Thursday, May 23, 2013

Victim 3: My Concert T's

I am a music festival junky. My husband and I attend several a year and every once in a while I splurge and purchase a tour shirt. My tour shirts, though not many, mean the world to me. I remember the shows I bought them at, the smiles, twirls and good times. It also feels good to support the bands by purchasing their merchandise. This is my current stack of shirts.

They comprise the following four brands:

First let's talk about Anvil. I found an entire section of their site devoted to "compliance" where I found this:

California Transparency in Supply Chains Act:

"To ensure that we meet or exceed our strict Code of Conduct requirements, we conduct a series of independent internal and third party audits each year, ensuring our commitment to responsibility for our employees, customers and other stakeholders. In 2012, 142 monitoring audits were performed. Of these, 90 were conducted by Gildan's internal auditors or by external auditors on Gildan's behalf, and 52 were conducted by external auditors or assessors for WRAP, the FLA, Better Work or by customers…Gildan audits all of its owned and contracted manufacturing facilities yearly. All Gildan audits are unannounced. The majority of the audits are conducted by our trained internal auditors and we also use independent third party auditors in some instances. We are also subject to audits from some of our customers."

I decided to dig further and add Gildan to my search since Gildan owns Anvil. I found this assessment released in 2012 by the Worker's Rights Consortium, an "independent labor rights monitoring organization, conducting investigations of working conditions in factories around the globe. Our purpose is to combat sweatshops and protect the rights of workers who make apparel and other products."

Excerpt from theAssessment (Star is owned by Glidan):
"The WRC investigated two sets of allegations made by Star workers. First, workers alleged that management gave tacit approval and/or engaged in active collusion vis-à-vis threats of violence and acts of harassment against members and leaders of the union. Second, workers alleged that Star management violated the collective bargaining agreement and Honduran law by refusing to share information with the union about policy changes at the factory that affect workers."

In light of this assessment, a horrific read, and the fact that Gildan has still failed to complete agreed upon remediation steps with the WRC, my beloved shirt will go on the burn pile.  

From the HYP site:
"HYP strives to be a company where people want to work, and with whom customers and vendors want to do business because:

We are the best prepared company in our industry;

We communicate better than any company in our industry; and

We take full responsibility for our actions and behavior."

These are just words on a screen though. They have not responded to my emails asking about their labor practices.  I have been waiting three days for ANY response from both HYP and Recover.  Bella sent me the following response almost immediately though:

Hello Deborah,

Thank you so much for reaching out.  Yes, all our factories abide by the fair labor laws and we do not use sweatshops to produce our tee's.  I have included our Global Compliance as well as the CPSIA for you to reference.  If you have any other questions please let me know.

Have a great day!

Looks good right?  The attachment they sent me was a copy of their Global Compliance agreement that they give to their vendors.  I have heard about these agreements, they were found in the debris at Rana Plaza actually.  The problem with these agreements is that the vendor is half a world away and unless they are inspected regularly they can get away with murder (literally).  I asked Bella if they perform regular inspections and I have not heard back from them...

I found this on the Recover site:
"Beyond using 100% recycled materials to produce Recover products we take great pride in using the most environmentally sustainable manufacturing methods. The process in which the recycled materials and recycled cotton are produced into garments significantly reduces the environmental impact of the manufacturing process by eliminating dyes and greatly reducing chemical, water, and energy use. Ultimately the entire process, from design to production to packaging, contributes to the environmental impact of a garment and it is Recover’s goal to reduce that impact every step of the way."

All good, really commendable. But what about the laborers? I support saving the environment as much as anyone but I care about people too. There is simply no mention of them at all.  I would expcet that in light of Rana Plaza, brands like these would put a message up on their websites informing concerned customers of their compliance with safe working environments for their employees. Sadly I have not seen one, probably because nobody really cares.  

During the time it took me to write most of this post I finally got a response from Recover. They seem like a commendable company who are trying to work in harmony with the earth.  This is our correspondance so far:


You have nothing on your website about your labor practices.  I am writing a blog about ethically made fashion and would like to recommend your company but I need to know that you do not use sweatshop labor for any part of the production of your clothing.  Beyond that I need to know that you do regular inspections of your factories to ensure safe working conditions.  What can you tell me about your company in this regard?

Hey Deborah,
That is a great question and the answer is yes! We are very proud of every step of our production process - the mission of the company is being the most ecologically friendly and socially responsible apparel possible. 

All of our fabric is manufactured in the North and South Carolina. For the final step, the cut and sew, we have a few operations. The first is a coop in Haiti that we are very excited to be a part of called Better Work Haiti Their goal is economic recovery of Haiti using the textile industry to provide better wage jobs and conditions. I actually went down there last year on an unrelated medical mission trip and talk about a country that can use all the help it can get! 

Our other cut and sew is in Guatemala at a state-of-the-art eco-friendly facility. They have good working conditions in a great facility that actually runs a large percentage of its energy from its own biomass. 

We are also playing with a cut and sew coop right here in North Carolina to have an entirely USA-made product. That is our youngest and least developed operations, but it reflects our belief that we can always adapt and continue to improve. 

I hope that answer your question. Please let me know if not. We at Recover hold the belief that we can always improve, so we continue to explore opportunities to make every aspect of the business more ecologically friendly and socially responsible. 

Glad to hear you're a shirt owner! We hope you love them! Who knew recycled plastic bottles could be so comfortable right!

I am very encouraged by this exchange and I have sent another email probing a bit further. Before I remove their shirt from my burn pile I want to know that they have visited these factories in person, more than once, to be sure their workers are happy. I am also going to sugest they put something on their website about their compassion for the victims in Bangladesh. 

I will give HYP more time to respond and I hope to receive a reply from Bella. For now all these shirts are on the burn pile. They have until June 21st, the date of my bonfire, to prove to me they deserve my business.

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