Category Archives: Aid

Refugees & Clothing

UN Refugee Agency Provides Shelter to Quake Victims (UN Photo/Evan Schneider) available under Creative Commons license on Flickr.

Along with father’s day, June 20th also marked World Refugee Day.  The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) along with its partners ran week-long awareness raising activities world wide centered around this year’s theme: Home.  The day was commemorated in different ways from a simulated refugee experience in Kuala Lumpur to free concerts and entertainment in Canada as part of Luminato, an annual festival of arts, culture and creativity.

In Syria, which hosts the largest number of Iraqi refugees, UNHCR chief António Guterres stated: “I appeal to the international community to do more to host refugees.” UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon also appealed to the international community reiterating this year’s message while “calling for working with host governments to deliver services.” So, the role of governments in this issue has been emphasized but is there a role for business?

One example of an ongoing program run in partnership with UNHCR is UNIQLO’s Clothing Recycling Initiative.  This initiative has been a part of UNIQLO’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) program in Japan since 2001 when they began recycling fleece and expanded to include the rest of their products in 2006.  According to the company:

Refugees in Liberia (UN Photo/John Isaac) available under Creative Commons license on Flickr.

Our initial intention was to recycle the clothes as fuel, but with the cooperation of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), we started donating the clothes to refugee camps. After recognizing once more the great need for clothing and the critical role it plays, our focus has shifted from recycling to reuse. To that end, approximately 90% of the clothing we collect is donated to refugee camps the world over, including those in Nepal, Ethiopia and Georgia. To facilitate our decision-making process, we not only check shortages of clothing but also conduct research on levels of demand, taking into consideration season and size, religiously appropriate color, and details concerning differences in local culture. In addition, to avoid theft and reselling during transit to the refugee camps, we go to the sites ourselves and distribute the items with the cooperation of the UNHCR.

The program is explained by the company:

UNIQLO Recycling Program

Since 2006, UNIQLO has had collection drives in March, June and September and the number of collected items has increased significantly:

UNIQLO Recycling Program: Items Collected

Map: Recipients of UNIQLO Clothing

Beginning in March of this year, UNIQLO is accepting clothes for recycling year round in Japan.  The company also works with Tokyo Metropolitan High Schools and other educational organizations to bring awareness to the All-Product Recycling Initiative.

UNIQLO’s impact on the lives of refugees in 2009:

  • June 2009: 79,000 pieces donated to Pakistani refugee camps

For previous years click here.

According to their 2010 CSR report, UNIQLO collected 7021 items at two high schools in Tokyo after running a high school version of the Initiative.  UNIQLO’s goal is to reach 30 million items within 5 years — one for each refugee around the world. The company also plans to expand beyond donated clothing to include technical training for employment.

The impact of UNIQLO’s project cannot be underestimated.  Other than protection from the elements, clothing plays an essential role in human dignity, self-esteem and self-expression.  Thank you UNIQLO for taking on such an important and sometimes overlooked need for refugees. I hope that this program will expand to include UNIQLO’s  international locations soon.




UNIQLO CSR REPORTSection on the Initiative

Social Alterations// Slides

Nadira and I both promised to make the slides from our presentations at the FEI conference available online, and here they are, along with a slideshow of some of the images we captured from the event. I’ve reposted the videos of the presentations for convenience.

Thanks to everyone who offered feedback, we were so grateful for your considerations. Please, keep let’s keep the conversation going!

Be sure to contact us with any questions!

Social Alterations @ FEI from Social Alterations on Vimeo.

CSR Trends in China’s Apparel Supply Chain from Social Alterations on Vimeo.

Find more photos like this on Social Alterations

Social Alterations @ FEI

So here we are in London for the Fashioning an Ethical Industry Conference: Fast Forward. Today, Nadira and I will both be presenting at the conference, and with Katrine in attendance, this will mark the first time the SA team is all together in the same place at the same time!  

We will be doing lots of blogging and twitter (ing?) from the event, and will have our presentations uploaded later tonight for you to check out, so be sure to tune in.

Follow on twitter via @maryhanlon for that feed.

Wish us luck!

Washing Machine + Soccer Ball + Hippo Roller + Storage Unit = ‘Swirl’

Meet Design Affairs’ ‘Swirl’!

Here is the product description:

Swirl is a human focused design that simplifies washing in developing countries. The overall design resembles a ball containing a swirled sphere shaped basket and lid, connected to a steel tube handle. Washing is accomplished through the rotation of the “washing ball” – using long distance travelling to and from water supply to wash the clothes. The user can also wash by just rolling it back and forth in slow rotation cycles. At home, after the basket is filled with clothes, the lid should be screwed and the handle locked in. Transportation can easily be done by pulling or pushing the handle. At the water source, the basket should be filled with water and the product is ready to wash.

The design resembles Project H’s Hippo Roller. Speaking of Project H… they are in the running to win an amazing prize that would help them to:

Start a high school design/build program in rural North Carolina….

  • To cultivate a culture of creative capital in a struggling economy.
  • To provide a hands-on learning path for low-performing students.
  • To teach design and vocational skills as creative problem solving.
  • To activate a poor and rural community through high school service.
  • To complete real-world, built projects with high school students.

Sounds pretty amazing to us! Education is the key point of intervention for responsible design. Click here to vote for their idea. As I type this they are ranked 15th and they must get to at least 10th place to qualify! You can vote everyday until the end of the month.

Source: Inhabitots, Core77 and Design Affairs

CSR Asia Summit 2010

In 2009, SA’s Katrine Karlsen reported on CSR Asia’s 7th summit “Sustainable Business as the Road to Recovery” in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Click here to read Katrine’s synopsis of last year’s summit.

This year’s summit will take place September 14-15 in Hong Kong, and will offer cutting edge workshops on the following topics:

-Community investment and cross-cultural engagement
-Measuring and reporting your carbon emissions
-Business strategies for adapting to a changing climate
-Water risks down your supply chain
-Asian companies going transnational
-What investors are looking for: Environmental, social, governance (ESG) issues
-A new agenda for human rights: Engaging governments
-The role of business in achieving the Millennium Development Goals in Asia
-Disaster preparedness: The role of the private sector
-The 2010 Asian Sustainability Rating
-Measuring the impact of your community investment on business and the community
-Developing a sustainable development strategy in your organisation

Title: CSR Asia Summit 2010
Location: Hong Kong
Link out: Click here

Start Date: 2010-09-14
End Date: 2010-09-15

Community News

Urgent Appeal: Haiti Earthquake

Red Cross: Canada, United States, United Kingdom

The United Nations: United Nations Foundation, UNHCR: The UN Refugee Agency, World Food Programme (WFP), UNICEF

If you a business, please visit the United Nations-Business website, Partnering for a Better World, and learn more about what your organization can do to offer much needed humanitarian relief and assistance both in Haiti and elsewhere.

Both Gildan and Hanesbrands were quick to pacify their shareholders this week, announcing how they would handle the situation. How will the earthquake impact workers? Here is what Michael Flanagan at Clothesource had to say:

“It’s impossible to know with any certainty how much devastation the recent earthquake has caused in Haiti. But, just a day after the quake hit, two unspoken tragedies are revealing themselves.

The first lies in our industry’s response. Clients of the country’s 25 garment factories have first to reassure the market that the earthquake is not going to damage buyers’ own commercial viability. Issuing statements about moving production to Asia or the Dominican Republic sounds harsh and unfeeling: but companies making these statements have no real alternative: US stock market rules require them to inform shareholders of important events that affect them – and if it’s known you’ve got or use a factory in Haiti, you really have to tell the market what you’re doing about the fact that goods can’t move in or out.

The tragedy isn’t that Hanesbrands and Gildan have announced they’re moving production so quickly: it’s what’s going to happen to the workers.” (Michael Flanagan, Clothesource)

Click here to read the full article, “Haiti’s unspoken tragedies”. 

Now, here is a small roundup of some of the stories, headlines, and updates you may be interested in from in and around the community of socially responsible fashion design.

Articles of interest:

Now deluding a new group. This decades new Shangri-La myth

Colin Firth’s wife Livia’s green carpet challenge

Which is better for the environment, fake fur or real fur?

Green Q&A: How eco-friendly is the fashion industry?

Why We Need a Cultural Revolution in Consumption

H and M Says It Will No Longer Destroy Unworn Garments

Core 77

Absence makes for appreciation: A theatre director reflects on design

“Design Thinking” Today


Does the Art of Craft and Handmade Matter in Fashion?

16 Eco-Fashion Predictions for 2010


Fashion New York 2020 to Bolster Disposable Buying Cycle?

Where New York’s Unsold Clothing Is Suppose To Go

Centre for Sustainable Fashion

4 Minute Wonder

The Centre for Sustainable Fashion’s Nina Stevenson, in response to the video below: “Seriously, how can we not be asking questions about the production conditions of a £4 pair of badly fitting jeans?” She recommends that DIY’ers everywhere use this video as a prompt to alter garments they already have, and not to purchase new ones.  

In SA news, we have (at last) jumped on the Facebook bandwagon. Click here to become a fan!

A New Approach to the Issue of Living Wages

Stitching a Decent Wage Across Borders[Worker sowing at home. India, 2009. © Ankur Ahuja/ Clean Clothes Campaign.]

One of the root causes of poverty wages in the industry is the power of global buyers to constantly relocate production in search of ever lower prices and better terms of trade. This power is used to exert a downward pressure on wages and conditions – labour being one of the few ‘production costs’ or ‘inputs’ that can be squeezed. 

The solution

The basic idea of the Asia Floor Wage is to put a ‘floor’ under this, thereby preventing this competition from forcing wages below poverty levels and making sure gains are more equitably shared along the supply chain. The Asia Floor Wage alliance have formulated a unified, regional demand for a minimum living wage which is decent and fair and which can be standardised and compared between countries. This regional collective bargaining strategy will unite workers and their allies from different Asian countries behind one wage demand. 


The goal is to attain this standardised minimum living wage for workers across Asia through negotiations between garment industry employers and workers’ representative organisations, and with the mediation and support of governments, inter-governmental organisations and social movements.

The report constructed by the Asia Floor Wage organisation is available here.

Source: Asian Floor Wage

An October to Remember// Upcoming Events

October will have you wishing you could be in more than one city at the same time.

If you find yourself in Paris, Chicago, Providence, Portland, Hong Kong, London or Seattle this October, be sure to check out these amazing events. Click on the event you are interested in on the Events Calendar and we should link you straight into the events homepage.


Also, if you are near London in Oct. Nov. or Dec., be sure to stay tuned into the London College of Fashion, for Clash! Creative Collisions in Fashion and Science.

Clash! Creative Collisions in Fashion & Science


Last but not least, if you have an upcoming event you think are readers would be interested in, be sure to drop us a line.

Social Alterations is now on Ning!



You can use this space to share and upload curricula ideas, lesson plans, visual aids, research and projects, or to just discuss the current happenings in the industry with respect to social issues and environmental concerns, as well as the latest trends in socially responsible design.




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An Ecofashion Parody for a Good Cause

Riding the ecofashion craze  wave, actress Julia Stiles and The Vacationers have created a parody that draws attention to a great cause.

Since all styles are unfortunately ‘sold out,’ they have asked potential consumers to make a donation to The Lunchbox Fund.

lunchroom2The Lunchbox Fund was founded in 2004 to address the needs of impoverished students at Meadowlands High School in Soweto, South Africa. The organization has since expanded to include two additional high schools in Soweto, and most recently Alexandra High School in Alexandra Township. The simple intervention of providing a free and healthy lunch, makes a substantial difference in the students ability to reach their potential.

Source: Ethical Style, ecorazzi, The Lunchbox Fund, Julia Stiles Styles