May 21st, 2015 - HUGO BOSS would like to dissociate itself from the statements made by the author (Gisela Burckhardt) in her book. At no time did the author seek to contact HUGO BOSS with the intention of verifying her assertions. Nor has HUGO BOSS ever received any proof of their credibility. On the contrary, we are able to repudiate various statements and the data cited. For these reasons, the company would like to issue the following statement on the allegations made:
In regard to the suppliers in Bangladesh, it should be noted that the factory referred to in the book as evidence of alleged shortcomings has not produced on behalf of HUGO BOSS for quite some time. The author could and should have ascertained this fact prior to the book’s publication (the same factory was featured in a WDR documentary, to which the author refers). At that time, HUGO BOSS took various steps to resolve existing problems at this site. For example, several individuals had to leave the company, because they had failed to treat the workers fairly. The safety issues raised by the author in the media had also been identified during safety reviews conducted by engineers commissioned by HUGO BOSS. Measures to remedy these had already been initiated. However, because the company at that time was phasing out its cooperation with this factory, it was not possible to continue to track the implementation of these measures. Independent of this, HUGO BOSS had demonstrably been very well informed as to the workings of this factory, a fact which the author falsely contests. Furthermore, we are very well informed about the other three factories we cooperate with in Bangladesh. We have never encountered anything whatsoever resembling the conditions as described by the author.
In its social compliance audits, HUGO BOSS regularly reviews the working conditions of its suppliers. Such audits represent a good opportunity to obtain a realistic overview of the local situation. In addition, HUGO BOSS has a team of over 100 people to provide intensive, on-site advice to its production partners around the world. This provides insights extending far beyond the scope of the audit referenced to by the book’s author. The few factories with which HUGO BOSS cooperates with in Bangladesh (currently there are three) undergo safety reviews conducted by German engineers. Such inspections exceed the requirements of the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety. The author makes various references to the ACCORD and allegations that HUGO BOSS sees itself as bearing no social responsibility whatsoever in Bangladesh, these are simply untrue. Moreover, HUGO BOSS cooperates with UNICEF in sponsoring educational projects in Bangladesh, which intend to give young people the opportunity to improve their vocational prospects. As such, the group indeed meets its obligation of social responsibility in the aforementioned aspects.
The author also demands that HUGO BOSS implements higher wages in its third-party production operations. However, currently the only relevant and binding guideline for the garment industry is the legal minimum wage. It goes without saying that compliance with this is monitored very closely by HUGO BOSS at all of its partner operations. The company takes the issue of fair pay very seriously and, within the framework of its membership with the FLA (Fair Labour Association), participates in the “Fair Compensation” project which is committed to achieving fair wages. In conjunction with this project, a strategy is being devised to determine the wage levels to be paid in the future and which general conditions need to be established. This is a crucial prerequisite, since HUGO BOSS cannot unilaterally establish higher wages at supplier factories. Rather, binding requirements on the basis of mandatory standards need to be agreed upon – a goal to which the group is fully committed to.
The publication also asserts that HUGO BOSS fails to attach due importance to issues of sustainability. The facts contradict this claim: the group has departments dedicated to sustainability and social compliance, to name but a few. As mentioned above, HUGO BOSS has a team of over 100 people to monitor the production facilities it works with.
HUGO BOSS endeavors to continuously improve its transparency as an organization. Consequently, this year it is publishing its second sustainability report with a significantly expanded scope. In the future, the Fair Labour Association's results of the annual audits of HUGO BOSS suppliers – audits which are completely voluntary – will be published on the FLA website.
In the chapter “Image-building à la Hugo Boss,” the author gives an account on the company’s examination of its past. It is alleged that this never happened. Therefore, the question arises as to whether the author is truly oblivious of the efforts made by the company in recent years and the subsequently published study, which is widely available through booksellers. Moreover, we regard the author's polemical comments on this subject and the comparisons between past and present as highly questionable, given the sensitive nature of the subject. This approach also raises doubts as to whether the author is genuinely interested in a constructive dialog.