Max has a proud history as a leading women’s fashion brand in New Zealand for over 30 years.  The fashion industry has changed dramatically over this time, and will continue to evolve. With constant change come opportunities and challenges, and at Max, our company culture centres around having a positive impact on our communities and the environment, both within New Zealand, and China where we produce our clothing. We’re on a continuous journey to ensure people and surrounding communities are not disadvantaged in the production of our products, to minimise our impact on the environment, and to ensure that we operate our business in a sustainable fashion. Operating with integrity and doing the right thing are ingrained in the way we do business.


Social Responsibility has become a key pillar of the Max Strategic Plan. Each year the senior management team identifies new projects to add to the company plan to ensure we achieve our business objective of continuous improvement in the ethical, social and environmental impacts across all areas of our business. By being included in the strategic plan, progress on these initiatives is reported to and monitored by our Board Of Directors.


We continually look to improve the way we operate and believe transparency in our supply chain is the best approach to improving our product sourcing. We have identified that developing long term partnerships and building strong relationships with a small number of factories allows us to work on an ongoing basis to improve working conditions and social compliance.

To enable us to do this better, Max transitioned from third party sourcing to working directly with our suppliers in 2016 and 2017. This transition is now complete, and has resulted in a significant reduction in the number of factories manufacturing Max products. We have now developed and built a stable supplier base, who we continue to build trust and strong two-way dialogue with.

Our apparel is 100% sourced from 19 factories in the Shanghai, Guangdong, Zhejiang and Jiangsu provinces of China, with a small percentage of accessories sourced from Vietnam and India.

We actively avoid working with suppliers on a one-off production basis. This ensures we have good visibility and understanding of working conditions in our factories, and provides the best outcomes in terms of factory environment, compliance, product quality, relationships and control.

We pride ourselves on paying a fair price and consider our factories to be part of our production team. We rely on their dedication and hard work to produce quality garments in an ethical fashion. By developing these strong relationships, we work together to resolve production issues to avoid the factories wearing extra costs and penalties. Penalties or discounts must be signed off by Max management, and will only be enforced if all other avenues or remedies have been exhausted. We believe over penalising has a negative effect on our relationships and loads extra pressure on the factories, which can then be passed on to workers.


Before placing an order with a factory, a member of the Max Head Office team meets with the supplier to ensure they can, and are willing to work to our code of conduct. The factory is then audited to ensure it complies, and if it passes the audit, becomes an approved supplier.


In addition to designing a product range to meet the needs of our customers, our design team understand the importance of compliance and have built this into the product design process. This ensures that all products briefed to our factories can be reasonably produced within set costs and time-frames. It’s important we don’t place unrealistic expectations on them, which when under pressure, can be passed on to the workers.


Looking after the people who make our products is a top priority for us, and it’s the area we get the most inquiries about from our customers. Our production team is committed to improving working conditions, worker rights and environmental impact throughout our supply chain and has established a rigorous code of conduct which our suppliers are required to adhere to. Our suppliers are contractually required to relay our code of conduct to all fabric mills, wash mills, accessory suppliers and subcontractors.

One of the key tools we use to monitor working conditions and environmental impacts are independent, third party Ethical & Social Audits of our suppliers facilities. All factories producing  Max product are required to have a signed copy of our code of conduct on file for our Production Manager and Audit Manager to check. The purpose of the audit is to check our code of conduct is being adhered to.

Click here to see Max Code of Conduct. 

All our factories are subject to social and ethical audits and 100% of our apparel factories are audited every 2 years at Max expense.

Our independent auditors are SGS who audit on our behalf, but we also accept audits from BSCI, Sedex and Qualspec.

Our audits on worker rights, working conditions, health and safety, and environmental impact are comprehensive and cover a wide range of potential issues including the following:

Child Labour

We will not tolerate any use of Child Labour to manufacture our garments, or produce any components of these garments, including fabric and trims. The UN convention (138) outlines the minimum age a child shall be allowed to work and this is broken down into Light work, Basic minimum age, and Hazardous work. We expect all Max suppliers to follow this requirement, however if the national or local laws are more stringent than this, then these must be followed.

If any violation is detected, the supplier must take appropriate action immediately that will allow the child to stay in quality education until they reach the age of 15. 

Working Conditions

We have a responsibility to provide a safe and healthy working environment for all workers producing our garments – this is a non-negotiable for Max. This includes fire safety, building safety, working environment, and workers health and welfare.

Our suppliers must provide a safe and hygienic working environment for all staff, with adequate ventilation and light.  Safe drinking water is to be provided at no extra charge, and safe storage for food items. Workers must have access to hygienic toilet facilities, and if accommodation is provided it is vital this is safe, clean and meets basic needs. 

Training in health and safety must be provided regularly to all workers, and it’s essential all new workers are given this training before they commence work. A record of this training has to be kept on file, and a senior manager must monitor and control this process. Training includes fire prevention and steps to prevent accidents and injury. Non-compliance found in this area can usually be resolved in a reasonably short time. Training and continual monitoring by Max staff is key to making improvements.

Forced Labour

We are committed to ensuring that all workers are employed on a voluntary basis, and are free to leave with acceptable notice. The employer is not allowed to hold onto identity papers or accept any deposits from workers.

Our factories are operating in accordance with the Modern Slavery Act 2015 in the UK, and the Slavery Act of 2014 in the USA.


Ensuring wages are enough to meet the basic needs of workers and their families, and provide extra for additional needs within reason is an ethos we all buy into at Max. Wages, at a minimum, must meet the legal requirements of that region or country. Any overtime must be paid at least at a rate that meets minimum requirements for local or national laws.

Workers are to be provided with written confirmation of their remuneration prior to commencement of any work, and information on how and when this will be paid. Deductions from  wages are not permitted without permission from the worker concerned.

Working Hours, Overtime & Subcontracting

We believe it’s our responsibility to ensure we manage our production schedule efficiently to ensure we don’t place unrealistic pressure on our manufacturing partners. Our production is planned a year in advance to ensure our factories have the space and staff to manage our orders, and can avoid the use of overtime. Workloads at factories are closely monitored and reasonable lead-times of 85-125 days are given, so use of subcontractors is rare in Max production.

Workers must be provided at least one day off for every 7-day period, and regular working hours must not exceed 48 hours per week.  All overtime must be voluntary and cannot total more than 12 hours per week. This is a minimum requirement and doesn’t replace national or local laws if this provides greater protection.

Occasionally a factory may request to subcontract production due to high workloads. There is always a reason subcontracting is required, and we prefer to work with the factory to find a solution to the issue, rather than subcontract the order. A common resolution is to allow the factory additional time to complete the order. On the rare occasion subcontracting can’t be avoided, it must be signed off by the Max Production Manager and a valid factory audit by an approved auditor (SCG, BSCI, Sedex and Qualspec) needs to be provided. If an audit is not supplied the request will be declined. Subcontracted product is also subject to random inline inspections by our QC Manager before bulk garments are finalised.

Discrimination & Inhumane Treatment

We are an equal opportunities employer and do not tolerate any discrimination, including based on religion, age, gender, sexual orientation, political views, national origin, race, union membership or disability occurring in our factories. 

Physical or verbal abuse, including sexual harassment is not acceptable. All workers must be treated with dignity and respect, and any complaints must be documented by management. If disciplinary action is required, this must comply with international human rights, or national laws, which ever provides the greatest protection to the victim.

If they have any concerns about their treatment, the workers in our factories can contact Max head office directly via a confidential email to highlight any concerns about their working conditions. This is communicated to them via notices in their native language placed on noticeboards in the factories. The complaint can be made in their native language, and will be translated by Max. Any concern is investigated by Max head office staff, and/or our Hong Kong based Audit Manager, and when applicable, corrective action taken.

Corruption & Bribery

We will not tolerate corruption or bribery in our business under any circumstances. Suppliers are required to identify which departments could be at risk of bribery and corruption, and ensure adequate training and support is provided to staff to ensure this does not occur.

Worker Representation

We believe it’s important that workers have the right to representation. All workers at our factories have the right to join trade unions or democratically elected worker representative groups of their choice, and to bargain collectively. Any discrimination to these workers will not be tolerated, and no payment or bonus can be offered to workers who do not belong to a union or worker group.

Worker representatives should be allowed to carry out their functions, and the employer should be supportive of this process.

Traceability of Fabric and Trims

In addition to the factories manufacturing our products, suppliers who source fabric or trims from third parties are responsible for enforcing the principles of our code of conduct with each source.  Adequate records should be kept, showing contract agreements and payments, and a company name and address must be supplied for all third parties to enable us to trace the origin of components used in our supply chain.  This includes fabric mills, wash mills and accessory suppliers. Max does not accept the use of Uzbekistani cotton in any of our fabric or trims, and we don’t use sand blasted denim due to the impact on worker health.

Fabric Testing

We are focused on ensuring the chemicals we use are safe for the people working with them and our customers who wear them. We test through SGS for AZO dyes and formaldehyde, and reject any fabric that fails testing. All chemicals used for dyeing, finishing and printing fabrics (including linings and trims) comply with New Zealand and Australian standards.


In addition to protecting workers, we are focused on ensuring our factories and supply chain processes have minimal impact on the environment they operate in. This is included in our audits. Our factories must have a copy of valid local laws and regulations and understand these requirements. All approvals, permits and licenses required by local laws need to be complied with. An environmental emergency procedure related to identified risks needs to have been developed, for example regarding chemical use. Training must be provided to all workers to increase environmental awareness for their specific jobs, and for broader factory requirements.

Hazardous waste must be stored and disposed of correctly so there is no risk to the environment, population or animal life. Some factories require treatment facilities before water, gas or chemicals can be disposed. Factories are checked to see if they’re monitoring the emission of waste water and gas as legally required. An energy efficiency plan is encouraged to reduce wastage of resources. This requires an energy survey or assessment, and can relate to electricity, heat or water. An example of one of these initiatives our denim factory, whose water usage is up to 60% recycled.

Our factories are actively working towards the 2020 and 2030 targets set by the Chinese government under the Action Plan for Water Pollution Prevention and Control.


It’s very rare for a factory to achieve a perfect audit score, so we take the opportunity to use our audit results to work with our suppliers to resolve any non-compliance issues, and improve the way they operate.

Issues are identified as minor, major or critical. Depending on the issue, a time frame for improvements is set and agreed with the factory. Any issue that poses an immediate threat to worker safety is a critical issue, and must be resolved immediately. If a factory is unwilling to work with us to resolve issues we action an immediate plan to stop working with them. In our experience this is rare, and generally our factories welcome assistance to make positive changes. 100% of our apparel factories are audited every 2 years.

To manage the audit follow-up process effectively, Max has a Hong Kong based Audit Manager who can visit our factories to monitor their improvement processes and provide training and education to help with their action plans. She has been auditing in China for over 20 years and has completed the SA8000 Auditor Training Course. We also have a China based Quality Controller who completed an SA8000 Social Systems Audit training course on 14 April 2017. (Course Number: AT-2017-07, Certificate Number: 6977). He is regularly in our factories and immediately actions any health and safety issues observed, and advises Max of any concerns highlighted in his visits.

In addition, members of the Max head office team regularly visit our factories. Not only does this improve relationships, it gives us a better understanding of factories limitations and concerns. We have invested in training for the Max Production Manager to check for human rights, and health and safety issues, and request remediation and follow-up if issues are identified when they visit. This training takes place in March 2018.

A number of recurring issues have come to light in our audits in the past year, which we have worked with factories to rectify. These fall into two key areas:

Overtime and overtime pay

Non-compliance with overtime requirements was an ongoing issue that occurred in a number of factories, and is an area we are focused on working with those factories to improve. To do this we provide support in the following areas:

  • Book production capacity at the beginning of each season so factories have clear visibility of demand.
  • Agree to lead times, and ensure we keep to our milestones in the agreed critical path.
  • Closely monitor the production status of orders to ensure the order is on track at each stage.
  • Ensure cost prices are not squeezed to such a level that the factory needs to cut corners when paying workers.

    Health & Safety

    Health and safety breaches are non-negotiable and must be resolved with urgency. The non-compliance issues we have discovered have been able to be resolved quickly. Follow up visits,  training and monitoring are provided by our QC Manager and Max staff when areas of concern are ongoing. Breaches identified in the past year are:

  • Aisles and walkways restricted due to cartons placed in incorrect areas. This is a critical issue, and when discovered must be resolved while the auditor is at the factory.
  • Safety guards missing off sewing or knitting machines. These must be purchased and attached.
  • First aid personnel not correctly identified. Photos and the name of first aid personnel must be placed on a notice board or next to the first aid box.
  • Scissors and screw drivers in the production area must be secured to benches.



In addition to providing a positive environment for our factory workers, we are committed to ensuring no animals suffer in the production of our garments. Our suppliers are required to adhere to relevant national and international standards for animal welfare, with animals handled to ensure minimum distress. The use of all yarns from animals must be approved by the Production Manager. Animal products approved for Max products are:

  • wool (including merino),
  • yak
  • mohair (from the angora goat)
  • cashmere (from the cashmere goat).
  • Leather – only use leather that is a by-product from other industries

Max does not use angora from the angora rabbit and does not produce any products containing animal fur or bird feathers or down.


Minimalising our impact on the environment is a key priority at Max, and we’re committed to a process of continuous improvement to ensure we are doing all we can. A simple rule we follow in our operations across our supply chain, including at head office is to: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. Some initiatives covering these areas are detailed below:


A recent focus has been to significantly reduce the amount of plastic we use in our business. Max currently uses a combination of recyclable paper carry bags and plastic sale bags in stores, but we have taken the decision to stop using plastic bags and transition these to recyclable paper bags to reduce our impact on the environment. We are currently working through our existing stocks of plastic bags, but all orders placed going forward are for now for recyclable, sustainably produced paper bags. We expect the transition from plastic to paper to be completed in 2018 and this will result in Max removing 230,000 plastic carry bags from our operations annually. The factory producing our bags is FSC certified and BSCI audited.

In November 2017 we changed the way we ship our garments to reduce plastic usage in the supply chain. We are no longer individually bagging each garment. This will result in the removal of 660,000 plastic bags from our supply chain each year. In total, Max will use almost 900,000 less plastic bags on an annual basis as a result of these changes.

We also encourage our suppliers to use the biggest carton allowed when shipping bulk garments. The size is only restricted by what is a safe size and weight to carry. We allow mixed packing to help make use of carton space. This helps to reduce the number of cartons we use in China and New Zealand.

All cartons and poster tubes used to deliver product or promotional material into our distribution centre and stores are either reused or recycled.

Store Fixtures And Fittings

Where possible for the production of new store fixtures and fittings, we use low formaldehyde E0 rating materials. All Melteca on MDF and Particleboard, as well as Whiteboard, raw MDF and raw Particleboard is independently certified by Environmental Choice NZ and meets the criteria for the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified timber set in the ECNZ Furniture and Fittings standard.

Using this range of low emission products improves indoor air quality. This is recognized as contributing Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ) points in the Green Star Materials Calculator.

When conducting store refits or upgrades we are focused on reducing the amount of material we send to landfill to minimise our impact on the environment. Where possible, store fixtures and fittings are either repurposed and reused, sold to other businesses or individuals, or sold to scrap metal dealers. In 2017 we donated a number of fixtures and fittings to Hospice West Auckland to set up a new store. We were delighted to see these items be put to good use.

Energy Efficient Lighting

As part of Max continuous store upgrade programme we are changing all lighting to energy efficient LED where possible when works are carried out instore. All new stores are fitted with LED lighting.

Support Office

All printer and photocopier paper used at head office is carbon neutral and sustainably produced. It has the PEFC stamp for sustainable forest management. Paper and cartons are recycled, and old office furniture and IT equipment is either sold, or uplifted by Junk2Go to be reused and recycled where possible.

Max Head Office operates a composting system for food and plant waste and compost-approved packaging. We use a Nespresso coffee machine, and use the Nespresso Recycling Programme to recycle the aluminium capsules, and compost the coffee grounds.

Max Head Office building collects and stores rainwater which is used for flushing toilets. Energy efficient LED lighting is used in the office and communal spaces. Carpark and stairwell lighting, and hand-dryers in bathrooms are on timers to save energy, and toilet paper is made from recycled paper.

Secure bicycle parking is provided to encourage cycling to work, and the building has a recycling station for paper and cardboard.

Road To Carbon Neutrality

We are working with Enviro-Mark Solutions to develop and implement a plan to reduce emissions and gain CEMARS® (Carbon Emissions Management and Reduction Scheme) certification this year. Our aim is to have net-zero carbon emissions and upgrade our certification to carboNZeroCertTM by 2023.

Unsold/Returned Garments

We strongly believe every garment in the Max system can be used to good effect, so we do not dump any product. Any unused product deemed unsuitable for sale is donated to Dress For Success or Women’s Refuge (Auckland branch). If the product is not wearable, it’s donated to pre-schools and schools in the Auckland region for use in art and craft activities.

If you have any questions regarding Max social responsibility programme, please contact us at or by calling on 09 304 0995.