Thursday, 21 February 2008

Ethical Brand Profile - Gildan

Gildan are not a brand on the tip of the tongue - but they are big.... In 2007 they sold over 500 million t-shirts, sports shirts and fleeces worldwide and no less than 320 million pairs of socks.

Behind all this they say:


They are based in Quebec, Canada a country with a liberal tradition and a global outlook. However like most developed countries it's finding it tough to keep its own people employed - at least in manufacturing. Unfortunately 2007 saw the closure of Gildan's remaining Canadian and U.S. textile operations - "these closures were necessary for us to remain a leader in our industry against Asian imports and other global competition".

So, if Gildan are 'against Asian imports' then where do they import from? As an interesting alternative to the ubiquity of South East Asia, Gildan employ more than 15,000 people worldwide mainly in Honduras, Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua. There are people in China - but only to help distribute their product there.

And Gildan practice direct employment, not the use of independent sub-contractors, so control over what goes on in the company's manufacturing is all down to Gildan. So is it living up to its ethical statement set out above?

Probably yes - "On June 13, 2007, Gildan obtained accreditation from the Fair Labor Association ("One Sweatshop Is Too Many") for its labour compliance program, thus becoming the first vertically-integrated manufacturer in its industry to achieve accreditation." And according to elsewhere in the report, the first "basic activewear apparel manufacturer" (there's a mouthful!) to achieve this status.

You can download Gildan's 2008 Corporate Citizenship Report here.

However, in my traditional 'dig for dirt' I found this report from the Workers Rights Consortium. It does date back to 2004 and is in respect of "a complaint from the Maquila Solidarity Network (a Canadian non-governmental organization) supported by the Federacion Independiente de Trabajadores Hondurenos (FITH, Independent Federation of Honduran Workers) and Canadian Labour Congress, on behalf of a group of workers alleging labor rights
violations at Gildan Activewear El Progreso." The Fair Labor Organisation got involved but before promised remedial actions could be carried out Gildan closed the factory. "Gildan claims that the decision to close the factory is "absolutely unrelated" to the investigation of worker rights violations at the facility and to workers' efforts to unionize." See the report for more.

This recent matter has been discussed in various places on the web (here's an article from 2004 on the Ethical Corporation site) however I could not easily find anything else while digging. Also seeing the Fair Labor Organisation involved both in 2004 criticising the company and again in 2007 giving it accreditation does point to the company making sure that its remaining factories do not repeat the alleged errors in Honduras.

So there we are, yes there's a blot, but all apparently sorted out now and Gildan are doing pretty well wearing their ethical badge (unless, of course, you worked in one of their closed plants).

As ever let me know if you can usefully update me on Gildan's status or activities.


  1. Hi,
    I hav just come across your website while searching for information related to fairtrade. I'm writing from Madagascar, where I'm looking after a small cottage factory that has been providing a cushion against the darkness of hunger and starvation to some of the poorest families in Antananarivo. Last year, a London-based FAIRTRADE licensed buyer "stole" a consignment of clothing from us, and we have just been informed that the whole collection is on display on Allders' website.
    Thank you very much for hosting my comments.

    Best Regards,

  2. It is always a worry that the unethical might steal not only clothing but also the badge of an otherwise well regarded organisation to further their own ends at a cost for you and Fairtrade. Of course I know nothing of what has actually happened - I would presume Allders to be completely ignorant of this, but because they are a big name here if you were able to provide them with evidence of what may have happened then they would do something about it.