Brands and retailers

Did you know the price of cashmere has fallen by 16 per cent? The price of cashmere fluctuates wildly, and when it goes up, companies raise prices. But when it comes down (like now), they rarely lower them. But Everlane has. Last year, the company sold a cashmere crew at $125. This year it’s selling them for $100. Everlane calls this radical transparency (03 Oct 16).

Rick Ridgeway: “Why Patagonia is moving from sustainability to regeneration”: A podcast (header link goes straight to podcast) with Rick Ridgeway, VP of Environmental Initiatives at Patagonia. The interesting bit is when he starts talking about moving away from “causing no unnecessary harm” (or sustainability) to “doing good” (which is regenerative). He discusses things like soil health, regenerative agriculture, rotational grazing, and clothing that benefits the climate (02 Oct 16).

More companies sign up to Responsible Wool Standard: Textile Exchange has announced broad commitments from across the textile industry to the Responsible Wool Standard (RWS). The Responsible Wool Standard is a voluntary global standard that addresses the welfare of sheep and of the land they graze on. Fifteen brands have made commitments to the Responsible Wool Standard, including H&M, Marks & Spencer, William-Sonoma, Patagonia, Eddie Bauer, REI, Eileen Fisher, Tchibo, Varner, Vaude, Coyuchi, Mountain Equipment Co-op, Deckers, Kathmandu, and Knowledge Cotton Apparel (28 Sep 16).

Report: Testing for hexavalent chromium in shoes: A new report from Labor Behind the Label provides information on testing results conducted on a range of shoes from Adidas, ARA, Bally, Bata, Birkenstock, Camper, CCC, Clarks, Deichmann, Ecco, El Naturalista, Eurosko, Gabor, Geox, Leder und Schuh AG, Lowa, Mango, Nilson, Prada, Rieker, Salvatore Ferragamo, Tod’s, and Wojas. All 64 shoes tested were safe for consumers. The reports raises the question, however, of safety to workers and whether tanneries have systems in place to protect the environment. You can read the full report here (PDF).

Stella McCartney releases environmental profit and loss accounts: Stella McCartney has published its first environmental profit and loss accounts, which places a monetary value on the environmental costs and benefits that the company has generated by its direct operations and across its entire supply chain, covering sourcing, manufacturing and selling practices (03 Oct 16). I tried to find this report online, but failed…

Outdoor retailer among Canada’s most trusted brands: Canadian outdoor retailer Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) is Canada’s most trusted retailer, according to the 2016 Gustavson Brand Trust Index (GBTI). The GBTI measures Canadian consumers' opinions about 276 corporate and product brands across 27 categories. For this year’s evaluation, it collected responses from 6384 Canadian consumers (02 Oct 16).

ASOS wants to source more products from Leicester: An interview with Simon Platts, the director of sourcing, ethical trade and sustainability for online fashion retailer ASOS, who wants to source more products from the UK, especially in Leicester:

While Simon still sources much ASOS product from overseas, he is looking to bolster the business he places with Leicester-based textiles factories. He said: “It is pure coincidence that Leicester is where the kind of clothes I want to buy are being made, and that I live here. I want to source more from here. If you want to offer customers newness you need flexibility – I can make stuff in this city and Manchester and London and we can sell at a reasonable price. It's different to what sourcing might look like from other countries around the world, but it works for us. Sourcing for ASOS from the UK is growing and growing” (27 Sep 16).

Asos warehouse workers paying the true price of orders: A long investigative piece about conditions in UK warehouses that ship ASOS orders (29 Sep 16). “The heart of the online retailer’s global empire is a giant warehouse in the north of England where workers say they are treated like machines to get your order to you wherever you are in the world. A BuzzFeed News investigation reveals allegations of exploitative contracts, an overbearing security regime, and stressed workers (29 Sep 16).

MPs to investigate working conditions at the online fashion retailer ASOS: In the wake of the BuzzFeed article above, Chair of the House of Commons business, innovation, and skills select committee, Iain Wright, called the findings “depressingly familiar” (Sep 16).

IndustriALL and Tchibo strengthen workers’ rights across the supply chain: IndustriALL Global Union and Tchibo have signed a global framework agreement empowering workers and unions at Tchibo suppliers for non-food products to bargain collectively on wages, social benefits and working hours in their companies and across the industry (27 Sep 16).

Timberland updates on CSR achievements: Exotextile reports that Timberland has announced its Q2 2016 CSR results, which highlight that more than 99 per cent of factories the brand sourced from met or exceeded expectations for social and labour compliance (27 Sep 16). See more here at Timberland. (Header link requires subscription to read full article.)

Nike releases Nike Mag sneaker with Michael J. Fox Foundation: Nike has announced the limited-edition global release of Nike Mag sneaker in partnership with the Michael J. Fox Foundation to help speed a cure for Parkinson’s disease and raise awareness (04 Oct 16).

Walmart, Nike and others decline to back $40 monthly wage hike in Cambodia’s garment industry”: An alternative news site from the US says it asked “six of the top US and European brands with contracts in Cambodia – Walmart, Nike, Adidas, Levi Strauss & Co., H&M and Gap Inc.” their position on a $40 minimum wage hike in Cambodia. It says: “None of them endorsed the proposal. Walmart and Nike did not respond; Adidas, Levi’s, H&M and Gap all highlighted their support of ongoing negotiations (26 Sep 16).

Levi’s in classroom controversy: Last week I noted a partnership between Levi’s, Scholastic and Project WET to provide water education to 1.5 million students. But not everyone thinks it’s a good thing.

“[E]xperts worry that the practice is one more example of marketers taking advantage of kids when they are a captive classroom audience. While Levi’s insists there is no marketing intent behind the “Our Watery World” program, aimed at kids in grades 3 to 5, materials are indeed branded. They are marked “Generously sponsored by Levi Strauss & Co.” And the classroom poster includes cartoon characters clad in denim, with the telltale red tag on the rear pocket (29 Sep 16).

Reports, Guidelines and Standards

US Department of Labour released report on worst forms of child labour: In this report, the Department of Labour identifies 139 goods from 75 countries that the department has reason to believe are made by child labour or forced labour. Titled the Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labour (you can download the full report here – PDF) (30 Sep 16). If this topic is of interest, you should check the DOL’s apps, iTunes and Android. I downloaded the Android version, and it’s very slick, easy to use, and useful bytes of information. Highly recommended.

3 labour activists in China get suspended prison terms: A court in southern China has sentenced three prominent labour organizers to suspended prison terms, human rights groups and a lawyer for one of them said this week, more than nine months after they were arrested amid a crackdown on civic organizations that work outside the Communist Party (28 Sep 16).

UL launches mobile app for safety regulations in children’s apparel: Independent safety science company UL has designed an app for retailers, brands, manufacturers and suppliers to help them adhere to new standards and changing regulations for children’s apparel. The app, UL ChildAware, provides practical and verified information on regulations in the EU and the US (26 Sep 16). You can download the app from iTunes or Android. I played with the Android version and think it’s pretty good, so if you’re interested in standards and regulations then I think you should check it out.

Washing clothes releases thousands of microplastic particles into environment, study shows: More than 700,000 microscopic fibres could be released into waste water during each use of a domestic washing machine, with many of them likely to pass through sewage treatment and into the environment, according to new research. A study by Plymouth University examined the mass, abundance and size of fibres present in waste effluent following washes of synthetic fabrics at standard temperatures of 30˚C and 40˚C. It found hundreds of thousands of tiny synthetic particles could be released in each wash, confirming earlier work at Plymouth University that the washing of clothes is a major source of microscopic fibres within the aquatic environment (27 Sep 16).

Filmmaker exposes how fashion industry pollutes world’s waterways: Canadian filmmaker Mark Angelo has released RiverBlue, a 90-minute documentary that chronicles his voyages as he paddles the world’s rivers. While much of the documentary shows some of the most beautiful pristine rivers on the planet, its main focus is on the fashion industry’s impact on the world’s waterways (28 Sep 16). You can see a trailer of the documentary at the header link.

Dutch minister says growth in garment sector hinges on supply chain transparency: At a press conference in Dhaka, Lilianne Ploumen, minister for foreign trade and development cooperation of the Netherlands, said that with more transparency, all stakeholders in the supply chain, such as retailers, producers and workers, will benefit equally (30 Sep 16).

Sustainable Fashion

Turning plastic bottle trash from the ocean into clothing: Bionic Yarn is a New York City-based startup turning used old plastic bottles, some of which were recovered from ocean shorelines, into yarns and fabrics for clothing (27 Sep 16).

Purveyor of hemp denim touts sustainability: Magu Studios, in Cleveland, is readying its first run of Japanese Raw Hemp Denim Jeans, and environmentally-friendly option (28 Sep 16).

Ethical fashion from Nairobi: Panâh is a fashion production house based in Nairobi that offers capacity building programs in the production of luxury quality apparel and accessories. It provides ethical employment opportunities to women and youth (29 Sep 16).


UK specialist helps Chinese viscose giant save water: UK textile machinery supplier Richard Hough has supplied Tangshen Sanyou – world’s largest producer of viscose fibres – with a range of dewatering rolls that will save significant amounts of every year (26 Sep 16).

Microban receives bluesign approval for Scentry BC100 odour capture treatment: Microban International, a leader in textile odour control and prevention, has received bluesign’s blue product rating for its Scentry BC100, an odour capture treatment for textiles (28 Sep 16).

Protecting future with green textiles and sustainable manufacturing: A story on Velcro and Auburn Manufacturing implementing business-changing initiatives to broaden their environmental responsibilities. For instance, Velcro now has on-site generators to capture fossil fuel burn-off, and 98 per cent of the electrical and thermal power is self-generated. Additionally, it is installing solar panels for energy generation. The company is aiming towards meeting a self-set sustainability goal of reducing its carbon footprint by 20 per cent by 2025 (29 Sep 16).

The Supply Chain

German €50m project underway to improve garment workers’ skills: The German government is providing Bangladesh with €50m in assistance to improve garment workers’ skills. The project got underway in July after signing an agreement between the two governments. The project is expected to be completed by the end of January, 2018 (20 Sep 16).

Bangladesh apparel factories get access to $4.45M from JICA: The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has made a fund available to apparel factories for retrofitting and improving fire safety (27 Sep 16).

Cambodian garment workers’ minimum wage to increase to $153: Cambodian garment workers will be paid a monthly minimum wage of $153 per month starting from next year, an increase of $8, a senior government official said last week. Unions had demanded $171 (29 Sep 16).

Relatives of Baldia factory fire victims in Pakistan seek lump sum payment: The Baldia factory fire victims have demanded that the $5.15 million compensation amount should be disbursed at once instead of in instalments to avert any possible complications (26 Sep 16).

Three drown in Pakistan factory chemical tank: Three labourers at a textile factory drowned in a chemical tank full. Two other involved in the accident survived (04 Oct 16).

Bangalore garment factories bear brunt of Cauvery agitation: The agitation in Karnataka has come at a huge cost for the garment factory workers in the state. To make up for the work lost during the agitations, apparel firms in Mandya district near Bengaluru have been compelling workers to work on Sundays. They have also raised working hours on other days without paying them overtime or following due procedure, the largest trade union of the textile workedolrs has said in a complaint to the state government. The clothes made in these factories are supplied to multinational brands such as H&M. (01 Oct 16).

Workers go on rampage over sacking of colleagues, 24 detained: Workers employed by a garment export company in Noida's Sector 63 went on a rampage last week in protest against the sacking of some contractual employees and changes in shift timings. They pelted stones at the company’s office and damaged at least 12 vehicles parked outside the premises. Some officials of the factory, who came to intervene, also sustained injuries in the violence (02 Oct 16).

US removes Jordan from child and forced labour list: The US Department of Labor (DOL) said it had removed Jordanian garments from its List of Goods Produced by Child Labour or Forced Labour, also known as the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorisation Act List (01 Oct 16).

(Image, Michael Podger, CCO)