Social Responsibility

Vendor Guidelines and Principles

  • No Forced Labor There shall be absolutely no use of involuntary or forced labor, whether indentured, bonded, prison or otherwise.
  • No Child Labor No person shall be employed before reaching the legal age of adulthood.
  • No Harassment or Abuse All employees shall be treated with respect and dignity. No employee shall be subject to physical, sexual, psychological or verbal harassment or abuse.
  • No Discrimination No person shall be subject to any discrimination in employment, including hiring, salary, benefits, advancement, discipline, termination or retirement, or on the basis of gender, race, religion, age, disability, sexual orientation, nationality, political opinion or social or ethnic origin.
  • Health and Safety Employers shall provide a safe and healthy working environment to prevent accidents and injury to health arising out of, linked with or occurring in the course of work, or as a result of the operation of employer facilities. Freedom of Association and Collective Bargaining | Employers shall recognize and respect the right of employee's freedom of association and collective bargaining, such as the creation of unions and employee representation committees.
  • Wages and Benefits Employers must recognize that wages are essential to meeting employee's basic needs. Employers shall pay employees, as a floor, at least the required minimum wage and shall provide legally mandated benefits.
  • Hours of Work and Compensation In addition to their compensation for regular hours of work, employees shall be compensated for overtime hours at such a premium rate as is legally required in the country of manufacture, and not work overtime above the legally allowed number of hours per week.
  • Environmental Protection Vendors shall comply with all applicable environmental laws and regulations. In addition, we proactively select and work with vendors that use higher standards than those enforced locally. This translates into the use of recycled and organic materials, the use of low-impact dyes, energy conservation in manufacturing facilities, and various other specific actions.
  • Other Laws Vendors shall comply with all applicable laws and regulations, including those pertaining to the manufacture, pricing, sale and distribution of merchandise, as well as voluntary industry standards.

With apparel, it's simple: we can all make a difference with what we wear. In 2007, Alternative introduced its sustainable Alternative Earth line, featuring a collection of eco-friendly products manufactured with organic cotton, recycled polyester and man-made fibers derived from sustainable raw materials such as rayon. Today, Alternative Earth includes some of the brand's bestselling styles and makes up 30 percent of the entire Alternative line, with a portion of sales benefitting a variety of environmental organizations and charities. Our Organic Cotton, Eco-Heather, and Eco-Fleece are still super-soft and cut for a flawless fit, but what sets these Alternative Earth fabrics apart is their earth-friendly production.

Wash and Dye Methods
As part of our unique eco-difference, all Alternative Earth styles are created with low-impact dyes and natural wash methods, as well as biodegradable fabric softeners and natural enzymes for finishing. The dyes used for Alternative Earth do not contain heavy metals or toxic substances and have a high fixation (or absorption) rate, which means using less dye to generate our colors. Our vendor's dyehouses perform frequent inspections in order to check all equipment and sample water and filtration residue for any toxins.

Certified Organic Cotton
Organic cotton, unlike its non-organic counterpart, is produced pesticide-free. While pesticides effectively rid crops of bugs, rodents and other animals, they also contain harmful chemicals which can seep into the soil and groundwater. Insects and smaller animals typically ingest these chemicals, often causing sickness or death and disruption to the area food chain. Even trace amounts of pesticides can be lethal, which is why it takes five years to obtain organic certification and why we'll only use certified organic cotton for our 100% Organic Cotton fabric.

Eco-Heather and Eco-Fleece
Our Eco-Heather and Eco-Fleece fabrics take the most innovative approach of our eco-friendly offerings, knitting organic cotton with recycled polyester and rayon to create a material like no other. Eco-fi polyester is made from used bottles which are ground into tiny flakes, extruded into a fiber, and infused into polyester threads. Our rayon comes from plant cellulose, a sustainable source of raw materials. It's important to note that both Eco-Heather and Eco-Fleece are developed using a mixture of recycled and organic threads alongside traditional ones in order to preserve our signature vintage softness.

Eco-Conscious FAQs

Q: Does Alternative use eco-friendly dyes?
A: Yes. We use low-impact dyes for everything in our Alternative Earth line. This means that they do not contain any heavy metals or toxic substances. The absorption (or fixation) rate for these dyes averages 75 percent, which means we are able to use less dye to produce our colors and less water to rinse them in the process. We also use low-impact dyes in many of the products outside of the Alternative Earth line.

Q: What are Eco-Heather and Eco-Fleece?
A: Eco-Heather and Eco-Fleece  are two of our eco-friendly fabrics that are created by blending traditional fibers with organic cotton, recycled polyester (made from recycled bottles) and rayon (made from converted plant cellulose).

Q: Is Alternative's cotton certified organic?
A: Yes. Anything in our line stating it is 100% Organic Cotton is certified organic cotton, produced pesticide-free. We keep copies of the organic certificates on file.

Q: Is Alternative certified Fair Trade?
A: No. Fair Trade regulation only applies to the import/export of raw materials. Since we import/export finished products, we do not qualify for Fair Trade certification. For more information about Fair Trade, visit www.transfairusa.org.

Q: Does Alternative practice Fair Trade?
A: Although Fair Trade certification only applies to the import/export of raw materials, our sourcing practices do operate in the spirit of Fair Trade. Alternative works primarily with local manufacturers in our product's country of origin; therefore, our business practices are aligned with Fair Trade's spirit of letting the original producers receive the rewards of their work directly.

Q: What standards does Alternative abide by through its social responsibility policies?
A: Our Vendor Guidelines and Principles are in line with the Fair Labor Association (FLA) Workplace Code of Conduct. Additionally, many of our factories are Worldwide Responsible Apparel Production (WRAP) certified, a status which has to be renewed each year. Visit the www.wrapapparel.org to learn more about certification principles and factory audits.

Q: Where does Alternative manufacture its goods?
A: We make our products in locations and factories all over the world, including the United States, Peru, the Dominican Republic, Egypt, Vietnam, Nicaragua, Indonesia and China. All of our Alternative Earth products originate from Peru and the Dominican Republic.

Q: Why does Alternative produce in so many countries?
A: When we develop a new product, the first element we take into consideration is finding the right fabric. We look at which part of the world and countries can produce the fabric we need, as many of our fabrics are geographic specific. Next, we look for vendors that meet or surpass our social compliance standards. We sometimes produce the same product in different locations, because we are looking for factories with the skills and quality we need to deliver at a competitive price, and more importantly, on time.

Q: Why aren't more Alternative products made in the United States?
A: Roughly 25 percent of our goods are made in the U.S., which is a high percentage compared to industry average of less than 10 percent in our product categories. We constantly evaluate potential US-based vendors; however garment production in the U.S. is not competitive for all product categories or volume levels. Additionally, many of the factories we've come across in our search for vendors in the United States have lesser working conditions than our factories in other countries.

Q: Do children make Alternative's clothes?
A: Absolutely not. We're serious about social compliance at Alternative, and as a result, so are the vendors we choose to work with. Many of our factories have higher age minimums than the law requires in their respective countries.

Q: Why doesn't Alternative publish its vendor list?
A: We have decided not to publish our vendor list to protect ourselves from competitors, not because of any social compliance concerns. We're proud of the working conditions of our factories, and we are huge advocates for operational transparency. However, we want to protect ourselves from anyone out there who might attempt to go straight to our vendors. We've put in enough time with them that we feel strongly that we have the right to protect ourselves in this regard.

Q: How does Alternative select its vendors?
A: The first elements we consider when selecting a vendor is their ability to meet our social compliance standards and the quality of their products. Our fabric is critical to our signature vintage-soft brand and feel, and we have to work hard to find it! Typically, there are only certain geographic areas of the world that can meet our production needs. We head to those areas and search for vendors that exceed our expectations and requirements. If a factory does not meet our social compliance standards from the very beginning, we don't even consider them. After that, we base or search on the quality of the goods and the efficiency with which they can be produced.

Q: Why does Alternative make products in China?
A: We receive this question often and with good reason. China is a country with a history of human rights infringements and more recently, damaging environmental policy violations. However, our manufacturing in China is in full compliance with our fundamental Social Responsibility policies.

Most importantly, our manufacturing selection process is based on the vendor, not the country. We elect to manufacture in China for a number of reasons, but ultimately, it comes down to our desire to provide high-quality products in a timely manner at a reasonable price. Of course, price is a factor, but so are skills, technology and production know-how elements which far outweigh cost in our book. The reality is that there are countries with far lower labor costs than China, but we choose not to do business with them simply because their vendors do not meet our standards and guidelines.

Our vendor's facilities in China are modern, clean and safe, and are either certified by the Worldwide Responsible Apparel Production organization or audited by third-party professional services firms. These third-party audits apply to our vendors in all countries to ensure they abide by our vendor guidelines to remain fair, functional and clean.

Despite China's controversial governmental policies, we believe that we have the ability to promote positive change through practicing ethical business, no matter where we are. Making products in China or any other country allows us the opportunity to prioritize and advance social and environmental issues there. By selecting vendors who not only abide by our code of conduct but surpass it, we are influencing the greater community and setting higher standards in garment manufacturing.

Alternative alone cannot change China's work culture or government, but we can do our best to improve conditions for the fraction of the population our factories employ and the communities they call home. In doing so, we hope to spread the idea of fair labor throughout the region, so one day all workers in China may have the same workplace guarantees we have.

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