Brands and retailers

Decathlon launches eco-labelling: French sporting goods retailer Decathlon plans to use an environmental labelling scheme to help communicate to customers. The company is using pictograms representing ratings of A to E, with a color-coded format from green to red. So far it has been trialled on Decathlon’s French website and five stores in the Rhône-Alpes region of France, using specific product lines (04 Aug 16).

Eileen Fisher remaking in the USA: Together with Parsons School of Design at The New School, Eileen Fisher has developed its first zero waste capsule collection using almost no new raw materials. The 500-piece “Remade in the USA” line debuted at a pop-up store in Brooklyn (02 Aug 16).

Zara employees unionise in New York City: The Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union (RWDSU) will represent over 1,000 Zara employees, as part of a global agreement between UNI Global Union (UNI) and Zara’s owner Inditex (02 Aug 16).  

M&S launch autism-friendly school range: Marks & Spencer have launched a range of autism friendly school wear in partnership with the National Autistic Society (NAS) in the UK. The line results from feedback suggesting they do more to help children who struggle with dressing themselves, specifically those on the autistic spectrum (02 Aug 16).

Stella McCartney swaps virgin cashmere for regenerated: Stella McCartney has stopped using virgin cashmere in its knitwear, as it says cashmere has the highest impact environmentally out of all the raw materials it uses, roughly 100 times the environmental impact of wool (see article below on the environmental impact of wool) (03 Aug 16).

Patagonia launches neoprene-free wetsuits: Patagonia’s autumn 2016 line of wetsuits is made with natural rubber, reducing their CO2 wetsuit manufacturing emissions by up to 80 per cent. The company says it will never make a wetsuit with neoprene again (02 Aug 16).

Reports, Guidelines and Standards

Women braid straps for big brands in conditions “worse than sweatshops”: No brands are mentioned in this article on homeworkers in India:

“‘I have been doing this for about 10 years. We used to get more work, now we get less, and get paid less,” said Nadelkari, who makes about 100 pieces a day. She is paid about Rs. 24 [$0.36] for a set of 12 finished pieces. “We only get paid once in six months, and they don't keep proper accounts” (05 Aug 16).

How big a problem is greenwashing in the fashion industry? Quite big if this is true:

“Melissa Joy Manning, a founding co-chair of the CFDA [Council Of Fashion Designers Of America] Sustainability committee and Advisory Board member of the CFDA + Lexus* Fashion Initiative. She cited sustainable certifications that can be bought for $30,000 to $50,000 as an added deceptive layer. Is there anyone policing these mixed messages?” (04 Aug 16).

Why do celebrities’ fashion lines only empower the women buying the clothes, not making them? Celebrities have been attaching their names to fashion forever, but a recent trend has been celebrities launching fashion lines that champion a cause. Ellen Degeneres and Melissa McCarthy are two examples. The question then is where these clothes are made. A though-provoking article (04 Aug 16).

Indian Textiles Minister’s viral tweet – #IWearHandloom: When Indian Textiles Minister Smriti Irani tweeted a picture of herself last week in an electric-blue silk saree with the hashtag #IWearHandloom, her tweet was favourited more than 10,000 times and retweeted 4,000 times. Hundreds responded to Irani's request to post pictures of themselves in handloom apparel, including politicians, actors, athletes, models and designers (05 Aug 16).

Why Detox? An article in this week’s Ecotextile (subscription required to read full article) has an intriguing lede: “The former sustainable raw materials manager at UK retailer Marks & Spencer has questioned the "skewed amount of industry attention and resource" focused on the Greenpeace Detox campaign and suggested more industry focus should be placed on sourcing cotton sustainably” (03 Aug 16).

“Untangling fashion for development”: Can fashion enhance economic development? Plenty of small companies and brands think so. For example, see the proliferation of shops selling fair trade or other eco-minded products made in developing economies. This academic article examines in detail the three Fashion for Development enterprises: TOMS Shoes, Faire Collection, and Mario Testino. [Full disclosure: I supervised one of the authors when she started her PhD]. See abstract here, or full article (PDF) here.

Patching up clothes to tackle textile waste: A new venture called the Renewal Workshop aims to reduce apparel waste that usually ends up in landfill by repairing clothes that customers have returned to stores as well as items that are damaged during manufacturing. The project, which launched in June, has attracted more than $1m in venture funding (07 Aug 16). The organisation is running an Indiegogo campaign to raise funds and is about half way to meetings its goals a month out from the deadline (the Indiegogo page has a lot of interesting information about the entire process).

Unused clothes will auction themselves: It sounds like something out of a sci-fi novel, but scientists at Birmingham City University are developing an RFIC chip for smart clothes that would contact charity shops or auction websites like eBay when they are not worn regularly (07 Aug 16). Now I know where all my socks disappear to…

On the other hand…: A woman in Canada has worn the same dress for six months in an effort to raise awareness of sustainable fashion. ““I wore the same black dress for 180 days in different ways,” said Ingrid Uhrich, who began the challenge in January (06 Aug 16, 09 Aug 16).

GOTS appoints two new representatives: Lori Wyman has been named the new Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) Representative for North America (28 Jul 16), and Elif Yarasik as the regional representative in Turkey, the country with the second most GOTS certified facilities worldwide (469 in 2015) (25 Jul 16).

The environmental impact of wool: An academic article was published recently – “Resource use and greenhouse gas emissions from three wool production regions in Australia” – which is the first multiple impact life cycle assessment (LCA) and Greenhouse Gas emission investigation of three wool types, produced in three geographically defined regions of Australia. It’s an important study and should be of interest to any company using wool (May 16).

Climate change blamed for Pakistan cotton shortfall: Heavy rainfall, high temperatures and major pest outbreaks have taken a heavy toll on Pakistan’s cotton growing districts of Punjab and Sindh province this year. Pakistan’s Ministry of Textile Industry has expressed concern over the 28 per cent drop in cotton production during 2015-16 caused by climate change-induced phenomena (03 Aug 16).

FTA (BSCI) signs key partnership for development of CSR practices in China: The Foreign Trade Association (FTA), which administers BSCI (the Business Social Compliance Initiative) has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with China WTO Tribune and the Zhejiang Province CSR Association to enhance the development of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in Zhejiang Province (Jun 16).

FTA releases guidance package for BSCI participants and producers on ‘Syrian refugees working in Turkey’: The Foreign Trade Association (FTA) has released a Guidance Package on ‘Syrian Refugees Working in Turkey’. This Guidance aims to provide support for BSCI participants and producers to better understand, respond, identify, as well as to prevent and mitigate abuses and exploitation of Syrian refugees in their supply chains in Turkey (29 Jul 16). You can see the full document here (downloads as PDF).


Sustainability at Texworld USA: A growing trend at Texworld USA has been eco-friendly fabrics, yarns and fibres, with 35 vendors offering sustainable products at the trade show this year. SG Knits, Texollini, and Laguna Fabrics are all examples of US producers taking sustainability seriously, either in response to customer demands or because they have understood the importance internally (28 Jul 16).

GIZ and APTMA work on cleaner water in Pakistan: The German Federal Enterprise for International Cooperation (GIZ) and the All Pakistan Textile Mills Association (APTMA) has run industry training on prevention measures to minimise water, energy and chemicals consumption for textile pre-treatment, dyeing, printing and final finishing (05 Aug 16).

Sustainable Fashion

Start-up launches new environmentally friendly “everything resistant” shirt: Brothers Raj and Akhil Shah’s apparel start-up Ably promises customers with its new “everything resistant” shirt utilising a technology they call Filium, which activates hydrophobic properties in natural fabrics using a trade secret they would not disclose. The pair recently closed a Kickstarter campaign, which drew 4,900 backers who pledged $540,112 in funding (08 Aug 16).

Three eco-brands talk about sustainability: Principals from Tome, Dezso and Brother Vellies took questions recently on sustainability, providing three core ideas for the future: i) going beyond organic fabrics and using reclaimed, recycled, and reworked fabrics; ii) meeting production deadlines by creating “core collections”; and iii) bringing glamour and luxury into the sustainability conversation (02 Aug 16).

Vegan shoes take on leather in Brazil: Insecta Shoes is an eco-friendly company in Brazil that turns recycled vintage dresses and plastic bottles into shoes. Despite a recession, the firm – established in 2014 – has sold thousands of vegan shoes and earned $300,000 last year (02 Aug 16).

Three of the best vegan brands: They are: Vaute Couture, Matt & Nat, and Beyond Skin.

Underwear made from wood: California-based start-up MeUndies uses MicroModal made from pulped beech for its men’s and women’s underwear (03 Aug 16).

Eight ethical Irish brands: They are: Wayo (textiles), We are Islanders (salmon leather and Irish linen), The Kinsale Leather Company, The Tweed Project, Sophie Rieu, Fresh Cuts, Keem, and Petria Lenehan (04 Aug 16).

The Supply Chain

US garment factories evading law with cheque cashing services: Paying workers by cheque, which they then cash at special trucks outside factories is “a scheme to weaken a wage-theft case, and essentially escape accountability … When you’re paying through this check cashing system, there is no record of the hours worked” (30 Jul 16).

EC says Bangladesh factories must do more: The European Commission has released its third annual report on progress achieved in the Bangladeshi garment sector through the Sustainability Compact for Bangladesh – an international response to the 2013 tragic collapse of the Rana Plaza factory complex. The report concludes that:

“…tangible improvements were achieved in enhancing building and workplace safety in the Bangladesh garment industry. The Compact also contributed to open a dialogue and to support exchanges on working conditions in the garment sector with stakeholders, including trade unions, employers, buyers and NGOs in the EU, as well as in Bangladesh. However, progress relating to workers’ rights has been more challenging. Sizeable efforts still need to be made, in particular on workers’ rights, to ensure that real change takes place and is sustained over the long term in Bangladesh. This is of particular importance and urgency following the deep concerns noted by the ILO Committee on Application of Standards regarding the freedom of association and protection of the rights to organise. It is important that Bangladesh addresses the Committee's recommendations as a matter of immediate priority”

See overview here, and the Technical Status Report here (PDF).

Most Bangladesh mills ignore effluent treatment: Just 56 out of 466 Bangladesh textile factories that discharge potentially hazardous wastewater into the environment were found to have effluent treatment plants in operation (09 Aug 16 – subscription required to read full article).

Vietnam labour groups, businesses agree on 7.3 per cent wage rise: Representatives from Vietnam’s labour unions and businesses have settled on a 7.3 per cent increase for the minimum wage in 2017, much lower than the raises seen in recent years (02 Aug 16).

Cambodian villagers blame factories for pollution: Villagers living along a canal in Svay Rieng province’s Bavet town say its water has been polluted by untreated discharge from the nearby Manhattan Special Economic Zone (SEZ), rendering it unusable. Last year, garment manufacturer and SEZ tenant Top Sports was fined twice for discharging untreated water into the canal, but now has its own treatment facility (04 Aug 16).

Garment truck crashes in Cambodia; 39 injured: A truck packed with garment workers traveling to factories in Kompong Speu province overturned last week while attempting to avoid another truck crossing the road, injuring 39 women, including a dozen who suffered broken arms and legs (04 Aug 16).

Unions talk up ‘living wage’ ahead of minimum wage talks in Cambodia: Unions meeting this week have calculate an estimated cost-of-living salary for garment workers based on spending $124 and sending $47 home to their families each month. With an inflation rate of 3 per cent, the average worker’s expenses came to $176. The current wage stands at $140, with an added compulsory benefit of $17 per month, bringing it to $157 (08 Aug 16).

Myanmar’s labour reforms in doubt: The government has largely put labour reform on the backburner at a time when worker rights advocates say there’s an urgent need to improve dispute settlement procedures. It’s not just affecting garment factories, but the industry is clearly front and centre (05 Aug 16).

 (Image, Wopke, CCO)