How Schijvens works on fair and transparent chains – MVO Nederland

How Schijvens works on fair and transparent chains – MVO Nederland

May 3, 2024

Chain responsibility. It is a major challenge for many textile companies with production across the border. How do you approach this and do you as a company take responsibility for your product, without passing everything on to your international suppliers? We asked Jeske van Korven and Trix van Halder, both responsible for CSR at Schijvens Corporate Fashion.

You are both responsible for CSR at Schijvens Corporate Fashion, but you both started in different positions. How did that happen?

Jeske: I have been working at Schijvens for 10 years and started with purchasing. However, CSR was becoming increasingly important, so it was important to recruit more people here. Now I’m fully focused on it, together with Trix since October. In short, we are concerned with everything that has to do with sustainability.

Trix: I started at Schijvens 7 years ago, first in marketing and then sales. Very nice, but it tickled. I wanted to do more with sustainability. When I noticed that this was becoming an increasingly important part of the company, I was able to make the switch. In my role as CSR specialist I can fully focus on upcoming legislation such as CSRD. Although we as Schijvens are not obliged to comply with this, we still want to do so. We see the CSRD as a great way to better investigate where our opportunities and challenges lie.

That sounds quite challenging, running the CSR department with just the two of you?

Jeske: The two of us are indeed a small team. It makes a difference that we don’t have to convince anyone at Schijvens of our course, at Schijvens sustainability is the most normal thing in the world and the management fully supports us. This is by no means the case with all (fashion) companies.

Certainly, while you also produce across the border. How did you become aware of the importance of chain responsibility?

Jeske: We are a family business that has been designing, producing and distributing work clothing since 1863. Traditionally, we did production in-house, we had insight into the process. When we started production abroad in 2005, it was self-evident for us to visit those factories immediately. This benefited the cooperation with suppliers and we were immediately aware of the conditions in which our clothing was made. When we first visited a factory in China, it was immediately clear that the conditions there were not the same as at our production location in the Netherlands. We wondered: how can we limit those risks? We decided to engage the Fair Wear Foundation (FWF), an organization that works on a systematic approach to improving conditions. We continuously look at what can be improved, instead of a one-off audit. FWF helps us with that.

Trix: Of course, 20 years ago the CSR Risk Checker did not yet exist, and it took us a lot of time to identify the risks with our new suppliers. The fact that there is now a CSR Risk Checker makes this process a lot easier for companies. With this tool you quickly gain insight into potential CSR risks, so that you know what you need to be aware of when starting a new collaboration with a supplier.

What are you doing now to guarantee working conditions in your chain?

Trix:In recent years we have worked on living wages in various countries. Such a project starts with conversations with our suppliers and employees. After all, they must be satisfied with their salary. We determine their monthly expenses through a survey to establish a benchmark. We then compare this with existing benchmarks to determine the new wage.

Jeske: This is easier said than done, by the way. The situation varies per country and supplier. Take our production in Pakistan. In Pakistan it was possible to collaborate with another clothing company. Because we both have a high share in the factory, it was possible to convert the entire factory to a living wage. People also worked based on the number of products produced – we really had to convince them of the benefits of a permanent contract. That was not usual for the employees, but in the end they see the benefits of a fixed monthly salary. To indicate: every country, every supplier and every employee views this differently.

The chain naturally goes further than the suppliers you have direct contact with,
How do you gain further insight into the chain?

Jeske: Further down the supply chain, we focus in particular on dye houses, where there are significant risks associated with chemicals and the environment. Gaining access to these places is challenging, but building trust will take you further. We have already carried out a number of audits and are working with the dye houses to monitor the results and improve the processes.

Trix:We also try to find out where exactly each part in the product comes from. Not every supplier has a permanent print studio or materials supplier. We therefore try to make it clear that continuously changing suppliers is not desirable. To be able to have this conversation, trust and building a good relationship are once again crucial. We now have insight into all tiers, from raw materials and trimmings to the sewing workshop.

I keep hearing about collaboration with suppliers, how important is this to you?

Jeske:Very important, without good cooperation we would not have gotten that far towards a living wage or circularity. I dare say that building good ties, trust and collaboration are the key to sustainability within our company.

Trix:To promote mutual cooperation, we organize an annual meeting at a destination of one of our global suppliers, last year this was in Morocco. During such a trip we visit factories, talk about the latest developments, objectives and share the suppliers they encounter. We also always award the supplier of the year, which all our suppliers are very keen to obtain. That’s cool to see.

Jeske: Such meetings show that our suppliers have really built up a bond over the years and also help each other. They call each other to ask for advice and learn from each other. That’s the great thing: they no longer see each other as competitors, but as equals: there is a relationship based on cooperation and mutual support.

“WITHOUT GOOD COLLABORATION WE WOULD NOT BE THAT FAR ON LIVING WAGE OR CIRCULARITY.”

A little more about the production of clothing. In principle you could say: there are enough products in the world. How do you deal with this position?

Trix: Our starting point is to make our production chain circular. This means no longer using new cotton or polyester, but processing old clothing into new raw materials.

Jeske:We are currently 80% circular. The collected clothing is reused by recovering, repairing or recycling. In the latter case we mainly focus on mechanical recycling. For this we work together with various suppliers. Worn clothing is returned and sent to our partner in Turkey, who recycles the clothing for us and sends the yarns to other partners. We currently use conventional yarns for the remaining 20%, but our goal is of course 100% sustainable, of which as much as possible is circular.

Finally: your chain is relatively short. What is your advice for larger textile companies? How can they start with chain responsibility?

Trix: Many companies pass the buck to their suppliers with strict contracts that put pressure on them. I think this is counterproductive, you have to create internal and external support and operate from there towards your suppliers.

Jeske: It is important that you regard each other as equals and act accordingly. It is best to start with a small group of suppliers with whom you can build trust and collaborate efficiently. From there you can conclude agreements and negotiate various aspects, such as prices and employment conditions. Internal collaboration between different departments within the organization on CSR is also crucial. This way you support each other and work together towards the same goal.

Hoe Schijvens werkt aan eerlijke en transparante ketens. (n.d.). MVO Risico Checker. https://www.mvorisicochecker.nl/klantverhalen/schijvens