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Ethical Sourcing

Ethical Sourcing

Issue Summary

As the fashion industry has learned in recent years, “ethical sourcing” and “compliance” are no longer hot buzzwords—they’re non-negotiable aspects of your company’s operations. United States Fashion Industry Association (USFIA) members are committed to sourcing at the highest standards, and in fact are the industry leaders in developing and maintaining ethical, compliant operations. While compliance is part of all operations, USFIA and our members are especially focused on the following issues.

Bangladesh

Bangladesh is one of the largest suppliers of ready-made garments to the United States, Canada, and the European Union, and this industry is one of the most important industries in the country. However, there are many challenges for Bangladesh’s ready-made garments 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. The United States Fashion Industry Association (USFIA) has worked closely with our members to ensure the highest standards of compliance in operations in Bangladesh. 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 they join the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety, join the Accord on Fire & Building Safety, or take on their own initiatives within their companies. The United States Fashion Industry Association strongly supports the ready-made garments sector in Bangladesh, and we strongly urge the Bangladesh industry and government to support good labor practices and work with all stakeholders to improve the compliance situation there.

Cambodia

Cambodia is another important supplier of ready-made garments to the United States, Canada, and the European Union. Like Bangladesh, this industry has a number of challenges, especially in terms of labor standards and wages. In addition to the reports that labor conditions in Cambodia have been deteriorating, workers exercising their rights have been subjected to violence—which is simply unacceptable to the United States Fashion Industry Association (USFIA) and our member companies. We strongly support the ready-made garments sector in Cambodia, and we strongly urge the Cambodian industry and government to support good labor practices and, especially, immediately end the violence toward workers. We will continue to work with all stakeholders, including groups like Better Factories Cambodia, to improve the compliance situation there. 

Conflict Minerals

On July 23rd, the D.C. District Court upheld the validity of the Securities & Exchange Commission’s (SEC) Conflict Minerals Rule, which requires companies to publicly disclose their use of conflict minerals that originated in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) or an adjoining country. All publicly-traded companies—including apparel manufacturers, retailers, importers and brands that manufacture or contract to manufacture products/private label merchandise—must comply with the rule. To comply, companies will have to perform reasonable country of origin inquiry, obtain information from their suppliers on conflict minerals (Tin, Tungsten, Tantalum and Gold or 3TG), and file their first report by May 31, 2014, to the SEC. It is also expected that private suppliers of public companies will have to implement programs to identify conflict minerals in their downstream supply chain. 

To ensure compliance, organizations will have to determine applicability, both at supplier and product level, perform supplier outreach, capture and analyze data, and prepare relevant reports for disclosure. If the company identifies that minerals have been obtained from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), organizations will also need to perform due-diligence and an independent private sector audit of the report to ensure compliance.

The United States Fashion Industry Association (USFIA) supports ethical sourcing across the supply chain, and we and our members do not support the use of conflict minerals in the sourcing or manufacturing process. Given the complexities of the supply chain, the disclosure requirement will require significant effort and time. We have worked with our members and other apparel and retail trade associations to develop an inexpensive online resource, the Conflict Minerals Resource Center (www.conflictmineralsresources.com) to help with the reporting requirement.

Mulesing

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. The United States Fashion Industry Association (USFIA) represents companies that import wool from Australia. We have 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. USFIA will continue to work with the wool industry and the Australian Wool Initiative (AWI) to disseminate this information to our members. 

Uzbekistan

Since 2009, many reports have indicated that the Uzbekistan cotton industry utilizes forced and child labor in the cotton fields. Following continued advocacy efforts by the global industry, including the United States Fashion Industry Association, on June 19, 2013, the U.S. Department of State finally downgraded Uzbekistan to Tier III in the Trafficking in Persons Report for 2013, which indicates that a government is not making significant efforts to combat human trafficking and opens up the possibility of sanctions. The report notes that the country is “a source country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and women and children subjected to sex trafficking.” Regarding the use of forced and child labor in the cotton sector, the report says:       

“Internal labor trafficking remains prevalent during the annual cotton harvest, in which children and adults are victims of government-organized forced labor. There were reports that working conditions in some fields during the cotton harvest included verbal and physical abuse and lack of freedom of movement. According to a variety of sources, the Government of Uzbekistan enforced a decree resulting in a sweeping reduction of the number of children under 15 years of age in the 2012 cotton harvest, but the government continued to subject older children and adult laborers to forced labor in that harvest. Some reports contend that the numbers of older children and adults subjected to forced labor in the harvest were higher than in previous years in several of Uzbekistan’s regions. Some activists allege that children were forced to weed cotton fields in the spring of 2012.”

The United States Fashion Industry Association (USFIA) and many of our member companies have been actively involved in bringing the issue to the attention of the Obama Administration, particularly by urging the U.S. Department of State to bring up the issue in meetings with Uzbek government officials and work toward ending child labor in Uzbekistan. USFIA is grateful that the U.S. Department of State downgraded Uzbekistan in the Trafficking in Persons Report for 2013, and kept Uzbekistan at Tier 3 in 2014, which will hopefully push the Uzbek government to finally take action. We will continue to work on this issue until forced and child labor and trafficking is eradicated from Uzbekistan.

USFIA Position

United States Fashion Industry Association (USFIA) members are committed to sourcing at the highest standards, and in fact are the industry leaders in developing and maintaining ethical, compliant operations. While compliance is part of all operations, USFIA and our members are especially focused on the following issues.

Bangladesh

Bangladesh is one of the largest suppliers of ready-made garments to the United States, Canada, and the European Union, and this industry is one of the most important industries in the country. However, there are many challenges for Bangladesh’s ready-made garments 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. The United States Fashion Industry Association (USFIA) has worked closely with our members to ensure the highest standards of compliance in operations in Bangladesh. 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 they join the Alliance for Worker Safety in Bangladesh, join the Accord on Fire & Building Safety, or take on their own initiatives within their companies. The United States Fashion Industry Association strongly supports the ready-made garments sector in Bangladesh, and we strongly urge the Bangladesh industry and government to support good labor practices and work with all stakeholders to improve the compliance situation there.

Cambodia

Cambodia is another important supplier of ready-made garments to the United States, Canada, and the European Union. Like Bangladesh, this industry has a number of challenges, especially in terms of labor standards and wages. In addition to the reports that labor conditions in Cambodia have been deteriorating, workers exercising their rights have been subjected to violence—which is simply unacceptable to the United States Fashion Industry Association (USFIA) and our member companies. We strongly support the ready-made garments sector in Cambodia, and we strongly urge the Cambodian industry and government to support good labor practices and, especially, immediately end the violence toward workers. We will continue to work with all stakeholders, including groups like Better Factories Cambodia, to improve the compliance situation there. 

Conflict Minerals

On July 23rd, the D.C. District Court upheld the validity of the Securities & Exchange Commission’s (SEC) Conflict Minerals Rule, which requires companies to publicly disclose their use of conflict minerals that originated in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) or an adjoining country. All publicly-traded companies—including apparel manufacturers, retailers, importers and brands that manufacture or contract to manufacture products/private label merchandise—must comply with the rule. To comply, companies  have to perform reasonable country of origin inquiry, obtain information from their suppliers on conflict minerals (Tin, Tungsten, Tantalum and Gold or 3TG), and file their report to the SEC. It is also expected that private suppliers of public companies will have to implement programs to identify conflict minerals in their downstream supply chain. 

To ensure compliance, organizations will have to determine applicability, both at supplier and product level, perform supplier outreach, capture and analyze data, and prepare relevant reports for disclosure. If the company identifies that minerals have been obtained from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), organizations will also need to perform due-diligence and an independent private sector audit of the report to ensure compliance.

The United States Fashion Industry Association (USFIA) supports ethical sourcing across the supply chain, and we and our members do not support the use of conflict minerals in the sourcing or manufacturing process. Given the complexities of the supply chain, the disclosure requirement will require significant effort and time. We have worked with our members and other apparel and retail trade associations to develop an inexpensive online resource, the Conflict Minerals Resource Center (www.conflictmineralsresources.com) to help with the reporting requirement, and support our Associate Members who have developed tools to help companies manage their supply chains.

Mulesing

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. The United States Fashion Industry Association (USFIA) represents companies that import wool from Australia. We have 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. USFIA will continue to work with the wool industry and the Australian Wool Initiative (AWI) to disseminate this information to our members. 

Uzbekistan

Since 2009, many reports have indicated that the Uzbekistan cotton industry utilizes forced and child labor in the cotton fields. Following continued advocacy efforts by the global industry, including the United States Fashion Industry Association, on June 19, 2013, the U.S. Department of State finally downgraded Uzbekistan to Tier III in the Trafficking in Persons Report for 2013, which indicates that a government is not making significant efforts to combat human trafficking and opens up the possibility of sanctions. The report notes that the country is “a source country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and women and children subjected to sex trafficking.” Regarding the use of forced and child labor in the cotton sector, the report says:       

“Internal labor trafficking remains prevalent during the annual cotton harvest, in which children and adults are victims of government-organized forced labor. There were reports that working conditions in some fields during the cotton harvest included verbal and physical abuse and lack of freedom of movement. According to a variety of sources, the Government of Uzbekistan enforced a decree resulting in a sweeping reduction of the number of children under 15 years of age in the 2012 cotton harvest, but the government continued to subject older children and adult laborers to forced labor in that harvest. Some reports contend that the numbers of older children and adults subjected to forced labor in the harvest were higher than in previous years in several of Uzbekistan’s regions. Some activists allege that children were forced to weed cotton fields in the spring of 2012.”

The United States Fashion Industry Association (USFIA) and many of our member companies have been actively involved in bringing the issue to the attention of the Obama Administration, particularly by urging the U.S. Department of State to bring up the issue in meetings with Uzbek government officials and work toward ending child labor in Uzbekistan. USFIA is grateful that the U.S. Department of State downgraded Uzbekistan in the Trafficking in Persons Report, which will hopefully push the Uzbek government to finally take action. We will continue to work on this issue until forced and child labor and trafficking is eradicated from Uzbekistan.

USFIA Joins Cotton Campaign Letter to Government of Turkmenistan

On May 25, 2016, the United States Fashion Industry Association (USFIA) joined a Cotton Campaign letter to the President of Turkmenistan, urging him to take action to end forced labor in the cotton sector. This year, the International Labour Organization (ILO) reports “deep concern the widespread use of forced labour in cotton production which affects farmers, businesses and private and public sector workers, including teachers, doctors and nurses, under threat of losing their jobs, salary cuts, loss of land and extraordinary investigations.” The letter was delivered prior to Turkmenistan’s participation in the ILO Conference, which is taking place in Geneva from May 30-June 10, 2016. The letter is available here.

USFIA Joins Letter to World Bank on Uzbekistan

On July 29, 2016, the United States Fashion Industry Association (USFIA) joined a Cotton Campaign letter urging the World Bank to seek commitments from the Uzbek government to cease interference and reprisals against independent human rights monitors and to reform its financial system used for its cotton sector. The letter is timed in advance of a round-table meeting at which the World Bank will meet with the Uzbek government, the International Labor Organization, and diplomatic missions in Uzbekistan in early August. It also follows a recent Cotton Campaign meeting with the World Bank. The letter is available here.

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

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