Social Good: Helping Hands Across The World
HanesBrands is a company with an unmistakably big presence, both in the promotional products industry, where it operates as Hanes/Champion, and in retail, with nearly 1,000 company-owned stores across the globe. As a responsible manufacturer with a workforce of nearly 70,000 operating in 40 countries, and such a large global footprint overall, HanesBrands continues to grow in many capacities, not only from its commitment to reliable product, but to conscious engineering, sustainability and bettering the communities where its workers and customers live, work, learn and play. “We are a company of brands trusted by millions of consumers, so we cherish our achievements and strong reputation for corporate citizenship and social responsibility,” says Rachel Newman, vice president and general manager of HanesBrands Activewear. “It’s truly part of our DNA.”
To touch communities more directly, the Winston-Salem, North Carolina-based supplier launched Hanes for Good in 1991, its philanthropic arm, to focus mainly on disaster relief efforts. It’s an all-hands-on-deck effort, with HanesBrands’s employees having donated more than 550,000 hours of their time to service. “When it comes down to it, everyone wants to feel like they are making a difference, and they want to work for a company that does business the right way,” says Newman. The program has made a tremendous impact since its inception. Through Hanes for Good, HanesBrands has donated more than $41 million to the United Way of Forsyth County to help families in need, along with other local organizations—like the Arts Council of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County and Habitat for Humanity—and in 2019, it celebrated its 10th year of the annual Hanes National Sock Drive, which has donated more than three million pairs of socks to help the homeless. And this year, the company plans to celebrate its 10th year of Hanes4Education, a program that allows schools to receive cash back for purchasing printed HanesBrands shirts; the program has paid out more than $1 million to U.S. schools.
On a global scale, Hanes for Good has provided much-needed essentials to hurricane victims. In 2019, this included a donation of more than 250,000 undergarments to victims of Hurricane Dorian in North Carolina and the Bahamas, and a partnership with nonprofit Delivering Good to distribute an additional $1 million in apparel. Two years earlier, in 2017, HanesBrands donated two million undergarments and activewear apparel to victims of Hurricane Harvey, Irma and Marie in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and the Caribbean. Since 2007, the company has donated $13 million in apparel and cash to victims of natural disasters.
"HanesBrands and its employees continue to be longtime supporters of those in need here and around the world," says Chris Fox, HanesBrands vice president of corporate social responsibility. "We know that victims of natural disasters have a tremendous need for the basics in life, including shelter, food, water and clothing. And we are happy to spread some 'Hanes for Good' to assist."
In 2010, HanesBrands expanded its Hanes for Good program with an effort to bridge eco-consciousness with charity and community development. More than 12,000 employees have contributed to more than 110 projects so far. The crux of this program is twofold: HanesBrands promotes recycling and energy savings, which reduces costs, and the money salvaged is then funneled into charitable projects; more than $1 million annually is donated this way. Between 2007 and 2018, HanesBrands reduced its energy use by 22 percent—40 percent of the company’s energy comes from renewable sources—its carbon emissions by 34 percent and its water use by 31 percent. The reduction in HanesBrands's carbon footprint is the equivalent of almost 320 million miles driven by an average passenger vehicle, and in 2018 alone the company saved the equivalent of 1,777 Olympic-sized swimming pools of water.
Also in 2018, HanesBrands achieved a landfill diversion rate of 86 percent, having recycled more than 107 million pounds of fabric, plastic bottles, corrugate and other materials. Each year, HanesBrands continues to refine how it consumes resources and where these resources come from. Currently, HanesBrands uses six million pounds of recycled material to make new products, and by 2021, its Alternative brand is slated to replace all virgin polyester with 100-percent-recycled polyester to use instead. Also of top importance, nearly 80 percent of apparel sold by HanesBrands is produced in factories owned by the company or by dedicated contractors, allowing for the regulation of safe and ethical workplace practices on a global scale.
"We're celebrating a decade of environmental excellence because HanesBrands' 68,000 worldwide employees have embraced environmental stewardship and actively led our energy management initiatives," says Fox. "And we believe this effort and our commitment to be an international leader in eco-friendly business operations creates value for our company, our investors, our consumers, our employees and our communities."
The money saved through cleaner manufacturing has allowed HanesBrands employees to help with school, hospital and orphanage refurbishment projects, beach cleanups and tree plantings, among other efforts. One such effort is a 10-year partnership with nonprofit Glasswing International to support at-risk youth in El Salvador, and HanesBrands has contributed more than $1.5 million to provide teachers with professional development, make upgrades to area schools, and offer educational, athletic and artistic afterschool programs for more than 5,000 children. Another project includes an education program established in 2009 in Honduras that allows employees from HanesBrands facilities to attend classes, free of charge, at local schools. Nearly 3,000 employees in Latin America have earned their high school diploma or college degree through this program so far.
A few years later, in 2011, HanesBrands started bringing volunteer medical staff from the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem overseas to provide complimentary health care to areas surrounding Hanes factories in Latin America. A team of health care professionals—consisting of surgeons, doctors, anesthesiologists and medical students—have since traveled twice a year to perform eye, ear, nose and throat surgeries for employees and their families resulting in more than 950 surgeries and 5,400 medical consultations in total. And in 2019, HanesBrands helped bring the gift of entrepreneurship to female human trafficking survivors through nonprofit Free The Girls. In partnership with this organization, HanesBrands’s more than 200 retail stores in the U.S. and Puerto Rico set out collection boxes for customers to donate new or gently-used bras for trafficking survivors in Mozambique, East Africa; Costa Rica, Central America, and El Salvador. The women there could then establish their own secondhand apparel business selling the bras, allowing them to earn a stable income, and were given complimentary financial planning and inventory management lessons, along with low-cost inventory replenishment.
With so much work not only dedicated to making the company a success, but a gamechanger in the way manufacturers address social responsibility and eco-consciousness, HanesBrands has received high accolades for its work. Among other accolades, the company has been recognized by the United Way with its Decade of Excellence Award, and by the U.S. EPA Star Energy program for 10 consecutive years. HanesBrands was also just one of nine international companies to be named by Prince Felipe of Spain during an awards ceremony in 2014 for CODESPA, a nonprofit that recognizes corporate social responsibility programs that work to absolve poverty. HanesBrands also earned an A- score in the CDP 2018 Climate Change Report, where it scored in the top six percent among nearly 7,000 participating companies, and achieved the highest score in the apparel industry.
But the most admirable aspect of the work that HanesBrands has done is reflected in the people and communities that are helped, made possible by the generous donations from HanesBrands, and the time selflessly given by thousands of its employees.
Danielle Renda is associate editor of PPB.