BEIJING — The China National Textile and Apparel Council released its annual report on corporate social responsibility, stressing both the ethical and economic importance of cracking down on illegal overtime and child labor in the industry.
"Let's not fixate on what we produce, but how we produce it," Ou Xinqian, vice minister for Industry and Information Technology, told attendees at a conference last month unveiling the report. CNTAC surveyed nine large-scale textile companies' corporate responsibility practices through a series of on-site visits, interviews and other research.
The language of the report indicates China is taking a tougher stance on CSR, avoiding vague terminology and clearly identifying terms such as: "child workers," "compulsory labor," "discrimination" and "harassment and abuse."
The report identified working hours as one of the biggest CSR challenges facing the textile industry. Although the situation for overtime has shown some improvement, all but one of the companies surveyed failed to comply with legal working hours.
The majority of employees questioned confirmed a decrease in overtime to less than 40 hours a month. Still, 22 percent of employees surveyed stated they work between 66 to 90 hours of overtime a month, exceeding the Chinese legal limit of 36 hours a month.
In the area of child labor, results were mixed. All the enterprises surveyed employed legally registered juvenile workers (defined in Chinese law as workers over the age of 16 but under the age of 18), but roughly half the companies failed to provide proper medical records for these workers. Only one enterprise had a child worker, identified as "an inherited case." Nearly all the companies were found to be in compliance with CSR guidelines when it came to issues of discrimination and compulsory labor. The two exceptions were a firm whose labor ad bordered on residency discrimination and another that asked employees to turn in IDs to prepare documents and passes (holding employees' IDs is often an indicator of forced labor). No widespread or serious cases of harassment or abuse were identified in any of the companies.
Council representatives expressed concern that rising costs, linked to rapidly rising oil prices and the appreciation of the yuan, could force some companies to put CSR on the back burner.Soaring oil prices are putting a strain on China's chemical fiber industry. Meanwhile, the country's currency revaluation is biting into exports. For every 1 percent appreciation of the yuan, the industry loses 7.2 billion yuan ($1.05 million) in profits, according to the report. The yuan is expected to rise an additional 8 to 10 percent in 2008, according to the Bank of China. Also, small and medium-size textile and apparel companies have suffered from some government policy changes, such as the scaling back of export tax refunds for the third time in as many years.
"CSR helps your bottom line," said David R. Kelley, a former senior research fellow with the National University of Singapore's East Asian Institute, who attended the conference. "It may not help the bottom line in every case, but without that incentive, it has no future in China."
At present, the industry is focusing on the environmental commitment issue. The report cited energy saving and emission reduction as the industry's top development priority. One target is to lower wastewater emission per unit of output by 22 percent over the course of five years. CNTAC statistics show the dyeing and printing sector has the second-highest water consumption among manufacturing industries, but only recycles 7 percent of its used water.
A notice from the Ministry of Commerce and State Environmental Protection Industry should provide plenty of incentive for companies to clean up their act. The notice, issued late last year, promised harsh punishment for environmental violations, the most serious being the suspension of export licenses.
“Azzedine has been one of the biggest influences in my life. He has always been such a strong, loving, fatherly figure to me. I call him Papa. His designs are indescribably unique, they are pieces of art. He knew how to make the female form look its loveliest. I have so many memories of him; my favorite might be during my first show with him in Paris. He liked me and he wanted to help me get more work. He called all his friends at Kenzo and Comme des Garcons, and asked them to book me. They said, ‘But she can’t walk!’ And he said, ‘but she has such a great ass!' His friendship and support has been the great privilege of my career. I can't imagine life without him. Repose en paix mon Papa.” - @stephanieseymour tells @wwd. #wwdfashion (📷: @steveeichner) #alaia #azzedinealaia
Azzedine Alaïa, flanked by two of his closest friends, models Stephanie Seymour and Naomi Campbell.
He designed Seymour’s dress for her 1995 wedding to Peter Brant, and treated Campbell (who famously called him Papa), like a daughter. For more on the legendary designer, tap the link in bio. #wwdfashion #alaia #azzedinealaia
Azzedine Alaïa's “I-did-it-my-way” ethos stood out starkly at a time when brands are experimenting with consumer-facing fashion shows, coed formats and trans-seasonal collections – anything to perk up lackluster sales of ready-to-wear in an age of Insta-everything. “It’s not creation anymore. This becomes a purely industrial approach,” the late designer told WWD in an interview last year. “But anyway, the rhythm of collections is so stupid. It’s unsustainable. There are too many collections.” Read more about the iconic designer’s life and work on wwd.com, link in bio. #wwdfashion #azzedinealaia (📷: @WWD Archive, 1986) #alaia
Sneaker reselling app @goat’s latest exhibit, "The Greatest: New York," tells the story of New York's sneaker culture. To celebrate the exhibit, an intimate crowd gathered on Thursday night at the pop-up gallery space, located at Platform in Culver City, to hear guest speaker and illustrator @esymai talk about her own rise in streetwear and women in the business. "For me I'm just someone who is creative. I like to create things," said Chang. #wwdfashion
Azzedine Alaïa, one of the most iconic couturiers of the modern era whose body-con designs defined Eighties fashion, has died in Paris. The diminutive Tunisian-born designer, known for his structured knitted dresses with fitted waists and impeccably cut, figure-hugging second skin silhouettes was deeply admired by his peers, and counted supermodel Naomi Campbell - his adoptive daughter - among his inner circle, one of a gang of glamazons including Farida Khelfa, Carla Bruni and Stephanie Seymour who became ambassadors of his style. (📷: Alexandre Guirkinger) #wwdblast