Social Compliance & Sustainability

  • Bangladesh & Labor

    Issue Summary

    Bangladesh is one of the largest suppliers of apparel to the United States, Canada, and the European Union, and its apparel industry is one of the most important in the country. However, there are many challenges for Bangladesh’s manufacturing sector and the country’s competitive advantage, and these challenges have become some of the most critical issues for our industry today.

    As we’ve seen in recent months, fire and building safety is one of the most critical challenges that needs to be addressed in Bangladesh. The fire at Tazreen Fashions in November 2012 and the collapse of Rana Plaza in April 2013 have led to the global industry prioritizing this issue.

    Additionally, there have been ongoing labor problems in Bangladesh. In April 2012, a prominent Bangladeshi labor activist and former textile worker, Aminul Islam, was found murdered outside Dhaka, and it was believed that his murder was part of a deliberate campaign to suppress labor efforts in the nation.

     

    USFIA Position

    The United States Fashion Industry Association (USFIA), formerly the United States Association of Importers of Textiles & Apparel (USA-ITA), supports the ready-made garments sector in Bangladesh, and many member companies source there or would like to source there because of the quality, cost-competitive garments available there.

    However, USFIA strongly urges the Bangladesh industry and government will support good labor practices, including building inspections, fire safety training, and support of labor groups in the country. It is critical that all stakeholders work together on this issue.

    In addition, USFIA encourages companies to take action, too. Some of our member companies were among the first companies to sign the Accord on Fire & Building Safety led by IndustriALL Global Union, while others were founding members of the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety, consisting of North American brands and retailers. All USFIA member companies sourcing in Bangladesh have programs and standards in place to ensure worker safety, and continue to update those programs. We support any and all efforts by our members to improve worker safety in Bangladesh, whether signing the Accord, joining the Alliance, working internally, or perhaps some combination. Our full statement, posted on May 20, 2013, is available here.

     

    Advocacy

    USFIA has long been active on labor issues in Bangladesh. On April 18, 2012, USA-ITA (now USFIA) joined a number of global apparel and retail associations in sending a letter to Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wazed of Bangladesh requesting an investigation into the death of Aminul Islam. The signers note that they are “deeply concerned about this incident because the apparent circumstances leading up to and surrounding Mr. Islam’s death could be perceived to be part of a deliberate campaign to repress efforts to raise and address issues related to unsatisfactory working conditions in the RMG sector.” The letter signers include U.S., Canadian and European apparel, retail, licensing, and footwear industries, and Bangladesh is one of the largest suppliers of apparel to the U.S., Canada, and EU.

    On June 5, 2012, USA-ITA (now USFIA) and Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production (WRAP), an Associate Member, hosted a webinar titled, “View from the Ground: Challenges & Solutions for Sourcing & Compliance in Bangladesh.” This webinar provided important information for over 100 U.S. brands and retailers and Bangladeshi manufacturers on how to be compliant and support good labor practices.

    In 2013, following the Tazreen and Rana Plaza tragedies, USA-ITA (now USFIA) joined with North American brands, retailers, and trade associations to develop a sustainable plan for addressing the ongoing challenges, particularly with fire and building safety, in Bangladesh. This led to the launch on July 10, 2013, of the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety and corresponding Bangladesh Worker Safety Initiative, a binding, five-year initiative that sets aggressive timelines and accountability for inspections, training, and worker empowerment. More information can be found at the Alliance website, www.bangladeshworkersafety.org

  • Letter on Death of Labor Activist in Bangladesh

    On April 18, 2012, USA-ITA (now USFIA) joined a number of global apparel and retail associations in sending a letter to Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wazed of Bangladesh requesting an investigation into the death of Aminul Islam. The signers note that they are “deeply concerned about this incident because the apparent circumstances leading up to and surrounding Mr. Islam’s death could be perceived to be part of a deliberate campaign to repress efforts to raise and address issues related to unsatisfactory working conditions in the RMG sector.” The letter signers include U.S., Canadian and European apparel, retail, licensing, and footwear industries, and Bangladesh is one of the largest suppliers of apparel to the U.S., Canada, and EU.

  • Mulesing

    Issue Summary

    Mulesing is a practice that involves surgically removing a strip of skin from the lamb’s breech in an effort to prevent flystrike. It is a controversial practice, because while some farmers groups say it is the most effective way to prevent flystrike, others say it is an inhumane practice that puts sheep welfare at risk.

     

    USFIA Position

    The United States Fashion Industry Association (USFIA) represents companies that import wool from Australia and is against mulesing because it is an inhumane practice. USFIA, formerly the United States Association of Importers of Textiles & Apparel (USA-ITA), has joined fellow industry associations and businesses in the United States and across the globe in calling on the Australian wool industry to find alternatives to mulesing and implement those alternatives as soon as possible.

     

    Advocacy 

    USA-ITA (now USFIA) has joined fellow industry associations and businesses in the United States and across the globe in calling for the Australian wool industry to find alternatives to mulesing and implement those alternatives as soon as possible. Since 2011, USA-ITA/USFIA and other associations have participated in meeting with representatives from the Australian Wool Innovation (AWI) to learn updates on the current reporting and research to find ways to eliminate the use of mulesing. In 2012, 17 organizations, including USA-ITA/USFIA, sent a working paper to AWI with the industry's views, available here.

    AWI has provided updated materials on these topics: 

    In June 2013, AWI provided USA-ITA/USFIA with its latest quarterly report card.

    In September 2013, AWI provided USA-ITA/USFIA with its latest quarterly report card and flystrike prevention update.

  • North American Bangladesh Worker Safety Working Group Launches Safer Factories Initiative

    On May 15, 2013, the North American Bangladesh Worker Safety Working Group announced a new initiative to strengthen its commitment to safer factories in Bangladesh. The Safer Factories Initiative, built on the extensive work already being conducted on the ground by brands and retailers today, goes an important step further than the IndustriALL accord and addresses many of the concerns put forward by U.S. brands and retailers with signing that accord. We encourage you to read the entire statement here, and let us know if you have any questions. If you source from Bangladesh and are not already involved in this working group, we encourage you to get involved. 

  • North American Brands & Retailers Launch Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety & Corresponding Initiative

    On July 10, 2013, 17 U.S. and Canadian brands and retailers officially launched the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety and the corresponding Bangladesh Worker Safety Initiative, a binding, five-year initiative that sets aggressive timelines and accountability for inspections, training, and worker empowerment. The members of the Alliance will provide funding—currently at $42 million and growing—to support the specific programs of the initiative, with some companies offering a combined total of over $100 million in loans and access to capital to assist factory owners they work with in Bangladesh for factory safety improvements. The initiative was developed under the guidance of former U.S. Senators George Mitchell (D) and Olympia Snowe (R), who acted as independent facilitators at the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington, D.C. More information can be found at the Alliance website, www.bangladeshworkersafety.org

    USA-ITA, now the United States Fashion Industry Association, is proud to have been part of the discussions, working with many of our member companies and industry colleagues to provide assistance to the brands and retailers as needed over the past few months. As noted in our previous statement, we support any and all efforts by our members to improve worker safety in Bangladesh—whether you join the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety, sign the Accord on Fire & Building Safety led by IndustriALL, work within your company, or some combination of the above. 

  • USA-ITA & WRAP Host Webinar on Sourcing & Compliance in Bangladesh

    On June 5, 2012, USA-ITA and Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production (WRAP), an Associate Member, hosted a webinar titled, “View from the Ground: Challenges & Solutions for Sourcing & Compliance in Bangladesh.” This webinar provided important information for over 100 U.S. brands and retailers and Bangladeshi manufacturers on how to be compliant and support good labor practices.

  • USA-ITA Board Meets with ILO & Better Work

    On July 17, 2013, the USA-ITA Board of Directors met with Nancy Donaldson, Director of the International Labour Organization (ILO) Washington Office, and Amy Luinstra, ‎Head of Policy & Research for the Better Work Program, to discuss compliance issues, especially in Bangladesh.

  • USA-ITA Joins Cotton Campaign Letter on Labor in Uzbekistan

    On April 16, 2013, USA-ITA joined a Cotton Campaign letter to Secretary of State John Kerry on the Uzbekistan child and forced labor issue. The letter urges the Department of State to place Uzbekistan in Tier 3 in the 2013 Global Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report unless the Uzbek government invites a high-level, tripartite International Labour Organization (ILO) observer mission to monitor this fall’s cotton harvest. Tier 3 in the TIP Report indicates that a government is not making significant efforts to combat human trafficking and opens up the possibility of sanctions. More information on the Cotton Campaign is available at www.cottoncampaign.org

  • USA-ITA Joins Cotton Campaign Letter on Uzbekistan to Secretary Clinton

    On June 19, 2012, USA-ITA joined the Cotton Campaign, a coalition of industry associations and human rights groups, in sending another letter to Secretary Clinton expressing concern that the U.S. failed to downgrade Uzbekistan for its widespread use of forced and child labor in the cotton industry in the Trafficking in Persons Report for 2012. The letter also called on the U.S. government to urge the Uzbek government to immediately invite the ILO to monitor the 2012 cotton harvest.

    On July 6, 2012, Ambassador Luis CdeBaca of the State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons responded to the coalition. “We have repeatedly made it clear that our bilateral relationship cannot reach its full potential unless Uzbekistan demonstrates increased efforts to protect the rights of all of its citizens, including addressing forced labor,” wrote the Ambassador. “We will continue to urge the government to cooperate with the ILO and engage Uzbekistan’s authorities, as well as civil society, to bring about real change, and will sustain our efforts to encourage this outcome in a constructive and effective way.” 

  • USA-ITA Joins Industry Letter to Uzbekistan's Minister of Foreign Affairs

    On March 12, 2013, USA-ITA, now the United States Fashion Industry Association, joined other apparel and retail industry associations in sending a letter to Abdulaziz Komilov, Uzbekistan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, who is in Washington, D.C. this week, expressing “deep concerns regarding the continued use of systematic forced labor of children and adults in the cotton sector of Uzbekistan.” The letter urged the Uzbekistan government to invite the high-level ILO tripartite observation mission to conduct unfettered monitoring during the cotton harvest and take immediate and effective time-bound measures to eradicate forced and child labor in the cotton sector.  The letter is available here.

  • USA-ITA Joins Letter Expressing Concern on MOU Between BGMEA & Uzbek Government

    On September 20, 2013, USA-ITA joined five other North American apparel and retail trade associations in sending a letter to Atiqul Islam, President of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), expressing concern about the proposed Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between BGMEA and the Uzbek government to purchase Uzbek cotton. In addition to reminding the BGMEA that the Uzbek cotton industry still utilizes child and forced labor to harvest the cotton, the letter requests information on what the BGMEA “is doing to ensure that any cotton procured through the MOU is free of forced labor and child labor.” 

  • USA-ITA Joins Letter to Prime Minister of Bangladesh

    On May 17, 2013, USA-ITA joined the North American Bangladesh Worker Safety Working Group in sending a letter to Sheikh Hasina Wazed, the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, asking for assurance that the Bangladeshi government will be involved in an “ongoing and sustained enforcement effort” and a “transparent process of engagement between the Bangladesh government and our associations through the Safer Factories Initiative, including a list of inspected and closed factories and the results of the inspections.” The letter notes that positive change can only occur by the Bangladeshi government working together with industry. 

    Along with the letter, the associations included an attachment with key elements that the Bangladeshi government should commit to provide to apparel brands and retailers, including:

    • Quick passage of updated labor legislation. 
    • Public engagement and progress with the International Labor Organization.
    • Progress on hiring of official building inspectors. 
    • Public release of the list of factories inspected by the Government of Bangladesh.
    • Public release of the results of those inspections, with monthly updates.
    • Public release of the official list of closed factories, along with the reasons for those closures.
    • Public release of information about actions required by the Government of Bangladesh before factories can reopen.
  • USA-ITA Joins Letters on Reports that China Will Buy Cotton from Uzbekistan

    USA-ITA joined forces with U.S. and Canadian apparel and retail associations to send a joint letter to the Honorable Cui Tiankai, Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China and to the Honorable Jiang Hui, Chairman of the China Chamber of Commerce for Import and Export of Textile and Apparel to request information on what the Chinese are doing to ensure that any cotton purchased from Uzbekistan is free of forced and child labor. 

  • USA-ITA Joins Statement on Cotton Harvest in Uzbekistan

    On September 9, 2013, USA-ITA (now the United States Fashion Industry Association) joined the Cotton Campaign and over two dozen other trade and human rights organizations in releasing a statement on the start of the cotton harvest in Uzbekistan, which still utilizes forced and child labor. The statement applauds the International Labour Organization (ILO) for preparing to deploy teams to monitor the harvest, but urges the ILO to “make every effort possible to obtain independent information, publicly report all findings and any interference by Uzbek Government, and validate the findings and monitoring process with the International Trade Union Confederation and International Organisation of Employers.” For more information on this issue, visit www.cottoncampaign.org

  • USA-ITA Meets with Bangladesh Ambassador to the United States

    On August 21, 2013, USFIA President Julia K. Hughes met with Bangladesh Ambassador to the United States Akramul Qader during SOURCING at MAGIC in Las Vegas. During the meeting, which also included representatives from SOURCING at MAGIC, TopTenWholesale, and SGS, the Ambassador discussed the ongoing issues with worker safety, factory inspections, and the minimum wage as well as the current political and business climate in Bangladesh. More information on the meeting is available here.

  • USA-ITA Releases Statement on Next Steps in Bangladesh

    On May 20, 2013, USA-ITA, now the United States Fashion Industry Association, posted a statement on next steps in Bangladesh. USA-ITA supports any and all efforts by members to improve worker safety in Bangladesh--whether you work within your organization, sign the Accord on Fire & Building Safety, join the Safer Factories Initiative, or perhaps all three. It is our belief that these options, particularly the Accord on Fire & Building Safety and the Safer Factories Initiative, need not be opposing agreements and we support member companies that might like to join both. We have our concerns about the Accord on Fire & Building Safety, which is why we chose to join the Safer Factories Initiative, but we likewise applaud our members who think signing the accord is the best decision for their company.

  • USFIA & BCI Collaborate to Promote Responsible Cotton Sourcing

    On September 1, 2015, the United States Fashion Industry Association (USFIA) and Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) announced that they will collaborate to promote responsible cotton sourcing and exchange member benefits. The partnership allows BCI and USFIA to mutually benefit from each other’s expertise. BCI will provide information about supporting responsibly grown cotton to USFIA members. In turn, USFIA can support BCI members in navigating the complex sourcing issues in the United States and around the globe. Through publications, educational events and networking opportunities, USFIA will enable BCI to connect with key stakeholders across the value chain, including US and international service providers, suppliers and industry groups. The press release is available here

  • USFIA and UN Global Compact Hold Roundtable on SDGs

    The United States Fashion Industry Association (USFIA) and the UN Global Compact hosted a roundtable in New York City on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Almost 20 brands and retailers heard about the SDGs and the projects that directly affect the fashion industry. The Water Stewardship Apparel Initiative and a project called Setting Science Based Targets are especially interesting. 

    Why should you align your corporate sustainability efforts to the Sustainable Development Goals?
    The SDGs provide a powerful plan of action for humanity to solve our toughest challenges by the year 2030: poverty, inequality, climate change, and more. Business can and must play a role. The SDGs provide a shared roadmap for all sectors of society from all corners of the globe to work toward the same 17 goals. Companies that are making the SDGs a priority on their strategic agenda are discovering new business opportunities, attracting and retaining employees, gaining efficiencies, and ensuring their license to operate. 

    How can the UN Global Compact help you?
    As the UN's corporate sustainability initiative, we have the tools & resources, expertise, global reach and local networks to translate the SDGs for business and help you create and implement a sustainability strategy aligned with the SDGs. One of the tools we shared is the SDG Compass. The SDG Compass is a practical, 5-step management model designed to help companies understand, prioritize, set targets, take action, and communicate their core business activities that help achieve the SDGs.

    Below, you’ll find a sampling of the UN’s working groups, tools, and upcoming events in New York. 

    USFIA Roundtable Materials:

    Events:

    Tools & Resources:

    Working Groups:

    The UN Global Compact invites you to get more involved and take action by joining as a corporate participant. Contact Claire Kells, Senior Manager of Participant Engagement, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more information.

  • USFIA Joins Comments to State Department on Uzbekistan & Turkmenistan

    On January 30, 2016, the United States Fashion Industry Association (USFIA) joined Cotton Campaign comments to the U.S. State Department Office to Monitor & Combat Trafficking in Persons (TIP) regarding the placements of the governments of Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan in the 2016 TIP Report. The comments urge the State Department to place both countries in Tier 3 and outline the governments’ inaction in 2015 on trafficking. The Uzbekistan comments are here, and the Turkmenistan comments are here

  • USFIA Joins Cotton Campaign Comments on Uzbekistan

    On January 30, 2015, the Cotton Campaign submitted comments to the U.S. Department of State in support of maintaining Uzbekistan’s Tier 3 ranking in the 2015 Trafficking in Persons Report, which will be released in June. Tier 3 is for governments that do not comply with minimum standards to combat human trafficking and fail to take adequate steps to address the problem, and it carries the possibility of sanctions. USFIA joined the comments, which are available on the Cotton Campaign website.