While Kathmandu analyzed its use of recycled plastic in its 2019 Sustainability Report, more striking was the New Zealand brand's focus on combatting modern slavery through ethical business practices.

To do that, Kathmandu in its eighth annual report outlined plans to work more with progressive suppliers and factories, raise the standard of working and living conditions, and invest in reporting tools and empowerment strategies, like WeChat and Laborlink.

The initiative is part of the "Best for the World" five-year plan and it's being headed by Corporate Responsibility Manager Gary Shaw. He was previously employed as a human rights investigator and rescued enslaved people from modern slavery and human trafficking in 13 countries.

“The UN estimate that there is 40.3 million people in slavery now, more than at any other time in human history, 75 percent of whom are hiding in global supply chains,” Shaw said. 

He continued, “When the Modern Slavery Act’s mandated reporting commences from July 2020, all Australian companies with revenues over $100 million will be required to report the risks in their supply chains and what they are doing to overcome them. The aim is not to say that you don’t have slavery in your supply chain, it’s encouraging companies to report where they identify the risks so that they can be addressed."

For example, Kathmandu's Vietnamese supplier, TGI, in 2015 implemented a "mindset training program" for its 700 employees. It includes confidence building and encourages communication between employees. Factory manager Nguyen Trang said,  “They can organize their daily life better. They are more confident in themselves and in their abilities. Before, when we offered people promotions, many would refuse. The mindset training helps open their mind and be more positive.”

TGI also offers employees interest-free loans on a case-by-case basis and gives grants up to US $10,000 to employees facing hardships through a charitable foundation called Golden Heart.

“By supporting companies like TGI with our business, we are directly preventing and proactively addressing those factors that fuel modern slavery,” Shaw said.

Kathmandu is also working with its sister company Oboz on corporate social responsibility standards and a sustainability road map.

Kathmandu's top 5 sustainability highlights

1. Became a Certified B Corporation, the largest in Australia and New Zealand

2. Scored an ‘A’ in the Ethical Fashion Report

3. Ranked second for the third consecutive year in the Textile Exchange report

4. Launched "Best for the World" five-year plan

5. Recycled 9.3 million plastic bottles into gear—with 10 million as a target in 2020

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