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Kiwi eco footwear start-up Orba is funding a globally-recognised programme to support the sustainability and positive workplace practices of the small suppliers that craft materials for its shoes in Indonesia.

Orba, which makes the innovative biodegradable “Ghost” sneaker, is putting its money where its mouth is around ethical practice in manufacturing, It has engaged with Sustainable Competitive and Responsible Enterprises (SCORE) through an Indonesian provider. The scheme is an International Labour Organisation (ILO) global programme to improve productivity and working conditions in small and medium enterprises in emerging economies.

Orba Sustainability Manager Gillian Boucher says while their main supplier and many of their material and product suppliers are already practicing high standards and are accredited, two important smaller suppliers – traditional hand-loom weavers and natural fabric dyers based in Bali – lacked the finances for expensive eco-certification.

“These are small, family-run businesses making beautiful garments using traditional Balinese methods. Rather than replace them with alternative suppliers, we’re instead investing in their growth, by funding the SCORE programme for them,” she says.

“Our main manufacturer is already Business Social Compliance Initiative (BSCI) compliant. That means they meet very high criteria in working conditions. Many of our material and product suppliers are also third-party eco-certified, such as Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS). This means we’re confident knowing that all practices from farming and cultivation to manufacturing, are ethical and sustainable. By adding in our small, traditional suppliers in Bali, we are ensuring we apply these important ethics right across our business and supply chain, as well as help those small traditional businesses to grow sustainably”.

The SCORE programme’s focus on transparency, good working environments, as well as fair wages and working hours align with Orba’s philosophies, Gillian says. “We believe in local economic development and supporting sustainable growth in the communities that we work in. Apparel and footwear brands are too often associated with exploitation and inequality of their workforce, and we want our workers to feel proud to be a part of Orba and this journey”.

The business, which recently won both international and national sustainability and design awards just a few months after launching, sees the initiative as so important it hadn’t even sold a single pair of shoes when it committed to funding the programme.

Orba sneakers are made using almost entirely plant-based materials and are designed to biodegrade at the end of their natural lifespan, meaning they don’t contribute to the proportion of the 20 billion shoes produced around the world every year that eventually end up in landfill.


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Glenn Baker

Glenn is a professional writer/editor with 50-plus years’ experience across radio, television and magazine publishing.


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