Company Position Statements
Statement by Biagio Chiarolanza, Managing Director of Benetton Group and Head of Operations re: Signing of Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety Agreement
Following the tragic events connected to the collapse of the Rana Plaza Building in Dhaka, we decided, as announced a few days ago, to take a front line position in an effort shared by all companies to significantly and definitively help improve safety and working conditions of workers employed in the textile industry in Bangladesh.
Aware that the Dhaka tragedy calls into question the entire industry, today we signed the principles and terms of the Fire and Building Safety Agreement, an initiative organised and supported by the World Labour Organisation, involving, alongside us, other companies in the sector, trade unions and international non-governmental organisations.
The agreement, sponsored by IndustriALL and UNI Global, envisions the adoption of measures over the next five years, including inspections, training projects and investments, which, practically speaking, will lead to guaranteeing the safety of the buildings where the Bangladeshi manufacturing operations are located, both in terms of structural strength and fire safety.
This initiative will strengthen the measures already in place, those strict control measures to which our suppliers are subject. Our hope is that, following the example of the first signatories, the agreement may involve the greatest possible number of companies in the sector, in the knowledge that through everyone's commitment, a significant and lasting improvement in the textile industry in Bangladesh can take place.
Even though none of the workshops in the collapsed building is a direct or indirect supplier of any of the Benetton Group brands, we were able to determine that between 2012 and 2013, two occasional orders were sub-contracted by one of our foreign suppliers with New Wave Style, one of the companies working in the Rana Plaza. The last of the two orders was completed and shipped a month ago: since then, however, this workshop had been permanently removed from the list of our potential direct or indirect suppliers, as the company found that the conditions for any supply relationship with New Wave Style were inadequate.
Benetton Group rigidly applies a company – wide ban on the use of real fur for its apparel and accessories
In full accordance with its consumer-directed sustainability and transparency policy, Benetton Group rigidly applies a company – wide ban on the use of real fur for its apparel and accessories.
This ban is applied globally, across all Benetton Group brands and all suppliers. It is rigorously monitored by means of numerous checks, prior to production, through the production process and subsequent phases.
The Company implements these rigorous checks in the firm belief that, in addition to respecting current regulations, it is necessary to respect current regulations, protect animal species and avoid the strongly negative environmental impact of the fur production chain.
Regarding the improper involvement of the Benetton name in a legal action against Adecco in Belgium
With regard to allegations that in 2001 its Belgian subsidiary, Benetton Retail Belgium, requested sales personnel of a specified ethnic origin from ADECCO, Benetton Group SpA hereby declares that this statement is entirely false and seriously damaging to one of the distinguishing foundations of the Group, which has always made multiracialism, multiculturalism, and dialogue between different peoples, a cornerstone of its entrepreneurial philosophy and its tangible day-to-day behaviour.
Indeed, Benetton wishes to draw attention to the fact that in 1978 it had already signed an agreement with various trade union bodies, and that this subsequently evolved into a true code of ethical conduct which in turn, over the following years, became the Code of Ethics, which in section 2,Management of Human Resources states: … the Group is committed to protecting “the principles of transparency and non-discrimination… (e) to screen, recruit, train, remunerate and manage employees without any discrimination whatsoever”.
The Benetton Group also points out that it has thousands of direct and indirect employees in EU Member States, Non-EU Member States and throughout the rest of the world.
Lastly, Benetton reaffirms that forty years of multiethnic and multiracial philosophy and behaviour, and openness to diversity, which have been clearly represented in images over decades of advertising campaigns, must not be tarnished by a false and gratuitous accusation such as the one which appears to transpire from a document of a third party company; a document which, it should be noted, the Benetton Group has never been a party to.
Benetton Group’s position on the denim sand-blasting practice
Regarding denim sand-blasting Benetton Group would like to state the following three points:
- This practice is being phased out and its complete elimination from the production of jeans and other denim items is planned by the end of 2011.
- This kind of practice is in any case barely used by the company: less than 5% of all our denim production is submitted to this treatment.
- This practice is carefully managed in terms of safety, all operations are in fact carried out inside airtight rooms and the workplaces are equipped with air purification plants.
Benetton’s position regarding claims by the native Argentinean population (Mapuche)
In 2001 Atilio Curiñanco and Rosa Nahuelquir occupied, without authorisation, 385 hectares of unpopulated land situated in Patagonia, belonging to Compañía de Tierras Sud Argentino held by Edizione Holding (holding of the Benetton family). They claimed possession of the land in Patagonia from an ancestral and historical (i.e. not legal) viewpoint.
In making this symbolic gesture, the Curiñancos stayed there for 39 days, at the end of which they were ordered to leave. As a result of this incident, Compañía de Tierras Sud Argentino was compelled to initiate a lawsuit which confirmed the total legality of its ownership of the land, situated in the area of Santa Rosa.
In the wake of this event, a number of Mapuche activist groups launched a media campaign to focus international attention on an historic problem relating to the creation of the Argentinean state in the 19th century and its relationship with the native populations who lived there before the birth of the state. This is the issue in which Benetton, almost a century later, found itself unwittingly involved.
Benetton decided to take a role in helping to solve this secular issue with the involvement and the encouragement of the Nobel prize winner Perez Esquivel.
- Pérez Esquivel, Argentine Nobel laureate, intervened in October 2004 to ask Luciano Benetton to make a gesture which would consent the opening of a dialogue, with the participation of all the parties in the dispute, from the central to local Argentine governments, to the native population and entrepreneurs from Patagonia.
- In November 2004 Luciano Benetton responded to this request by announcing in a letter to Adolfo Pérez Esquivel that he was to hand over a production unit of good quality land in Patagonia with water resources, situated near the town of Esquel, for the benefit of the local population.
- In July 2006 the government of the Chubut Province, to which 7,500 hectares of good quality land for the benefit of the native population had been offered, refused this proposal with the excuse of a presumed low productivity rate of the land. In fact, the land offered has abundant water resources, with 10 kilometres along the banks of the Chubut river, and would be well suited to intensive use, not only for animal grazing, but also for the cultivation of fruit and vegetables.
- The governor of Chubut’s refusal of this proposition is a blow to the dialogue process in the historic disagreement between the Mapuche population and the Argentinean state, in which the Benetton Group has been involuntarily involved, but to which it decided to offer its contribution, which has been unfortunately refused.
In 1991 Edizione Holding (holding of the Benetton family) bought Compañía de Tierras Sud Argentino from three Argentine families, revitalizing this historical company which, despite a past stretching back one hundred years, was at that time in total decline. It currently provides work for more than 600 people on a modern farm dedicated, above all, to breeding sheep.
From the outset, Compañía de Tierras Sud Argentino S.A. has re-invested all resources and capital in Argentina, staking on the growth and development of the country. The company works with the local community, responding to its concerns and needs, with the strong conviction that social well-being can be improved through joint efforts. On the basis of this approach the company carries out ongoing social aid schemes. (For further information www.companiadetierras.com.ar).
Benetton’s position regarding the controversy on mulesing between the Australian Wool Industry and PETA
In 2004 PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) launched a campaign against the Australian Wool Industry in an attempt to force it to cease a practice called mulesing. PETA unjustly and incorrectly involved Benetton Group in this matter despite the fact that Benetton has no relationship, direct or indirect, with sheep breeding in Australia.
Within the Australian Wool Industry there are now developments aimed at the progressive elimination of this practice.
- Benetton Group has not adhered to the requests made by PETA, in particular the request to boycott Australian wool, and has always paid strong attention to the respect of ethical and social values in its manufacturing organisation, its retail network and in its communication campaigns, as has been repeatedly conveyed to PETA.
- Benetton has been unjustly and incorrectly involved by PETA in a dispute with the Australian Wool Industry, despite the fact that Benetton has no relationship with sheep breeding in Australia.
- Benetton expresses its appreciation and support for the agreement autonomously reached by the Australian Wool Growers Association (www.australianwoolgrowers.com.au) and PETA, aimed at gradually eliminating mulesing and at the use of procedures of recognised ethical value in sheep farming.
- Benetton considers the announcement of the development by AWGA of a specific label for “non-mulesed” wool interesting and worth encouraging.
- Benetton plans, as in the past, to continue to give preference to those suppliers who guarantee ethical treatment of animals, such as, for example, those from farms in Argentina, owned by its parent company, where in fact the practice of mulesing is not adopted.
Benetton’s position on RFID technology
Benetton Group has never used RFID technology nor have microchips (smart labels) ever been present in the 140 million-plus garments produced and sold throughout the world under its brand names, including Sisley.
- Benetton had tested RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) technology to evaluate its technical characteristics and emphasizes that no industrial feasibility studies have been carried out with a view to introducing this technology.
- Technical tests carried out include analysis of costs and benefits in terms of improvements to the efficiency of the company supply chain (production, logistics, store stock management etc.).
- On completion of the studies, Benetton Group decided not to take this technology any further as it provides no significant benefits to the productive and commercial organization.
Turkish Child Labour Issue
In 2003 the Court of Milan, condemned the journalist Riccardo Orizio and the editor-in-chief of Corriere della Sera, Ferruccio de Bortoli, for the charges attributed to them, respectively libel with aggravated circumstances and omitted control, in relation to the unmotivated involvement of the Group in a presumed case of exploitation of child labour in Turkey (1998).
The Milan Court confirmed that:
- Benetton was in no way aware of the phenomenon reported by Orizio
- Benetton has in no way ever been involved in this supposed exploitation;
Under-age workers have never been used for the production of garments under the direct control of the Benetton Group, nor Benetton had a policy of decentralizing production to Turkey for the manufacture of low-cost garments.