In addition to labor infringements, Uzbekistan's cotton industry is creating immeasurable damage to the environment and to its citizens' health. Its cotton irrigation and drainage systems continue to severely impact the Aral Sea, once the fourth largest lake in the world. A surplus of salt in the soil, along with pesticide residue, creates toxic dust that causes harmful lung diseases and bronchial asthma among the Uzbek people.
How EILEEN FISHER Is Taking Action
Uzbek cotton is conventionally grown. Currently, most of our cotton is organic, which means that it is certified as being grown on an organic farm and is therefore not at risk of being sourced from Uzbekistan. However, we do blend standard cotton in smaller percentages into a variety of knits and wovens, and some of our conventional cotton comes from suppliers who source cotton from what are widely considered "high-risk" countries.
By 2020, we hope to complete a shift to 100% organic cotton, eliminating any possibility of Uzbek cotton from our supply chain. While we are making that transition, we have asked our worldwide vendors and mills to clearly state the origin of any nonorganic cotton fiber or cotton-based products used in EILEEN FISHER merchandise. We have warned vendors that if cotton from Uzbekistan is found, we expect them to replace the supply with cotton from ethical sources, or they will lose our business. In addition, before bulk orders are placed, we survey suppliers to check the source of their conventional cotton. We are determined to weed out any cotton fiber that comes from "high risk" locations and work to educate our suppliers about the issue.
In addition, we are partnering with the Responsible Sourcing Network, an NGO and a socially responsible investor that works with a variety of stakeholders, to apply pressure on the Uzbek government to end the exploitation of children and other workers during their cotton harvest. EILEEN FISHER is also a signatory of the Responsible Sourcing Network's Company Pledge Agreement Against Forced Child and Adult Labor in Uzbek Cotton. We also partner with the Cotton Campaign in its effort to bring visibility on the issue.
For a list of companies that have taken action on this issue, please refer to:
To learn more about the Responsible Sourcing Network and their collaborative initiatives to end forced labor in Uzbekistan, please refer to:
We also recommend watching White Gold - The True Cost of Cotton an award- winning short film: