Peri drysdale, founder and chief executive officer of untouched world, talks to Child Labor Free (CLF) about joining the journey to becoming child labor free certified.
What town did you grow up in?
I grew up in pristine stunning scenery of the Rakaia Gorge at the foot of the Southern Alps. Five miles away was our nearest thing to a town – this was a garage and a little school, which I walked and bussed to. At age eight I was off to boarding school in Christchurch.
Who is an inspirational leader you admire?
Howard Schultz, Founder and CEO of Starbucks. Now with over 20,000 stores, love or not love their coffee, he understood that he was creating an experience, not selling a product. Long ago he offered medical insurance to all employees, even part-timers, and gets involved in environmental and social projects that inspire and motivate both staff and customers.
When did you doors first open?
What is the biggest business challenge so far?
We have always been an exporter. The highly volatile kiwi dollar keeps us on our toes.
What is the first product your company specialised in?
Knitwear made from New Zealand grown fibers – merino, mohair and cashmere.
What is the topline item your company has produced?
Our topline item is the Untouched World Kapua range of knitwear and accessories. This is made from the downy winter undercoat of the possum blended with Cashmere. Uber luxury.
How well do you know your supply chain?
We produce most of our knitwear ourselves at HQ in Christchurch, New Zealand. For other knit or apparel garment production we, or a representative will have been to visit the producer. Suppliers including those of components and business operation are required to fill out a questionnaire about their business so we can assess their fit with our supply chain policies.
What are you hoping to achieve by creating an ethical and sustainable product?
The planet can’t sustain its current trajectory environmentally. Poverty and environmental degradation have to be tackled in tandem. One can’t be solved without the other. The clothing industry is one of the top three polluters on the planet – up there with oil and agriculture. 25% of chemicals produced worldwide are used for textiles and the textile industry. Much of the world’s clothing is made where farmers and workers commonly make less than a living wage and benefit from very little social protection. This is unsustainable. Our goal has been to carve a way forward creating desirable high quality clothing and items that are positive environmentally and socially, and to use profits from this to deliver leadership for a sustainable future programmes for young adults through the Untouched World Charitable Trust.
What does Child Labor Free mean to you?
Children are pressed into working to help families survive. Child Labor Free is much deeper than simply ‘no child labour in this garment’ (or product). It presupposes that the garment is made by individuals receiving a fair wage, such that their children don’t need to work for the family to survive. The next step is making sure that education is available to these children.