Thursday 20 November 2008

Ethical Brand Profile - Jerzees

Jerzees is a large promotional clothing brand with a higher profile in the USA than in the UK. It's American website is in fact curiously unhelpful to our quest for information on the brands ethical credentials. However Jerzees is one of the brands of the Russell Corporation (Russell itself being the other well known brand) and its European website
is much more helpful as well as being rather more attractive.

Unlike the Jerzees USA website, there is a page devoted to "Our Ethics". "Russell Europe believes worldwide ethical practices and principles are now more important than ever. We work to a strict code of practice to help ensure none of our manufacturing processes put the environment at risk. Equally vital is the welfare of the people who make our garments, wherever they are in the globe."

All the Jerzees garments are ├ľko-Tex certified (which means no harmful residual chemicals may be in place in the clothing after manufacture and that the environmental impact of the production process itself was minimal). They also say that they are "committed to having all our manufacturers WRAP (Worldwide Responsible Apparel Production) accredited".

Now it's obvious that this means that Jerzees suppliers are not all currently WRAP accredited. I visited the WRAP website to see if that might shed some light. Unfortunately because Jerzees outsources its production and their site does not say where, and WRAP monitors the actual factories not brands, the WRAP organisation is not going to be able to help us.

The Russell Corporation itself was recently acquired by Berkshire Hathaway Inc., which owns Fruit of the Loom. The link is to our separate blog article on Fruit of the Loom where we considered the status of Berkshire Hathaway as the owner of that brand. In that article I mentioned 'high minded ideals' so in that respect the intention of Jerzees to have all its suppliers WRAP certified is good and in keeping with its owner's ideals.

But we'd really like to have more concrete information on how much of Jerzees production is currently WRAP certified and how long it will be before it all is certified. And what is the status of its other suppliers - what standards are applied there?

As ever help on this sort of issue is appreciated from anyone who can shed light on the answers.

Friday 14 November 2008

Working with Habitat for Humanity

We've a large number of articles in this blog looking at the supply chain in getting t-shirts to us in the UK; it's time to look at the other side of that supply chain, at our customers, how our t-shirts help them and how they in turn help others.

While the clients we supply with clothing are mainly situated here in the UK, the work they do spans the globe. One such client is Habitat for Humanity, an international charity dedicated to the elimination of poverty housing and homelessness around the world. Founded in 1976, and now working in more than 90 countries, Habitat for Humanity have built, repaired or renovated over 300,000 houses in partnership with people in need of safe, decent homes. They run an international volunteering programme, Global Village, where individuals or groups can visit projects and actually work hand in hand with homepartner families to build safe, decent homes.

We got involved with Habitat for Humanity when they were let down by another firm of t-shirt printers. They were soon able to establish our ethical credentials (very important to a charity looking to relieve housing poverty, sometimes in locations where less ethical manufacturing practices may be commonplace) and we were able to supply them with the quality they needed and meet what had become a very tight deadline.

As a result, Habitat for Humanity were able to send their volunteers to a variety of locations where the wearing of the t-shirts by the volunteers helps spread the word about the charity and what they do.

Habitat for Humanity now carries out its work in more than 90 countries around the globe - including most locally two projects in the UK at Liverpool and Southwark. In the image we find our t-shirts being worn by volunteers helping with construction work in Cluj in Romania. The economic and social legacy of years of oppressive rule in a Soviet style economy has left many in Romania without decent shelter. They are forced to live in cold, damp crowded housing, often in high rise apartment blocks, but at the other extreme in older wooden homes that are literally rotting.

What the Habitat programme does is help needy families build their new homes and live in them at a cost that is affordable in the local economy. The homes you see being constructed use a wooden frame structure and sandwich-type walls made of modern thermo-insulating materials. Even though properly heated, living in these homes will use a fraction of the energy of the older drafty colder housing stock still endemic in Romania. The same environmental considerations that helped Habitat for Humanity choose Pier 32 to supply clothing are put into practice in the work they do across the globe.

For more information please visit

Thursday 6 November 2008

Forget the credit crunch, think eco-crunch

Good news! The Bank of England has just cut its base rate by 1.5% meaning that many of us will have a little more money to go around and we might just start to think that things are going to better in a year or so, also making us feel a little better about the here and now.

That rate cut shaves no less than one third off the base rate. Just like that (as Tommy Cooper might say). It seems so easy for it to happen that you might wonder what conjurer, what slight of hand, makes it happen now when something could and should have been done a while ago.

Isn't hindsight wonderful? Wouldn't it be wonderful if there was a separate committee for the preservation of the planet that could sit down for a chat and decide that we all slice a third off the demands that we place on our environment? Today. Just like that.

That's what the planet needs but even if it could happen the harm already caused would not be quickly undone. And let's face it, now that Tommy Cooper is no longer with us, there's little chance of a conjurer achieving the cut. And as for the global committee that is the human race, as we focus on the credit crunch we are liable to forget the eco-crunch and issues such as sustainability, fair trade and global warming.

So if a magic emission cut is not possible what is going to become of us and our planet?

In the latest Living Planet Report, the WWF, the Zoological Society of London and the Global Footprint Network say "the world is heading for an ecological credit crunch as human demands on the world's natural capital reach nearly a third more than earth can sustain." There's that magic third I was referring to above.

"We are acting ecologically in the same way as financial institutions have been behaving economically – seeking immediate gratification without due regard for the consequences," said Jonathan Loh of the Zoological Society of London. And WWF International Director-General James Leape said “If our demands on the planet continue to increase at the same rate, by the mid-2030s we would need the equivalent of two planets to maintain our lifestyles.”

The report was issued on 29 October. For more statements and highlights from the report see the WWF news archive - here's a direct link to the report.