Dominic Winter, of Neal’s Yard Remedies, explains what the health and beauty company looks for in a supplier
Neal’s Yard Remedies opened its first shop 30 years ago in London, and this independent, family-owned, ethical, organic health and beauty company now boasts more than 80 shops, concessions and therapy rooms across 21 countries.
The branded aprons and T-shirts worn by in-store staff are from Cotton Roots. This clothing manufacturer and garment decorator in Hanslope, north of Milton Keynes – whose motto is ‘Clothing with moral fibres’ – offers a range of Fairtrade and organic decorated clothing. The navy, made in the UK, organic aprons are embroidered while the WRAP-certified, long-sleeved T-shirts are screen printed. (Cotton Roots is currently looking into manufacturing long sleeve, organic T-shirts for the company). The colour scheme of white decoration on navy garments echoes the brand’s famous blue bottles, explains Dominic Winters, sustainability manager for Neal’s Yard Remedies.
The company will occasionally source other decorated garments for events and promotions on a case-by-case basis. According to Dominic, the main factors influencing the choice of garment decorator are quality, appearance and price, as is to be expected in a retail environment. “Ethical aspects are key for us, however, whether sourcing garments, ingredients for products or any other requirement,” he explains. “The use of organic natural fibres is a priority, and fair trade-certified is also preferred. Other ethical considerations include avoiding animal cruelty, which is important to both our customers and us. This precludes the use of standard silk, for example.”
Accreditations and certifications are important to Neal’s Yard Remedies, he adds: “Trusted third party verification is the best way to ensure our purchases are ethical, and in turn allow us to assure to our customers that our products and operations are too. This means accreditations such as organic and fair trade are therefore hugely important to us.
“Made in Britain labels indicate the product is likely to be contributing to jobs and community in the UK, and is also reassuring from a quality standpoint. Our biggest interest in ‘Made in the UK’ (or Europe) is the reduction of travel miles in manufacture for environmental reasons.”
As with most customer-facing organisations, having a recognisable brand is very important, confirms Dominic, noting that branded garments play a part in this. He does, however, point out that Neal’s Yard Remedies would rather have unbranded garments than unethical ones.
The company has been using Cotton Roots since September 2015. “We chose the company because they represent good quality, and adhere to our views on ethical trading,” says Dominic. “We tend to stick with pre-existing suppliers where possible, as we value long-term relationships. We make sure to thoroughly check the ethical credentials of every supplier that we deal with, whether we are purchasing leaflets at a penny each, or rose oil at thousands of pounds a kilo. If a supplier represents good quality and value, but we cannot be sure that they are certified organic and/or fair trade, then we will look elsewhere. Our purchasing department makes most of our purchasing decisions, with reference to our purchasing policies.”
For garment decorators looking to supply a company with similar ethics, Dominic says: “Our values are incredibly important to us, so if you can’t give the proper assurances that you share these values in the way that you work, we simply won’t do business with you. We will never sacrifice our commitment to ethical purchasing in order to save money.”