Monday, May 11, 2009

The king of denim

Last week, I had the most enlightening conversation with the Director of Sustainability and the initiator of the Hong Kong Sustainable Fashion Business Consortium, (SFBC) Mr Pat Nie Woo (Pat to us Westerners).
Pat is the most charming of gentlemen and gave generously of his time and insights to assist me with a new initiative I am planning in the Israeli market. However, what really blew me away was the scope and depth of Pat's insights into how to get more people aware and moving towards a sustainable world which includes responsible and sustainable business practices.

Pat is a the Sustainability Director of a family owned six-sigma spinning and weaving business called
Central Textiles in Hong Kong. He is also third generation family engaged in the running of the business. CT is a major player in the Hong Kong textiles and apparel sector, and leads a range of sustainability initiatives. I reviewed the first CT Sustainability Report on – you can find my review here : and you can download the report here: . This is quite leading edge.

Pat described his journey as the founding member of the SFBC whose mission is as follows: " a group of Hong Kong based companies in the textile and apparel sector committed to promoting and increasing the use of sustainable practices across the fashion supply chain. " The Consortium comprises around 12 member companies who are engaged and committed to work together to drive processes in the textile supply chain which are impossible for one company to do alone. This total systems thinking and partnership-multi-stakeholder based approach is the most advanced expression of sustainable thinking today.

A few of Pat's quotable insights:

" A year or two ago, everyone presented new products as eco when it only related to the raw material , but why wasn't anyone talking about process? You have to work on the whole supply chain"
"The system is the problem – the system is not allowing a sustainable business model – everyone has to play a part to play in changing the system."
"At first we started out with great ideals, but if you don’t bring on the business case, the ideals get stuck!"

Well, Pat is certainly a guy who doesn’t let ideals get stuck, so next time you buy a pair of denim jeans, take a look and see if they came out of the sort of responsible and sustainable supply chain that Pat Nie Woo and his colleagues at the Sustainable Fashion Business Consortium are creating.

elaine cohen is the joint CEO of BeyondBusiness, a leading reporting and social-environmental consulting firm based in Israel. Visit our website at:

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