Initiative targets clothing suppliers

by Kathryn Bennett / Beacon Staff • December 5, 2013

The Student Government Association met on Tuesday, Dec. 3  to workshop an initiative about finding ethical clothing providers for the college’s bookstore. Lindsay Geller, the sustainability commissioner, and Sarah Tedesco, the service learning commissioner, are leading the proposal.

The initiative asks the college to examine if the manufacturers of clothing sold at the bookstore treat their employees humanely, and if not, to consider switching to companies that do. Geller and Tedesco said they decided to make this request when they learned that more than 1,800 Bangladeshi garment workers have died since 2005 in work-related accidents that could have been prevented if their companies had enforced more safety regulations. 

Their goal, according to the initiative, is to have the college eventually buy apparel only from companies that are a part of the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, the country with the second-highest number of garment suppliers in the world. The document was first signed in May 2013, and now has signatures from 1,600 companies, all supporting safer working conditions in Bangladeshi factories. This includes clothing stores like American Eagle Outfitters, Adidas, and H&M.

“Duke University is the first and only college in the United States whose logo can only be printed on clothing made from suppliers that have signed the Accord,” said Geller and Tedesco in the proposal. “The Student Government Association believes that Emerson College should be the second.” 

According to Geller, a junior writing, literature, and publishing and marketing communication double major, one of the largest suppliers to the bookstore is Jansport, owned by VF Corporation, a company that has not signed the accord.

Members of the SGA heard the initiative for the first time on Tuesday. They discussed word choice and structure, bringing them closer to a final draft to submit to the college. 

One point Geller and Tedesco, a sophomore journalism major, stressed is that they are not trying to force the college into any course of action, and do not believe Emerson alone has enough clout to make companies join the Accord on Fire and Building Safety if they have not already. They said they want to encourage the college to examine the clothing suppliers it already uses, and then make changes as it sees fit. 

“We are working for a cooperative relationship with the bookstore,” said Geller. “And we would love to start a trend among other colleges.”

The pair is still waiting to receive a complete list of the bookstore’s clothing suppliers. Once they receive this list, they said they will add it to the initiative and submit it to the SGA, so it can be voted on and potentially submitted to college officials by next semester. 

According to Geller, the initiative has already received a pledge of support from several organizations on campus, including Emerson Pride and Earth Emerson.

The SGA also appointed a new commissioner during its meeting. Erik Wilke, a sophomore political communication major, will serve as the spiritual life commissioner beginning next semester.