Spotlight on...Brands deny claims of continued sandblasting
Diesel has slammed a report in which it is accused of continuing to source its products from Bangladeshi suppliers that use sandblasting, despite the denim brand banning the practice.
Significantly, research by the Clean Clothes Campaign found that sandblasting units are still open in most factories used by brands and retailers - and even in instances when a brand has banned sandblasting, the process still takes place, often at night to avoid detection by audits.
Campaigners say that sandblasting - a technique which involves using high-pressure blast guns to fire sand at denim fabric to create faded and worn patches, causes silicosis, a potentially fatal lung disease. They claim the condition has already killed more than 50 Turkish denim workers, with doctors predicting thousands more around the world have also contracted the condition.
"Smaller workshops reportedly still either only or predominately use manual sandblasting methods," the report said. Although it is possible to test for sandblasting, this is not covered in buyer/audit visits. Indeed, one manager interviewed believed buyers purposely do not test for sandblasting.
A spokesperson for Diesel told just-style that it introduced the ban before the launch of its spring/summer 2012 range, adding there isn't "any factory or supplier manufacturing Diesel located in Bangladesh".
Diesel is calling for a review of the information provided in the report, which it says "has not been fact-checked, and which could be detrimental for its [the company's] reputation," the spokesperson said.
Meanwhile, a Levi's spokesperson told just-style it has verified through on-site inspection that all of its authorised suppliers no longer use sandblasting at sites where its garments are produced. Suppliers have also been required to remove all abrasives and sandblasting equipment from these sites.
"We are confident that none of our products are sandblasted, because of site visits made by our audit teams and because the look and feel of sandblasted denim is noticeably different than looks achieved through the alternative craftsmanship techniques we employ," the spokesperson said. "Following production, our product quality teams inspect all our garments for quality and adherence to our company policies."
Zara owner Inditex told just-style that "harmful sandblasting techniques are strictly prohibited under the Inditex Code of Conduct for suppliers" and that since 2010 it has worked closely with its suppliers to ensure that they either use laser-based methods for finishing denim products, or safety controlled techniques.
H&M emphasised that it introduced the ban in 2010 but continues to audit safety requirements for sandblasting facilities in supplier factories, even though they are not permitted to use these facilities and processes for H&M production.
"We continue to minimise the the health and safety risks to suppliers' workers from sandblasting for other brands, and overall to [encourage] better practices in the industry," a H&M spokesperson said.
And C&A, which also decided to end sandblasting in September 2010, said this is monitored by the Service Organisation for Compliance Audit Management (SOCAM). In June 2011 it sent out a reminder to suppliers that sandblasting is not permitted in the production of its garments. However, the spokesperson told just-style it would need to investigate the claims as the report does not provide the names of the suppliers in question.
The Clean Clothes Campaign is calling on brands to take more action to end all forms of sandblasting, including ceasing production in any unit that carries out either manual or mechanical sandblasting, making changes to the design of the jeans, and working with local trade unions and worker rights organisations to ensure the ban is being upheld.
It is also calling on governments to ban the process and for the EU to introduce an import ban on sandblasted products, as well as seeing the garment industry included in the World Health Organization/International Labour Organization work on the elimination of silicosis and to develop a national programme in Bangladesh.
Esprit and Lee have yet to respond to requests for comment.
This article was originally published on 2 April.
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