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Tommy Hilfiger's Greenwash

Join the #makeapromise twitter campaign and ask Tommy Hilfiger to end poverty of his garment workers. Read below why!

Have you heard about Tommy Hilfiger’s Make a Promise Campaign? The company is making a big splash about the money it’s giving a rural region of Uganda – all “in the hope of making long-term changes that will benefit generations”.

Rank a Brand has several problems with this campaign – and they all add up to one conclusion. Tommy Hilfiger is greenwashing its sparse and patchy CSR record. And it is doing so very cheaply indeed, especially given its scale.

Applause for the work on the ground
First things first, this campaign supports Millennium Villages. These are the good guys who actually do all the hard work: helping farmers to commercialize, building new school facilities, securing fresh water and providing medical services. We salute what they do. Take a look at their website and see how you can support them.

Crunch the numbers: it”s a tip
In 2009, the Tommy Hilfiger Corporate Foundation (their philanthropic arm) announced a €1,5 million (€1,500,000) commitment to Millenium Villages. This will be handed out over five years in the Ruhiira region of Uganda. In 2010, Tommy Hilfiger posted total global retail sales of €3,5 billion (€3,500,000,000). Given these revenues, the pledge amounts to the equivalent of the average Joe who earns €33,000 giving €2.87 each year to a charity.

Not close to covering Ruhiira’s needs
Millenium Villages needs €45 per person each year in donations for each of their projects. With approximately 50,000 villagers in Ruhiira, Millenium Vilages needs €2.3 million annually. By pledging €1,5 million over 5 years, Tommy Hilfiger is contributing around 13% of the project’s annual donor requirements.

Tommy Hilfiger benefits
Tommy Hilfiger is pushing this campaign hard: with a billboard campaign, in-store marketing materials, online advertising, a twitter competition, a best online casino micro-site, and celebrity sponsorship (thank you, Katie Holmes). And of course the cocktail parties. This kind of PR campaign does not come cheap – the bill for these activities almost certainly amounts to many millions of euros. The press and blog coverage of this campaign is pretty much all full of praise. In other words, the PR campaign is a success – and that’s hugely valuable to a consumer brand – and all for a pretty small outlay.

Tommy Hilfiger”s exploitation of the poor
Tommy Hilfiger has so far been a laggard when it comes to improving labour conditions in its own supply chains. So far it has been not transparent and uncooperative, while its clothing is produced by some of the poorest and most easily exploited people in the world. Tommy”s lack of transparency is reflected in the extremely low score in our rating.

A year ago, 29 people died in fire at a Bangladeshi factory where Tommy Hilfiger clothing was produced – they were trapped inside because several of the fire exits had been locked. When ABC news (shocking footage!) confronted Tommy Hilfiger himself about what had been done to improve conditions at these factories, he said his company would never make clothes at those facilities again. Which was a lie. As Tommy was forced to admit in an interview with, yes, ABC news.

Indonesia, India
Heavy labour problems were also found in one of Tommy”s Indonesian factories, where workers were fired after joining a labour union. It took the labour movement more than two years of campaigning before Tommy helped solving the problem. Reports on violations against young women workers in India were never followed up by Tommy.

Time to change
We don’t want Tommy Hilfiger to stop supporting Ruhiira. And we’re not demanding that it starts giving Ruhiira more money. We just want to point out that if Tommy Hilfiger really wants to “make long-term changes that will benefit generations”, it should look closer to home – and start empowering and protecting the people who work in its factories.

Join the #makeapromise twitter campaign and ask Tommy Hilfiger to end poverty of his garment workers.

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