TS Designs Brings Triple-Bottom Line to T-Shirts

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TS Designs


Triple-Bottom Line Focused Screen Printing




Profitable and sustainable screen printing


Originally founded in 1977 as small screen printing shop, Burlington, NC-based TS Designs quickly grew in scale; the small company found itself printing shirts for major brands like Gap, Nike, and Polo. Changes in the labor market in the 1990s, mainly brought about by the introduction of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1993, disrupted TS Designs’s successful business model, forcing the company to reevaluate its priorities.

Instead of continuing on with large-scale screen printing, TS Designs decided to focus on the triple-bottom line, a business philosophy that takes social, environmental, and economic aspects into account during daily operations.  This led to the introduction of the first  sustainability initiatives for the company, which have now come to define its business today. One of TS Design’s newest products that showcases this commitment is its Cotton of the Carolina’s Organic T-Shirts, which are sourced entirely in the state of North Carolina. Initially, TS Designs had to sell the idea to cotton farmers because organic cotton hadn’t previously been grown in North Carolina .  The fibers are spun and assembled locally, as well. The whole process is detailed on TS Design’s website, where users can track an individual shirt’s journey through the supply chain with an online code.

TS Design’s other products show the same level of concern for sustainability, using water-based inks in the dyeing process, while also using the previously mentioned organic and local cotton, or recycled materials. To add to this, everything that TS Designs sells is packaged in 100 percent post-consumer recycled materials. Not only do its products demonstrate a commitment to the environment, but its facilities do, as well – the manufacturing site also features an organic garden, beehives, a chicken coop, solar arrays, Interface carpet, LED lighting, water-free urinals, grey-water toilets, and skylights.  Check out TS Designs’s website for more information on great sustainability initiatives.

Drew Nitschke is a first-year graduate student at Duke University's Nicholas School of the Environment, working towards degree in Environmental Economics and Policy. He is especially interested in sustainability and how it relates to business of all sizes. He graduated from UCLA in June 2012 after...
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