On this Earth month

On this Earth month

April is a time for reflection and celebration of Earth Month. We stop, sit back and make mental notes of everything we have been able to accomplish with a few simple rules. We put together a Q&A to speak to the methods and values that have taken us this far and aligning with our 10 year anniversary.

A few years back, when a friend asked us about our company plans to support Earth Day we had no answer. Somehow we had this idea that we had to be perfect to be truly sustainable.  It just felt bigger than us (no pun intended!). In the years since we’ve discovered it feels that way for a lot of people.  And that’s precisely why Earth day is so important to honor.  It’s is meant to remind us. We took away with an age-old bit of common sense we’d somehow forgotten: all progress, no matter the scope, is valuable. In other words, what we were doing was already valuable and most importantly, we could get better at it.

If you want people to love and respect the work they do, you have to be more than just an employer. 

Daniel Lantz

Tell us about your personal viewpoint on sustainable business. How do you incorporate sustainability into your business model?

Daniel: We began in our apartment. In those days our ideas about sustainability were not lofty. A  waste not want not mentality was a basic matter of survival. It made good business sense at the time and it still does. As we’ve grown we’ve expanded on it but the principles have not changed.

We have always strived towards sustainability in our operations at Graf Lantz. To us, sustainability is a core piece of doing ethical business–it’s not just a lofty goal to strive for if and when it’s convenient. Sustainability includes environmental responsibilities at both a sourcing and manufacturing level.  But it also extends into our place in the community: fair labor practices, paying a living wage and participating in positive social change (as opposed to just being an employer in a brick and mortar factory).

I know that’s a pretty ambitious statement, so I’ll narrow down some specifics, starting with the environmental question. By design, Graf Lantz is a vertically integrated business. We can monitor the production process at almost every touchpoint. That means we can work strategically all the way from design to materials sourcing to manufacturing, marketing and distribution. We can deliberately choose and source materials–like merino (wool, which is 100% biodegradable). We can also choose our suppliers based on demonstrated fair labor practices.

For the Graf Lantz brand name, quality goes beyond just superior output. Clearly, we love making great products with exceptional craftsmanship. But we can also bring higher standards to both the process and people that give life to our designs. It’s a point of pride for us.

More importantly, it just makes good business sense.

To you, in 2018, what does the ideal American factory look like?

Daniel: Well, yes, that’s a pretty ambitious question for two guys and a workforce of 20, but let me outline some principles.

Beyond the environmental principles I mentioned, we take our responsibility as employers very personally.  It starts with our paying a living wage. But really, that’s just a cornerstone.

We want a workspace of happy, healthy people. We like knowing everyone in-house, being on a first-name basis, and saying yes to earlier clock-ins and clock-outs so that our workers can spend time with their kids or stay involved with their schooling. We have no interest in being a mass-production factory line or imposing a one-size-fits-all approach to work hours. Holger and I–and many people–have seen the result of other factories trying to standardize people like they are machine parts, and it’s not pretty. They might squeeze an extra tenth of a penny from every dollar, but they’ll lose that profit in demoralized workers and high turnover.

If you want people to love and respect the work they do, you have to be more than just an employer. We want to be a place of pride and real camaraderie.

How are you moving forward to make better decisions and work environment?

Daniel: By staying vigilant and by keeping our commitments to best practices as employers. We push for fair labor practices in all of our suppliers and trade partners. Of course, promoting those principles starts here in Los Angeles, at our factory.  We set high standards in-house, and that starts with quality leadership based on open communication. Beyond paying a living wage, we’re offering more health care options in 2018. We are looking to use contests to incentivize creativity in all aspects of productivity and waste reduction. It comes with plenty of challenges so the adventure is going to be how we will maintain and grow it on the same basic principles that got us here. Wish us luck. We’ll keep you posted in the meantime. Thanks for reading.

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