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T.S. Designs Focusing on People, Planet, and Profitability

(May 2006) posted on Tue May 02, 2006

Discover why the company decided to go green and what actions it's taken to make eco-friendly screen pritning sustainable.

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By Lori Leaman

"We saw the writing on the wall when we learned about NAFTA and realized we're not going to be a low-cost producer," Henry says. "Unfortunately, a lot of consumers only look at price, especially when dealing with brands. They want to sell the image, not the product behind the image."

T.S. Designs responded by seeking ways to distinguish itself from competing textile printers. Five years ago, Sineath and Henry met with Sam Moore, long-time friend and vice president of research and development at Burlington Chemical Co., Burlington, NC. Moore, also an adjunct professor at Elon University, where he teaches courses on sustainability, suggested that T.S. Designs adopt a sustainable, or triple-bottom-line, philosophy of running business. The focus shifted from how much money the business would make to determining its responsibilities to employees, society, and the environment.

"The way we have interpreted the triple-bottom-line philosophy into our mission statement is that we want to be a successful business by simultaneously looking after our people, profits, and the planet," Henry says. "We have to measure everything we do as a business to that."

This philosophy forced T.S. De-signs to carefully consider all aspects of its processes and technologies and their potential negative impact on society. The "Three Ps" approach serves as a checks-and-balances system for Sineath and Henry when they make decisions. The approach compels Henry, who represents the planet element of the philosophy, Sineath, who represents the profits, and another principal, who represents the people, to answer to each other and consider how decisions will affect all three aspects of the company's mission.

"It makes people pull together rather than lobby for their position," Sineath says. "It serves as a guiding mechanism. And sometimes the three-legged stool leans on one leg more than the others."

The company began its journey of sustainability by first changing its inventory to only natural, unbleached, organic-cotton shirts that could be printed with water-based inks (Figure 2). The company also formed relationships with apparel suppliers a little closer to home. Henry stresses the importance of resisting the temptation to go outside of your market for products or services that can be delivered locally or domestically.


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