Patagonia's new study finds fleece jackets are a serious pollutant: Patagonia commissioned a study to find out how many synthetic microfibers – the tiny bits of plastic that marine scientists say could be jeopardizing our oceans – are shed from its jackets in the wash. The results were a surprise. A single fleece jacket sheds as many as 250,000 synthetic fibres; significantly more than the 1,900 fibres researchers originally thought (20 Jun 16).

Brazilian luxury clothing company busted for slave labour: Brazilian authorities rescued five Bolivian workers – including a 14 year old girl – from slave-like conditions at a sweatshop factory belonging to Brooksfield Donna, one of Brazil’s most famous luxury clothing companies. Reports detailed flagrant violations of Brazilian labour law during a labour inspection last May (21 Jun 16).

Here I am: JC Penney released a video focussing on body positivity featuring Gabi Fresh, Valerie Sagun, Jes Baker, Mary Lambert, and Ashley Nell Tipton (which you can see here). In a sign of the times, Breitbart’s resident provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos penned a spiteful response (26 Jun 16). Note: Brands increasingly need to factor in responses like Milo’s. His article has attracted over 3,500 comments (many in agreement), and the JC Penney video – with over 1.2 million views has over 35 per cent ‘thumbs down’ (which is high). The alt-right is an online force to be reckoned with, and marketers ignoring them do so at their peril.

Amazon Fashion aims to inspire positive body attitudes: Speaking of online trolls, Amazon Fashion has launched a counter-trolling campaign – #SaySomethingNice. In the face of online bullying and trolling, it’s encouraging people to be less judgmental of others’ style choices and to celebrate individuality. Siobhan Mallen, Content Director, Amazon Fashion Europe, says: "Sadly, criticizing and ridiculing people for what they wear, known as ‘outfit shaming’, is also becoming more common with 55% of women feel they have been judged before on social media about their fashion choices” (24 Jun 16). Campaign videos can be viewed here.

Fitness blogger speaks out over Calvin Klein’s ‘plus-sized’ model ad: Over the weekend in New Zealand, Calvin Klein launched its first ‘plus-sized’ model. This was followed by outrage. Sarah Lilly of Fat2FitNZ says the choice of model was disturbing because she was a size 12 and thus not an unhealthy weight for a woman (27 Jun 19). You be the judge…

Hongkongers spend $502.6 million on clothes they never or seldom wear: That figure comes from a recent Greenpeace study. Bonnie Tang Man-lam, a campaigner for the group, cited the popularity of fast-fashion brands like H&M and Uniqlo as driving an embrace of quickly disposable clothing. The study found an average of 100,000 tonnes of disposed garments were collected in the city each year over the past decade, equivalent to a rate of 1,400 T-shirts per minute (23 Jun 16).

US colleges failing to enforce anti-sweatshop policies: SUNY’s failure to enforce its anti-sweatshop policies is a reminder that major institutional consumers can only go so far in addressing the crisis of globalized labour abuses (27 Jun 16).

Fast fashion castoffs fuel global recycling network: A long story from The Wall Street Journal looking at the deluge of second hand clothes from rich countries processed and resold in the developing world; much of it fast fashion. “The glut springs from the rise of fast fashion, which has flooded the world with inexpensive clothing, often produced in some of the same low-wage countries where it later ends up sold in market stalls or reprocessed into goods like blankets or pillow stuffing” (26 Jun 16).

Value Village draws attention to waste: Value Village (a global thrift superstore) is pursuing its efforts to bring attention to clothing and textile waste as part of its Rethink Reuse initiative. Last week it joined forces with the National Zero Waste Council to facilitate a conversation in Toronto on how to mitigate clothing and textile waste as part of their Reuse Summit (23 Jun 16).

Tom Cridland says it’s time to talk about fast fashion: Cridland is the name and sustainable fashion brand behind the 30 Year Jacket, T-shirt and Sweatshirt, which should last nearly half a lifetime. Cridland says, "Our white T-shirts and navy sweatshirts – our wardrobe staples – are built to last a lifetime, as opposed to the fast-fashion retailers that are, you know, one or two years and then they wear out” (23 Jun 16).

Columbia creates an environmentally friendly rain shell: Columbia’s new Outdry Extreme Eco doesn’t rely on environmentally unfriendly PFCs to repel water; instead it uses a water-tight rubber-like membrane perforated with millions of tiny holes. It also only comes in white (because it’s not dyed), and the fabric is 100 per cent recycled, including the plastic from at least 21 discarded water bottles (20 Jun 16, and 21 Jun 16). See more here on Columbia’s blog.

Denim North America debuts sustainable collection: Denim North America (DNA), a division of DNA Textile Group, has announced the launch of the mill’s R3 Denim sustainable collection made from new, pre-consumer cotton knit cuttings discarded during the apparel cut and sew process. The product is wholly manufactured in Georgia, and in addition to conserving water, the recycled fabric reduces the energy used in manufacturing (21 Jun 16).

Thermore introduces Ecodown recycled fibre line: Thermore, a worldwide leader in the research, production and marketing of thermal insulation for apparel, has converted its entire Ecodown product line to fully recycled fibre content, derived exclusively from PET water bottles. The Milan based synthetic insulation supplier's new Ecodown is the only synthetic product in the market to be made from 100 per cent post-consumer plastic bottles, allowing the reuse of a considerable number of bottles, which would have otherwise ended their useful life as waste in a landfill (27 Jun 16). See more from the company here (downloads as PDF).

Matano becomes the world’s first Fair Trade-certified sportswear label: Toby Kriwiel, founder and CEO of Matano, says, “I was surprised that I wasn’t able to find any ethically made sportswear. The idea for a fair-trade sports apparel brand started boiling” (22 Jun 16). You can see more on the company’s blog.

Spain’s Skunkfunk strengthens eco credentials: Skunkfunk has launched two new lines: a range of accessories made of recyclable material, Tyvek; and a 'Zero Waste' capsule collection that leaves no fabric scraps because patterns use the fabric's entire width (23 Jun 16).

Tata Harper and Maiyet create a sustainable and eco-friendly T-shirt: The 100 percent organic tee will be locally produced in Los Angeles from can be purchased for $85 (here) and is available starting July 7 to raise awareness for the Breast Cancer Fund’s “Campaign for Safe Cosmetics” (21 Jun 16).

REI releases its 2016 Stewardship Report: You can find the report here (downloads as PDF). But that’s not what got my attention; it’s all the stewardship videos I found. With titles like ‘Product Sustainability’, ‘Core Practices’ (on green energy), and ‘Adventure Volunteers’, I ended up watching more than reading. Interesting. You can see the videos here.

Crystal Group releases 2016 sustainability report: The Hong Kong based manufacturer’s new report is titled People Count (download PDF here). Environmental highlights include: 7% reduction in carbon footprint per garment; 11% reduction in energy consumption per garment; 39% of total energy used is from renewable sources; 30% reduction in fresh water consumption per garment; and 48% of total water used is recycled water. The company has also invested $18 million in people development, with 26,000 employees (or 43% of total workforce) participating in development programmes. The report also notes that Crystal has adopted the Higg Index (eco-module) in all its factories.

Fashion and sport retailers make Corporate Knights 2016 Corporate Citizens list: Canadian retailers Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) and the Hudson's Bay Company were among the winners of the 2016 ranking, which is awarded to companies that demonstrate a dedication to social responsibility and sustainability. Corporate Knights ranks the best 50 corporate citizens in Canada each year (26 Jun 16).

British wool producer denies suppliers mistreat animals: Standard Wool, a major British wool trader and processor, had denied allegations from PETA Latino (the Latin American branch of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) that it buys wool from Chilean farms that abuse sheep. (You can the expose (aimed at Italian wool), including photos and video footage – graphic warning – of the Chilean farm practices here.) Standard Wool has released a statement (see here) saying it “absolutely condemns the mistreatment of animals and the recent information regarding the cruelty of sheep is of great concern to our company,” and “has found no evidence to suggest that the farms in Chile that it works with are in fact abusive towards animals.”

Scots campus with no students pays £200,000 in consultancy fees for fashion sustainability advice: The sum was paid by Scottish university Glasgow Caledonian (behind a multi-million pound campus in New York with no degree students) to Frank Zambrelli, who used to work with Chanel, for his advice on a new centre to promote sustainability in the fashion industry (26 Jun 16).

Responsible Wool Standard finalised and available for certification: The Responsible Wool Standard (RWS) is a global benchmark for animal welfare and land management practices in sheep farming. The goals of the standard are to provide the industry with the best possible tool to:

  • Recognize the best practices of farmers around the globe
  • Ensure wool comes from responsibly treated sheep and from farms with a progressive approach to managing their land
  •  Build communication and understanding between farmers, consumers and brands
  • Provide a robust chain of custody system from farm to final product to ensure consumer confidence in RWS products.

You can see the standard here.

Young Indian entrepreneur challenges the way clothes are made and marketed: Nishanth Chopra, a 22-year-old entrepreneur from a three-generation textile family in Erode, showed a capsule collection recently at Paris Fashion Week. What’s different is that it was all hand woven and dyed naturally. Chopra’s brand is Oshadi (“essence of nature” in Sanskrit) (20 Jun 16).

Special package for job creation in India’s textile & apparel sector: The Indian government has approved a special package for the textile and apparel sector, expecting to create 10 million jobs (mostly for women) and $30 bn in exports; all in three years (22 Jun 16). Although not everyone is jumping for joy. Tapan Sen, General Secretary Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) and Rajya Sabha MP, have criticised the plan, saying Modi is “inviting investors to utilise cheap labour in our country with a veiled commitment to make that cheaper, so that they can reap more profits” (24 Jun 16). Activists have also said that the plan could put vulnerable workers at greater risk, and have called for better enforcement of existing labour laws instead (24 Jun 16).

One in seven women in Bengaluru garment factories face sexual violence, report says: According to a report released on Saturday by women's rights groups Sisters for Change and Bengaluru-based Munnade, violence, intimidation, unwanted sexual attention, being forced to watch pornography, being punched, choked and burnt are part of the daily abuse faced by women employees in Bengaluru's 1,200 garment factories which supply many global brands (26 Jun 16). You can read the full report – Eliminating violence against women at work: Making sexual harassment laws real for Karnataka’s women garment workershere (downloads as PDF).

Ghana to invest in textile & apparel training: The Government of Ghana will invest more than $4 million to train youth in the textile and apparel industry. The funds earmarked for training the first batch of 2,000 from the Youth Employment Agency will be released soon (20 Jun 16).

350 Bangladesh apparel factories vulnerable to labour unrest: Government agencies have identified more than 350 garment factories as ‘vulnerable’ to labour unrest over payment of wage and festival allowance (20 Jun 16).

Cost is biggest barrier to factory remediation in Bangladesh: According to a new report by the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) – Remediation Financing in Bangladesh's Ready Made Garment Sector: An Overview – there are two major barriers to safety remediation for structural, electrical and fire safety work in the Ready Made Garment sector in Bangladesh; a lack of financial knowledge and high interest rates (20 Jun 16).

Here are some high level conclusions from the report:

  • 59 noncompliance issues per factory, 51% for electrical safety
  • For factories not needing extensive structural retrofitting, total costs can range from USD 20,000 (10% of factories) to USD 900,000 (10% of factories). Total remediation costs for the majority of factories (80%) are estimated to be between USD 100,000 and USD 250,000
  • Approximately 75% of factories will not require structural retrofitting; the 25% that will require retrofitting are facing total remediation costs that in extreme cases can reach USD 1.5 Million
  • Most factories (80%) are expected to require between USD 120,000 and USD 320,000 worth of remediation repair

You can read the full report here (downloads as PDF).

Labour law app for Vietnamese apparel workers: Better Work Vietnam, a partnership programme between the International Labor Organization (ILO) and the International Finance Corporation (IFC), has launched a new Labour Law application for smartphones to improve labour standards in the Vietnamese apparel industry (27 Jun 16, 29 Jun 16). You can download the app here.

Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety suspends operations with three factories: The Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety announced last week the official suspension of operations with three additional factories for failure to show evidence of remediation progress. The Alliance has cut ties with a total of 83 factories to date (21 Jun 16).

Workers protest changes at privatised garment factory in Myanmar: Nearly 600 workers marched on Paleik in Singaing township last week, demanding the state reconsider an agreement that transferred a state-owned factory to the private sector (22 Jun 16).

The plight of Burmese migrant workers in Thailand: Last week’s visit to Thailand by Aung San Suu Kyi should have helped raise awareness of THE issues affecting the millions of Burmese migrant workers in the country. Let’s see…

“Kaew Cho knows what it’s like to have his freedom taken away from him. After moving between casual jobs on soybean, garlic and rice plantations, he went to work in a factory in Bangkok, hoping he would get paid at least the minimum wage. “I was so excited. I thought this experience would be decent, I would get a decent wage and be able to go out at night and learn Thai,” he recalls. Instead, he and his co-workers were locked in the factory every night by the owner. They weren’t allowed to leave and go out for food, and although his salary was originally agreed at 2,000 baht (US$56) per month, he only received small instalments when the owner sold shipments of sweaters” (20 Jun 16).

Chinese garment firms eye Myanmar as low-cost hub: Due to soaring production costs in China coupled with steadily rising wages, Myanmar's garment sector is emerging as the last low-cost production frontier for factory relocation and diversification in Southeast Asia. This, together with the difficulty in hiring garment workers and the Chinese government's policy of upgrading its manufacturing sector with a strategic shift towards higher value-added industries, has driven many garment manufacturers in the Pearl River Delta (PRD) to relocate and diversify their factories to Southeast Asian countries such as Myanmar, which has a reasonably good supply of lower-wage labour, according to a report by HKTDC Research (27 Jun 16). See here for more (including the full report).

Cambodia tightens its grip on labour unions: Cambodia’s new Trade Union Law has been described as “anti-union” by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), which said that key concerns are that it would “impose new limits on the right to strike, facilitate government intervention in internal union affairs and permit third parties to seek the dissolution of trade unions – while at the same time imposing only miniscule penalties on employers for unfair labour practices” (28 June 16).

(Image, Markus Spiske, CCO).