Under Pressure: Myanmar’s Action Labor Rights has released a report titled Under Pressure: A study of labour conditions in garment factories in Myanmar which are wholly Korean owned or in a joint venture with Korean companies (Mar 19 – downloads as PDF). Research was supported by the Myanmar Centre for Responsible Business (MCRB). The report should be required reading for anyone sourcing from the country, although many of the issues raised echo with depressing regularity the findings of numerous reports published by labour rights groups and trade unions examining supply chain issues globally over the last two decades.

The true cost of fast fashion: A look inside Los Angeles sweatshops: This 30-minute podcast from LA-based community radio station 94.1 KPFA takes a trip through LA’s garment district. It’s an interesting insight into immigrants (Latinos and Asians) working in the sector (01 Apr 16).

Stitches to Riches? The World Bank released a new report last week called Stitches to Riches? : Apparel Employment, Trade, and Economic Development in South Asia (opens as PDF), aimed at “aimed at better informing that debate by demystifying the global and South Asian apparel markets, estimating the potential gains in exports and jobs (including for women), and identifying policies that can unleash South Asia’s export and job potential” (24 Mar 16).

US Customs and Border Protection blocks Chinese imports over prison labour concerns: The US said it’s blocking shipments including rayon fibre from China’s Tangshan Sanyou Group, based on suspicions that it is using prison labour (30 Mar 16).

“The women behind the clothes”: The UN Foundation published an article about how ANN INC is improving the lives of the women in its supply chain through reproductive health training. The training is part of ANN INC.’s 100,000 Women Commitment, a project aiming to empower women in their global supply chain to reach their full potential. “This includes working with the Business for Social Responsibility HERproject, a women’s health curriculum designed for workplaces that provides workers with education on topics ranging from nutrition, to sanitation, to reproductive health. To date, ANN INC. has sourced 50% of its apparel through partners that provide their workers with the HERproject curriculum” (08 Mar 16).

Selling Islamic clothing irresponsible: So say Laurence Rossignol, France’s women’s rights minister, and Pierre Bergé, the former business partner of Yves Saint Laurent. Rossignol called a burkini released by Marks & Spencer earlier in the week “irresponsible”, comparing women who supported the item to “negroes who supported slavery”, adding “when brands invest in this Islamic garment market, they are shirking their responsibilities and are promoting women’s bodies being locked up” (30 Mar 16). Her comments appeared in support of Bergé who said it was “inadmissible” that brands like Marks & Spencer and Uniqlo “are producing clothing and accessories specifically tailored to Muslim customers” (30 Mar 16). The remarks created a firestorm of protest, with calls for Rossignol to resign.

Former Nike factory worker from Thailand urges US students to take action against company: Noi Supalai, former union president and garment worker from Bangkok, addressed a group of students at the University of Michigan during the week to share her experience as an employee at a Thai factory where she produced Nike apparel. The event was organised by the United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) (29 Mar 16). 

USAS ramping up protests against Nike: The USAS appears to be mobilising against Nike’s decision last year to use the FLA (an organisation the USAS believes is corporate controlled) to investigate conditions in a supplier factory in Vietnam called Hansae rather than the he Worker Rights Consortium (WRC). Morgan Currier, a national organiser for the anti-sweatshop movement says, “Nike is now attempting to turn back the clock on basic labor rights compliance by refusing to facilitate factory access for the WRC to investigate its suppliers (31 Mar 16).

Still no justice for Bolivian workers who died in Argentinian factory fire: Ten years ago this week – on 30 March 2006 – a fire broke out in one of the 3,000 clandestine garment factories that populate Buenos Aires, killing five children and a pregnant woman, all of whom were Bolivian immigrants. The factory was located on the ground floor, with workers and their children living on the floor above. Nobody has yet been held accountable for the deaths (30 Mar 16).

Bergans of Norway funds 20 conservation expeditions: As part of its Expedition 202 CSR strategy, the outdoor gear brand is partnering with the WILD Project, a Danish initiative run by nature photographers and adventurers Helle Olsen and Uri Golman that works to enhance the protection and conservation of wild nature. By 2019, the pair will complete 20 expeditions on all seven continents (31 Mar 16).

Following up - Fairtrade responds to CCC’s criticisms of the Fairtrade Textile Standard: In last week’s FSWIR, I noted that the Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC) was critical of the recently launched standard. Fairtrade has responded, saying it “doesn’t think those concerns are justified because our new approach is innovative and different in a number of ways” (24 Mar 16).

Bangladesh university opens doors to garment workers: The Ikea Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation – among others – are funding the Asian University for Women (AUW) to provide free university education to women working in Bangladesh’s garment factories (28 Mar 16).

Advert by ‘ethical’ clothing company banned for ‘sexualising vulnerable children’: Nobody’s Child, a company that believes “fast fashion doesn’t have to be synonymous with low quality or questionable manufacturing practice” has had an advertising campaign pulled after regulators found they breached codes concerning “harm and offence” (29 Mar 16).

Question: What prompted Prada’s move to sustainability? This and other interesting insights in a discussion (billed as a “debate” by a sub-editor) between Business of Fashion chief Imran Amed (whom I featured a couple of weeks ago in FSWIR) and the Australian Financial Review’s Marion Hume (29 May 16). The answer? Group chairman Carlo Mazzi’s daughter.

Academic research on fast fashion: Although it was published last year, I only saw “Sustainable fashion consumption and the fast fashion conundrum: fashionable consumers and attitudes to sustainability in clothing choice,” by Lisa McNeill and Rebecca Moore via a news article this week (26 Mar 16). Published in the International Journal of Consumer Studies 39 (2015) 212–222 (behind a highly-priced paywall), the article explores what “might prompt the fashion-focused consumer to consider a more sustainable purchasing ethos”. The authors found “fashion consumers can be categorized into one of three groups: ‘Self’ consumers, concerned with hedonistic needs, ‘Social’ consumers, concerned with social image and ‘Sacrifice’ consumers who strive to reduce their impact on the world. These different groups view fast fashion in conflicting ways and subsequent implications for marketing sustainably produced fashion products to each group are, thus, significantly different.”

Water<Less™: Levi Strauss & Co. continue to get good coverage for open sourcing its Water<Less™ techniques. This article is an interview Michael Kobori, Levi’s vice president of social and environmental sustainability (25 Mar 26). See last week’s FSWIR for more.

Social & Labor Convergence Project in Hong Kong: The Social & Labor Convergence Project, which kicked off in early February in Amsterdam, had the second half of its launch in Hong (supported by CITA) on 16 and 17 March. Over 100 participants – mostly manufacturers in the region – joined for two days of talks on how best to develop of an “industry-wide, standardized methodology for social and labor performance assessment in the apparel and footwear supply chains” (25 Mar 16). The Social and Labor Convergence Project (PDF) is a collaborative effort facilitated by the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC).

Dona Karen and Indian jewellery: The Indian press has reported on Donna Karan latest trip to the subcontinent, where she looked “opportunities to expand in the jewellery segment in India, and work with local fashion designers and artisans to expand her brand ‘Urban Zen.’” The Hindustan Times says Karan spoke at the Mint Luxury conference in Mumbai about “sustainable fashion and how she intends to connect with local partners and local consumers, since even a global brand should ‘celebrate the local culture’” (26 Mar 16).

An interview with Safia Minney (founder of People Tree):  “Since the Rana Plaza factory building collapsed, there's been a huge awareness firstly through the campaign that I ran, Rag Rage, and then Fashion Revolution Day, which I think has galvanized the world and it's pulled together lots of different parts of the community from fashion to activists, which is really powerful” (29 Mar 2016).

Louis-Martin Tremblay on the Future of Footwear & Sustainable Fashion: “So when I see adidas doing a sneaker made out of recycled ocean plastic waste, I think, “Yes!” This is part of the future, but more than that, I think working with the earth’s “natural library” is the ultimate achievement. I have always been influenced by Biomimicry even before knowing it was a thing. The same way we got people closer with technologies and social media, I hope up next is bringing sciences and art closer in a way to be able to be creative in symbiosis with our environment” (29 Mar 16).

Body-positive by American Eagle: Hot on the heels of last week’s story about plus-sized male models, American Eagle “has launched Aerie Man, an underwear line marketed to men with real bodies” (25 Mar 16). One media outlet isn’t so sure, though (28 Mar 16), and thinks after watching the videos released on YouTube it might be an April Fool’s joke that leaked early (see one of the videos here – lots of views and quite a number of comments wondering if the whole thing’s a parody). I have no idea. But they’re racking up views…

Recycled? Challenges & Opportunities! That’s the theme for this year’s Performance Days Functional Fabric Fair, which runs 21-22 April in Munich. “Topics to be addressed include; how does recycling even work; what are the options for saving raw materials and avoiding waste; and what are the benefits of recycling and is there a downside?” (25 Mar 16).

Lao garment industry shrinks: All indicators (volume of exports, number of factories and workers, earnings) show a significant decline (28 Mar 16).

Two lawsuits against US companies: In the first case, the National Labor Relations Board filed an official complaint this week against California Cartage Company, a warehouse operator serving some of the largest retailers in the U.S. after finding evidence it violated workers’ rights to organise (30 Mar 16).

In the second lawsuit, a class action has accused Target of failing to pay overtime to workers with low-level management responsibilities at its warehouses in New York State. It “accuses the retailer of violating state labor law by misclassifying "operations group leaders" as exempt from overtime requirements and not paying them for all hours worked” (30 Mar 16).

You don’t want fast fashion? Then Julie Zerbo at The Fashion Law provide alternatives in Part V of an ongoing series. They are: American Apparel, Groceries Apparel, Alternative Apparel, Agolde, Bluer, ASOS, Urban Renewal, and Baggu.

Eyeing the supply chain: A weekly look at what’s happening in supply chains.

Bangladesh fire safety report released: The US-based National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has released the Bangladesh Ready-Made Garment (RMG) Industry High-Level Assessment Report (downloads as a PDF), an appraisal and gap analysis of Bangladesh fire and building safety standards, protocols, inspection procedures and training programs (29 Mar 16).

Primark increases audits to tackle worker exploitation in Turkey, Asia: The retailer said it has doubled checks this year “on its 100 or so supplier factories in Turkey amid growing concerns about Syrian refugees who, without a right to work, were vulnerable to abuse” (28 Mar 16).

(Image, Clark Street Mercantile, CCO).