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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, 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."
Materials: 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.
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 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 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 20%.
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 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:
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.
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 nonprofits for our Handloom Project, which aims to create more sustainable working conditions for homeworkers in West Bengali villages.
Supporting Women & Girls The Social Consciousness team oversees grant programs for Women-Owned Businesses, as well as numerous Community Partnershipsand philanthropic Store Events. This work is an outgrowth of Eileen's belief that by helping women find their voices, we help them become leaders—in their families, their communities and their lives.
Here are a few examples of how we have supported women through strategic partnerships:
Our Women-Owned Businesses grant program is helping to create a new generation of socially responsible businesses. We have funded over 70 women-owned and women-led businesses that use their products and services, including clothing, beekeeping and electronics recycling, to create a positive impact on people and the planet.
Our philanthropy focuses on groups such as Girls Who Code and the nonpartisan Center for American Women in Politics, which encourages women to run for offices of all levels.
But the work doesn’t stop there. We are partnering with women business leaders to create a movement for change. And we are assessing 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.