Monday, 1 September 2008

Ethical brand profile - Regatta

Regatta supplies clothing for the "great outdoors" - going beyond t-shirts, through weather protection clothing for those occasionally active outdoors, to high performance clothing for "high-energy activities". And it supplies these in ranges for men, women and children. There's also a specific corporate clothing website http://www.regattacorporatewear.com/

Right on the homepage of its main website is the prominent image link to their ethical trading policy, available for viewing as a .pdf. Regatta is part of a bigger group that includes popular brands for British mail order or High Street shoppers such as Hawkshead and Craghoppers. The ethical trading policy covers all their brands.

Most of the clothing is supplied from Asia (although it's not clear where) and there's a focus on 'the worker' in what is presented. "We feel very strongly that workers in factories are treated fairly and are better off through working with us than they were before."

Moving into the detail, it's a little confusing as to what's going on. There's a Policy section which sets out that Regatta require visual inspections of factories and conduct interviews with managers and workers. Then there's an audit section which says "In addition to our own Ethical Trading policy, we also use a recognised third party organisation that carries out strict ethical inspections." So there's a suggestion of a 2 tier approach - regatta monitoring and 3rd party monitoring - but it's not quite clear that this is indeed the case. It may be that the audit of the policy is in the hands of third parties only.

The audit is carried out by a "recognised leader in its field" but Regatta aren't telling us who! But we should not nit pic because Regatta do go rather further than many and the ethical code that is presented is as good as most.

One area where these ethical codes can break down (as highlighted in recent television coverage of Primark) is where some work on the clothing being produced is being carried out in sweatshop conditions outside the confines of the factory being audited. The possibilities of abuses in sub contracting further down the supply chain is something which does not feature in policies which centre on auditing factories. We think that it would be better if the full supply chain for a particular garment was audited - however the nature of what Regatta sell probably means that the whole manufacturing process occurs in one place.

Unlike some bigger companies such as Adidas, Regatta do not publish the results of the audit process. Again it may seem like nit picking for what appears to be a fairly well sorted company, but it's through comment on this sort of thing that standards get pushed even further forward.

Switching to environmental issues, the Regatta brochures highlight the wide range of performance fabrics used in their clothing - 'Polartec', 'Isotex' and 'Isolite' being examples. Curiously there seems to be no specific mention of the impact of production on the environment, which is disappointing.

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