COVID-19 — And the Global Fashion Industry – Dramatic Impacts – And Good News

By Jesse VelazquezGRI Report Analyst Intern at G&A Institute

Good news in the midst of bad news — emblematic of the COVID-19 crisis environment. 

#7 in the Series – Excellence in Corporate Citizenship on Display in the Corona Virus Crisis

The impact of the coronavirus on the fashion industry has been felt at the height of the season’s fashion month with fashion show events from Giorgio Armani, Prada, Gucci, and Versace, to name a few, cancelled across the world.

In the midst of the bad news there is also welcome news of excellence in corporate citizenship from the industry.  We bring you this wrap-up.

Sharp decreases in sales and revenue loss with global brands like Nike and Uniqlo closing store locations and experiencing major supply chain disruptions with many factories operating out of China, Italy, and France having to close.

The troubling news:

Some retailers, such as Victoria’s Secret, have also had to temporarily close their e-commerce sites.

Reported earnings are stark across the board, with names like Ralph Lauren reporting a decrease in sales by an estimate of US$55 to $70 million dollars.

Capri Holdings — which owns Versace, Michael Kors, and Jimmy Choo brands — experienced a revenue loss of US$100 million dollars, according to CNBC.

Fashion retailers took major hits in the stock market with companies like Gap Inc., down 11.8%; J.C. Penny, down 12.1%; and Nordstrom Inc., down 11.4% (to name but a few).

Smaller fashion brands are unable to weather the financial losses of the pandemic. Los Angeles fashion brand Bldwn had to go directly into Chapter 7 bankruptcy, liquidating assets and letting go of its entire staff.

There are others that have also had to file Chapter 7. Chanel, a major fashion house, had to halt its productions in Italy, France, and Switzerland for the next 2 weeks — but announced its workers will still be paid.

Looking Creatively At the Way Forward

In the midst of all the turmoil, the fashion industry is looking for creative ways to move forward, such as staging fashion shows on Facebook Live and stepping up their philanthropic efforts in their impacted communities.

The Good News
Here are just some of the contributions to COVID-19 relief from the global fashion industry:

Giorgio Armani has donated 1.25 million euros to hospitals and institutions in Italy, and Versace contributed about $144.000 to the China Red Cross Foundation.

LVMH — which owns Dior, Fendi, Louis Vuitton, and Givenchy — is using its perfumes and cosmetics division to produce and distribute hydroalcoholic gel (free) for French hospitals. They also announced that they will be supplying French authorities with more than 40 million face masks in collaboration with a Chinese manufacturer.

Ralph Lauren pledged $10 million dollars to be split among World Health Organization (WHO) COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund and CFDA’s “A Common Thread” project, among others.

Gucci is donating 2 million euros to COVID-19 efforts. This is split between the Italian Civil Protection Department (Gucci is based in Italy), and through a matching Facebook campaign for the WHO COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund. Gucci also pledged to make more than 1 million protective face masks.

Nike had announced that it will donate $15 million dollars in COVID-19 relief efforts in communities both in the US and abroad where Nike employees live and work. It has also recently announced that it is prototyping a face shield to help protect healthcare professionals.

GAP Inc. announced that it will use its factories to make gowns, masks, and scrubs for healthcare workers.

Prada is one of the latest high-end fashion brand to announce that they will produce 110,000 masks by April 6th..

As businesses are able to reallocate their personnel, assets, and networks to support the communities that support them in times of crisis, there are strong signals that the private sector has the capacity to not only transform business to be more resilient to change, but also our communities, and society.

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Note: Along the lines of this wrap-up, Hank Boerner highlighted Estee Lauder’s actions in the Excellence in Corporate Citizenship Series on Display in the Coronavirus Crisis blog –  on March 25, 2020.

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Jesse Velazquez is a GRI Report Analyst Intern at G&A Institute. He’s a career managers in retailing with leading organizations and stepped down from his management role to pursue a degree in Environmental Sustainability (full-time) and now analyzing corporate sustainability / responsibility disclosure & reporting at G&A.

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G&A Institute Team Note:
We continue to bring you news of private (corporate and business), public and social sector developments as organizations in the three societal sectors adjust to the emergency.

The new items will be posted at the top of the blog post and the items today will move down the queue.

We created the tag Corporate Purpose – Virus Crisis” for this continuing series – and the hashtag “#WeRise2FightCOVID-19” for our Twitter posts.  Do join the conversation and contribute your views and news.

Send us news about your organization – info@ga-institute.com so we can share.   Stay safe – be well — keep in touch!

The Power of the Purse / The Power of the Portfolio – Looking At Consumers and Investors in the United States of America

by Hank Boerner – Chair & Chief Strategist – G&A Institute

Facts:  The U.S. has the largest consumer market in the world (estimated spending is at US$12.5 trillion, or 26 percent of the global total consumer marketplace, and three times the size of the #2 consumer market, China).  “Personal” consumption accounts for 70% of US GDP.

Facts:  The US has the world’s largest investment base — for domestic bonds, that is $40 trillion of the $100 trillion worldwide bond market, and $20 trillion for domestic equities, roughly one-third of the $64 trillion entire global equities market.

Question: Imagine if the consumers and investors (of course, with much overlap here) in this nation of 331 million (third largest population in the world behind China and India) enthusiastically “dived into what living more sustainability means”.

Answer: It is happening, of course, from the American grassroots to grasstops — even if the President of the United States is withdrawing the nation from the historic Paris Agreement on Climate Change and denying the impacts of global warming et al. 

Our Top Story for you this week is from CNBC (NBC-TV Network), with commentary from Alicia Adamczyk about a new series to be telecast: “CNBC Make It”, examining different facets of consumerism and finance and how these related to climate change and sustainability. (CNBC carries investing and market news throughout the day and has popular program hosts through the day and evening. The original name: Consumer News and Business Channel.)

The series can reach a quarter million viewers and more on CNBC in prime time and content is especially geared to younger age cohorts. Every day, volumes of content are shared on the CNBC web platform.  As the editors say — Influencing tomorrow’s leaders! Who will be among the most influential consumers and investors in the USA. 

Why is this media effort important?  Consider: A 2019 survey told that us 72 per cent of Americans now say global warming is a personally important issue.  And 44% support a carbon tax, according to another survey.

State and local governments (especially New York State and City and California) have been launching comprehensive sustainability initiatives. Plastic bags for taking shopping items home are going the way of the extinct Dodo bird in New York State, for example.

On the investing front, 85% of individual investors in the USA and 95% of the Millennials expressed interest in “impact investing” and making their portfolios more sustainable (source: Morgan Stanley Institute for Sustainable Investing).

A doff of the cap to CNBC editors for their informational and educational efforts to help advance personal and institutional sustainability and sustainable investing.  You can learn more about their work at the link in our Top Story (there are links on the CNBC web platform to interesting sustainability topics).

And a short note on the future: This Coronavirus Crisis will pass and the world will get back to work. Investors and consumers will be looking at what companies are doing during and after the crisis to demonstrate their corporate citizenship. We may have an interruption in the trend, but the sustainability journey continues.

Top Story

More and more Americans want to live more sustainably—we’re diving into what that means
Source: CNBC – Over the past few years, sustainability has become one of the biggest buzzwords in personal finance, with consumers rethinking exactly where and how they spend their money.

The Bangladesh Garment Factory Workers Tragedy — and Investor and Corporate Response Five Years On

By Hank Boerner – Chair, G&A Institute

We are five years on from the Rana Plaza “Savar” five-story factory building collapse and fire that killed more than 1,000 garment workers in Dhaka (Dacca), the crowded capital city of Bangladesh. (The accident was on April 24, 2013). In the ashes and debris there were the labels of prominent developed nations’ apparel marketers. Reputations were at stake — “Reforms” discussions were immediately underway in Europe and North America.

The Europeans moved on with the “Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Safety” while in North America brand marketers were moving on “The Alliance on Bangladesh Safety.”

Where are we today?

The Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) is keeping the accident and aftermath in the focus of the investment community and stakeholders. Yesterday ICCR (a coalition of 300-plus institutional members managing $400 billion AUM) and the group of allied investors issued a statement that helps to explain where we are.

About The Accord

Right after the building collapse, the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety was created as a model for collective action by brand marketers and retailers that source in Bangladesh.

The Accord is now being extended (as the five-year deadline is reached in May) for another three years to complete the remediation of the 1,600 factories and companies that have not signed on (yet) are being invited by the investor coalition to become signatories and to implement the reforms spelled out in the Accord.

The Accord, the investors point out, is still serving as a model that can be adopted and applied to other at-risk countries and sectors.     

The Bangladesh Investor Initiative – led by ICCR – was a catalyst that brought together 250 institutional investors with US$4.5 trillion in AUM in May 2013 to urge a stronger corporate response to the Rana Plaza tragedy, including urging companies to sign on to the Accord.

The coalition invited companies to commit to strengthening local worker trade unions to ensure a “living wage” for all workers, and to engage with the Bangladesh government.

About the Accord:

  • Corporate signatories agree that global and local trade unions and NGOs could be invited to inspect the country’s apparel factories and implement reforms to protect workers.
  • Companies were asked for transparencies in publicly disclosing their suppliers – including those located in the nation of Bangladesh.
  • Worker grievance mechanisms and effective remedies (including compensation) should be put in place for all workers and their families.
  • The investor coalition argued that supply chain transparency is critical to safeguarding workers and employer responsibility – including information on sub-contractors.
  • Note that the Accord is legally-binding for signatories.

Making the Case

Lauren Compere, Managing Director of Boston Common Asset Management makes the case for companies: “Stakeholders, including investors, rely on transparency as a tool for evaluating corporate performance on a range of social, environmental and corporate governance issues. The Accord has been very transparent in requiring disclosure of each of the 1,600 companies it covers, which helps investors track progress. This is a ‘best practice’ that all companies need to implement, beginning with Tier One suppliers, then throughout their supply chain.”

Progress Report – 5 Years On

To date, 220 brands and retailers have signed on to the original Accord. Remediation plans have made 2.5 million workers in “Accord factories” have been made “meaningfully safer”. A steering committee made up of an equal number of brand and union representatives and a neutral chair from the International Labor Organization govern the Accord.

The Accord provided for in-depth health and safety training to personnel in 846 factories, reaching 1.9 million workers. A grievance process is in place; to date, there have been 183 worker complaints investigated and resolved.

Detailed information is required for each factory.

The Rana Plaza Donors Trust Fund has been established to compensate workers injured in the collapse and families of workers who were killed (note that Bangladesh has no national employment injury system). $30 million has been raised to date; companies sourcing garment/apparel work in the country were asked to contribute; 30 companies did so, along with several union funds and foundations. The ILO is the trustee and oversees distributions.

The investor coalition is pleased with the progress made to date – but stresses that there is much work still be done (therefore the 3-year extension is necessary). “The job of mediating all of the issue is far from done and we will continue to urge those companies that have not signed on to the 2018 Accord and its three-year extension to do so.”

The New Elements to the Accord

The 2018 Transition Accord has gathered140 signatory companies to date, with 1,332 factories covered. The new elements include:

  • Safety Committee & Safety Training at all covered factories;
  • Training and Complaints Protocol on Freedom of Association;
  • Severance payments for affected workers in factory closures and relocations.
  • Voluntary expansion of the scope to include home textiles; fabric and knit accessories;
  • Transition of Accord functions to a national regulatory body.

We’ll bring you updates as the Transition to the new Accord continues.

About the Nation of Bangladesh

Located in Southeast Asia, the People’s Republic of Bangladesh is the world’s 8th most populous country, according to Wikipedia (163 million estimated). It was once part of “British India” until East Bengal became part of the Dominion of Pakistan, was re-named East Pakistan and then became independent in the early -1970s. It is characterized as a “developing country,” one of the poorest, and trades with the USA, EU, China, Japan, India, and other nations. Per capita income was estimated at US$1,190 in 2014.

The largest industries are textiles and ready-made garments; leather-goods (footwear is the second largest in exports. Bangladesh is the second largest exporter of clothes in the world.

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Notes / Information:

There’s more information for you on the ICCR web site: www.iccr.org

Information about the Accord: http://bangladeshaccord.org/

The Accord Update for April is at: http://bangladeshaccord.org/wp-content/uploads/ACCORD_FACTSHEET_Apr2018.pdf

There’s information for you in G&A Institute’s “To the Point!” management briefing platform:

https://ga-institute.com/to-the-point/a-big-year-2018-for-developments-in-corporate-sustainability-sustainable-investing-the-two-halves-of-the-great-whole-of-the-new-norms-of-capitalism/

CNBC in commenting on the five year anniversary (on April 24) noted the factories still pose a life-threatening risk, with 3,000 of 7,000 factories endangering the lives of low-paid garment workers (according to a New York University Centre for Business and Human Rights Study).

The story is at: https://www.cnbc.com/2018/04/24/bangladesh-factories-still-pose-life-threatening-risks-five-years-on-from-rana-plaza-disaster.html

The NYU report authored by Paul M. Barrett, Dorothee Baumann-Pauly and April Gu is at: https://static1.squarespace.com/static/547df270e4b0ba184dfc490e/t/5ac9514eaa4a998f3f30ae13/1523143088805/NYU+Bangladesh+Rana+Plaza+Report.pdf

Human Rights Watch also weighed in with “Remember Rana Plaza: https://www.hrw.org/news/2018/04/24/remember-rana-plaza

“Wolf” Now at the Head of EPA – No Disguises Needed to Fool the Sheep (er, We-the-People)

Is the Wolf disguised in sheep’s clothing? Nah — not to worry about any disguising — the wolf’s intentions were well signaled to us — the Denier/Destroyer-in-Chief at U.S. EPA is doing exactly what we expected him to do….

Remember from childhood days when our parent or caregiver told us the story of the “wolf in sheep’s clothing…” We were being cautioned, in one of the many of our early “life’s lessons,” to be careful about the advice we received, to look beyond the words, to watch people’s actions as well as hearing their words.

Because — often the legendary “wolf” would don sheep’s clothing (hey, that’s a great disguise) to mingle with the innocent flock of sheep (that the ravenous wolf really wanted to feed on). Watch out, sheep — and people!

This tale comes down to us in various forms came from different sources, including the Holy Bible, New Testament, with Jesus warning about false prophets. We’re reminded of this brief moral tale (a perennial fable of sorts that developed over the centuries) as we watched the nominees of the Trump Administration.

What do they have to say to pass muster at the U.S. Senate nominations hearing — and what are their real intentions — what will they in fact do while in office to harm our society?

Well, we don’t have to watch the top wolf there at 1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W. — just down the road from the White House. The new EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt let us know with both his past performance and his clearly-stated words his intentions now that he is at the helm of the US EPA ship: he is not a believer that climate change has any relationship to human activities. Like carbon emissions – GhGs to be more accurate.

Administrator Pruitt told his CNBC interviewer on a popular cable program that many investors tune in to: “I think that measuring with precision human activity on the climate is something very challenging to do and there’s tremendous disagreement about the degree of impact, so … I would not agree that it’s a primary contributor to the global warming that we see.  (Emphasis ours.)

Pruitt:  “We need to continue the debate…and the review…and the analysis.” CO2 emissions are not the primary cause, the Administrator mused.

Past Actions – Prelude to Future Actions?

Keep in mind here that this is the former Oklahoma Attorney General who sued the EPA some 13 times.

As Huffington Post’s Dominique Mosbergen put it in January 2017: “It’s a safe assumption that Pruitt could be the most hostile EPA Administrator toward clean air and safe drinking water in history.”

Oh, and on his Linked In page, pre-EPA AG Pruitt noted he was “…the leading advocate against the EPA’s activist agenda…”

Commented writer Mosbergen about EPA’s role in our society (and that agenda):

“The EPA’s mission is to protect human health and the environment by issuing regulations and enforcing the nation’s environmental laws. Under President Barack Obama, the EPA created the Clean Power Plan, which aims to cut carbon pollution from power plants. It also issued new guidance for the Clean Water Act to protect thousands of waterways and wetlands, and introduced measures to limit emissions from heavy-duty trucks and reduce smog and mercury emissions from industrial sources.”

Yes, We Can Expect Changes — Dramatic at That

Now that Administrator Scott Pruit is firmly installed by fellow Senate Republicans at the EPA — we can expect these positive, fact-based actions to rapidly change. For example, here is what his own EPA (the Agency’s official web site) says about this (today):

“Recent climate changes, however, cannot be explained by natural causes alone. Research indicates that natural causes do not explain most observed warming, especially warming since the mid-20th century. Rather, it is extremely likely that human activities have been the dominant cause of that warming…”

And as posted before Election Day in October 2016: “…greenhouse gas emissions have increased the greenhouse effect and caused Earth’s surface temperature to rise. The primary human activity affecting the amount and rate of climate change is greenhouse gas emissions from the burning of fossil fuels.”

Question: Will these posts be up there next Monday morning?

These EPA positions are based in part on the National Research Council work — “Advancing the Science of Climate Warming,” published by National Academies Press.

We should keep watch on all of the EPA information channels to see the interference of the new leadership in the good work of the Agency.  Watch for fake news, of course, and counter that with FACTS.  Science is cool as reference point.

Watch for missing news — up there today – gone in the morning — too much information for the sheep.

Other Governments on the Move

Beyond the EPA Washington DC offices, of course other governments believe in environmental protection — and climate change measures!  (Think”  Paris Accord, COP 21 – now in danger in the Administrator’s hand.)

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said in February 2017 the above after the COP 21 Paris gathering of the world’s government leaders: “The selection of the authors for the IPCC’s 1.5oC report is the first step in the critical journey started at COP 21. This special report will facilitate this important journey by assessing the available science and highlighting the policy options available to support the achievement of a climate safe, equitable and sustainable world,” said Debra Roberts, Co-Chair of Working Group II.”

Assessments of climate change by the IPCC, drawing on the work of hundreds of scientists from all over the world, enable policymakers at all levels of government in many nationsto take sound, evidence-based decisions.

They represent extraordinary value as the authors volunteer their time and expertise. The running costs of the Secretariat, including the organization of meetings and travel costs of delegates from developing countries and countries with economies in transition, are covered through the IPCC Trust Fund…”

Can we now expect that the U.S.A. — with EPA in the lead — will be absent from study and deliberations? Withdraw financial and other support from the IPCC organization?  Deny the outcomes of any research?  (Hmmm….we have to have more studies…”)

That’s what classic deniers/destroyers do in public policy circles — create & sow doubt, deny agencies their funding, change staff to hire more kool-aid drinkers, destroy enforcement capabilities  — and remove “climate change” or “global warming”references  from official web sites.

As the Republican Governor of Florida recently did — the state agencies can’t use such references (climate change?  what’s that?).

Never mind that parts of his state will be underwater with seas rising — including Mar-a-Lago, the “other” White House sitting quite near the beautiful ocean’s edge!.  Much of the Florida expensive waterfronts will move considerably far inland toward Disney World and the I-4 corridor as the oceans warm, ice shelfs recede and glaciers in Antarctica melt…and…and…

OK — we were and are warned — the dangerous wolf is in the head office and not in disguise at the EPA and the sheep (we, The People) will surely be the victims of his wrongheaded and dangerous strategies and tactics as long as he is in control.

We hear you, former EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy:  “When it comes to climate change, the evidence is robust and overwhelmingly clear that the cost of inaction is unacceptably high.”   We miss you, for sure!