Headlines and Hemlines: What Will the Gildan-Anvil Deal Mean for Anvil’s Sustainability Mandate?

UPDATE: October 23, 2013. Just heard from Gildan (Corporate Communications team) and have an update on this issue. Gildan is dropping 6 of the 8 sustainable styles from the line in 2014. The Youth, Long Sleeve, 490/498 Ringspun and the women’s 420 organic and the women’s 458 R-PET blend are being dropped.

They’re keeping the men’s 420 (Organic Cotton) and the men’s 450 (R-PET/Cotton Blend) and adding XS sizing to the lines. We’ll be doing our best to sell these as ‘Unisex’ but last time we checked, our customers had a lot of women as staff and customers.

We’ll loop back in a year to see if these will make it through the 2014 season and into the following year. We appreciate the updates and information that Gildan is sending our way on this issue, they’ve been very responsive to hearing our concerns and keeping us appraised on the changes.

UPDATE: October 11, 2013. Just got word from our distributors that Gildan has pulled the plug on the Anvil’s Sustainable line for 2014. Our team is so disappointed, it’s our top selling organic t-shirt and there is no word yet as to whether the Gildan brand will create a replacement in an organic fiber.

May 14, 2012. Early this month, Canadian clothing manufacturer Gildan Activewear secured an $88-million deal to buy New York-based T-shirt and sportswear manufacturer, Anvil Apparel. Fairware has had a strong relationship with Anvil, whose socially and environmentallyfriendly approach to business strikes a chord with our own mission.

This buyout has raised a number of questions—and concerns—for us. Will Gildan keep Anvil’s unionized manufacturing facility? Will Gildan embrace Anvil’s sustainable apparel line?

We strive to provide our clients with ethically sourced and sustainable merchandise, and we have been great supporters of Anvil. Over the last five years, Anvil has made great strides towards brand sustainability. Their value statement mirrors our own: To operate our business with a deep and continued commitment to respecting the planet and all who live on it.

Anvil ranks as the 6th largest organic program in the world on the Organic Exchange and has launched an impressive “eco”-clothing line using fibers such as organic cotton, recycled cotton, transitional cotton and recycled polyester from PET bottles. They are a progressive and committed company that not only adheres to a socially and environmentally responsible business model, but also strives to educate the public on its initiative. Their interactive “Track My T” website gives customers a chance to see the progression of their T-shirt from “dirt to shirt.”

Gildan Activewear is a major player in its field. The Montreal-based company has been recognized as one of Canada’s Best Corporate Citizens for two years running, and is a member of the Fair Labor Association. However, its track record also is marred by some serious allegations of anti-union activities and violations of workers’ rights. Despite taking steps towards reducing its environmental impact and promoting green operations, they have not yet ventured into manufacturing organic or recycled apparel.

This buyout begs the question: Will the acquisition of Anvil inspire Gildan to enter the organic/recycled apparel game? Or will Gildan drop the Anvil sustainability line entirely? While Gildan is the bigger of the two brands, we hope they’ll take Anvil’s 5 Rules for Building a Sustainable Brand to heart.

We at Fairware will be watching closely as this story continues to unravel.