The following is excerpted from a recent issue of The Corporate Citizen. To learn more about how you can connect with essential partners to make the most of the risks and opportunities present throughout your value chain, consider joining online from February 20-April 17, 2017 for our Integrating Corporate Citizenship Through Your Supply Chain course.
At EILEEN FISHER, the vision for fashion’s future is an industry where human rights and sustainability are not the effect of a particular initiative, but the measure of a business well run. To achieve this mission, the women’s clothing company has created an ambitious new model, entitled “Vision2020,” to guide the way in which their products are sourced and produced—and has ensured that its tenets are embraced at every level of its supply chain.
“When I look around a retail store, I see more than clothes,” said Shona Quinn, sustainability leader at EILEEN FISHER. “I see the fields of sheep, the cotton and flax fields, and the farmers producing these fibers. There are so many aspects of the natural world and human capital that goes into our products. We’re doing our best to create supply chains that help all these systems flourish for the long term.”
Vision2020 highlights six primary target areas for raising the standards of ethical garment production. At the core of the plan, EILEEN FISHER plans to ensure that all cotton and linen fibers will be organic by 2020. The company is also striving to source all wool from a responsible or recycled source and to completely eliminate rayon, viscose, and modal. This will happen by using wool from humanely raised sheep and replacing problematic fibers such as rayon, with those that are sourced more sustainably, such as Tencel, a fiber crafted from recycled polyester.
Secondly, EILEEN FISHER plans to address the need to reduce water pollution from the chemicals used to dye fabrics. By 2020, the company will source 30 percent of its products from its sustainable bluesign® certified dyehouses, while also working with other clothing producers to raise the demand for responsibly dyed fibers. The company also hopes to reduce the creation of waste fabric while also reducing water use by 20 percent for its top five textile suppliers, along with the goal of having carbon positive operations in the United States. Reusing and recycling unused fabric as raw material will also be integral to meeting this target.
Vision2020 also addresses the need to pay employees fair wages and work to support community empowerment projects that will improve the lives of the company’s supply chain workers. Lastly, EILEEN FISHER is transparently mapping progress toward these objectives on its website, so that consumers can better understand the complexity of ethically sourced garments.
We’re at a point where we are sourcing a lot of organic materials,” said Megan Meiklejohn, supply chain transparency specialist at EILEEN FISHER. “It’s important to know each step along the way. If fiber is going across the globe to be spun, and then coming back to the United States to be woven, and then dyed across the sea again, then that’s not the most efficient supply chain. Maybe we can make improvements to lower our carbon footprint and make the supply chain more sustainable along with the fibers.”
Such careful measurement and evaluation will enable EILEEN FISHER to reach the stretch goals outlined in Vision2020—and chart the path forward toward continual innovation and progress.
“I like the idea that a company can be successful as a business and also as an agent of positive change. That’s “business as a movement.” For me, it’s a daily effort to keep moving in the right direction,” said founder and company namesake, Eileen Fisher. “We don’t want sustainability to be our edge. We want it to be universal.”