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RATINGEN – International apparel brand, Esprit, has become the first ‘associate member’ of the Dutch Agreement on Sustainable Garments and Textiles as part of the initiative’s partnership with The German Partnership for Sustainable Textiles. The move is significant as it offers evidence of the enormous potential for international collaboration between the two fast growing initiatives, which are working towards similar goals – namely to improve environmental and CSR issues in garment production hubs. Esprit is an international fashion brand with a presence in 40 countries. In the Netherlands the business has about 50 stores.

The German Partnership for Sustainable Textiles and the Dutch Agreement on Sustainable Garments and Textiles signed a cooperation agreement in January, with the goal to support companies in implementing due diligence by harmonising sustainability requirements. In addition, member companies will work on joint projects to improve working conditions in risk areas and benefit from shared knowledge and support by both secretariats. Additionally, cooperation in working with local stakeholders such as producers, governments, trade unions and NGOs will increase the joint leverage.

“Esprit is the first fashion brand to participate through an ‘associated membership’ between the Dutch and German initiatives for a sustainable supply chain,” said a note from the Dutch Partnership. “This collaboration between the Dutch and German initiative was announced last January. By signing the Dutch agreement, Esprit shows this collaboration on international level works.”

The premise behind the Dutch Agreement on Sustainable Garments and Textiles is that many businesses in the Netherlands have outsourced their production to countries outside the European Union where human rights, worker health and safety, environmental protection and animal rights may be at risk. Dutch companies are obliged to avoid these risks under international guidelines and agreements such as the United Nations’ Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, the OECD’s Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, and the ILO’s fundamental labour standards.

With problems in emerging markets in the developing world often so complex that there is very little one company can achieve alone, a broad coalition of partners established the Dutch Agreement on Sustainable Garments and Textile. They include industry associations, trade unions, NGOs, and the National Government of the Netherlands.

The aim is for at least 50 per cent of the Dutch garment and textile sector to support the agreement by 2018, and 80 per cent by 2021.

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