Guru Case Series: Ms. Teresa Yang (Esquel Group)

It is important to be prepared for the unexpected

The market volatility is not looking to be stabilized in the near term. Even after the pandemic, entrepreneurs are still on edge because of the risks associated with climate change, geopolitical issues and the overall downturn of global economy. Can integrating sustainability into the business be a way to help business owners stay afloat under this rapidly changing business environment?

In this episode of Guru Case, we are honored to have Ms. Teresa Yang, Vice Chairman of Esquel Group to share with us on how Esquel Group, one of the leading companies in the textile and apparel manufacturing industry, maintains profitability while keeping their company’s purpose – ‘Making a Difference’ close to heart. This purpose manifests in the company’s efforts in establishing a sustainable development committee in 2013, focusing on four areas – Planet, People, Community and Product; pioneering the waterless dyeing technology to mitigate water pollution, one of the main culprits of the industry; developing the ‘Integral’ in Guilin, a factory base that combines sustainability and scientific research elements, it is also a key milestone of Esquel’s transformation story. Teresa also shared on how the ‘prepared for the unexpected’ mentality pivoted the company to think ahead and invest in human resources and technologies, in order to enhance business resilience in the long-run.

(Please see below for detailed question and content list)

00:00 – 01:03Introduction
01:03 – 7:09Corporate Governance
1) Esquel established a sustainable development committee in 2013, which formulated the regulatory strategies and corresponding measures. Could you share with us the governance directions, in particular on how sustainability is integrated into the company’s decision-making process?
2) Esquel Group has selected 9 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that are most relevant to the business. What were the criteria when choosing these goals? Who are the stakeholders involved in this selection process?
3) Esquel Group is a non-listed company, and it is not regulated to disclose ESG data. What are the reasons that prompted the company to enhance the transparency in this area?
4) In recent years, the market has experienced numerous unpredictable fluctuations, such as global health crisis, climate change and political instability, making it more challenging for companies to manage risks and opportunities. Do you think integrating sustainability into the business will be a way to stay afloat under this rapidly changing business environment?
7:10 – 11:43Workplace Culture
1) What is the key to promoting a friendly working environment, effective communication and cross-cultural collaboration among employees to achieve ‘One Esquel, One Team’?
2) Is the annual graduation ceremony equivalent to the Esquel Academy? What are the goals of establishing Esquel University?
11:43 – 15:47Customer Supplier Relationship
1) Esquel’s supply chain traceability tool enables comprehensive data monitoring of every step from cotton growing to product retailing. How does this system impact on the management of upstream and downstream activities?
2) The fashion industry is known for its ever-changing dynamic. How does Esquel Group communicate the sustainable development goals with your clients and for them to agree on the values of these goals?
15:48 – 23:33Resources Management
1) From cotton field to fashion, could you share with us how the 5R principles are integrated into the production processes?
2) Esquel pledges to achieve net-zero emissions no later than 2050. Could you share with us how the company reduces resource use and GHG emissions?
23:33 – 30:06Innovation
1) Sustainable initiatives require significant investment. How do you persuade the management and shareholders to work towards this direction?
2) What sustainable elements and scientific research infrastructure are integrated into the ” Integral” project? How does it align with the company’s overall strategy?
3) Esquel Group founded the Integral Conversation in 2014, which brings together over 300 sustainability experts from various fields globally each year under different themes. What are the purposes of developing this knowledge exchange platform?
30:06 – 31:10Conclusion
1) Could you provide some suggestions to small and medium-sized business owners on how to enhance business resilience while accelerating the transition to sustainable development?