Archive for the ‘Factory Audits’ Category

Be aware. Be very aware.

January 16, 2013

In November 2012, a fire ripped through the Tazreen garment factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh, killing 110 people. It was, in fact, just one of a string of such fires the country’s garment industry suffered last year, and it was a high-profile reminder to all of us that workers’ rights and safety are fragile things in many parts of the world.

Consumers are thinking more about that part of the manufacturing process — the part that involves human workers and their hands and skill and health — as well as thinking about the end of that process when they purchase goods. Just as the tragedy of the Tazreen factory was a hideous object lesson in the importance of our safety as workers, we’re correspondingly reminded by shows like CBC’s Marketplace of how we can be put at more subtle peril as consumers. That show has exposed things like the misleading labels that manufacturers often affix to consumer goods, and reminds us of the need to be informed, cautious, and sometimes downright sceptical when we do business. Fairware understands that scepticism — because that’s the way we shop, and that’s what we have in mind when we source the goods we sell. Responsibility begins at home, and at our office.

Increasing consumer campaigns for workers’ rights, and against the use of unsafe substances in consumer products, are raising awareness among consumers, and among the brands in the promo industry that are Fairware’s customers. Videos like the one you see above are just one way in which people are calling out companies that think they can dodge their responsibilities when it comes to health and safety. Demands for greater supply-chain transparency and fewer toxins in the manufacturing process will have a trickle-down effect on our industry overall, and on what we’re able to do. We think 2013 will be a year of real improvement.

And we like that.

LABOR WARS: Samsung Joins Apple in the Latest Labor Controversy

October 18, 2012

A Steady Hand: Photo by Robert S. Donovan

As Samsung and Apple wind up for a legal dual in courts over digital tablet cell phone patents, the technology giants find themselves tangled in another, messier PR battle.

No matter how big and how seemingly well-run a company is, there remains a serious risk when outsourcing production abroad. Last month, Samsung joined the recently targeted Apple in the long list of companies that have been accused of violating workers’ rights in their international factories.

Just as we talked last week about companies embracing a trend towards being “flawsome,” Apple and Samsung have recently been forced to admit their mistakes amid a public controversy regarding labor conditions at their Chinese suppliers—though there is certainly nothing awesome about having to admit these flaws.

In late August, New York-based activist group China Labor Watch released a lengthy report bringing into question the working conditions at 8 Samsung factories in China—6 of which are owned by the company itself. Samsung was accused of a myriad of violations, including hiring underage workers, not compensating employees overtime pay totalling nearly 100 hours a month, oral and physical abuse of workers, and failing to provide proper safety equipment.

The findings mirror a similar report released by the CLW earlier in the year that brought charges of labor abuse towards Apple. The report came after undercover CLW workers staged an investigation into conditions at factories run by Apple’s supplier, Foxconn. Amid the controversy, Apple agreed to allow the Fair Labor Association to perform audits, while Foxconn underwent a serious reform of its internal systems.

At a news conference following the release of the report, a Chinese government official blasted certain companies for lacking “human care.” Following Apple’s lead, Samsung pledged to conduct on-site investigations of all 105 of their Chinese suppliers, while China’s Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security has promised to continue to monitor conditions at their factories. The Fair Labor Association has since released a report indicating that measures taken by Samsung suggest that the company is on the right track towards addressing these serious findings.

What all this really brings to light is a continued need for businesses to be more aware of the risks inherent in their supply chains.

In the 80’s and 90’s, major apparel and footwear suppliers found themselves tangled in the now-notorious sweatshop controversy. That brought about major changes in management systems and methods for social compliance reporting (and improved working conditions on the factory floor). These changes have been crucial in redefining the way companies are expected to conduct their businesses, both at home and abroad.

With this newest debacle, the message is clear: big or small, companies must take measures to ensure that their suppliers abide by ethical and fair standards of workers’ rights. We hope that this latest outing sparks a wake-up call for the electronics industry and leads to the development of programs to protect worker rights in their factories.

While this is a serious topic, the brilliant minds at Saturday Night Live recently took our need for faster, lighter, thinner phones to task…

Headlines and Hemlines: What Will the Gildan-Anvil Deal Mean for Anvil’s Sustainability Mandate?

May 14, 2012

Early this month, Canadian clothing manufacturer Gildan Activewear secured an $88-million deal to buy New York-based T-shirt and sportswear manufacturer, Anvil Apparel. Fairware has had a strong relationship with Anvil, whose socially and environmentallyfriendly approach to business strikes a chord with our own mission.

This buyout has raised a number of questions—and concerns—for us. Will Gildan keep Anvil’s unionized manufacturing facility? Will Gildan embrace Anvil’s sustainable apparel line?

We strive to provide our clients with ethically sourced and sustainable merchandise, and we have been great supporters of Anvil. Over the last five years, Anvil has made great strides towards brand sustainability. Their value statement mirrors our own: To operate our business with a deep and continued commitment to respecting the planet and all who live on it.

Anvil ranks as the 6th largest organic program in the world on the Organic Exchange and has launched an impressive “eco”-clothing line using fibers such as organic cotton, recycled cotton, transitional cotton and recycled polyester from PET bottles. They are a progressive and committed company that not only adheres to a socially and environmentally responsible business model, but also strives to educate the public on its initiative. Their interactive “Track My T” website gives customers a chance to see the progression of their T-shirt from “dirt to shirt.”

Gildan Activewear is a major player in its field. The Montreal-based company has been recognized as one of Canada’s Best Corporate Citizens for two years running, and is a member of the Fair Labor Association. However, its track record also is marred by some serious allegations of anti-union activities and violations of workers’ rights. Despite taking steps towards reducing its environmental impact and promoting green operations, they have not yet ventured into manufacturing organic or recycled apparel.

This buyout begs the question: Will the acquisition of Anvil inspire Gildan to enter the organic/recycled apparel game? Or will Gildan drop the Anvil sustainability line entirely? While Gildan is the bigger of the two brands, we hope they’ll take Anvil’s 5 Rules for Building a Sustainable Brand to heart.

We at Fairware will be watching closely as this story continues to unravel.

Shanghai’d – Day 4 New Sewing Factory

January 7, 2010

Suggestion box for worker complaints

Day 4 found me at a new bag sewing facility we plan on working with near Shanghai. It’s run by Jorden Rosenberg, a Canadian guy (from Forest Hill Collegiate, like a # of the guys I seem to be meeting here) and it was great to see the Chinese and Canadian flags flying high at the entrance of his facility. I planned my trip to both check out his products and facility and meet the auditor from Openview, who we had arranged to audit the facility.

Jordan runs a great factory and difference between this facility and the one at Huaitai was immediately noticeable. The scale of the operation is much larger but the sophistication of their production processes was of a different standard. In addition to the bag workshop Jordan also runs Motherwear, a women’s maternity wear online retailer (check it out for fabulous bamboo and other products) and manages production for that line in his facility.

The facility was well laid out, with clear signage vis a vis fire safety and first aid. The attention to detail on the quality control front was impressive and they were working for major brands from all over North America and Europe. (more…)

Shanghai’d Day 3 – Fabrication/Sewing Factory

January 5, 2010

Sewer at bag factory

Spent Monday at our main bag factory – the drive out took over an hour and a half through  clusters of factories and fields. We’ve worked with this factory for over a year and have been impressed with their quality. It was so great to spend the day with Tony, the factory manager, after so much time spend on emails. We started an audit process a year ago to start gauging their social compliance  to ensure they meet our standards, and those of a key client.

In our morning meeting we talked about the process to date -we’re the first customer that had requested this kind of audit from them. While they’d been through ISO9000 audits by firms like SGS they’d never been through a process focused on human rights, worker health and safety, and environmental standards. In partnership with our client, we having been working with the external auditing firm  Openview from Hong Kong. (more…)

Shanghai’d Day 2

January 3, 2010

Offerings at the Confucious Temple

Spent the day wandering the streets and neighbourhoods of Shanghai – Fuxing Park, Xintiandi, Confucius Temple & Yuyuan Gardens. Wandered down many an alley through ‘wet’ markets full of seafood, veggies, frogs and other unidentifiable things.

Cargo bikes - very impressive.

Marveled at the kites, sites and madness on the streets where a mix of buses, taxis, cars, mopeds, bikes and pedestrians try to co-exist without too many casualties. Loved the bikes, the bike lanes, the bike parking and the cargo bikes – very inspiring.

And what up with the donuts? There are a serious number of donut shops in this city, Mister Donut, Dunkin Donuts, Donut Express – it seems fried dough is universally loved.

The enormous amount of development on what seems like every corner is for the upcoming World Expo this summer – the Expo logo is everywhere as are the little blue mascots that look alarmingly like gumby. (more…)

Shanghai’d Day 1

January 2, 2010

Photo by Jakob Montrasio

Arrived last night in the hazy, warm early evening vowing to not go straight to bed  (which my body was telling me to do after a 10 hour flight and 15 hour time change). I was last in Shanghai in 1999 and my has it changed. Apparently it now homes 20+ million people, 1+ million of those are ex-pats and it has grown skyward at a dizzying rate.

I’m here on a rather whirlwind tour visiting 3 factories we work with manufacturing tote bags. I’m here to meet factory management and  work with them on the status of corrective action plans coming from a series of social compliance audits we did earlier this year. And schedule permitting, I’ll be adding updates, photos and videos of the week as I go.

While I was immediately hit with the modern cosmo flair of the city at dinner & drinks last night – it was a rude reminder of where I am when I realized I can’t log into Facebook, Twitter, etc. – it seems that last summer in advance of Tianamen Square anniversary, most social media access was blocked by the Chinese goverment (will see if this post loads, WordPress is on that list).

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