Ethical and transparent supply chains
'Who made our clothes?’
This has become an often-asked question for consumers demanding more transparency from the fashion industry. Behind the question is customers’ preference to buy from an ethical brand – one that doesn’t exploit people or animals.
The fashion industry is complex - it relies on tiers of suppliers sourcing raw materials, processing textiles, and producing garments. That makes supply chains difficult to trace, but we must. For HGH to be truly sustainable we need to take responsibility for the actions of all our suppliers as well as ourselves.
That’s a challenge because we don’t own or manage factories and our manufacturing is outsourced to selected partners who meet our high ethical and quality standards. Much of our product currently comes from factories in China, India and Bangladesh where, quite rightly, working conditions and the rights of workers have recently come under scrutiny.
However, because we build long term supplier relationships (our supplier turnover is low) we can, and do, demand high standards and transparency from those suppliers, and we can check conditions ourselves too.
The data collated from the audits for the year 1st June 2020 – May 31st 2021
Covid continues to disrupt our auditing capabilities due to- hot spot lockdowns and restrictions on travel impacting auditors. Postponed audits are rescheduled accordingly.
Some audit numbers:
HGH - 41 AUDITS COMPLETED
120 / Total number of compliances checked against in each audit.
11 / Average non-compliances per audit
The 5 most common NCs are:
1. Factory not paying all mandatory social benefits (China specific)
This is a complicated issue that we continue to work with factories to resolve. There are 5 types of social insurance: accident, unemployment, medical, maternity and retirement. A large number of workers opt out of some or all of the insurances and factory pay directly to the worker instead of into the government scheme. Our NGO partner in China INNO, has worked with some factories and represented workers to better understand social insurance obligations of employers and entitlements of workers.
2. Aisles partially obstructed. This is a breach of fire safety and we work closely with factories to ensure improved fire safety culture within factories. This can include asking factories to engage with local fire safety professionals for an update on appropriate fire safety procedures within factories.
3. Overtime exceeds 36 hours month. In China the working week is 40 hours and allowed overtime is 36 hours month. Workers are reliant on overtime hours to earn a liveable wage. The question of overtime hours cannot be looked at in isolation but must be reviewed within the context of minimum wages and pay structures. HGH have engaged selected factories in a Living Wage project to better understand wage structures and closing the gap between contracted wages and Living Wage. In addition, there are a number of things that a Brand can do to minimise pressure on factory working hours and this is addressed in our Responsible Purchasing Practices.
4. Insufficient PPE (personal protection equipment) – workers are not using or wearing adequate PPE. (e.g. metal glove, eye goggles, dust masks)
5. Insufficient worker safety processes (e.g lacking training in machine maintenance, machines missing safety guards, poor record keeping, no H&S testing for noise and dust)
Sustainable fabrics and products
Looking good is just the start.
It will come as no surprise that fabric is the cornerstone of our business. Without it we would not exist. It comes in many forms, some of it sustainable, some not.
So our goal is two-fold: make product as sustainable as possible, and ensure that product is affordable and accessible for our customers, so they can make a sustainable choice without compromise. Our garments should not only function properly and look good; but do so with minimal negative impact on the environment.
Our four sustainable product focus areas are:
1. Certified fabrics
We have aligned ourselves with seven globally recognised fabric certifications. Sounds impressive right? What does that mean?
Most importantly, it gives our customers confidence that we are serious about reducing the environmental impact of manufacturing textiles, as in future, we can be certain our fibre is 'verified', and therefore we can confidently deliver responsibly-sourced fabrics.
After a great deal of research, the seven main certification groups we are aligned with are:
- Lenzing Group
- Global Recycled Standard (GRS)
- Organic Content Standard (OCS)
- Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS)
- European Flax
- The Woolmark Company.
For more information about our certification groups see our Sustainability Report.
Here are our sustainable product targets:
Product certification is a brand new initiative for Hallenstein Brothers – we are just getting started - and currently less than 1% of product is certified.
But that will change quickly. A huge amount of work has gone into setting up this programme across all our suppliers - and it has been done in such a way that we anticipate big uptake as early as next year. As a result, we expect to see a rapid growth in the percentage of certified product sold.
What's happening now.
Hallenstein Brothers 100% Merino wool is all Woolmark certified. Soon to be launched in the market is the organic cotton t shirt range, which is OCS certified. We are also working on organic cotton for our cotton polos. The company is working with suppliers on achieving certification across cotton, polyester and nylon textile categories, for introduction across several garment categories for launch later in the year. We estimate this will take their sustainable product offer to 20% over the next 12 months.
2. Vintage garments
Garments and clothing ‘re-purposed for re-use and re-love’, is how we coin the second of our sustainable product focus areas, and increasingly Hallenstein Brothers are incorporating vintage and upcycled products into stores to complement our main ranges. Customers are loving the trend – and the opportunity to offer a second life (and home) to perfectly good clothing and fabrics.
3. Cruelty-free fashion
No cruelty to animals during production is non-negotiable at HGH.
We 100% support Cruelty Free Fashion that respects biodiversity, animal welfare and protection of our oceans. So to demonstrate we’re serious, we set ourselves the following targets.
Next, we’re setting our sights on microfibre pollution.
4. No-harm waste management
The fashion industry generates a lot of waste and HGH is no different. It’s something we’ve been focused on for a number of years as we look for ways to reduce it.
Most of the waste we generate come in the form of unused fabric in the factories, faulty goods and unwanted stock. We are actively looking for better ways of managing this waste and the first step has been to not think of it as waste at all.
As a result, there are a number of initiatives we have launched in recent years that support the reuse or repurpose of fabric and products we no longer need.
As good as these initiatives have been for us over the past five years, we are always looking for better solutions, and one of those is our partnership with The Formary, New Zealand’s leading specialists, supporting organisations like ours to develop a strategic approach to reduce textile waste.
No-harm waste management is not just about how we deal with waste. It is also about minimising the impact of our products on the environment. Our certified fabrics programme is a big part of this for us.
Other initiatives include:
- making all garment neck labels from recycled cotton
- using FSC certified paper in all our swing tickets
- encouraging best practice washing methods on our care labels - wash less, wash cold, hang dry
- making kimbles from recycled plastic (a kimble is the plastic toggle attaching a swing ticket to clothing).
For more information on this and to read more about our initiatives see our Sustainability Report.