The Christmas Edition

This is the final issue of Fashion Sustainability Week in Review for 2016. We’re taking a two-week break, and will be back on 4 January 2017. In the meantime, we wish you and your families a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Brands and retailers

Kering employees worldwide to see 14 weeks' paid leave for maternity, adoption: Employees of Kering who give birth or adopt will have the right to a minimum of 14 weeks of leave with full pay regardless of where they are based, the company said last week (14 Dec 16).

Kering commits to approved science-based emissions goal: Global luxury fashion group Kering, which includes Gucci, Saint Lauren and Stella McCartney amongst its brands, has seen its target to halve scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions by 2025 officially verified by the Science-Based Targets initiative (15 Dec 16).

Roberto Cavalli to lay off 50 staff: In October, Roberto Cavalli CEO Gian Giacomo Ferraris revealed plans was to reduce the workforce by 30 per cent. Following a conference last week at the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy in Florence, an agreement has been reached to terminate a total of 50 contracts, compared with the 77 that were expected – 15 of which are voluntary (14 Dec 16).

Patagonia claims textile standards don’t “go far enough”: US outdoor clothing business Patagonia has called for business leaders to get behind regenerative organic agriculture and “refuse to accept greenwashing or cheaper alternatives” in order to reduce greenhouse gases and avoid environmental catastrophe. The Better Cotton Initiative is among textile standards singled out for “not going far enough” (12 Dec 16 – subscription required to read full article).

Zara expands at-home collection of used clothing initiative: Inditex has announced that its Zara brand installed garment collection points in all its stores in Spain in September as part of the Spanish business's expanding textile recycling programme. Zara also completed a pilot test for the at-home collection of used clothing through online deliveries, a successful initiative which has since been extended to the rest of Spain (14 Dec 16 – subscription required to read full article).

Wrangler facilities to use 20% less water by 2020: Wrangler has taken steps to reduce water wastage by 20 per cent by the year 2020. Since 2007, Wrangler has saved three billion litres of water at its production facilities. The company plans to invest in additional technology with the aim to achieve 75 per cent water-recycling rate by 2018 (15 Dec 16).

Why Zegna is getting into the sheep farm business: “In 2014, in an effort to better control its source material, Zegna formed a partnership with Charles Coventry, a fourth-generation farmer who runs the Achill property, buying a 60 percent stake as part of a strategy it calls “sheep to shop.” The company is the first Milanese luxury clothier to take such an ownership role in the research and development of the wool it uses…” (15 Dec 16).

A Danish fashion brand empowering women in Peruvian prisons: Fashion designer Veronica D’Souza believes that dignity not charity is the way to pull people from poverty. That is why she founded Carcel – a clothing company that enlists the help of Peruvian women in prison (16 Dec 16).

Sports brands under fire for ignoring workers’ rights: International sports brands score gigantic profits in the Third World, while their workers live on starvation wages. NGO Play the Game tells the story about the big sports brands like Adidas and Nike (16 Dec 16).

The high environmental cost of fast fashion: Those cheap jeans at H&M and the discount skirts at Forever 21 come at a very high cost to the environment. A report by Greenpeace Germany released before Black Friday, that infamous shopping day where consumers descend on stores in droves looking for deals, looks at the environmental cost of fast fashion (16 Dec 16).

How H&M is trying to balance fast fashion with revolutionary recycling: “Two hours south of Berlin, in the colourless fields of Wolfen, H&M operates a massive textile sorting and recycling facility, one that might prove to be the unlikely looking future and redeemer of fast fashion. Around 25 to 30 trucks a day drop off an average of 14 metric tons of unwanted remainders from Europe’s closets, gathered from recycling bins at H&M’s thousands of locations on the continent” (19 Dec 16).

App ranks Brazilian brands and retailers on slavery in supply chains: An app in Brazil ranking fashion 101 brands and retailers on their efforts to eradicate slavery in supply chains has been updated. The app (Moda Livre), by respected Brazilian NGO Reporter Brasil, ranked 101 companies ‘green’, ‘yellow’ or ‘red’ based on research by the NGO and company responses to a questionnaire. Compared to last year, the updated app released this week shows 49 companies scored worse than last year (C&A retained its ‘green’ ranking from an earlier version). Reporter Brasil notes that 4 out of 10 brands do nothing to combat slavery in supply chains (15 Dec 16 – in Portuguese). The app can be downloaded free for Android (here) and iOS (here).

H&M supports investigation into ocean-harming microplastics: H&M and two other companies are supporting a pilot study by Mistra Future Fashion, a Swedish research programme for sustainable fashion, to investigate the relation between fabric properties and the shedding of microplastics from polyester fabrics (14 Dec 16).

Cannabis company partners with New Growth Clothing on performance apparel and technical gear: Oregrown Industries, Oregon’s premier craft cannabis company, has joined forces with Central Oregon rising star New Growth Clothing to develop a line of locally manufactured, eco-conscious active wear and outdoor gear. The collaboration launches this fall with knit beanies and performance hoodies and will grow to include backpacks and technical gear (19 Dec 16).

Undercover journalist infiltrates Uniqlo, exposing poor workplace conditions: Masao Yokota, a Japanese journalist and author of a 2011 book, Light and Shadow of the Uniqlo Empire: The Glory and Disgrace of Uniqlo (whose publisher Uniqlo unsuccessfully sued), went undercover to work part-time at a Uniqlo outlet in October last year after reading an interview in which CEO Tadashi Yanai dismissed detractors of the company’s work culture by saying they should work at Uniqlo before criticising. Taking Yanai at his word, Yokota successfully applied for a part-time position in October last year, working 13 months in several stores under a pseudonym before his identity was revealed and the company fired him on 3 December. He has published several articles on his experience. During the two busiest bargain sales, he says, where Uniqlo typically earns half its revenues for the year, “[r]egular and semi-regular employees worked from 9 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. all seven days. “It was like a war zone.” He says he saw regular employees sign off then continue working for free, and a number of other practices that run counter to the company’s view that it is not a “black company” (a reference to an annual award in Japan given to companies with exploitative and illicit work practices) (17 Dec 16).

C&A Foundation funds project to create interactive map of Bangladesh suppliers: C&A Foundation is funding an initiative to map out the ready-made-garment industry in Bangladesh, ultimately crowd-sourcing data and developing an interactive web-based map. The Centre for Entrepreneurship Development (CED) and BRAC University will implement the program, along with the BGMEA (Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association) and a project advisory committee with NGO and industry representation. Data will include names, locations, subcontractors, number of workers, product types, export countries, certifications, and brands (19 Dec 16).

Fast Retailing says it will address labour concerns with supply chain transparency: Fast Retailing, parent company of Uniqlo, will make a list of suppliers publicly available as part of a bid to address consumer concerns on labour conditions within the supply chain. This list is expected to be available in 2017, and will cover regions including China and Bangladesh (21 Dec 16).

Uniqlo criticised for producing male-only Star Wars Rogue One merchandise: Despite the popularity of female leads, Uniqlo is currently selling Star Wars-themed T-shirts and sweat shirts to promote Rogue One labelled as “Men’s” or “Boys”. There are no “Women’s” items available. Customers took to the Uniqlo Facebook page and called the retailer “disappointing” and “sexist”. “Hey Uniqlo, where are the Rogue One Tees for women?” wrote one woman on Uniqlo’s Facebook page (20 Dec 16).

Reports, Guidelines and Standards

How Mongolian cashmere is helping sustainable fashion: Ethical brand Maiyet teams up with Hong Kong’s Denise Ho and Chinese designers Helen Lee, Ziggy Chen and Daniel Chen of Xu Zhi to spread the word on socially responsible production (13 Dec 16).

The inextricable link between migration and sweatshops: The possibility of workers’ rights and climate justice movements responding to these challenges together provides reason for hope, writes Dalia Gebrial at New Internationalist (13 Dec 16).

Synthetic leather market growing: The global synthetic leather market is projected to see exponential growth in the next ten years, with forecasters expecting the market to jump from a value of $51.81 billion in 2015 to $208.81 billion by 2026. A recent study on the industry has revealed several upcoming trends in the synthetic leather market, including a huge surge in PU-based synthetic leather growth and an increased presence in the Asia-Pacific market (14 Dec 16).

Joaquin Phoenix fronts PETA’s new campaign against wool: PETA has unveiled its new campaign, fronted by actor Joaquin Phoenix. The campaign focuses on bringing to light what the animal rights group says is cruelty to animals practiced by the wool industry (14 Dec 16). Video here.

How to make people actually care about sustainability: According to Courtney Sanders, co-founder of online fashion store Well Made Clothes, curbing the green-wash and switching on customers comes from transparency. “It boils down to ensuring people clearly understand what you are trying to do,” she said. “Use the terms that you want as long as you are clear in what your definition of those terms is” (14 Dec 16).

Sustainability firm EcoVadis receives more than $30 million in venture funding: EcoVadis, a French technology firm that ranks companies for environmental responsibility, ethical treatment of workers and other practices, has received more than $30 million in venture funding, as the business of vetting corporate supply chains continues to grow rapidly (13 Dec 16).

Factory where Theresa May’s £995 leather trousers are made by workers on as little as £1.49 an hour revealed: PM’s controversial luxury clothing is produced in Turkey by workers expected to toil 10 hours a day while earning well below a living wage (18 Dec 16).

Researchers have identified a very simple, universal solution to child labour’s vicious cycle of poverty: Coupling mandatory education and minimum working age legislation with cash transfer programmes, targeted support, the provision of good quality schools, and interventions that improve the labour market position of the poorest households, has the potential to produce transformative results (17 Dec 16).

Hong Kong lags behind in the battle against modern-day slavery: A saddening, yet familiar story hit the headlines late last month. Children below 16 were sent from the western province of Yunnan to be exploited in textile factories in the eastern city of Changshu, in Jiangsu province. As some experts point out, the issue is not child labour alone. The employers confiscate the children’s identity papers and do not pay wages until the end of the year, so as to prevent them from walking away from the job. This constitutes bonded labour, one of the many forms of forced labour (16 Dec 16).

5 steps to building better working conditions in global supply chains: i) Collaborate with the competition; ii) build local capacity; iii) measure work environment performance; iv) explore new forms of supplier auditing; and v) increase supply chain transparency (16 Dec 16).

Fashion industry players discuss transparency at Cotton2Cloth conference: : Held in Negombo, Sri Lanka, from 5 – 8 December (and supported by C&A Foundation), the Cotton2Cloth: Transparency in the Apparel Industry conference brought together 57 participants from 12 countries including representatives of all levels of the apparel supply chain, including manufacturers, brands and retailers, government, NGOs, and workers. Participants discussed how to use transparency to improve working conditions in the apparel industry, repositioning it as a tool for positive change with benefits across the entire supply chain (16 Dec 16).


Evrnu regenerated cotton, sustainable the second time around: After earning an MBA in sustainability, Stacy Flynn and her business partner, Christopher Stanev, founded Evrnu, using technology to purify cotton-garment waste. Evrnu’s new technology breaks old garments down to the molecular level so that the end product can be extruded into a new fibre. Put simply, Evrnu takes cotton from a solid, converts it to a liquid and then converts it back to a solid (08 Dec 16).

Textile maker Esquel embraces technology to cut costs and protect the environment: World’s largest shirt maker invests 2 billion yuan in new plant featuring robotics and water treatment facilities to help cut costs and protect natural beauty (16 Dec 16).

The Supply Chain

Apparel sector now safe, says Bangladesh minister: Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed declared last week that the country’s readymade garment (RMG) sector is now fully safe. He said after the Rana Plaza accident, no serious accident took place in the country'’ RMG sector and a recent inspection on the country’s 3,800 factories showed that only 32 factories have safety and security problems. (13 Dec 16).

Bangladesh factory boy killed in air hose assault: A 13-year-old boy has died in hospital in Bangladesh after an apparently gruesome assault at a spinning mill. The incident took place in Dhaka's Narayanganj district. Police say a colleague pumped air into the boy’s rectum using a high-pressure hose (15 Dec 16).

Dhaka’s Dickensian workhouses should shame us all: A damning study says children in the slums of Bangladesh work over 42 hours a week, often at factories supplying to the west (18 Dec 16). See “The outrage of child labour in Bangladesh’s sweatshops” for a contrarian response to this by Tim Worstall (19 Dec 16).

Social dialogue key to dispute resolution in Bangladesh garment sector: A lack of trust between garment workers and factory owners hinders mitigation of serious disputes, Mujibul Haque, state minister for labour, said last week. “Social dialogue can play a vital role in mitigating such disputes,” Haque said at the launch of a project designed to promote social dialogue and harmonious industrial relations in the garment industry (13 Dec 16).

Striking apparel workers clash with police, force factory closures in Dhaka over calls for wage hike: Industrial action by around 20,000 to 30,000 apparel factory workers from ten to 15 factories in Dhaka entered its second week this week, with reports of clashes between workers and police resulting in five to ten injuries, according to the local press (sources do not align on numbers). The strike began Monday 12 December when workers at several factories in Ashulia staged a walk-out, with workers nearby downing tools to press home demands. Authorities began ordering the closure of affected factories on Wednesday onwards to protect property from damage. Workers, currently earning Tk 7,000 (€84) per month on average are demanding a minimum wage of Tk 15,000 (€180) to cover rising rents and other cost of living increases. Despite claims that workers would return to work after a meeting on Monday evening, at which senior ministers promised to freeze home rents for three years to provide financial relief for workers, and at which the Minister of Commerce warned that further unrest would lead to actions taken against those responsible, workers have continued to protest. Reports from later in the week say that 25 to 55 factories remained closed (reports differ on numbers, although the Bengali-language press is consistent with claims that 40 factories remain closed), and claim that thousands of workers marched on Tuesday, blocking roads and leading to police using tear gas to disperse them (18 – 20 Dec 16 – numerous reports, in both English and Bengali).

Bangladesh disability network to boost inclusion: A new business network is set to support the practical needs of employers who are employing people with disabilities or are willing to make their workplaces more disability inclusive. The network, which operates under the Bangladesh Employers Federation (BEF), was officially launched by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on 11 December (19 Dec 16).

Cambodian workers protest over unionisation rights: About 1,700 workers at Lu Thai garment factory have refused to enter the premises for the past two days after one of their representatives was allegedly beaten for attempting to unionise the factory (14 Dec 16).

TÜV SÜD and GMAC to sign MoU: TÜV SÜD, a service provider in testing, inspection, audit and certification, will be signing a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC). The two organisations will collaborate on workshops and awareness programmes relating to international quality and safety standards (12 Dec 16).

Indian garment factory worker commits suicide, 3 managers booked by police: An employee at Pratibha Syntex Company Ltd. committed suicide last week. Abbas Ali, 51, hanged himself in the house he rented with his son, 20. Abbas had worked at Pratibha Syntex for around a decade. In a six-page suicide note found by police, Abbas indicated he had taken his life because of harassment at the hands of supervisors. Police have booked three Pratibha Syntex managers for abetment of suicide (11 Dec – in Hindi).

(Image, Martin Ezequiel Sanchez, CCO)