scraps by 1.0% from 2020 to 2021, a figure we expect to decrease further in years to come.
    • We measure, reduce, and offset 100% of our carbon emissions from this facility.


ARTIGIANO

  • Location: León, Mexico
  • # of workers: 42
  • Average monthly wage: $314.31
  • Lowest monthly wage: $226.13
  • % of workers receiving an individual living wage: 100%
  • To learn more about living wages in our supply chain, see this post.
  • Average work week: 45 hours
  • Overtime hours: None are requested
  • Health & Safety violations: 0
  • Incidences of discrimination / abuse: 0
  • Additional highlights:
    • Artigiano is a 4th generation, family-owned factory and one of the first to export products to the United States from Mexico.
    • Many of their workers have been at the factory for 15+ years, and they boast a low turnover rate.
    • In addition to living wages, Artigiano provides paid time off and includes healthcare, social security, and home payment subsidies into their workers’ salaries. Typically, this is deducted, so it’s a significant benefit to the worker.
    • In the words of the factory owner, “I would never hire someone to work in my factory for the minimum wage. It's not nearly sufficient enough to live by...For me, a fair wage is a wage that guarantees my employees receive more than they spend on their fixed costs. They should have some disposable income as well. And apart from having housing and food, they should be able to support their children through school and go on vacation as well.”
      29% of Artigiano’s leadership team are women.
    • Artigiano has systems in place to ensure high standards of health and safety and governance and workers’ rights are met.
    • Artigiano is planning on installing solar panels in the near future, which we are honoring by granting them preferred supplier status, actively strategizing to increase production within this facility.
    • We measure, reduce, and offset 100% of our carbon emissions from this facility.

SALAMANDRA

  • Location: León, Mexico
  • # of workers: 183
  • Average monthly wage: $299.40
  • Lowest monthly wage: $224.11
  • % of workers receiving an individual living wage: 100%
  • To learn more about living wages in our supply chain, see this post.
  • Average work week: 45 hours
  • Overtime hours: None are requested
  • Health & Safety violations: 0
  • Incidences of discrimination / abuse: 1 incident violated their employee code of conduct in July 2021. The human resources team took the necessary corrective actions as laid out in their protocol to fully address this incident. 0 incidents have occurred since that time.
  • Additional highlights:
    • In addition to living wages, Salamandra provides healthcare, bonuses, social security contributions, home payment subsidies, paid time off, professional development opportunities, in-factory medical health training and clinics, and opportunities for continued education.
    • Salamandra also hosts free classes for workers who have not completed their primary or secondary education to help them pass their GED equivalent test.
    • Salamandra has systems in place to ensure high standards of health and safety and governance and workers’ rights are met.
    • Salamandra’s leadership team is made up of 45% women and, in the future, the factory will be female owned and operated.
    • We measure, reduce, and offset 100% of our carbon emissions from this facility.

BLUE ARTISAN GROUP

  • Location: León, Mexico
  • # of workers: 132
  • Average monthly wage: $413.92
  • Lowest monthly wage: $246.57
  • % of workers receiving an individual living wage: 100%
  • To learn more about living wages in our supply chain, see this post.
  • Average work week: 48 hours
  • Overtime hours: None are requested
  • Health & Safety violations: 0
  • Incidences of discrimination / abuse: 0
  • Additional highlights:
    • In addition to living wages, BAG provides healthcare, bonuses, social security contributions, home payment subsidies, paid time off, professional development opportunities, in-factory medical health trainings and clinics, livelihood trainings on personal finance, preventative, physical, and emotional health, and opportunities for continued education.
    • BAG has systems in place to ensure high standards of health and safety and governance and workers’ rights are met.
    • BAG also hosts free classes for workers who have not completed their primary or secondary education to help them pass their GED equivalent test.
    • BAG is intentional about hiring women. In a leather industry that primarily employs men in León, 48% of BAG’s workforce are women and 43% of their leadership team are women.
    • While all workers across our factories have the freedom of association and collective bargaining, BAG is our only factory with an active union, which means that 30% of workers in our Tier 1 factories are covered by collective bargaining agreements.
    • Currently, 8% of our products are sourced from BAG.
    • We measure, reduce, and offset 100% of our carbon emissions from this facility.

OUR HEADQUARTERS

  • Location: Nashville, Tennessee
  • # of workers: 34
  • Average hourly wage: $35
  • Lowest hourly wage: $15
  • % of workers receiving an individual living wage: 100%
  • To learn more about living wages in our supply chain, see this post.
  • Average work week: 40 hours
  • Health & Safety violations: 0
  • Incidences of discrimination / abuse: 0
  • Additional highlights:

We are committed to protecting the human and labor rights of our direct and indirect employees in the US. We use MIT’s Living Wage Calculator to monitor and establish our direct and indirect employees’ wages. 100% of our retail store and distribution workers receive an individual living wage for Davidson County, Tennessee. We increased our wages on two separate occasions to ensure that our lowest wage exceeds the living wage. In 2020, we raised our lowest wage from $12 an hour to $12.40 an hour to meet the living wage. In 2021, when the living wage increased to $14.84 an hour, we increased our lowest wage from $12.40 an hour to $15 an hour. In addition to paying living wages, we provide professional development and career advancement opportunities to our team members through investing in job training and 1on1 coaching with professional business coaches. 100% of our models, photographers, photo assistants, and 3PL workers receive a living wage for Davidson County, Tennessee. Our lowest hourly wage for non-professional models (who are generally friends and who are paid less than our professional models) is $18.75 an hour + a free product of choice. Our lowest hourly wage for photographers is $100 an hour; Our lowest hourly wage for photo assistants is $39 an hour; and the lowest hourly wage at FedEx, our 3PL partner, is $17 an hour.

In 2020, we established a robust Racial Justice Plan of Action to leverage our business and its influence to help combat racism. We believe we have an opportunity to contribute toward progress within racial justice by pursuing antiracism as an organization. Historically, this is something we have done a very poor job of, and we still have a long way to go. Tactically, one of the most powerful tools of antiracism is education and learning. We are thoughtful and intentional in our personal pursuit of antiracism. We are open in sharing our journeys in an appropriate way, reflecting and learning individually and as a team as we move toward greater awareness of biases and work to break down barriers. We have developed and are in the process of executing a robust set of internal systems and processes that empower antiracist initiatives throughout the organization. Some of the objectives within this plan include these commitments: We seek to hire and be a diverse community of employees, with Black representation throughout the organization. We recognize that a pool of uniquely qualified candidates may not meet the criteria usually sought out in traditional job descriptions, and in addition to revising our recruiting approach on all fronts, we’ve been in contact with HBCUs and local community leaders in Nashville to create opportunities for historically marginalized communities. We seek to identify, connect with, uplift, and promote Black owned businesses who offer excellent products and services that our core customer base will love. We seek to strengthen our demonstration of a racially diverse community from a content perspective to our customers. We seek to strengthen relationships with the Black community in which we operate, both in Nashville and North Nashville, specifically, and aim to be actively involved in generating positive change and greater justice for Black people in Nashville.

Our Racial Justice Plan of Action is largely focused on enhancing our recruitment efforts and working environment to enable a more racially diverse organization, but we have a long way to go when it comes to company demographics and race. Currently, 20% of our executive team is African American (TN: 17%). 80% are white (TN: 78%). 60% of our executive team is male; 40% is female (TN: 49% male; 51% female). Whereas our executive team somewhat reflects Tennessee's demographics, we recognize the need to enhance representation within and throughout the organization at large, which is why we continually pursue our Racial Justice Plan of Action and have built it into the framework of the organization for the long-term.

Regarding benefits, Nisolo currently covers 60% of a full time employee's monthly cost of healthcare for those who choose to enroll in the Company’s plan, or around $150 per month for those who elect to maintain their own plan. Additionally, Nisolo contributes to an employee-owned HSA account each month in the form of $250 annually, or $20.83 / month. This account can be used to contribute towards medical expenses and annual deductibles. If employees separate from Nisolo, this money in the HSA goes with you. Nisolo regularly has team outings, offsites, and happy hours, etc. and is a small and flexible team that is open to varying work schedules where possible and embraces standard time off norms. Each year, full time staff members are allotted $500 retail value of free Nisolo product. Beyond this amount, staff can buy Nisolo products at a 50% discount for as much product as they would like to purchase for personal use. One person can be designated (typically a partner or family member) who can also receive 50% off Nisolo products for their personal use. Additionally, Nisolo partners with several like-minded brands, which offer deep discounts for Nisolo employees.

We know we have a long way to go on several fronts as we scale. Today, we remain an under-resourced, small company that is not yet profitable. However, we envision turning our headquarters into a ‘best place to work’ atmosphere in all, holistic aspects of the concept, ranging from Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion to compensation to company culture to benefits, etc., and we are striving to make significant progress each year in this pursuit along our path to scale.

Planet

We envision the fashion industry regenerating the natural environment instead of depleting it. And, we are committed to growing at a healthy rate that does not put the planet at risk. We believe Fashion can reverse its impact on climate change, and inspire other industries to do their part in saving the planet. In contrast to fast fashion’s “take, make, dispose” model, we believe in a “circular fashion” approach that takes environmental impact into account at all stages ranging from initial design, to the sourcing of materials, to manufacturing, to logistics to the final customer, to the end lifecycle of products post consumer use, and all steps in between.

In 2019, we ordered 90,773 products and emitted a total of 2,543 tons of CO2 throughout our supply chain. In 2020, we ordered 61,773 products, emitting, using apples to apples methodology, a total of 1,731 tons of CO2, representing a 31.95% decrease year over year. Each year, we offset 100% of our scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions through a 3rd party verified REDD+ conservation project in the Peruvian Amazon. In addition to making a public commitment to carbon reduction plans, we are measuring and offsetting 100% of the carbon emissions taking place in our supply chain all the way down to the farm level as a Climate Neutral Certified brand. To read more about our total carbon emissions and other statistics related to our environmental impact, see this post.

We offer preferred supplier status to our factories that have invested in renewable energy to curb their carbon emissions through shifting a greater share of production to those factories. Currently, Creatra powers 30% of its facility through solar panels on the roof of the factory, and Artigiano is in the process of purchasing and installing solar panels at their facility as well.

Raw Materials

100% of our leather is a byproduct of the meat industry. Defined as “an incidental or secondary product made in the manufacture or synthesis of something else,” we can be certain that leather is a byproduct because a cow hide is only 2.29% of the economic value of the entire animal (Source: United States Department of Agriculture, 2020). No cow would ever be killed for the exclusive purpose of creating leather. By using the hide, we play a role in diverting it from immediately ending up in a landfill. If these hides were not repurposed into leather, we would have a huge waste issue on our hands. An estimated 33 Million hides would go into landfills annually in the US alone. In this way, leather fits into the circular economy. It’s also incredibly durable, repairable, and recyclable for new products.

We do not use any oil-based materials or synthetics like polyester in our primary raw materials and are committed to never using plastic or fossil fuel based materials unless they are 100% recycled and recyclable at the end of their life.

Tanneries

Over the past 18 months, we have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars to completely rework Tier 2 of our supply chain in order to source from Leather Working Group (LWG) Certified tanneries that prioritize environmental responsibility. The majority of our leather comes from LWG Certified tanneries, which means they have been evaluated and certified for best practices against the following criteria: material traceability, environmental management system, restricted substances, energy consumption, water usage, air and noise emissions, waste management, effluent treatment, health, safety, and emergency preparedness, chemical management, and operations management. 100% of our leathers will be LWG Certified within the next two years.


Providing LWG Certified tanneries with our preferred supplier status has had a significant positive impact in the following areas:

  • Carbon emissions – LWG Certified tanneries monitor air emissions, as this is a critical part of LWG’s protocol. Tanneries detail all points of forced emissions to air (i.e. boiler stacks, spray machines, fume cupboards, etc.), in addition to the results of environmental aspects and impacts assessments made upon those emissions. In this way, we have invested in reducing and eliminating the negative health impacts of pollution along our value chain.
  • Water management and stewardship – LWG Certified tanneries must have operating permits in place depending on their geographical location when it comes to water consumption, usage, and discharge into local waterways. Tanneries undergo a re-audit every 2 years and are required, as part of the protocol, to provide water pollution data based on the previous months to show either an improved rating, or maintenance of a high standard of water quality, to enable them to remain LWG Certified.
  • Chemical management – LWG Certified tanneries are required to manage and dispose of their chemicals responsibly, and are aligned with our commitment to avoid the use of hazardous chemicals. We leverage vegetable tanning across several of our products, which is a less chemical intensive process to traditional tanning since it uses natural tannins.

Our shift towards working with LWG Certified tanneries and vegetable tanning has significantly reduced the chemical pollution that occurred in our supply chain when we sourced a much higher percentage of products from tanneries that did not have these 3rd party verified practices and systems in place, and this was a primary motivator for reshaping our supply chain and raw materials providers over the last few years.

We are working to enhance the level of auditing done both by internal and external parties to evaluate our supply chain. On this front, in Q4 of 2021 we learned that we had been misled by one tannery about their active Leather Working Group Certification status. They are 90% complete with the certification process now, and we have given them until April of 2022 to re-certify or we have pledged to remove their preferred supplier status and seek alternative suppliers.

Currently, our tanneries are located in León, Mexico, and include the following:

  • Lefarc; Wyny; Alfamex; Bengala; Acamex; Concurmex; Maccursa; Romo; Cisne; Chilla; Cobre; Caxamarca (located in Trujillo, Peru).

Farms, Processors, & Animal Welfare

We are committed to further evaluating our farms’ animal welfare policies and practices and will use our influence to support best animal husbandry practices. We have a strict commitment to never use exotic skins (i.e. ostrich, crocodile, kangaroo, elephant, lizard, snake, etc.), or fur for our products due to the historic animal rights abuses of these industries. We are committed to ensuring the wellbeing of the cattle within our supply chain, and we are committed to ensuring the Five Freedoms are met within our supply chain:

  • Freedom to express natural behavior
  • Freedom from injury and disease
  • Freedom from discomfort
  • Freedom from thirst and hunger
  • Freedom from fear and distress

We are working in collaboration with our tanneries to map 100% of our leathers back to the farm level. As of 2021, whereas we still have a long way to go on this front, we can map approximately 25% of our leathers back to the exact farm of origin. We do know that 100% of our leather is cow leather and a byproduct of the meat industry, and our suppliers have guaranteed that no deforestation is occurring within our supply chain.

Read more about our holistic approach to working with leather here.

While we are still learning more about the base of our supply chain in our pursuit to obtain a comprehensive list of Tier 4 suppliers, we know that our leather comes from Mexico and the United States (primarily Kansas & Nebraska), and include the following organizations whose facilities are located in the American Midwest: JBS, Cargill, and National Beef. You can learn more about these farms and their animal welfare policies at those respective links.

Packaging & Distribution

We measure and offset 100% of our upstream (factory to distribution center) and downstream (distribution center to customer) shipping, and have achieved reductions in shipping emissions by relying more heavily on ocean shipments vs. air. The majority of our packaging is made from recycled corrugated cardboard and is fully recyclable. We are in the process of overhauling our packaging to make it even more environmentally responsible, and from SS22 forward, we plan to utilize a single box instead of double boxing our products, which will cut our packaging materials and impacts in half when we compare 2021 to 2022.

Waste & Post Use Product Lifecycle

Currently, we resell all flawed and damaged products we receive back from customers or from our suppliers at a discounted rate to guarantee that everything we produce gets utilized. And, we are in the process of determining a resale strategy and platform to implement in 2022 that will accelerate and scale our ability to do this more effectively.

Our intention is to keep our products in use as long as possible, which is why we aggressively push the sales of our leather cleaning kits and products that better care for our goods. At the end of the product life, we encourage customers to recycle and dispose of their products responsibly when necessary. We offer leather care kits and upcycling services at 100% of our brick-and-mortar locations, and we incentivize customers to use these services by offering free shipping when they want to mail products in as well as $40-50 credit on future purposes when they recycle their footwear as part of our product reclamation program in partnership with Soles4Souls.

To learn more about our holistic approach to Sustainability, please visit this post.

We Want To Hear From You

Nisolo means “not alone.” It’s a tribute to the importance of relationships and our interconnectedness with one another and the planet. We welcome all stakeholders to learn about our business and its impact, so that we can work in collaboration to shift the industry in a more sustainable direction.

If there is an area of our business you have additional questions about as it relates to social and environmental responsibility, we want to make ourselves available to you. We know we have a long way to go, and we’d love to hear from you what you think we can be doing to further improve. We’d also love to hear what you think we’re doing well, as it’s tough work to compete with companies in our industry who intentionally cut corners on a regular basis.

Put simply, all news from you is good news to us, and we’d love to hear your feedback. If you’d like to contact us relating to our sustainability practices, please reach out directly to our Sustainability Lead, Matt Stockamp, at matt@nisolo.com.

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