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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.

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.