Starting from the April 2019 edition of Kingpins Amsterdam, Kingpins shows will introduce the process of establishing future mandatory standards–including social and environmental responsibility–for its exhibitors.
Andrew Olah, founder of Kingpins Shows, explained the reasons for this new step and what process he will be starting.
Kingpins wants its exhibitors be among the most virtuous in terms of social responsibility, chemicals and environment. Why did you decide to start this new policy now?
We started this now because it's time for change. Sooner or later we need to stop talking at conferences about what needs to be done and start doing it. We think CSR [corporate social responsibility] standards are a reasonable first request and something that can help us to build up the momentum necessary to address a variety of issues that we find very important.
Kingpins does not think it is virtuous that exhibitors have social compliance standards. Quite the contrary. There are a number of issues in our approach.
The first is that we wish our exhibitors to get a social compliance standard sooner rather than later. All the brands and retailers need this eventually, so Kingpins will help them by means of this policy.
Secondly we want to set an example to denim mills not exhibiting at Kingpins. We consider a moment in the future where every exhibiting mill is CSR certified as something extremely positive. Who would not?
For next Kingpins Amsterdam, you will start keeping an informative seminar for companies and insiders about these topics. What will happen afterwards? Will you and your show's organization also be involved in running or managing certifications too?
Kingpins has no interest, nor are we qualified to be a certification body. There are plenty of excellent certification bodies.
At our upcoming Kingpins I will speak on stage with Mr. Avedis Seferian, who is the president and chief executive of WRAP, a representative from SAI, and Robin Cornelius, who was for many years on the board of directors for SAI. In this conversation we will explain what certification means and how we feel we can upgrade working conditions in mills as well as the confidence of denim brands about the mills they work with.
We are asking our exhibitor denim mills, “Please take any CSR standard and implement it if you have none.” We think this is a reasonable request.
We expect the mills to think this is a great idea and inform us when they will complete their process. Everyone knows that CSR is vital in the supply chain.
Generally, will Kingpins exhibitors–to continue being admitted to all shows–sign an agreement through which they guarantee they will focus on reaching a certification or a tangible advancement in this direction? How much time will they have to reach such results?
There are three states in which all our denim-producing exhibitors who do not have a CSR certification at this time may exist. They can do nothing and lose their slot at Kingpins, they can agree to start certification and they can go into transition and complete the certification.
We are fine with the last two. We consider that as the minimum we can do to create change. This is not a sprint. As for the mills that already have CSR, they should be proud to be front-runners and the denim community should pay attention to those that did the right thing first.
On the other hand, Kingpins as an event will be proud that our show will be the first to have all its denim mills with CSR standards.
How will you admit companies in your shows once they reach such results? Will you present them in your show grouped together according to certification or results achieved?
Our assumption is that everyone will comply and by 2020 or so everyone who exhibits will have their certification. If some transitions take longer, and the reasons for the longer time are valid, we are perfectly content. The issue and goal is to arrive at a certification–not how fast each mill gets there.
Among companies already participating your shows, how many are already aligned with the standards you require? What does that mean in terms of percentage of total exhibitors?
We have no idea at this time of how many mills have certifications and how many don’t. This process will take us time to figure out. We should also state that just because one does not have a certification, it cannot be concluded that workers are not treated well.
How long might it take for most of them to reach the standards you require?
If everyone has accomplished certification by 2020 we will be celebrating and hope Sportswear International will join the party.
And at that party we can all enjoy the fact that Kingpins went outside the proverbial trade show box and helped workers in denim mills throughout the world.
What we will have done should actually be quite normal. We believe that in the world of tomorrow this way of conducting business, where ethics are part of the DNA of a company, will be the new normal for manufacturers as well as for brands and retailers. In an era where real transparency is around the corner, it is those who can offer certified ethical behavior–as well as great product for the right price–who will be the new winners in any industry. We’re very happy to take a lead in our domain, together with all others in this industry who take this lead in their domain.