Acquiring a jute bags for life business has certainly opened our eyes to the printed “bags for life” market in the UK, especially the knock on effect it has on the Indian communities where jute bags are made. The entire process from growing jute, processing the raw fabric, manufacturing and finally shipping jute bags, is hugely important to the West Bengal region of India, as well as neighbouring Bangladesh.
Whilst the use of jute fabric has declined from its peak in the late 1950’s, the jute bag business has been given a massive boost in recent years. That’s a positive development for the region. Everyone wants a piece of the action, especially as consumers and governments alike begin to wise up to the destructiveness of plastic. But what happens when you drive down prices at the expense of those who depend on it for subsistence? Here are some of the reasons why WBC will never supply ‘bags for life’ at unsustainable prices.
A huge amount of work and effort goes into making what we often view as the very simplest of products. It is our belief that each element of the production chain should be fairly recompensed for their efforts. From the small subsistence farmers who grow jute on their land once a year, to the men who strip the jute fibres from their stalks. From the workers in the yarn factory turning jute strands into usable yarn, to the weaving factories, the dyers and laminators. There are the cutters, the printers and the stitchers, right down to the bags for life packers and shippers. The list of contributors is endless; all working to ensure the production of quality jute bags that are often sold in the UK for less than a pre-packed sandwich in a chain of coffee shops.
Without harping on too much about the cost of a jute bag, we’re wise enough to know that we live in a competitive world and everyone depends on buying at the best possible price. That said, the huge orders that supermarkets place have allowed them to drive down the prices they pay Indian suppliers, touting the orders around each year chasing the best possible price from the most desperate supplier.
Having had the opportunity to meet many key people in the Indian jute bag business, it’s become obvious to me that the only way these prices are achieved, is by cutting costs throughout the whole production process. Sadly, even then, the suppliers make little or no profit. The large UK retail orders once desirable 10 years ago, have now become a curse with agents refusing to pay invoices in full, spurious quality control claims for discounts, late shipping penalties imposed with no prior agreement. All in all a rather salutary tale, and one we want no part of.
When we started WBC we were all about championing the underdog; we still are. Supporting independent retail trade and our traditional base of customers who share our same values is something we’re proud of. But we need your help to make the jute bag business as ethical as possible and ensure that fair prices are paid throughout the supply chain. By paying fair prices for your bags for life you end up with far better jute bags and a customer that’s happy to pay for the quality. A win, win situation.
I’m pragmatic enough to realise that supermarkets play a part in most people’s lives; we all use them for everyday essentials. It’s not that we’re blinkered campaigners against supermarkets in general – in fact we admire the way Waitrose and Booths in particular, have built large successful businesses using local sourcing, quality, partnership principles etc – all of which we agree with. Our particular gripe is with the way some major chains have devalued bags for life in the UK by buying them over-aggressively and then selling them on at ridiculously low prices. It has no effect whatsoever on their overall profitability; it does have a huge effect on the other elements of the supply chain: people and companies in the jute bag business that can least afford it.
So apologies if it sounds like I’m banging on about it, but I think the principle is important and worth every consideration when choosing who to buy from. If not us, then at least be sure that whoever you do choose to make your ‘bags for life’ makes them responsibly. Be assured that when you choose WBC Bags For Life, we will keep prices as low as possible while ensuring we pay the Indian communities fairly. If you can’t afford to give these beautifully hand-crafted bags away for free, why not sell them instead? Tell your customer the story behind how they’re made and who makes them; and then ask for a fair price for them. Honesty, fairness, transparency and communication are values that differentiate you from the supermarket competition; there are certainly profits to be made in standing by them.
Visit bags for life if you’re interested in ordering printed jute bags. We print jute bags and cotton bags for life in the UK on 7 day turnaround; just in time for Christmas sales! Call us on 08000 85 85 95