University of Delaware invests in South Africa’s sustainable textiles industry
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In a bid to improve South Africa’s flagging textile industry, the University of Delaware’s Department of Fashion and Apparel Studies is investing $20 million in a bid to make the industry more competitive, whilst minimising its environmental impact.
After the apartheid regime fell and international sanctions along with it, South Africa was flooded with cheap foreign imports, driving maany of those who couldn't compete out of business.
The fund will establish what will be known as the Southern African Sustainable Textile and Apparel Cluster, which will focus on reducing the carbon footprint associated with every aspect of the supply chain, from field to retail.
The University of Delaware established the UD Sustainable Apparel Initiative in 2008, in an effort to pioneer environmental and social responsibility in the textiles industry on a global scale.
Experts and graduate students from the department have been offering their research expertise in order to advance the project, collecting data on labour standards, environmental practices, and supply chain operations. They will also be looking at the chain from a global perspective and monitoring the environmental impact of imported materials.
Marsha Dickson, Professor of Human Services and head of the fashion department said: “The goal of the competitiveness grant is to allow whatever is implemented to continue and thrive after we leave, so there’s a need to develop domestic expertise at universities there.”
The researchers noted that the strong trade union presence in South Africa enabled them to collect labour data easily, as well as to approach the issue itself with relative ease.
The University of Delaware funding an expertise could very well be exactly what the South African textile industry needs in order to compete at a global level; as businesses are increasingly finding, making a considered effort to save the environment often results in saving money in the long term.
5 minutes with... Janthana Kaenprakhamroy, CEO, Tapoly
Founder and CEO of award-winning insurtech firm Tapoly, Janthana Kaenprakhamroy heads up Europe’s first on-demand insurance platform for the gig economy, winning industry awards, innovating in the digital insurance space, and leading with inclusivity.
Here, Business Chief talks to Janthana about her leadership style and skills.
What do you do, in a nutshell?
I’m founder and CEO of Tapoly, a digital MGA providing a full stack of commercial lines insurance specifically for SMEs and freelancers, as well as a SaaS solution to connect insurers with their distribution partners. We build bespoke, end-to-end platforms encompassing the whole customer journey, but can also integrate our APIs within existing systems. We were proud to win Insurance Provider of the Year at the British Small Business Awards 2018 and receive silver in the Insurtech category at the Efma & Accenture Innovation in Insurance Awards 2019.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I try to be as inclusive a leader as possible. I’m committed to creating space for everyone to shine. Many of the roles at Tapoly are performed by women and I speak at industry events to encourage more people to get involved in insurance/insurtech. Similarly, I always try to maintain a growth mindset. I think it’s important to retain values to support learning and development, like reliability, working hard and punctuality.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
Build your network and seek advice. As a leader, you need smart people around you to help you grow your business. It’s not about personally being the best, but being able to find resources and get help where needed.
How do you see leadership changing in a COVID world?
I think the pandemic has proven the importance of inclusive leadership so that everyone feels supported and valued. It’s also shown the importance of being flexible as a leader. We’ve had to remain adaptable to continue delivering high levels of customer service. This flexibility has also been important when supporting employees as everyone has had individual pressures to deal with during this time. Leaders should continue to embed this flexibility within their organisations moving forward.
They say ‘from every crisis comes opportunity’, what opportunities do you see?
The past year has been challenging, but it has also proven the importance of digital transformation in insurance. When working from home was required, it was much harder for insurers to adjust who had not embedded technology within their operating processes because they did not have data stored in the cloud and it caused communication delays with concerned customers at a time when this communication should have been a priority, which ultimately impacts the level of customer satisfaction. This demonstrates the importance of what we are trying to achieve at Tapoly in driving digitalisation in insurance and making communication between insurers and distribution partners seamless.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
Start sooner, don’t be afraid to take (calculated) risks and make sure you raise enough money to get you through the initial seed stage.