SAI Corporate Member Spotlight: Anvil Knitwear's Educational Approach to Sustainability

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Social Accountability International (SAI)
Keywords: Business & Trade | Earthday | Education | Ethical Production and Consumption | agriculture | anvilknitwear | cotton | csr | ecofashion | garment | organic

SAI Corporate Member Spotlight: Anvil Knitwear's Educational Approach to Sustainability

SAI interviews Anvil Knitwear's Caterina Conti to learn more about its efforts to promote ethical consumerism, and Earth Day events
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Summary

Established over a century ago, Anvil Knitwear is a leading apparel manufacturer, primarily in the imprintable and private label markets. Anvil, a SAI Signatory Corporate Program member since 2007, is an active player in the sustainability field. Headquartered in New York, it is a vertically integrated manufacturer, with an estimated 4,300 employees in the U.S., Central America and Europe. It is also the largest buyer of U.S.-grown organic and transitional cotton. Anvil has won numerous awards for its work, including for its interactive, educational website- www.TrackMyT.com - that educates consumers about how a shirt is created, from a cotton seed to the factory floor.

Article
Friday, April 27, 2012 - 6:15pm

Q. Earth Day is always an eventful time for Anvil Knitwear - you're one of the key sponsors of the Earth Day festival in New York at Grand Central Station. What did you do this year?

This year, it's all about the kids. We wanted to showcase the schools that were recipients from our Organic Learning Garden program. We also gave used TrackMyT® board games to educate kids about what they could learn about who, and how, their clothing is being made and its carbon footprint. The organic gardens allows us to take the TrackMyT® into the classroom.

Q. I remember last year that TrackMyT® drew a lot of attention at the Earth Day event at Grand Central. Can you tell us more about the organic garden program?

We started the Organic Learning Garden program with Earth Day NYC, and then carried out a pilot program with 19 schools, and this received positive reviews from students and teachers. The program provides organic container gardens to classrooms in New York City public schools, with instructions on how to cultivate organic vegetables and educator lesson plans. In the next year we expect to continue the program to penetrate at least 10 percent of NYC public schools and other communities.  

Q. I noticed that Anvil takes a holistic and educational approach to communicate the 'story' of its products to its consumers- with TrackMyT®, and the Organic Garden Program - can you tell us more about the linkage between the two, as well as the inspiration?

Anvil has been a supporter of environmental education for kids. The Organic Garden Program is really an extension of the TrackMyT® program, where we are trying to help school children to learn about sustainability in a fun way from both the social and environmental angles. We believe that sustainability issues are often communicated in ways that may be too complex for consumers to understand and act upon, and therefore TrackMyT® is our tool to engage kids and their parents in a language that consumers understand.  

With TrackMyT®, we wanted to find a tool to let our customers know that a t-shirt is not a commodity, to show that this product is 'not just a t-shirt'- that it has been on a journey all the way from the cotton fields, and touched by many human hands to create it. It was critically important for us to showcase this.

This year for Earth Day we focused on how to reinvent TrackMyT® to showcase all aspects of sustainability- such as highlighting employees and disclosing our carbon footprint. And with the Organic Garden program we're teaching kids about both farming, and the farmer.

At the end of the day, we want to help inform consumers to make more responsible choices. The more we can tell them about a t-shirt and the process behind its production, the more they will be informed to make responsible purchasing decisions and influence others to do the same. The next stage of TrackMyT® will revolve around our AnvilOrganic® line-we want to build a culture around organic choices.

Q. As Anvil is primarily a B2B company, it was interesting that the traceability concept behind TrackMyT® got so much attention - the website actually won a Webby Award, and your Shirt Scan app for smart phones has been downloaded by over 1,000 people. How else has TrackMyT® penetrated the consumer market?

Right now TrackMyT® is being used in 153 countries, and its pick up has been without too much marketing.  I think people are interested in learning about the story behind products they just purchased, and hopefully they better value that product. 

Q. One of the things that makes Anvil Knitwear really unique is its team - specifically how its senior management for sustainability is a tight knit group that puts forth an integrated effort. What is an example of a 'sustainability' initiative that you are taking on internally?  

Currently, Anvil is working on implementing the Calvert Women's Principles, and we've adopted them across all operations to address gender issues, and to provide opportunities for women's education and professional advancement. Women comprise about 50% of our workforce, not just in the U.S. but also in Central America. In 2011, we completed a comprehensive self-assessment and we reported our findings and plan of action in Anvil's 2011 CSR Report.

This year, we are rolling out a mechanic's training program for women. Also, in collaboration with Foundations for Social Change, we are also launching a worker training program to encourage and develop more women engineers at our factories. We will continue to report our results in upcoming CSR reports.

Q. Any particular challenges so far?

In terms of our worker training program, interestingly we found that the greatest barrier can be women themselves who find it difficult to perceive themselves in the role of engineer. Our challenge is in helping women overcome cultural perceptions of their own limitations.    

Caterina Conti is Anvil Knitwear's Executive Vice President and Head of Sustainability. Learn more about Anvil Knitwear's work at anvilcsr.com, and its TrackMyT® program at trackmyt.com.

This article was conducted by SAI Communications Manager Joleen Ong.

Contact

JoLeen Ong
+1 (212) 684-1414ext. 243
Social Accountability International (SAI)