Kathmandu has released its 2019 Sustainability Report, revealing how it plans to combat modern slavery.

Kathmandu CSR manager Gary Shaw leads these initiatives for Kathmandu.

Previously employed as a human rights investigator, Gary has first-hand experience tackling modern slavery and human trafficking, going undercover in 13 countries to help rescue enslaved people and facilitate the prosecution of prosecutors.

“The UN estimate that there is 40.3 million people in slavery now, more than at any other time in human history, 75% of which are hiding in global supply chains,” he said.

The annual 2019 Kathmandu Sustainability Report, the eighth report to be released in the series, outlines the approaches the brand is taking to abolish modern slavery as well as milestones across sustainable product development and ethical business pratice.

“When the Modern Slavery Act’s mandated reporting commences from July 2020, all companies with revenues over $100 million will be required to report the risks in their supply chains and what they are doing to overcome them. The aim is not to say that you don’t have slavery in your supply chain, it’s encouraging companies to report where they identify those risks so that they can be addressed,”he said.

“Allowing businesses to discuss slavery risks in the open without fear of shame or criticism will allow for the collaboration necessary to shut it down.”

Beyond the introduction of WeChat - a reporting tool for Kathmandu - the brand has seen recent success in mindset training for workers.

Factory manager at Kathmandu’s Vietnamese supplier, TGI, said that before such training took place, workers would refuse promotions because they lacked confidence.

“As a result of Kathmandu’s commitment to sustainability, we are identifying progressive suppliers like TGI that can see the benefits of workers who are less vulnerable and more engaged - to allocate them more business," Shaw said.

A further initiative, the TGI factory’s loan program, is also working to reduce the prevalence of debt bondage, which affects around eight million people according to The International Labour Organization.

“Some workers need to borrow money to help their parents build a house or for a wedding, university fees for their children or in the case of illness. If they borrow money from a private bank, the interest is 20%.

"We created loans from our management board to help the employees have a better life so they don’t have to worry and can concentrate on their job."

Laborlink, an anonymous confidential survey tool that workers complete using their own mobile phone, has helped Kathmandu target harassment and bullying in factories.

“Audits are very good at looking at the building, checking that fire escapes aren’t blocked and that workers are getting fairly paid, but it doesn’t reveal things like harassment or bullying, which can have a much more detrimental impact,” Shaw said.

Kathmandu’s strict auditing and reporting protocols, including WeChat, resulted in 144 corrective action plans being issued in 2018, leading to 49 exits – for the safety and wellbeing of staff.

“By supporting companies like TGI with our business, we are directly preventing and proactively addressing those factors that fuel modern slavery,” Shaw said.

Further achievements from the past 12 months detailed in Kathmandu’s latest Sustainability Report include:

• Becoming the largest B Corporation in Australia and New Zealand
• Scoring an ‘A’ in the Ethical Fashion Report
• Ranking second in the textile exchange report three years running
• Recycling 9.3 million plastic bottles in to its gear

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