German discounters under pressure

Thursday, January 12th, 2012 -

A few days ago, the German department of the clean clothes campaign published a report, stating that they have found strong violations of working rights by the textile producers for the German discounters Lidl, Aldi and Kik. The campaign had a strong respond in the German press, with coverage in media such as ARDSpiegel,Sueddeutsche and Handelsblatt.

After earlier publications about their labor circumstances, Lidl and Kik promised to do better, and started to organize trainings in social standards with their producers.

At the end of 2011, a team of researchers went to Bangladesh and interviewed 162 workers. In their following publication, the clean clothes campaign concluded, that human rights violations are still daily business of the seamstresses.

I talked with Sandra Dusch Silva from Christliche Initiave Romero, one of the coordinators of the publication, and I asked her what the discounters should do. She states: “We need a structural change here. What these companies have done until now is not sufficient. The system itself has to change. They should change their buying practices. They should change the way the audits take place. They should become part of a multi-stakeholder initiative. The trainings should be optimized, until now only the middle management had access to the trainings. Also the workers should have access here.”

After the publication, Lidl and Kik showed their willingness to talk with representatives of the Clean Clothes Campaign. Until now, Aldi did not respond at all. Lidl stated to Spiegel: “We take this very serious. But the living and working circumstances in developing countries can’t be compared with European standards.”

It might be a big challenge to bring the discounters to the structural change that the clean clothes campaign demands. Because, after all, aren’t the discounters themselves the problem? as the Berliner Zeitung concludes pointy. Those who want to sell cheap have to buy cheap. That’s a matter also consumers should ask themselves: “who actually pays the price when I shop as cheap as possible?”



PPR dates planet with environmental account

Thursday, November 17th, 2011 -

The french multinational enterprise PPR, known for retail and luxury brands such as Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent, Stella Mc Cartney and Puma, announced to commit to an environmental profit and loss account by 2015. After PUMA developed and presented this account for their company and published the first results, now the whole PPR Group will follow and publicly rank, spank and thank their impact on the planet.

The operation goes on the account of former PUMA-Chairman Jochen Zeitz and is managed by PPR Home, a new sustainability department of PPR, probably better known from the movie HOME. The steps of the multinational make clear, that the topic of corporate transparency is gaining terrain and also main players want to sit on the bright side of the planet and clean up their corporate karma.

It is to hope that the group will meanwhile not only monitor their environmental impact but will also do everything to reduce it, also before 2015 (they probably need 3 years to clean up some stuff before publishing about it). And while being busy with the planet, also sweat day and night to get fair living wages and labor conditions in place.

We will anyway need to rely on other sources such as Wegreen as well, to know what’s up with the brands we buy. And if not committed by the companies themselves, public pressure like recently around the Greenpeace detox campaign might help to get things in the right direction. Because we all have a date with the planet…