June 06, 2016
Author: Christopher Cox
The Solidaridad Network released a new report yesterday (June 7th) ranking brands for their sustainability practices with cotton. The results are disappointing.
On a scale of 19.5 possible points, IKEA scored the best at 12.00. C&A scored a 9.0, as did H&M. Adidas followed with a 7.75, while Nike (6.75), M&S (5.5), VF Corporation (3.25), and Kering (3) round out those that scored at all. Another 29 companies, including Macy’s, Walmart, the GAP, Dillard’s, J.C. Penney, Nordstrom, and TJX, appear to employ no sustainable cotton practices.
The research and scoring was performed by Rank a Brand, which assessed three areas: policy, sourcing and use, and traceability. Most points were available for sourcing and use with companies assessed according to volumes used from Better Cotton, Cotton made in Africa, Organic, and Fairtrade – the four standards judged to be sustainable for the purposes of the report.
While the results are disappointing, we here at The Human Thread think that this report is important work that can change the way cotton is sourced. When we reached out to Isabelle Roger, senior manager of Solidaridad’s cotton program, she said:
“It’s clear that just a few leading companies are doing the heavy lifting on sourcing sustainable cotton. For the cotton sector as a whole to become sustainable, all other major companies will need to get on board and we hope that next year we will be able to report better scores.”
Letting brands know that the consumer is paying attention will help nudge them to making necessary changes in cotton sourcing. It also puts in practice the words of Pope Francis in Laudato Si’:
A change in lifestyle could bring healthy pressure to bear on those who wield political, economic and social power. This is what consumer movements accomplish by boycotting certain products. They prove successful in changing the way businesses operate, forcing them to consider their environmental footprint and their patterns of production. When social pressure affects their earnings, businesses clearly have to find ways to produce differently. This shows us the great need for a sense of social responsibility on the part of consumers. “Purchasing is always a moral – and not simply economic – act”. Today, in a word, “the issue of environmental degradation challenges us to examine our lifestyle”.[#206]
As consumers, like it or not, we vote with our dollars. Every purchase has moral consequences. Make sure that retailers know that you, as a consumer care, about the conditions in the fields where the cotton was grown and within the factory where the garment was made.
Solidaridad Network’s summary of the report is found here: http://www.solidaridadnetwork.org/news/top-brands-failing-on-cotton-sustainability. The full report can be found here: http://www.solidaridadnetwork.org/sites/solidaridadnetwork.org/files/publications/Cotton%20Ranking%20Report%20-%20June%202016_0.pdf
Commentary about the report also can be found in the Huffington Post and the Toronto Sun.
June 06, 2016
Author: Christopher Cox
On Monday, the Asia Floor Wage Alliance released a significant report entitled “Precarious Work in the Walmart Global Value Chain.” It is the latest in a series of reports on the maritime industry, GAP, and H & M. The reports drew the attention of The New York Times under the headline: “Retailers Like H&M and Walmart Fall Short of Pledges to Overseas Workers.”
Coverage also includes:
Simply put, the investigations call into question the glossy reports from retailers, like Walmart, who tout items like “Women’s Economic Empowerment” in their annual Global Responsibility Report.
The Asia Floor Wage report is no mere passing fancy. It is the result of intense labor:
This report presents new research on violations of international labour standards in Walmart garment supplier factories. Information was collected through interviews and focus group discussions including 344 workers engaged in Walmart supply chains in Bangladesh, Cambodia and India; and an in-depth case study, spanning 8 months, of working conditions in an Indonesian Walmart supplier employing 3,800 Indonesian contract workers. (p. 4)
From the report, The New York Times article (cited above) draws the following claims:
A series of new reports by the Asia Floor Wage Alliance, a coalition of trade unions and other research and advocacy groups, has put a new spotlight on the conditions. In Bangladesh, the group says, tens of thousands of workers sew garments in buildings without proper fire exits. In Indonesia, India and elsewhere, pregnant women are vulnerable to reduced wages and discrimination. In Cambodia, workers who protested for an extra $20 a month were shot and killed.
The flurry of reports from Asia Floor Wage are in the run up to the annual International Labour Conference, beginning this week, of the International Labour Organization, an arm of the United Nations. Important international conventions and norms around labor, supply chains, and ethics hang in the balance.
Clearly, empty are the pledges from many retailers to improve conditions, both in safety and in wages, in Bangladesh and elsewhere since Rana Plaza. Counting on the corporations simply to do the right thing is not enough. The body count since Rana Plaza gives evidence to that. The lives of these workers are worth more than our having cheap racks of clothes. What are you going to do about it? Start by taking the St. Vincent Pledge.