Back in 1997 when sweatshops were in the headlines and labor standards
such as SA8000 were just being written, Amy Hall took on the task of
shaping EILEEN FISHER's Social Consciousness department. The company
chose the word "consciousness" to reflect our desire to raise awareness
about the three social tenets of our mission:
- Supporting women through social initiatives that address their well-
- Practicing business responsibly with absolute regard for human rights.
- Guiding our product and practice toward sustaining our environment.
Over the years, the Social Consciousness team has grown in size and
scope, integrating its work into the warp and weft of our company. Today
Social Consciousness at EILEEN FISHER goes far beyond the actual team
members. It is practiced by a sweater designer who sources a scarf from
women recovering from fistulas in Ethiopia. And by the events team that
arranges a clothing drive for our GREEN EILEEN recycling initiative. And
by the manufacturing team that develops a local supply chain in Turkey,
choosing factories near organic cotton fields to cut transportation miles.
"Our environmental vision is holistic," says Shona Quinn, Sustainability
Leader. "We believe in paying attention to what happens in the field, the
dyehouse and our customers' washing machines. Our goal is to design out
negative impacts—and design in positive change."
By committing to use organic fibers, recycled fibers and
sustainable fibers such as hemp and Tencel®, we support clean air,
clean water and a healthy environment for workers and wildlife.
Clothing involves chemistry at the field level (pesticides and
herbicides), at the dyehouse and in our customers' communities (dry
cleaning, laundry detergent). We are committed to using manufacturing
partners that offer certified dye processes, most notably the bluesign®
standard. We also support green cleaning by working to eliminate
conventional dry cleaning in favor of hand and machine washing in cold
Since 2007 we have been tracking our miles and modes (plane,
train, ship, truck) of transportation. We're committed to offsetting an
increasing amount of our shipping and store emissions by partnering
with NativeEnergy to build windmills.
We are deeply aware of the global water crisis and are currently
developing a water strategy. Our first step has been to support organic
farming, which has a lower gray water footprint than conventional
farming. We are also working to increase water efficiencies in our
manufacturing process. When our silk dyehouse became bluesign®
certified, it reduced water usage by 25%.
The vision for our human rights program is to provide people with dignified
work that will enhance their livelihood, empowering them socially and
economically. "We want to ensure that workers have a voice and are treated
fairly in the workplace," says Luna Lee, Human Rights Leader. We start by
choosing manufacturing partners who agree to follow our labor standards
and follow up by conducting audits. We also empower workers by offering
training sessions that help them understand their rights.
Increasingly we are looking for ways to further our human rights reach.
Some of our initiatives are:
Supporting Women & Girls
- Partnering with other brands and nonprofits to share information and
tackle problems jointly.
- Assessing our internal processes to see how our choices such as late-
breaking design changes might impact our workers and cause issues
with excessive overtime.
- Paying attention to vulnerable populations outside of factory walls,
especially the homeworkers in rural India who handloom many of our
scarves. We are currently leading a six-year project to create more
sustainable working conditions for homeworkers in West Bengali
The Social Consciousness team oversees grant programs for Women-Owned
and Activating Leadership
, as well as numerous
Community Partnerships and philanthropic Store Events
. This work is
an outgrowth of Eileen's belief that by helping women find their voices,
they can become leaders—in their families, their communities and
"We want to do more than give money to a group or simply raise money
for a worthy cause," says team leader Reisa Brafman. "We see our
philanthropy as an opportunity to raise awareness about issues. If we're
supporting a group like N Street Village, a Washington, D.C., nonprofit that
helps homeless women, we'll invite the women to come into the stores and
meet our customers. We'll hold a salon to talk about the PBS documentary
Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide.
Eileen wants our stores to offer customers a safe space to talk and connect
Since 2009 we have been recycling EILEEN FISHER clothing as part of
an initiative we call GREEN EILEEN. Gently used clothes are collected at
our stores and resold to support programs for women and girls. Social
Consciousness team's Cheryl Campbell pioneered the idea because, she
says, "I thought our clothes lend themselves to recycling. They are designed
to have longevity, both in terms of the styles and the quality."
The average American throws out seventy pounds of clothing a year. Through
GREEN EILEEN, we create a second market. What we can't sell, we upcycle
at GREEN EILEEN's community-building workshops and through initiatives
and partnerships to create new products.
GREEN EILEEN now has stores in both Yonkers, New York, and Seattle,
Washington. Recycled clothing is also available at our Lab Store and select