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Navigating the social side of sustainability

July, 2023

Making outdoor gear not only impacts the environment. People too. Here, we delve into the topic of social responsibility and get real about Haglöfs’ Fair Wear Leader status which Haglöfs lost this year following the EU’s rollout of stricter corporate human rights legislation. The landscape is changing, but Haglöfs fully embraces it.

When contemplating the subject of sustainability, it is natural to think in terms of environmental impact. Carbon footprints, pollution, waste management. But there’s another, very important aspect to sustainability that makes up a critical part of any company’s total sustainability work: the social aspect.

Why do people sometimes forget about the social aspect of sustainability?“I think it we tend to only see the environment we are physically located in, and it can be easy to overlook the fact that the industry involves millions of workers around the globe. And here, unfortunately, labor and human rights are not universally applied” says Jiwon Jang.

Jiwon Jang is Haglöfs’ CSR Manager. Her job is to help ensure that Haglöfs’ supply chain is aligned with their social responsibility commitments. She is an invaluable guide as Haglöfs navigates these commitments while continuing to produce products globally. The often-bumpy journey requires frequent reevaluation, learning, and a commitment to continuous improvement.

What exactly is “social responsibility”?

In the textile industry, it is becoming increasingly difficult to ignore the perils of mass garment production. They are not only evident in the growing problem of textile waste, but also in the headlines exposing the consequences the world’s fast fashion habit has on the people making it as they face unsafe working conditions, excessive working hours, and insufficient wages. Increasing awareness of these problems has brought increasing pressure on brands to take more responsibility.

Social responsibility means taking the responsibility to ensure that business activities do not contribute to any adverse human rights impacts. This responsibility stretches to encompass all of the people who help make a business’ products come to life. According to Jiwon, although it may appear to be a separate mission, social responsibility very much goes hand-in-hand with environmental sustainability.

“They are interdependent and should be tackled as a whole rather than separately,” she says. “We can’t say that we are happy and feel that our human rights are being appreciated without considering the environmental aspects and vice versa— sustainability really is about putting those two together.”

Fair Wear raised the bar on brand performance—and Haglöfs lost their Leader status

A prominent force working to improve conditions for workers in garment factories around the world is an NGO called Fair Wear. They are a multi-stakeholder initiative with the goal of protecting the rights of workers in the textile industry together with likeminded stakeholders, including brands. Haglöfs has been a member of Fair Wear for more than 10 years now.

Haglöfs’ Fair Wear membership means they are provided with a channel for knowledge sharing, connecting with their workers, and monitoring the supply chain. Fair Wear has higher standards compared to the rest of the industry. Therefore, as a member brand, Haglöfs is held accountable to level up their own efforts in terms of social responsibility and help spread higher standards across the entire industry. That is why Haglöfs is evaluated by Fair Wear on their purchasing practices on an annual basis in a “Brand Performance Check.”  This check helps Haglöfs identify their strengths and weaknesses in their work in terms of social responsibility.

Haglöfs has proudly held Leader status among Fair Wear brands for the past few years.But this year was different. It was the first year that brands were evaluated after the introduction of a renewal of the Brand Performance Check. Restructuring was to be aligned with the upcoming corporate human rights legislation in the EU, and that legislation focuses on due diligence which is aligned with a risk-based approach.

Following the latest check carried out in May this year, Haglöfs lost their Leader status. The results showed that Haglöfs’ risk assessment is not fully integrated, and that the connection between the risks and action plans should be clearer.

“We don’t see our lost Leader status as a failure, but as an opportunity to gain more insight into where we can improve,” says Jiwon. “Changing legal and civil society requirements put a burden on brands, but we really support that. It’s the right way and the only way forward. We will continue to lobby for stricter requirements and continuously reevaluate ourselves.”

Haglöfs’ next steps for social responsibility

Making social responsibility a real practice means performing due diligence. Haglöfs continuously assess the risks related to human rights in their supply chain and works to mitigate and prevent those risks to ensure that everyone involved in making their products is treated fairly and takes their fair share.

A recent important milestone was establishing a sourcing team in Asia to have eyes closer to the ground. Many bigger companies have local auditors, local teams that can take a closer look at the grounds and ensure good standards are being upheld. Now, having a local sourcing team, Haglöfs will also be able to get closer to that.

“If we have any issues, there is always someone close who can get to the factory quickly and talk to the workers and the staff,” says Jiwon. “It will definitely help in terms of having closer management and being able to make continuous improvements."

Haglöfs also chooses to work with a consolidated pool of suppliers as that helps them to work more closely with each factory and develop more quality communication. This is important as issues in the factory is always a joint responsibility between Haglöfs and the factory, that together need to work find a way forward.

At Haglöfs we are committed to supporting decent working conditions and having a positive impact on the people we connect with. We will work even harder to continuously keep improving as a brand. That’s our mission when it comes to human rights,” concludes Jiwon.

Read more:

Haglöfs’ latest Fair Wear Brand Performance Check

Haglöfs’ Sustainability Report

Haglöfs latest social report