What do they do with donated clothes?
Joan Carles Montes, an associate in the communication department of Humana People's Village Foundation visited GBSB Global Business School in Barcelona with 2 members of his team on Tuesday, May 23, 2017. In the communication department at Humana in Spain, they broadcast the activity generated within the country in the area of management of textile waste: the annual reuse of thousands of tons of secondhand clothing, social actions funded with the proceeds obtained from the management of the textiles, opening of secondhand clothing resale stores, and the attendance at regional conferences. Mr. Montes produces press releases, newsletters, media requests, and works as a spokesperson for the press, radio, and television interviews within Humana, a non-government organization (NGO) that was established in Denmark in 1987.
Master in Fashion and Luxury Business Management students were in attendance to hear more about the non-profit organization’s efforts in Barcelona and Spain as compared with Humana’s global humanitarian aid efforts taking place to help less fortunate individuals in the sub-Saharan Africa, South America, and Asia.
One of the main functions Humana does to collect proceeds for their aid efforts is to collect used clothing and resell it in both the developed country to earn funds to invest in various development projects, in addition to selling carefully selected clothes that meet both cultural and climate demands in the less developed regions where they are needed.
How do they collect used garments?
Humana has an inventory of green bins located in various public locations in 200 cities in Catalunya and a total of 5100 collection bins in the whole of Spain. The collection bins are responsible for collecting 18,000 tons of clothes in Spain and 4,500 tons of clothes in Catalunya. Because of the large stock of clothes Humana’s receiving center collects, they can only prepare clothing items for resale by sorting through the garments separating the gently used pieces from those items that are in bad condition. In order to remain sustainable and environmentally conscious, Humana does not launder these clothes or fix imperfections.
Last year alone, 2 million people in Spain donated clothes. It is important to note that the cultural standard in Spain has always seen secondhand clothes and the distribution of these items as a means to help the poor and would not be seen shopping secondhand markets themselves. This mindset is slowly changing. In 2016, Humana resale stores saw 1.3 million clients walk through their doors and make a purchase. 2.8 million secondhand garments were distributed within Spain. Those are amazing figures considering in Barcelona there are 17 Humana stores, and this figure contributes to the 42 stores in Spain.
How does this relate to sustainable fashion?
Mr. Montes described how his department focuses on developing cooperation from local municipalities and promoting local support for the cause. It is not always easy. It takes effort to increase public awareness when there are also other non-profit organizations conducting similar efforts.
What sets Humana apart?
Humana utilizes the collection of used clothing to support its social projections.
- Health Services
- Community Development
- Agriculture and Environmental Protection
- Renewable Energy
- Humanitarian Response Efforts
It was fascinating to have students from the Master in Fashion and Luxury Business Management program and others from across Europe, the Middle East, and Asia in the audience. Students were encouraged to ask questions, and a few had experience and had researched Humana’s aid efforts in raising funds and awareness to the local distribution of the aid. Students were able to identify large differences between cultures and countries in how they functioned as an organization, in addition to the acceptance of secondhand clothes in emerging markets where perceptions are different.
GBSB Global Business School promotes and supports cultural diversity and understanding. They look for opportunities such as this visit from Humana’s People’s Village Foundation to promote a greater understanding of the global challenges we not only face in business, but also what obstacles and hardships we, as a society, need to confront in order to supply the basic human needs and aid efforts needed worldwide.
Written by Emily Dawn Szajda, GBSB Global Business School Content Manager