A Focus on Sustainable Textiles – IESC

Mr. Flavio Fuertes (Focal Point of the UNGC Argentinean Network) and Miguel Angel Gardetti (Sustainable Textile Center) with designers in the ceremony programme end.

Mr. Flavio Fuertes (Focal Point of the UNGC Argentinean Network) and Miguel Angel Gardetti (Sustainable Textile Center) with designers in the ceremony programme end.

The Instituto de Estudios para la Sustentabilidad Corporativa in Buenos Aires, Argentina has chosen to take both a broad approach to sustainability in their work as well as to focus on a few issues that they believe are of key importance. One of their core topics is making the textile and fashion industries more sustainable, and their Sustainable Textile Center is dedicated to that cause, both nationally and internationally. I recently had the chance to speak with Miguel Angel Gardetti and Ana Laura Torres, coordinators of the Center, about their work.

1.     Describe the work of the Centro Textil Sustentable

The Centro Textil Sustentable (CTS) (Sustainable Textile Center – STC) was created with the purpose of providing the textile and fashion sectors with a broader outlook in order to ensure that social and environmental issues are fully integrated into the decision-making process by correctly assessing the strategic sustainability challenges. This Center promotes a holistic, multidimensional, and more sustainable vision of the textile sector, which includes fashion, through knowledge generation and transfer, education and capacity building, and strategic partnerships.

2.     Why did the Institute decide to focus on sustainable textiles?

No doubt the textile industry (including production of clothing, fabrics, threads, fiber, and related products) is significant to our economy. However, within the context of corporate sustainability, this industry often operates to the detriment of environmental and social factors. The textile industry uses large quantities of water and energy (two of the most pressing issues worldwide), in addition to creating waste, effluents, and pollution. Both textile product manufacture and consumption are significant sources of environmental damage. As to social aspects, non-qualified jobs have been lost in regions that mostly rely on these industries. Another serious and still unresolved problem is the increasing flexibility that textile industry companies need. Faced with fierce international competition, these companies find it more and more difficult to ensure job security. Plus, there exists clandestine work proliferating both in developing and developed countries. Child labour also continues to be a fact in this sector, despite efforts by a growing number of agencies and organisations. Precisely for these reasons, the Institute decided to focus on sustainable textiles.

3.     What are some examples of the projects that have been undertaken?

The Center has been very active, both nationally and internationally, in this area. The STC has developed, jointly with the United Nations Global Compact Argentinean Network, the first edition of a Training Programme of Agents for Change in the Fashion and Textile Sector (August-October 2013). This programme is based on the Code of Conduct and Manual for the Textile and Fashion Industry, which is the first sectorial initiative of the United Nations Global Compact, jointly developed with the Nordic Initiative Clean and Ethical (NICE). From here, we expect to have a positive impact through agents of change in the media, the private sector, the academia, government agencies, etc.

We also developed and delivered a workshop called “Textiles, Fashion and Sustainability,” which is addressed to teachers of the Degree in Apparel and Textile Design of the Pacífico University (Santiago, Chile) in August 2013. We have participated in a range of conferences and workshops on the topic at Rio+20, at Copenhagen Business School and also at the recent Sustainable Apparel Coaliton Educational Summit, which is building a framework for measuring and evaluating the social and environmental sustainability of apparel and footwear products called Higgs. The STC was also in charge of the translation into Spanish of the Code of Conduct and Manual for the Textile and Fashion Industry. We are also part of Socio-Log, a group of academics in the field of sustainable fashion belonging to universities from 33 different nationalities with the purpose of analysing the best way to integrate issues of sustainability across undergraduate and graduate curricula and generate suitable materials for use in class.

4.     What have been some of the challenges? Successes?

There are great challenges in this field, including but not limited to, breaking with the status quo of the informal work, child labour, and illegal immigration, which is VERY rooted. Since we started relatively recently, successes are mainly at the academic level through teacher training in Argentina and other Latin American countries on issues of sustainable fashion and textiles.

5.     What advice would you have for other schools thinking of putting something similar into place, and what is next for the Center?

Something very important is that academic learning and research should become vital and current for future leaders from the textile and fashion business, the government, and civil society. This means taking a broader picture to ensure that social and environmental issues are completely integrated into the decision-making processes in these sectors. We understand that academic learning and research is incomplete if it does not appraise the strategic challenge raised by sustainability. Because academic learning and research is the field of universities and business schools, these institutions are called on to play an important role in the transformation of the current textile and fashion system into a sustainable one.

Moving forward, the Center will continue with the programme editions, both at the local level (Argentina) and the regional level (Latin America), with the participation of other UN Global Compact Local Networks in Latin America. Perhaps we should create a PRME working group on textiles, fashion, and sustainability?

For more information on Sustainable Textiles:

6 things IAE is doing around Anti-Corruption

Prof. Matthias Kleinhempel is Director of the Center for Governance and Transparency at IAE Business School, Austral University in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The Center explores these issues across the Latin American region and offers concrete tools to practitioners to help them create, enhance and deliver effective compliance programs. “Business schools can play a crucial role in helping companies, in particular those in countries with a challenging environment. We have found that the key is to work with the CFOs and the compliance officers of MNEs and local companies to give them a platform for discussion and exchange of Best Practices.  Business Schools can work as facilitators for collective action; one of the most promising tools in the anti-corruption battle.”

Prof. Kleinhempel has a background in the business sector and has been with the Center since it began in 2008. “My interest in this area really began because of the strong emphasis that the university puts on values.  I saw how companies put in place a whole range of norms and systems to instil values in a company but continuously find failure with this approach. The key is not to keep putting in rules but to change the values of the people at the top, which influence the people in the rest of the organisation.”

The Center is working on a range of anti-corruption programmes, including:

  1. Collecting Best Practices: The Center conducted surveys of good practices and compliance programmes among both the largest 300 companies (by revenue) across Argentina and Latin American subsidiaries of MNEs. The studies provide insights into the current status of business ethics at big companies in Argentina and wider Latin America as well as possible improvements to the field. “Most companies say they have a formal compliance system which has been put in within the last 5 years which mean that these issues are definitely gaining momentum within the business sector.”
  2. Teaching Best Practices: “Many of the companies who participated in the surveys noted that, in order to improve further, they need more training”. IAE provides a range of business ethics and compliance courses/modules in all open enrolment programs. Senior managers are invited into classrooms to discuss real ethical dilemmas that they have faced in their businesses with the students. Students are given ethical dilemmas that they have to solve, present in class and then discuss. The Center is also working to incorporate ethics into a range of other courses, including Finance. “At the end of the day, it is about decision making. We try to raise awareness and train students to incorporate business ethics as a permanent criterion in their decision making framework.”
  3. Focused Programmes: IAE offers a programme called “Good Practices in Business and Compliance” aimed at Board Members, C-level executives which covers the most recent academic and business trends around corporate governance, risk management and compliance as well as the success factors of a good practice programme. The Center also works on the design and implementation of compliance programmes for business firms, including codes of conduct and putting help hotlines in place.
  4. A Learning Community and Discussion Platform: In June 2010, the Center launched the first Compliance and Best Practices Network aimed at scholars, practitioners and organisations that are devoted to the study, implementation and follow up of compliance programmes.  Bi-monthly workshops are organised with CFOs and Compliance Officers to discuss topics related to compliance and exchange ideas on how to approach specific problems, including the review of successful collective action examples from across the region.
  5. Foster and Promote Collective Action: The lack of trust among companies is a big obstacle for collective action. These commitments have to start in a “light” version, which can be improved and updated to include more content as trust builds over time. “What companies like is to have independent instances to discuss suspicions regarding their partners in the collective. Universities and, in particular, the Center can provide a safe, neutral environment for companies to discuss these issues. It is difficult to show what kind of impact we are having, but the compliance officers keep coming back.  We have only started this journey.”
  6. PRME Working Group on Anti-Corruption: The Working Group is focused on developing best practices and encouraging curriculum change through the incorporation of a business ethics approach with compliance as one of its key components, offering an integrity-based view with an impact on good business practices. The Working Groups is currently developing a toolkit for an anti-corruption curriculum framework for MBA students. The next meeting of the working group will take place on December 5th in conjunction with the 1st PRME Latin America Regional Meeting (December 6-7) hosted by IAE.

 For more information:

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