Clothing giant should dare to wear more heart on its sleeve
PVH’s 2014 CSR report is boldly titled “Driving Positive Impacts from Source to Store”. Does it provide evidence to support this claim?
If you don’t know PVH, you certainly know its brands: Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger, Van Heusen, Izod, Arrow, Speedo, Warner’s and Olga. The group generates more than $8bn in annual revenue, employing more than 30,000 people in 40 countries.
PVH’s seventh annual CSR report is in line with the G3 GRI standard. In addition to the PDF format, selected content is also presented on a microsite (www.PVHcsr.com). Both are structured in three main sections: Responsible Business, Source & Make and Sell & (Re)Use. Stories are further categorised by PVH’s three key CSR focus areas: empowering people, preserving the environment and supporting communities.
PVH follows a current trend to start its report with a summary infographic. The highlights selected give a good indication of the strength of material in the report: “$5m commitment to Save the Children”, “38m shirts produced according to Oeko-Tex Standard for testing textiles”, and, oddly, “700,000+ individuals throughout our supply chain”.
The interest lies not in how many people work in factories, but in establishing if PVH has a positive impact on these 700,000 people. Unfortunately the answers do not lie within. Despite seven years of reporting, PVH has not learned that transparency equals credibility. Its reporting of labour issues in supplier factories is determinedly opaque. Consider some key questions a reader might ask, and the answers given:
Q: What are average working hours? A: “58% of assessment findings remediated.”
Q: How many instances of child labour did you uncover? A: “100% of assessment findings remediated.”
Q: What proportion of factories had health and safety violations? A: “72% of findings remediated”.
Interrogating the PVH report is like a conversation with an automated phone system – you never quite get the information you need. The bland assurances continue in what could have been an interesting item: “A Day in the Life of a CSR Assessor”. Instead of a first-hand account from the assessors, the piece is written by an unidentified reporter. None of the gritty realities of inspecting factories come across. No mention of duplicate labour records, incorrect age IDs or coaching and intimidation of workers. In reality, factory assessors are savvy people with many techniques for unearthing management malpractice. But in this report it’s “an open discussion with management … emphasizing our commitment to partnership”.
PVH reports on a number of “environmental initiatives in the works”, including current participation in industry working groups such as the Textile Exchange, the Responsible Down Standard and the International Working Group of the Responsible Wool Standard. Moving forward, PVH says it will continue to flesh out its pilot approaches to issues such as water stewardship, sustainable materials sourcing and an animal-welfare policy.
Tommy Hilfiger plays a lead role in PVH’s environmental work, and rolled out its 2020 Sustainable Evolution Strategy this year, which includes specific 2020 environmental targets; notably, sourcing 100% of cotton sustainably and reducing greenhouse gas emission by 20%. The report says that Tommy Hilfiger sourced 1.13m pounds of cotton through the Better Cotton Initiative in 2014 but does not reveal the total cotton use. Similarly the brand’s GHG emissions are not disclosed so progress towards the 2020 goal cannot be verified.
The report does have strengths. It’s a very human document with personal voices telling the story on nearly every page. Executives and managers seem genuinely engaged, with contributions from Tommy Hilfiger CEO Daniel Grieder and Calvin Klein creative director Amy Mellen. The design of the PDF and microsite is clear and appealing with good photographs and infographics. The microsite is particularly strong, and would be even more engaging if immersive storytelling and video features were added. This would help attract a wider audience profile than the PDF report.
PVH says that next year, it will conduct a new materiality assessment in line with G4 GRI guidelines, and continue developing KPIs for its programmes. We suggest the company digs deeper. The problems with this report do not stem from a lack of understanding of the issues – PVH shows good awareness of labour and environmental concerns. The issue is the lack of transparency and willingness to provide the reader with information with which to form a view on the company’s progress.
Sustainability is a “show me” world not a “trust me” world. PVH’s undoubted investment in social and environmental progress is bringing the company less credit than it deserves, because of its reticence. We encourage PVH to share its journey, frustrations as well as successes, in the knowledge that the increased candour will be disarming and engaging.
Follows GRI? Yes
Materiality analysis? Yes
Stakeholder input? Yes
Seeks feedback? No
Key strengths? Dynamic case studies
Chief weakness? Transparency and metrics
Pleasant surprise? Human element