45.8 million enslaved globally: The Walk Free Foundation launched its Global Slavery Index last week, which ranks 167 countries by the number of people affected by practices included forced labour, debt bondage, forced marriage and sexual exploitation. The number this year is almost a third more than the organisation estimated two years ago. India is ranked #1, with 18.35 million slaves, followed by China with 3.39 million and Pakistan with 2.13 million. North Korea was found to have the highest per capita rate of modern slavery, with 4.37 percent of its population affected.
Robots are the new low-wage apparel factory workers: “The plummeting cost of industrial robots and the electronic cameras used for machine vision mean that serious automation is coming to even the cheapest sewn products.” Read the article; it’s worth it (02 Jun 16).
“Fashion brands, long focused on excess, are finally waking up to sustainability”: “Yael Aflalo, founder of buzzy fashion retailer Reformation, experienced first-hand the scale of Chinese pollution, she made a decision. Today, her company has a near-religious focus on reducing waste by incorporating sustainable practices throughout its supply chain.” Reformation’s motto is: “We make killer clothes that don't kill the environment”. Are other brands prepared to follow? Read the rest (20 May 16).
H&M, Gap and Walmart falling short on labour promises: “After more than 1,100 deaths exposed dangerous labor conditions in Bangladesh in 2013, brands like H&M, Walmart and Gap were among the most powerful companies that pledged to improve the safety of some of the country’s poorest workers. But human rights groups say that three years later, those promises are still unfulfilled, and that safety, labor and other issues persist in Bangladesh and other countries where global retailers benefit from an inexpensive work force.” This NYT story is based on the new reports by the Asia Floor Wage Alliance, which I included in last week’s FSWIR (31 May 16).
Ethics Act pushed for Norwegian companies: Norwegian environmental group Framtiden i våre hender (The Future is in Our Hands) has launched a petition [in Norwegian only] in support for a new law requiring companies to provide information about working conditions for items they produce. Titled “I Want to Know – Yes to Ethics!”, it asks the government to require fashion companies to tell consumers who made their clothes (31 May 16).
New pilot plant from India to treat textile generated waste water: Amity University has recently developed an innovative technology for the treatment of waste water generated from the textile and dyeing industry. The process decolourises and removes of organic pollutants and dyes present in real effluent of textile and dyeing industry (30 May 16).
Korean company develops new fabric to replace duck feathers: Toray has announced it has succeeded in developing micro-scale hollow fibres that can replace fillers such as goose feather for winter jackets (02 Jun 16).
Sustainability on the agenda at Copenhagen Sustainable Fashion Summit 2016: Speakers at this year’s event included Rick Ridgeway, Vice-president of Public Engagement at Patagonia, and Hannah Jones, Chief Sustainability Officer at Nike (04 Jun 16).
Timberland partners with Thread: Timberland has entered into a partnership with sustainable fabric manufacturer, Thread International, to release a line of shoes and bags made from plastic bottles sourced from developing countries; the first collection resulting from the partnership will be launched in Spring 2017 (04 Jun 16).
Timberland tyres wins sustainability award: Yes, you didn’t read that wrong. Timberland is the first tyre brand ever developed in partnership with a lifestyle brand. When the tread of a Timberland tyre wears out, it is recycled into Timberland shoes. The tyre line was developed in partnership with Omni United (31 May 16).
Asics releases 2015 sustainability report: In the past year, the company reduced CO2 emissions by 43 percent, water consumption by 50 percent, and solid waste emissions by 17 percent per pair of shoes manufactured, compared to 2009 baseline levels (31 May 16). See full report here (downloads as PDF).
“Sri Lankans want to work in Beyoncé’s garment factory”: In last week’s FSWIR, I noted the Beyoncé sweat shop controversy, in which the pop idol was caught up in accusations of “slave labour” in a Sri Lankan factory producing her Ivy Park line. This week, Ravi Ratnasabapathy hits back with a local perspective. He accuses the Sun, which ran the story initially, of unfair buying power comparisons and failing to tell readers in the UK that a garment worker in Sri Lanka earns a comparable wage to nurses and teachers. He concludes by saying: “Concerned Westerners interested in doing some real good for workers in Sri Lanka and elsewhere should instead lobby their governments to cut tariffs on garment imports” (04 Jun 16).
Laos garment industry risks being left behind: Statistics suggest an industry in decline. The value of exports increased from US$87 million in 1995 to a peak of US$219 million in 2011, before gradually falling to US$174 million in 2015. The share of garments in total exports also declined from an average of 36 percent during 2001–2005, to only 8 percent during 2011–2015 (03 Jun 16).
Gender inequality devalues women’s work: So says a new report from Oxfam titled Underpaid and Undervalued: How Inequality Defines Women’s Work in Asia (download report here, PDF). Here’s the gist: “Rising economic inequality across Asia is threatening poverty reduction and slowing down the fight against gender inequality. Although the region has experienced economic growth, the bottom 70 percent have seen their income share fall while the share for the top 10 percent has increased rapidly. Low wages and a lack of rights at work, particularly for women, are at the heart of this scandal. At the same time, women are subsidizing the economy with a disproportionate responsibility for unpaid care work”. A report in the Myanmar Times provides a local angle to the findings (06 Jun 16).
A bag of groceries for every shirt: For Better, Not Worse (FBNW) has been running a program where every shirt sold results in a bag of groceries going to a child in need. “My two main goals are to make an impact on kids’ lives and [encourage] other companies to see how they can make a profitable business while giving back to the community,” said FBNW founder Patricc Reed. FBNW is made in Los Angeles using locally sourced materials (19 May 16).
BHS closure puts 11,000 jobs at risk: Despite mounting a campaign to remain on the high street, BHS has closed. 163 shops will be sold off to other retailers. Administrator Duff & Phelps said that 8,000 permanent jobs are likely to be lost and another 3,000 not directly employed by BHS are also at risk. The 88-year-old department store chain said a deal could not be agreed because of the significant funding required to save the business (02 Jun 16).
1,000 jobs lost as Austin Reed shuts down: Austin Reed has announced it will close 120 stores after administrators to the collapsed menswear retailer failed to find a buyer for the entire business, resulting in the loss of approximately 1,000 jobs (31 May 16).
Store associates are the unsung heroes of retail: The 2016 A.T. Kearney Achieving Excellence in Retail Operations (AERO) study has found that while so much focus is on the consumer of the future, on new and exciting technologies, and on social media engagement around the globe, the real heroes of store operations are in-store associates, and they are often being overlooked. The study concludes that people are still the best investment for retail operations (02 Jun 16).
Reimagining ‘Brand America’: Ruth Bernstein argues in an op-ed that “the image of a nostalgic, ‘apple pie’ America is no longer believable to global consumers”, and calls for a new vision. One of the companies highlighted is L.L. Bean, which is “drawing attention to downsides of American consumer culture, such as an increasing reliance on disposable goods. The brand’s latest advertisements ask "When did we stop valuing things that got better over time?” and presents its long-lasting products as the solution” (25 May 16).
Let’s make America great again (by sourcing offshore): CNN claims Donald Trump talks a lot about having the backs of US workers, but nevertheless gets his shirts made overseas where cheap labour prevails. The money quote: “The Donald J. Trump Collection is a line of men's dress shirts, suits, ties and accessories, all of which have been made by factories overseas, where labor costs are a fraction of what it would cost in the U.S.” (26 May 16).
Levi Strauss & Co. launches global fellowship program to accelerate innovation in sustainable apparel: The annual fellowship program is for socially and environmentally conscious entrepreneurs who see design and sustainability as inextricably linked and are working to create a more sustainable apparel industry. With a curriculum designed by the Aspen Institute Business & Society Program, this first-of-its-kind fellowship program will bring together innovators, designers and bold thinkers who are working to advance sustainability in the apparel industry (01 Jun 16).
H&M recycles 28,000 tonnes of garments: Since February 2013, the company has collected 28,000 tonnes of old garment items for reuse and recycling, which is the equivalent of around 100 million T-shirts, according to company data (23 May 16).
Shaoxing set to be China’s largest textile recycling base: An agreement between Zhejiang Jiaren New Materials and Zhejiang Luyu Environment Protection will result in 600,000 tons of textiles recycled per year, or one-third of China’s total textile waste (31 May 16).
LAUNCH Nordic Innovation Challenge 2016 - Closing the Loop: [Video] The LAUNCH Nordic Innovation Challenge 2016 opened on 1 June and will close 1 September 2016. It’s a call for innovators and entrepreneurs, companies and organisations to accelerate the transition to a more sustainable society through open innovation, industry collaboration and global systems mobilisation. Watch the video (here), and if you’re interested in entering go here.
Workers’ rights in global supply chains debated at the ILO: The 105th Session of the International Labour Conference is underway in Geneva (30 May – 10 June), and the question of how to better protect workers in global supply chains is looming large. Stephen Russel provides a nice overview of the issues at stake (30 May 16).
Gartner’s 12th annual Supply Chain Top 25 ranking includes three apparel brands: They are: H&M (5); Inditex (6); and Nike (11). Every year, Gartner identifies companies that best exemplify the demand-driven ideal for today’s supply chains and document best practice (23 May 16).
Nike’s supply chain of the future: A logistics campus with six 150-metre-high wind turbines (enough to power 5,000 households), solar panels with a surface area equivalent to three soccer fields, recycling more than 95% of waste generated on-site, and transportation routes optimised to reduce CO2 emissions by 30% (30 May 16).
Nike says conflict minerals may be in some products: Nike says it has reason to believe that certain conflict minerals necessary to the production of some of its products that it contracted to manufacturers may have originated in the Democratic Republic of Congo or adjoining countries. Nike said a portion of tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold may not have come from recycled or scrap sources. After conducting a due diligence process, the company said it does not have enough information to determine the country of origin for a portion of the conflict minerals in each of its in-scope products (01 Jun 16).
Patagonia’s Footprint Chronicles ranks 59th in The Drum’s favorite marketing moments from the past 120 years: From the citation: “In 2011, Patagonia launched The Footprint Chronicles and set new expectations for brands and transparency. Rather than publish a blunt Corporate Sustainability Report, as most companies had been doing, Patagonia took consumers deep into its manufacturing via a rich digital experience, and let them see every step of the process so they could make informed decisions about the products they were buying” (26 May 16).
Patagonia backs hemp legislation: Patagonia has indicated it will promote a new short film called Harvesting Liberty (watch the 12-minute short here), which “documents visionaries Michael Lewis (of Growing Warriors) and Rebecca Burgess (of Fibershed) as they collaborate to reintroduce industrial hemp to the American landscape”. The company is also supporting a petition that asks Congress to legalize the crop (24 May 16).
The top seven apparel sourcing weaknesses: According to Edward Hertzman they are: i) no one wants to admit their own weaknesses; ii) rigidity reigns and decision making is a labyrinth; iii) company owned sourcing offices are potential covering places for inefficiencies; iv) fear rather than innovation dominates the sourcing decisions; v) corruption and bribery are sensitive issues exist; vi) overpaying on duty for non-dutiable costs included in FOB is an issue; and vii) transaction based hunting for lowest cost supplier each season is actually expensive (26 May 16).
New mandatory textile standards for children’s clothing in China: China’s first mandatory national textile standards for children – both infants and older children – went into effect on 01 June, International Children’s Day. The new standards categorise textiles into two types: materials for infants aged 36 months or below, and for children aged 3 to 14 years. New rules enhance several safety requirements and ban the use of six plasticizers and two heavy metals (lead and cadmium) (01 Jun 16).
All you need is less: [In German] Wäis Kiani, an author and columnist who focusses on fashion, culture and lifestyle, has a column in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung calling on fashion lovers to stop soaking up mountains of poorly made copies and buy a handful of fashionable, well made items instead. She takes several potshots along the way at famous fashion houses for failing to provide timeless well-made items (26 May 16).
CPD to conduct study on Bangladesh apparel industry: The Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) will conduct a study on the country’s apparel industry to determine what changes have taken in the wake of the Rana Plaza building collapse. The Centre hopes to highlight how better compliance and their implications for cost and competitiveness are bringing changes at the enterprise level in the garment sector (02 Jun 16).
Eyeing the supply chain: A round up of what’s happening in supply chains globally.
Bangladesh factory falsified concrete strength test results: The Accord on Building and Fire Safety in Bangladesh (the Accord) has terminated the membership of the Smart Group of factories (Smart Jeans, Smart Jackets (BD) Ltd., Shehan Specialised Textile Mills Ltd., and R.B. Industries Limited) after it “admittedly falsified concrete strength test results. The test results were needed to determine what structural retrofitting of the inspected factory buildings was necessary.” As a result, Accord company signatories will be obligated to terminate all business dealings (21 May 16).
Accord cuts ties with three more factories in Bangladesh: Following from the story above, the Accord has cut business relations with three more readymade garment factories that failed to make satisfactory progress in remediation for ensuring workplace safety. The factories are: Crystal Apparels Ltd., M-Yew Fashion Ltd., and All Weather Fashions Ltd. (25 May 16).