Brands and retailers

Launch of new KnowTheChain benchmark, 20 companies ranked on forced labour: Last week saw the launch of a new benchmarking system by KnowTheChain (KTC), a resource for businesses and investors who need to understand and address forced labour abuses within their supply chains. KTC’s Apparel and Footwear Benchmark ranks 20 large apparel and footwear on their efforts to eradicate forced labour and human trafficking from their supply chains. Adidas topped the ranking with a score of 81 per cent; Prada pipped two Chinese manufacturers to avoid last place with a score of nine per cent (08 Dec 16).

Fashion firms among those rated on managing deforestation risk: According to a report released this week by CDP, a UK-based NGO that promotes corporate transparency on climate-related risks, only 30 per cent of manufacturers and retailers that reported on their deforestation risks could pinpoint where their supply chains began. Fashion companies such as Inditex, Primark and H&M were mentioned in the report (05 Dec 16). See the full report here (PDF).

Fashion firms among global Canopy Programme’s ‘Forest 500’ released: The 2016 results from the Global Canopy Programme’s ‘Forest 500’ – a policy analysis of the world’s most influential companies, investors and jurisdictions – suggest that targets for zero net deforestation by 2020 and 2030 are unlikely to be met at the current rate of progress. Out of 250 companies assessed, only 11 have gross zero deforestation policies that cover all forest risk commodities in their supply chains, while 57 percent have either weak policies or no policies at all. Of the 12 companies scoring 5/5, Marks & Spencer was the only fashion retailer present (05 Dec 16). See company rankings here. See full report here (PDF).

Global Fund for Women and C&A Foundation collaborate to end gender-based violence in the garment industry: C&A Foundation will invest €1.5 million in a multi-year learning collaborative with Global Fund for Woman and Gender at Work to advance gender justice in the apparel industry. The collaboration will find, fund, and strengthen organisations working to end gender-based violence against women workers in South and Southeast Asia, with a focus on major apparel sourcing countries including Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Myanmar, and Vietnam. The initiative will support women garment workers to learn about their rights, realise their own power to secure these rights, and become leaders to create systemic change, which is critical to preventing violence (06 Dec 16).

American Apparel factory workers given notice of layoffs: Hundreds of workers inside the American Apparel factory near downtown Los Angeles have been given written notice that they will have jobs until 7 January and then they will be laid off unless the new buyer of the company decides to continue manufacturing in the building (30 Nov 16).

Acne Studios stops sales of “African-inspired” sandal after comparisons to charity design: Swedish fashion brand Acne Studios has stopped sales of a pair of its sandals following allegations they were copied from a shoe designed for children in developing countries. The concerns were raised by online news outlet Vice when it ran a piece detailing the resemblance between the Swedish brand's "African-inspired" sandal and a design patented by charity The Shoe That Grows (30 Nov 16).

Topshop supply chain workers strike over pay: Topshop supply depot workers walked out of work today over a dispute about their pay. Members of the GMB union picketed outside the depot in Solihull, UK, in protest of their wage. Workers at the centre help in the supply of products sold online by Topshop (28 Nov 16).

Amcham-Brasil recognises C&A Brazil for their Sustainable Denim Collection: : On 7 December, C&A Brazil took out first place in the Products or Services category of Amcham-Brasil’s Premio Eco (Eco Award), one of the most widely-known recognitions for sustainability in the Brazilian market. C&A Brazil was awarded its innovative Sustainable Denim Collection, which was launched in March 2016 after comprehensive research and supply chain engagement. The Sustainable Denim Collection is produced from sustainable cotton (BCI) by using innovative processes (in mills, sewing factories and laundries) to reduce water consumption, as well as the use of chemicals. (06 Dec 16 – in Portuguese).

Tchibo’s 2015 updated sustainability report: Germany’s UmweltDialog [Environmental Dialogue] has published an article in about Tchibo’s Sustainability Report 2105, a condensed update on the full 2104 report. The article notes Tchibo’s commitment to living wages (citing Tchibo’s recently signed framework agreement with IndustriALL Global Union), its work with the German Association for International Cooperation (GIZ) to improve the working conditions and protect the environment in its supply chain (citing the company’s Worldwide Enhancement of Social Quality (WE) program), and various environmental programs (e.g., the Group reduced CO2-related transport emissions by 54 per cent over the past ten years, and has been awarded four consecutive “Green Cards” for credible climate awareness since 2012 from German Environmental Aid (Deutsche Umwelthilfe, DUH)) (12 Dec 16 – in German). You can see the sustainability update here (in German only).

H&M hosts conference in Myanmar to “lead the industry towards a more sustainable fashion future”: On 8 December, H&M hosted a “Fair and Equal Lab” conference in Yangon, Myanmar, attracting more than 100 professionals from the fashion industry, including academics, NGO and trade unions representatives, and brands and suppliers (09 Dec 16).

SOMO responds to Primark’s claims that its clothes are clean: This article is a response by the Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations (SOMO) to an article published in Nederlands Dagblad titled “Primark’s low prices ‘are independent of ethics’”. In that article, Paul Lister, Director of Legal Services at Associated British Foods, with responsibility for Primark’s Ethical Trade Team, repeated comments from an earlier event: that the company was constantly on the watch for any slavery in its supply chain while dismissing the idea that low cost meant exploitation. “It is about constantly being vigilant, constantly being out there and knowing what to look for and being forensic,” he said, adding, “it was easy for Primark to be confident of what was going on in the 1,700 supplier factories, but that it started to get trickier to monitor ethical practices moving down the chain.” See more on that article in FSWIR 49. SOMO implies that Paul Lister was not being fully transparent in his comments with regard to Primark’s oversight of the supply chain. SOMO, along with local organisations, says it has been conducting research on abuses within the Indian garment sector in southern India, where young women work in condition that can be described as modern day slavery. Time and again, SOMO says, its research shows that the controls companies like Primark have in place over supply chain are insufficient to bring abuses to light. They do not, for instance, make public a list of suppliers (such as C&A and H&M do). Theuws and Overeem say that when Lister is confronted with the argument that low wages paid by Indian factories are in part due to low purchase prices, and that workers must work long hours of overtime to supplement those meagre wages, his response is ‘absurd’: “the salary isn’t really the problem, it’s that the work days are long.” (09 Dec 16 – in Dutch).

PVH signs UN Global Compact, CEO Water Mandate: PVH announced on Monday that it signed onto the UN Global Compact and signed the CEO Water Mandate joining the likes of Inditex, H&M, Nike, Gap, Levi’s and Nautica among others (12 Dec 16).

Louis Vuitton London flagship closed by anti-fur protest: Louis Vuitton’s Bond Street, London flagship was forced to close on Saturday as anti-fur protesters demonstrated outside with some having gained entry to the store by posing as customers (12 Dec 16).

Inditex under fire over tax dodging in the EU: The EU Parliament’s Greens/EFA group has published a report accusing Inditex of using “aggressive” techniques to sidestep at least €585 million in taxes from 2011 to 2014. Inditex rejected the accusation, saying it was “based on mistaken premises that lead to erroneous conclusions.” The company said it scrupulously complies with tax rules in all the markets where it operates. You can see the full Inditex statement on the issue here (08 Dec 16).

Reebok launches celebrity-filled conference for empowering women: This week, Reebok hosted its #PerfectNever conference to promote female empowerment and positive body image. Co-hosted by supermodel Gigi Hadid, the conference features a series of fitness activities, a panel discussion, and an art installation (10 Dec 16).

 Reports, Guidelines and Standards

The end of cheap labour in Southeast Asia? As the International Labour Organisation kicked off its 16th annual Asia and the Pacific Regional Meeting, Maurizio Bussi, director of the ILO country office for Thailand, Cambodia and Laos, spoke to Southeast Asia Globe about the challenge of turning the region’s economic growth into social progress (06 Dec 16).

Bangladeshi slum children work 60+ hours a week to make clothes: One-third of children living in the slums of Bangladesh's capital spend more than 60 hours a week making clothes for the garment sector, well beyond the legal working limit, a London-based think tank has claimed. The Overseas Development Institute (ODI) said 32 per cent of children aged between 10 and 14 living in Dhaka’s slum settlements were out of school and engaged in full-time work in clothing factories - according to a survey of 2,700 children (07 Dec 16). You can see the full report here (PDF).

How Cambodia’s garment industry can survive automation: Experts predict that automation will be the future of manufacturing, which could have profound implications for Cambodia’s 600,000 garment workers (07 Dec 16).

SAC launches new Higg module for apparel, footwear, textile producers: The Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC) has launched the Higg Index Design and Development Module (DDM). Along with the release last month of its updated Higg Materials Sustainability Index (MSI) - a cradle-to-gate scoring tool that measures and communicates the environmental performance of thousands of materials used in creating apparel, footwear and home textile products - the DDM is the latest tool in the Higg arsenal aimed at empowering product designers and developers to make sustainable choices at the earliest stage of apparel, footwear and textile prototype design (06 Dec 16).


Bio tannery created in Brazil with the help of Amazonian fish: Most modern leather tanning techniques create a lot of toxic by-products that pollute the environment. And it’s that reality that helped give rise to an exotic bio tannery in the mountains of Brazil. The company has made a name and place for itself in the fashion world – with the help of a giant Amazonian fish (06 Dec 16).

Why technology and innovation matter for the future of fashion: “Today, we're seeing companies like Modern Meadow and Bolt Threads starting to explore viable alternatives. We're also seeing some exciting innovations coming out of companies like Google with Levi's, and Avery Dennison with EVERYTHNG, all of which are important to drive innovation forward” (07 Dec 16).

EPA picks first targets of new chemical safety regulations: The US Environmental Protection Agency has named the first 10 chemicals it will investigate using new powers granted by Congress last spring (see list in article) (29 Nov 16).

Arvind’s first sustainability report wins Asia's top awards: One of India’s largest integrated textile and apparel companies, Arvind Limited, clinched Asia’s Best First Time Sustainability Report award at the recently concluded 2016 Asia Sustainability Reporting Awards (ASRA) in Singapore (10 Dec 16).

China Textile Information Centre joins ZDHC programme: China Textile Information Centre (CTIC), a state-owned research institution in the textile industry, has joined the Zero Discharge of Hazardous (ZDHC) programme as an associate contributor. CTIC’s commitment towards the programme will provide a significant opportunity for ZDHC to achieve impact across China, said Lydia Lin ZDHC’s Asia director (10 Dec 16).

Archroma gets sustainability award from WWF Pakistan: Archroma, a global leader in colour and specialty chemicals, has received award for eco-innovation from conservation organisation WWF Pakistan. The award is for Archroma’s continuous efforts to foster sustainable innovations aimed at preserving dwindling ground water reserves, and developing processes that reduce energy, process time and resource consumption (13 Dec 16).

The Supply Chain

Workers’ leaders demand reopening of Bangladesh apparel unit: Workers’ leaders last week demanded reopening of apparel unit of Riazul Apparels Limited located in the city's Mirpur area. They said if the owner is determined to stick to his decision on the relocation of the factory, workers’ due salaries and allowances have to be paid immediately as per labour law (06 Dec 16). See story below.

Dhaka police attack sacked garment workers: Ten workers were injured when police used teargas and baton-charged a demonstration by over 1,600 garment workers outside their closed factory in Mirpur on Monday. Riazul Apparels workers were demanding wages and severance pay. Police intervened when the demonstration spilled onto the main road leading to the Mirpur Zoo after workers from neighbouring factories joined the protest (10 Dec 16). See story above.

55 injured in Bangladesh apparel factory fire: 55 workers employed at Bikon Knitwear Limited in Salna, Gazipur, were injured as they rushed for exits after a fire broke out on the second floor of the factory at 9:00 a.m. on Monday. The fire department suspects the fire occurred due to an electric short-circuit. Employees had already doused the fire before the fire department arrived (13 Dec 16).

Bangladesh to set $6,315 for accidental death compensation: Apparel workers who will face unnatural death at workplaces would get at least Tk5 lakh as compensation, State Minister for Labour and Employment Mujibul Haque Chunnu has said (11 Dec 16).

ILO chief lauds RMG improvement: International Labour Organization (ILO) Director-General Guy Ryder says Bangladesh has made remarkable progress to improve working conditions and safety in the readymade garments (RMG) sector. “After the Rana Plaza collapse in 2013, a great deal of work has been done thanks to Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety and the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety and national initiatives to assess the structural integrity of buildings and ensure their safety,” said Ryder. (13 Dec 16).

Clean, affordable housing will reduce exploitation of Indian textile workers: A proposed new township for garment industry workers in the southern Indian textile hub of Tiruppur will tackle the problem of exploitation of workers housed in hostels on factory sites, say campaigners (06 Dec 16).

Indian textile firms lay off 10,000 workers: The textile industry has laid off over 10,000 workers and units were forced to stay shut for up to four days in a week due to the liquidity crunch following the demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes, according to the Amritsar Textile Processor Association (ATPA). The production at processing units in Amritsar has been reduced to 25 per cent (05 Dec 16).

Jayalalithaa’s questionable legacy with Tamil Nadu’s women: Many women wept over her demise but do they know how many of their kind she let down? “Tamil Nadu's own peculiar racket for exploiting girls and young women has been the more than ten-year-old "Sumangali" scheme under which girls from oppressed castes are told they could work in factories for three years following which they would be given a lump sum of Rs 30,000 (the sum had risen to Rs 50,000 in some parts by 2013)” (10 Dec 16).

Don’t increase garment workers’ rent, says Cambodian PM: Prime Minister Hun Sen has urged landlords not to indiscriminately increase the price of rent in light of the upcoming hike in the wages of garment workers next year (06 Dec 16).

Vietnamese firms invest in textile, dyeing: Vietnam Television (VTV) has reported that textile and garment enterprises are investing in textile and dyeing complexes to ensure material for sustainable development (06 Dec 16).

(Image, Martin Ezequiel Sanchez, CCO)