hessnatur at the forefront of the Fair Wear Foundation
Exemplary efforts towards improving working conditions in the textile industry
After 10 years of committed involvement in the international Fair Wear Foundation (FWF), hessnatur is still setting an example for the textile industry. In the latest Brand Performance Check carried out by the independent non-profit organisation, the company established itself as a ‘Leader’ (the highest category) after achieving a benchmarking score of 75. This accolade is the result of the company’s efforts towards ensuring socially fair and safe working conditions in the financial year 2015 and specific improvements made at its production sites. Compared with the previous year, more orders were placed in EU countries and 80 per cent of the measures recommended by the FWF for the collaboration were implemented. Overall, 96 per cent of the order volume comes from businesses in low-risk countries or from sites that have been audited by the FWF or other organisations. “Our rating in the highest category of the Fair Wear Foundation shows that our efforts are bearing fruit. We are concerned with making real improvements in factories and for the workers. We’ve worked hard for this and are therefore delighted with the result”, said Kristin Heckmann, Head of the Corporate Responsibility team at hessnatur. “The more companies get involved with us and assume responsibility from field to wardrobe, the sooner we can achieve greater fairness in the textile industry.”
The results of the latest Brand Performance Check can be found on the Fair Wear Foundation website at: www.fairwear.org
Informing people about proper working conditions
hessnatur has visited around 65 per cent of its 132 partner companies itself. Many of its suppliers have taken part in FWF workshops and training. The events aim to inform employees and managers at the sewing factories about their rights and obligations, and to raise awareness about proper working conditions. In addition, hessnatur has worked with the FWF to develop and successfully implement its own training concept. That’s why it’s a success when workers demand their rights. Every complaint is examined in detail and solutions developed promptly in close consultation with all those involved. In order to come up with pragmatic solutions, hessnatur employees frequently travel to the factories concerned. In Turkey, for instance, hessnatur pushed for mediation between trade unions and company owners, finally bringing both sides together for constructive dialogue.
Long-standing partnerships with suppliers
hessnatur is working together with suppliers in 28 countries. In order to develop effective tools for improving social standards, an understanding of the cultural conditions in each location is vital. That’s why the hessnatur experts frequently travel in person to the production site in question so they can liaise directly with our partners. This trust-based collaboration is a key requirement for specific and long-term success in terms of improving working conditions. We’ve been working with almost 60 per cent of our suppliers for five years or more, and with 86 per cent for more than one year.
A model for the industry
After hessnatur joined the FWF in 2005 as the first German company, other businesses followed their example. Today, 18 businesses from Germany are working with the FWF. When you consider that there are more than 5,000 German companies in the textile retail sector with a turnover of €500,000 or more, this figure is woefully small. And only around 10 per cent of these companies achieve the highest status of ‘Leader’ for their particular commitment to improving social standards. This shows the enormity of the task ahead for the national and international textile industry.
About the Fair Wear Foundation
An independent, non-profit organisation, the Fair Wear Foundation (FWF) works with companies, unions and NGOs to improve working conditions in the clothing industry. The FWF’s 80 members represent 120 brands from seven European countries that sell their products through more than 20,000 retailers in 80 countries around the world. The FWF is represented in 15 production countries in Asia, Europe and Africa, and keeps track of progress made by the partners it works with. The FWF makes specific improvements through sharing expertise, social dialogue and supporting its members.
By combining desirable fashion with sustainable actions, hessnatur has become a global pioneer in terms of improving ecological and social standards in textile production. Founded by Heinz and Dorothea Hess in 1976, the company launched the first natural baby collection and was globally pioneering in setting up the first organic cotton cultivation project in 1991. Today, hessnatur has around 370 employees and, in addition to its online shop and mail order business, operates stores in Butzbach, Berlin, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Hamburg and Munich. The world’s leading supplier, it provides a range of fashion garments, home textiles and baby clothes to around one million customers in Europe.