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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. We chose the word "consciousness" to reflect our desire to raise awareness about these three values:
Practicing business responsibly with absolute regard for human rights.
Guiding our product and practice toward sustaining our environment.
Supporting women to be full participants in society.
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 extends across the company—from marketing to manufacturing, from design to finance. At our corporate headquarters and at our stores, employees engage in policy activism and community renewal.
Environment "Our environmental vision is holistic," says Shona Quinn, Director of Social Consciousness. "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."
Materials: By committing to use organic fibers, recycled fibers and sustainable fibers such as wool and Tencel™ Lyocell we support clean air, clean water and a healthy environment for workers and wildlife.
Chemistry: Making 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 water.
Carbon: Since 2007 we have been tracking our miles and modes (plane, train, ship, truck) of transportation. We're committed to rigorous Science Based Targets for reducing our CO2 emissions and to offsetting an increasing amount of our shipping and store emissions by partnering with NativeEnergy.
Water: We are deeply aware of the global water crisis and have been 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, beginning with helping our silk dyehouse in China become bluesign® certified, reducing water usage by 20%. We have also partnered with Planet Water to build and place water filtration systems in 10 communities throughout Phulia, India, where much of our artisanal product is made.
Human Rights 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, earn a fair wage, 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 and monitoring ongoing conditions. Increasingly we are looking for ways to further our human rights reach. Some of our initiatives are:
Partnering with other brands and nonprofits to share information and tackle problems jointly.
Assessing our internal processes to understand how our purchasing practices impact the well-being of the workers who make our clothes.
Participating in the Better Buying Program to receive anonymous feedback from our suppliers about our purchasing practices.
Paying attention to vulnerable populations outside of factory walls, especially the homeworkers in rural India who handloom many of our scarves. We are currently partnering with the Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) for our Handloom Project, which aims to create more sustainable working conditions for homeworkers in West Bengali villages.
Supporting Women & Girls EILEEN FISHER has a long history of supporting women and girls through grants, events and special partnerships. Currently, the Social Consciousness team oversees the Supporting Women in Environmental Justice grant program and partners with our retail events team to coordinate philanthropic Store Events. This work is an outgrowth of Eileen's belief that by helping women find their voices, we help them become climate leaders—in their families, their communities and their lives.
We also assess how we can support the women at EILEEN FISHER and across our supply chain. This involves asking questions, thinking differently and creating the world we want to live in.