Kathmandu’s CSR Manager on combatting modern slavery in retail


Kathmandu has recently become the first brand in the southern hemisphere to receive accreditation from the Fair Labor Association (FLA). The Kiwi-founded travel and adventure brand, will join the ranks of Patagonia, Columbia and Nike in a commitment to enhance freedom and human rights in garment production across the globe.

Kathmandu looks towards global best practice to meet the FLA’s rigorous third-party verifications. The news comes as more countries are moving closer to combating slavery with the Australian Government committing to legislating a Modern Slavery Act by the end of the year, requiring companies to publish details of the systems they have in place to mitigate the risk of forced labour. 

Dynamic Business had a chat to Gary Shaw, Corporate Social Responsibility Manager at Kathmandu about being the first brand in the southern hemisphere to achieve FLA accreditation and the importance of fair labour in the retail sector.

DB: Tell us about becoming the first brand in the southern hemisphere to achieve FLA accreditation and why more Australian brands need to get on board?

GS: Becoming the first brand in the southern hemisphere to receive accreditation from the Fair Labor Association (FLA) comes as the result of years of promoting and complying with international labour standards throughout our supply chain.

The modern consumer wants confidence that the brands they wear on their backs are doing their best to protect workers from being exploited. Kathmandu is committed to protecting human rights and proactively improving conditions for workers throughout our supply chain. We’re doing this by creating systems that embody the integrity, transparency and ingenuity that our company was founded upon.

We hope more companies are encouraged to get on board as industry collaboration will go the longest way in improving the lives of the people who form the backbone of our companies. Understanding this, Kathmandu works closely with individuals, unions, local community groups, Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) and even competitors to share experiences and best practice.

What can consumers do to help tackle human rights issues in the global supply chain?

 By aligning with ethical fashion brands, consumers have the power to drive industry change in the meaningful way. This is why transparency is so important: if we don’t know what is happening behind the scenes in factories around the world, how can our customers be expected to make an informed decision?

Transparency comes naturally to Kathmandu, as our teams genuinely care about how our products are made and ask questions to make sure we know that we are doing the best job possible. The FLA accreditation tells customers that our efforts are independently verified and assessed on the basis of fulfilling all of the principles of fair labour and responsible sourcing.

Tell us about the approaches Kathmandu has taken to protecting and enhancing the freedom and human rights of its workers

Companies with a “good” CSR program will have a code of conduct that is published on their website and they ask their factories to adhere to it. “Better” companies will ensure that their code of conduct is posted in all facilities making their products so that workers can see it. Kathmandu went one step further and looked at how individual workers are using social media to communicate and added a way for them to contact us and communicate their concerns.

In factories across our supply chain, workers can also now link into confidential survey mechanisms to provide anonymous answers and feedback regarding their working conditions. This integration provides another vital communication channel for workers to provide direct feedback to Kathmandu so they can be addressed directly – and it’s one of many ways we’re working to improve conditions for workers.

With the introduction of a Modern Slavery Act in Australia, why are many apparel companies now at risk? How can they combat this?

The implementation of Australia’s Modern Slavery Act will herald an era where companies have no choice but to show greater transparency of the systems in place to ensure the workers that make up their supply chain and not being enslaved or exploited in any way. To prepare for this, companies will need to look into their supply chains and ensure there is no modern slavery practices or labour exploitation and have adequate systems in place to identify and mitigate instances of malpractice.