Fantastic elastic: Moyne Perera
Stretchline Holdings’ COO Moyne Perera isn’t afraid of tough challenges – in fact he’s built his career in the narrow fabric industry by tackling them head-on and succeeding.
If ever an executive challenged his way into a role, it was Stretchline Holdings’ COO Moyne Perera. "I think that I was given this opportunity because I kept offering alternative perspectives as solutions to the challenges we were facing. Eventually, the previous CEO and my mentor, Timothy Speldewinde, said, ‘Why don’t you run it then?’" he laughs.
In his two decades with the leading textile manufacturer, it wasn’t the first promotion he’d earned in such a manner. "If you look at my career progression, every two years on average, I have been promoted into more challenging roles for creating stakeholder value," he continues.
Considered the only global brand of elastics, with over 150 years of experience, Stretchline supplies narrow performance fabrics to global lingerie and activewear brands such as Victoria’s Secret and Nike. A three-way joint venture between Stretchline (UK), MAS Holdings (Sri Lanka) and Brandot International (US), the company currently has manufacturing sites in Sri Lanka, China, Indonesia, Mexico, Honduras, the US and the UK, and offices in the UK, the US and Hong Kong – where Moyne is based. He first joined Stretchline in the capacity of Color Manager Sri Lanka in 2002. In 2010, he was made COO China and became the East Asia Region CEO in 2012. Last year, his appointment as COO marked his first global role in the company.
Along with a company culture he describes as "work hard, play hard," the challenges and opportunities are what keep him – and the 60 per cent-plus of employees that have been with the company for over a decade – motivated. "If you don’t challenge your teams in the work they do, it becomes less interesting and that’s when you lose people," he says.
If you don’t challenge your teams in the work they do, it becomes less interesting and that’s when you lose people.
Now, he’s been handed the toughest task to date. "We want to double our revenue in the next three years," Moyne explains. He is fortunate to be starting from a position of strong growth: "2021 was a good year for us," he says. When the pandemic first hit in early 2020, Stretchline found itself thrown into survival mode. Fortunately, the nature of its business meant the company was able to pivot its production towards elastics for personal protective wear, such as medical face masks and clothing. "About six months into the pandemic, we began to see demand like we had never seen before."
Stretchline’s global footprint came to the fore during this difficult time. "With locations in five countries on three continents, it was easier for us to manage our customer demand compared to others," Moyne says. "When one country was in lockdown, we were able to supply from another that was still open." For instance, when China was shut down at the height of the pandemic in the start of 2020, its Indonesia and Sri Lanka plants were able to soak up the workload and supply into the country.
Moyne explains that Stretchline’s presence in the region will be bolstered with expansions into Bangladesh and Vietnam in the next two years. On a global level, the company announced in February its acquisition of the Stretchline UK and US operations, which also brings three manufacturing sites in the UK and one in the US into its fold. It’s a move designed to reinforce Stretchline’s market-leading position in narrow elastics as well as allow it to enter new industries: haberdashery, law enforcement, defence, marine and furnishings are some of the ones the company has named.
Last year, now-company CEO Xavier Vidal unveiled its Made for Better strategy, which he described in a statement as an "ambitious 2025 target that will see us grow our leadership in sustainability and innovation as well as services to our customers and opportunities for our colleagues."
Environmental Social Governance (ESG) is an area of the business that Moyne is particularly passionate about – especially considering that, according to current data, the global textile industry is responsible for 10 per cent of all CO2 emissions. Textiles is also the second most water-intensive industry in the world, consuming 79 million cubic metres of water a year. "As organisations, we have a great responsibility to uphold and influence better practices in manufacturing," he says. "And, as leaders, we hold the key in making the decision to always do the right thing and to not only be led by financial performance but also to create value to all stakeholders by having a strong sustainability-driven DNA. It’s now time for us to act."
As leaders, we hold the key in making the decision to always to the right thing and to not only be led by financial performance but also to create value to all stakeholders by having a strong sustainability-driven DNA.
After all, Moyne continues, organisations that have strong sustainability practices at their core not only achieve high scores in ESG but also in financial performance. Research shows that companies that are deeply embedded in better ESG practices outperform their peers by 21 per cent on ESG and profitability.
Sustainability is far from a new topic for the business and Stretchline has long led the way in terms of concrete actions. "About 10 years ago, we made a decision to reduce our consumption of water, how we make use of it, how we disperse it and how we manage our chemicals and the environment and the impact on society around us," Moyne says.
As a company standard-bearer, its Chinese plant is as close to zero-pollutant as a plant can get. Along with re-engineering its dying process to reduce water usage by 40 per cent, the business has also implemented ESG-friendly initiatives such as zero hazardous chemical management processes, reverse osmosis systems and energy management systems as basic as green walls to act as insulation as well as to absorb hazardous gases and release oxygen into the environment. As it stands, 70 per cent of the factory is covered in green walls. The group has also invested in biogas, sulphur traps for boilers and solar power. Process-driven best practices will be shared across the company’s global locations as it aims to reduce its emissions by 25 per cent by 2025.
Across his career, Moyne has learned to appreciate that there are certain traits a leader must display. "Accepting failure to be a part of success and to eliminate the fear of it is one. Another is that a company hierarchy should not be articulated by positions of power but positions of tools and skills where collectively is how you win," he says.
He also knows that to sit in a position of leadership, you need to be a visionary and a strategist. "It’s about having the ability to drive a team towards a vision," he says. "But rather than a compass showing a direction, as a magnet that pulls people towards the vision in a manner that’s both motivating and inspiring to the majority, if not all of, the workforce."