Social Consciousness - back in 1997 the company chose the word "consciousness" to reflect the desire to raise awareness about the three social tenets of its mission:
- Supporting women through social initiatives that address their well- being.
- Practicing business responsibly with absolute regard for human rights.
- Guiding our product and practice toward sustaining our environment.
"Our environmental vision is holistic," says Shona Quinn, Sustainability Leader. "We believe in paying attention to what happens in the field, the dyehouse and our customers' washing machines. Our goal is to design out negative impacts—and design in positive change."
- Materials: By committing to use organic fibers, recycled fibers and sustainable fibers such as hemp and Tencel®, we support clean air, clean water and a healthy environment for workers and wildlife.
- Chemistry: Clothing involves chemistry at the field level (pesticides and herbicides), at the dyehouse and in our customers' communities (dry cleaning, laundry detergent). We are committed to using manufacturing partners that offer certified dye processes, most notably the bluesign® standard. We also support green cleaning by working to eliminate conventional dry cleaning in favor of hand and machine washing in cold water.
- Carbon: Since 2007 we have been tracking our miles and modes (plane, train, ship, truck) of transportation. We're committed to offsetting an increasing amount of our shipping and store emissions by partnering with NativeEnergy to build windmills.
- Water: We are deeply aware of the global water crisis and are currently developing a water strategy. Our first step has been to support organic farming, which has a lower gray water footprint than conventional farming. We are also working to increase water efficiencies in our manufacturing process. When our silk dyehouse became bluesign® certified, it reduced water usage by 25%.
The vision for our human rights program is to provide people with dignified work that will enhance their livelihood, empowering them socially and economically. "We want to ensure that workers have a voice and are treated fairly in the workplace," says Luna Lee, Human Rights Leader. We start by choosing manufacturing partners who agree to follow our labor standards and follow up by conducting audits. We also empower workers by offering training sessions that help them understand their rights.
Increasingly the brand is looking for ways to further our human rights reach. Some of our initiatives are:
- Partnering with other brands and nonprofits to share information and tackle problems jointly.
- Assessing the internal processes to see how their choices such as late- breaking design changes might impact our workers and cause issues with excessive overtime.
- Paying attention to vulnerable populations outside of factory walls, especially the homeworkers in rural India who handloom many of our scarves. We are currently leading a six-year project to create more sustainable working conditions for homeworkers in West Bengali villages.
Supporting Women & Girls
The Social Consciousness team oversees grant programs for Women-Owned Businesses and Activating Leadership, as well as numerous Community Partnerships and philanthropic Store Events. This work is an outgrowth of Eileen's belief that by helping women find their voices, they can become leaders—in their families, their communities and their lives.
"We want to do more than give money to a group or simply raise money for a worthy cause," says team leader Reisa Brafman. "We see our philanthropy as an opportunity to raise awareness about issues. If we're supporting a group like N Street Village, a Washington, D.C., nonprofit that helps homeless women, we'll invite the women to come into the stores and meet our customers. We'll hold a salon to talk about the PBS documentary Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide. Eileen wants our stores to offer customers a safe space to talk and connect deeply."
Since 2009 we have been recycling EILEEN FISHER clothing as part of an initiative they call GREEN EILEEN. Gently used clothes are collected at our stores and resold to support programs for women and girls. Social Consciousness team's Cheryl Campbell pioneered the idea because, she says, "I thought our clothes lend themselves to recycling. They are designed to have longevity, both in terms of the styles and the quality."
The average American throws out seventy pounds of clothing a year. Through GREEN EILEEN, we create a second market. What we can't sell, we upcycle at GREEN EILEEN's community-building workshops and through initiatives and partnerships to create new products.
GREEN EILEEN now has stores in both Yonkers, New York, and Seattle, Washington. Recycled clothing is also available at its Lab Store and select Company Stores.