Brands and retailers

Patagonia releases “above and beyond” wool standard: In response to claims by PETA last year of animal cruelty at farms within the Ovis 21 network in Argentina (see claims and video here), Patagonia has released its own wool standard (see here – downloads as PDF). In a statement on the company blog, Patagonia says, “Over the past 10 months, we have been working diligently to develop a new wool supply chain that reflects high, and verifiable, standards for both animal welfare and land management. We’ve now reached some important milestones, and we’d like to update our customers on what we have accomplished so far and what we have yet to accomplish.” Patagonia has identified two US-based wool producers (in Oregon and Utah), which will supply the company for the foreseeable future (26 Jul 16).

New food/land initiative from Patagonia: Although not strictly related to its core outdoor clothing and gear business, the release of a short film called Unbroken Ground this week about activities in four areas of agriculture that aim to change our relationship to the land and oceans by Patagonia Provisions is an interesting example of how companies broaden their sustainability visions. Patagonia Provisions provides food for hikers, trail runners and the like, and is taking the same approach to the food supply chain as it has with apparel and textiles.

Patagonia’s Nano Puff® collection now uses 55 per cent recycled PrimaLoft® Gold Insulation Eco: By using Gold Eco in the Nano Puff styles, Patagonia will save two million plastic bottles from the landfill in the first year alone. With the goal of making the biggest environmental impact possible, beginning in 2017 PrimaLoft will replace all of its Gold Insulation, anywhere it’s used, with the new 55 per cent recycled Gold Eco (28 Jul 16).

C&A Foundation’s Fabric of Change a model for future philanthropy: You might have noticed that a lot of corporate philanthropy these days comes in the form of prize giving (as opposed to more traditional methods like grant giving). A recent article by Renya Reed Wasson in the Stanford Social Innovation Review on the future of prize philanthropy noted the pros and cons of both approaches, singling out the Ashoka Fabric of Change Challenge (which the C&A Foundation supports) for praise (25 Jul 16).

Interview with Outerknown’s John Moore: John Moore was amongst the names in Levi’s first class of Collaboratory fellows (see story immediately below this one), so it’s timely that an interview with him popped up this week. Here’s the highlight from a sustainability perspective:

“Everyone talks about the future of sustainability, but the time is now. Ethically sound decisions are just the way business should be conducted today so we can survive. As a business, we run up against hurdles every day, mostly because ethical resources aren’t readily available. But you adapt and learn better ways of working, designing, and distributing. Each season gets better” (29 Jul 16).

Levi’s unveils first class of Collaboratory fellows: Levi’s Collaboratory is an annual fellowship program aimed at creating a more socially and environmentally responsible industry, and last week it announced the first group of ten fellows. They are: Miriam Dym, founder of Dym (“slow” textiles); Mo Elliott, founder of Fayettechill (inspired outdoor apparel); Jesus Ciriza Larraona, founder of The Colours of Nature (natural dye specialising in indigo); Kevin McCracken, co-founder of Social Imprints (merchandising company employing at-risk populations); John Moore, co-founder of Outerknown (sustainable surf/beachwear); Pauline Munga, founder of Home Abroad (ethical African textiles); Wesley Owiti, co-founder of Cherehani Africa (women’s empowerment); Kavita Parmar, founder of the IOU Project (rethinking sales); Benita Singh, co-founder of Le Souk (online global textiles marketplace); and Rebecca van Bergen, founder of Nest (informal workforce). Levi’s will publish profiles of each fellow in upcoming weeks (28 Jul 16).

The North Face supply chain and chemical responsibility: The North Face’s senior sustainability manager James Rogers talks about the company’s program.

“The company phased out long-chain PFCs in its technical apparel beginning with the Spring 2015 line and transitioned all apparel products to more environmentally friendly short-chain fluorinated compounds by the end of 2015. By 2020, The North Face aims to move completely away from fluorinated chemistry in apparel products. Rogers revealed that the company are on track to hit that goal but insisted that the process has been made more difficult due to a variance of supplier machinery” (12 Jul 16).

Gap Inc. sources 441,000 pounds of Better Cotton: Gap Inc. joined the Better Cotton Initiative this year, and so far (in the first six months) has sourced 441,000 pounds of Better Cotton – enough to make 250,000 pairs of jeans – and plans to continue to increase use in the future (25 Jul 16).

All BHS stores to shut down by 20 August: British Home Stores (BHS), a High Street icon for 88 years, will close its remaining 114 stores this month. The decision means that a further 5,000 BHS workers will lose their jobs, on top of the 1,300 made redundant by previous closures (23 Jul 16). A joint parliamentary committee said former owner Philip Green’s greed and disregard for corporate governance led to the demise of BHS and the loss of 11,000 jobs, calling the collapse “the unacceptable face of capitalism” (25 Jul 16).

Rack Room Shoes launches real people campaign: The US-based shoe company has launched a marketing campaign using real customers instead of models. Senior Director of Marketing Jan Mauldin says, “We aren't just featuring individuals and families – we are building a personal connection by exploring their remarkable everyday stories in an authentic way. … Whether it’s one of adventure, heartbreak or simplicity, all of our customers have a special story to tell” (27 Jul 16).

Sony upcycles redundant headphone wires into swimwear: Which is a headline I’d never have thought of in a million years.

Sony and sustainable swimwear label Auria have joined forces to breathe life into headphone wiring made redundant by Bluetooth technology. The unlikely collaborators have released five accessories in a capsule collection called “Fashion Unplugged” (27 Jul 16).

Galeries Lafayette launch “Fashion Integrity” capsule collection: Paris department store Galeries Lafayette has announced it will launch its own branded mini-line called “Fashion Integrity” later this month. Sustainably focus includes manufacturing accountability and traceability, and providing information to buyers about manufacturing processes (28 Jul 16).

Reports, Guidelines and Standards

Fair Wear Foundation updates China country study: The FWF has updated its China: Country Study 2015 (opens as PDF). At 37 pp., it’s a concise and valuable resource for the companies sourcing apparel and textiles from China (26 Jul 16).

SAC opens up Higg Index to non-members: The Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC) is opening up use of its Higg Index web tool to non-member small- and medium-sized brands and retailers. Such companies will be able to take advantage of a special license for full access to the SAC’s proprietary suite of tools providing a common approach for measuring and evaluating supply chain impacts at a separate site (see here) (03 Aug 16).

SAC launches Materials Sustainability Index: The Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC) has launched the Materials Sustainability Index (MSI) Contributor, a new addition to the Higg Index suite of tools that allows material suppliers and experts to submit apparel, footwear, and home textile material data into the Higg MSI. The MSI Contributor will allow SAC to expand data around materials sustainability to inform design, development and sourcing decisions for its more than 180 members – including designers and developers at some of the world’s most influential brands (25 Jul 16).

Regulating the weight of models in the fashion industry: Kate Moss once said, “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.” Maybe, but that didn’t convince EU regulators.

“European regulators have stepped up to combat the fashion industry’s practice of using underweight models, citing not only the health risks faced by models themselves, but also the message sent to young girls who idolize and emulate them. Different counties have employed vastly different regulatory approaches, ranging from France’s weight minimums to the United Kingdom’s requirement that fashion ads employ “a sense of responsibility to consumers.”

The US has no such regulations, nor seems likely to see any such regulatory effort (27 Jul 16).

Would you buy a t-shirt that will last until 2046? A recent study of 1,500 young women commissioned by the British charity Barnardo’s revealed that on average each item purchased is worn just seven times. So where does Tom Cridland’s 30 Year Collection fit? Cridland sells luxury cotton crewneck jumpers, t-shirts and jackets backed up with a 30 year guarantee (28 Jul 16). Would you buy one?

Is the word “slavery” useful for the supply chain? Dr. Alessandra Mezzadri argues that a better term is “labour unfreedom”. Among her reasons is this one: “…the debate on modern slavery risks suggesting that labour abuse in global industries is exceptional rather than systemic, reducing it to an individual relation of domination perpetuated by a few culprits. It also risks narrowing our attention to extreme forms of exploitation, like forced or trafficked labour. However, the ‘normalcy’ of exploitation in many global sectors should also concern us deeply as it is incompatible with progressive struggles in support of decent work.”

An interesting read (26 Jul 16).

New PM says UK will lead the way in defeating slavery: One of Theresa May’s first acts as prime minister has been a £33million commitment to set up the first ever government task force on modern slavery. Among her promises, is to continue to lead the fight on the global stage through the Sustainable Development Goals (i.e., Goal 8, Target 7: “Take immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labour, end modern slavery and human trafficking and secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour, including recruitment and use of child soldiers, and by 2025 end child labour in all its forms”) (30 Jul 16, 31 Jul 16).

Straw bags for £4? You know those oversized straw beach bags that are all the rage this year, the ones toted around by Elle Macpherson, Kate Middleton, Alexa Chung and Katie Holmes? Dolce & Gabbana sells one with Swarovski crystals and a red fringe for £1,550. The UK’s Daily Mail says the raw materials may cost as little as £3, and final costs (including labour and freight) could be under £4. The problem for workers making these is byssinosis, or “brown lung”, caused by the inhalation of textile fibre dust. The article questions how Primark and H&M can sell allegedly comparable bags for £7 and £14.99 respectively (28 Jul 16).

Police in China seize 399 Siamese crocodiles: Police have seized 399 15-day-old Siamese crocodiles, a protected endangered species, in southern China. Siamese crocodile skin is used to produce handbags and other luxury leather goods, but the reptiles can only be raised in China with a license and trafficking in them is illegal (31 Jul 16).

Child labour underpins Modi’s ‘Make in India’ at lower cost: Vijayalakshmi Balakrishnan, the author of Growing Up and Away: Narratives of Indian Childhoods – which traces the evolution of child rights in India – has launched a scathing attack on an amendment to India’s child labour laws just passed by parliament. Balakrishnan argues that the new law (the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2016, which – among other clauses – calls for a complete ban on employment of children below 14 in all occupations and enterprises, except those run by his or her own family) has made “it virtually impossible to extend the right to education (RTE) to children above the age of 14. … now all children above the age of 14 can be put to work as long as they are in non-hazardous family enterprise.” Balakrishnan lays the new Act squarely at the feet of two recent developments: i) the government’s new textile policy (designed to jumpstart the industry after it was noted that wage increases in three major supplier nations – Bangladesh, China and Vietnam – provided an opportunity for India to reclaim its lost space as a major textile supplier); and ii) the government’s delay in sharing the T.S.R. Subramanian committee report on a new education policy (which opened a window of opportunity for the articulation of a demand to extend the RTE to children above the age of 14) (27 Jul 16). The Act has also prompted concern from organisations such as UNICEF (27 Jul 16).

Making Chinese factories safer: The ILO’s SCORE programme has been helping factories in China improve their record on occupational safety. SCORE links improved work conditions to productivity gains and aims to encourage a more co-operative approach (01 Aug 16).

CNTAC researcher named as one of ten local SDG pioneers: Liang Xiaohui, Chief Researcher at the Office for Social Responsibility attached to the China National Textile & Apparel Council (CNTAC), has been named a Local SDG Pioneer by the UN Global Compact’s Making Global Goals Local Business campaign. The program seeks out individuals who are demonstrating how the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) can enable business to unlock economic, social and environmental gains for the world (Jul 16).

Meet the workers who sewed Donald Trump clothing for a few dollars a day: Last week it was sweatshop workers in Bangladesh making T-shirts for Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign. This week, meet workers in Honduras producing clothes for “Make American Great Again!” presidential hopeful Donald Trump. The article connects the dots between Trump, apparel giant Phillips-Van Heusen (PVH), and Protexsa (a Honduran supplier used by PVH to manufacture shirts for Trump) (23 Jul 16). Speaking of Trump fashion made offshore, it has been revealed his daughter Ivanka’s fashion line is not produced in the US either. After the $138 pink dress she wore at the RNC got great coverage on social media, a report last week says Ms. Trump’s range at the Macy’s flagship store is made in China and Vietnam (24 Jul 16).  

New York’s best bespoke tailor can’t make a decent living: Rory Duffy Is New York City’s finest tailor, but he’s closing his shop in a few months because he can’t make a decent wage: “We’re a nation reared on ready-to-wear, which, as Duffy notes, Brooks Brothers introduced in 1850. So for more than 150 years, we’ve been sold a story that suits of the highest quality can – and should – be readily available and rather affordable. The only problem is that they aren’t really. Bespoke suits suffer from the Big Mac dilemma. Sure, the 99-cent version is tasty, but the costs are hidden, the similarities with a grass-fed burger are cosmetic, and the underlying quality is missing” (14 Jul 16).

Extension for Bangladesh cleaner textile initiative: The Bangladesh Water PaCT: Partnership for Cleaner Textile has been extended for another year until the end of June 2017 (28 Jul 16 – this story is only available in full via subscription). PaCT is playing a leading role in driving the long-term competitiveness and environmental sustainability of the textile wet processing sector, by addressing high water, energy, and chemical use through the adoption of best practices in the textile sector.

Self-healing textiles to neutralise chemicals: Scientists at Penn State and Drexel University are working on chemically protective suits made of fabric coated in self-healing, thin films that may in the future prevent people such as factory workers from accidental releases of toxic materials. The new fabric coating promises to not only neutralize toxins, but also to heal tears and holes on its own, and is made up of polymers like those in squid ring teeth proteins, which are able to self-heal thanks to their unique structure that features flexible and rigid segments (25 Jul 16, 26 Jul 16).

Recent developments in advanced and sustainable textiles: Professor Seshadri Ramkumar from the Nonwovens & Advanced Materials Laboratory, Texas Tech University, provides a nice roundup of developments in the industry, including: cotton manufacture and supplier TJ Beall proving the technical viability of greige cotton for use as an alternative to rayon in the spunlacing process; Germany’s Norafin Industries utilising flax fibres in nonwovens to develop composite structures as an alternative to glass and carbon fibres; and Enercon Industries developing breathable polypropylene spunbond fabrics for medical applications (22 Jul 16).

May 2018 REACH deadline will remain despite Brexit: Despite the referendum outcome last month, the May 2018 final deadline for registration of existing chemical substances, manufactured in or imported into the EU in annual volumes between one and one hundred tonnes, under the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) regulation, will remain unchanged (26 Jul 16).

Upcoming EU chemical restrictions for apparel: The European Commission intends to ban the use in apparel of hundreds of Cat. 1A and 1B carcinogenic, mutagenic and toxic for reproduction substances (“CMRs”) within the next year. To do so, the Commission expects to use the so-called “fast-track” procedure to ban CMRs under Regulation 1907/2006 (“REACH Regulation”) (31 Jul 16).

Dyeing cotton fabric without water: The NIFT TEA College of Knitwear Fashion in Tiruppur, India is teaming up with the Synthetic and Arts Silk Mills Research Association (SASMIRA) to develop a technology for dyeing cotton fabric without using water, which would be similar to equipment already developed by SASMIRA for dyeing polyester fabrics using liquefied carbon dioxide instead of water (26 Jul 16).

EU funds Myanmar-Bangladesh garment worker exchange: The European Union is funding a multi-million euro project to facilitate exchanges between women garment workers from Myanmar and Bangladesh. Seven women returned to Myanmar on 27 July after a study trip to Chaka as part of the SMART Myanmar project (29 Jul 16).

Dialogue in Dhaka underscores need for sustainable textile practices: A dialogue initiated by the International Finance Corporation (IFC) concluded that inefficient and environmentally unsustainable practices within and beyond factories are severely impacting the lives of Dhaka and neighbouring location residents (31 Jul 16).

Sustainable Fashion

Sustainability by MAC: German jeans brand MAC’s fall/winter collection utilises all natural plant-derived pigments, and for their jog ‘n jeans, a vegetable based wax coating that looks like leather. It’s also using partially recycled denim (up to 25 per cent of the fabric content) (25 Jul 16).

Four eco-friendly fashion brands putting the chic in sustainability: They are: Levi’s (for its Water<Less finishing techniques); footwear label FEIT (for its handmade products, sourcing from small family owned tanneries, vegetable tanning, etc.); snowboard and associated soft goods brand Burton (life cycle assessments and a commitment to bluesign® – to ensure good practices around chemicals, water, materials, etc.); and Finnish design house Marimekko (for in-house textile printing,  ethical sourcing, and a stand on “throwaway-ism”) (27 Jul 16).

Sustainable menswear in Hungary: David Hajdu from Budapest has launched an Indiegogo campaign to raise funds for new menswear brand Conscei. His goal is to create a fashion model that focuses on protecting the environment, through responsible farming, chemical-free production and ethical sourcing. Even the buttons are made from clam shells salvaged from fishing boats in Taiwan (28 Jul 16). GoBlu wishes him well!

Tobacco for sustainable dye? Elise Comrie, one of ten finalists for the Kering Award for Sustainable Fashion, has proposed that Brioni develop a line of smoking jackets using materials dyed with tobacco (29 Jul 16).


Schoeller debuts two PFC free finishing technologies: Switzerland’s Schoeller Textil has introduced two PFC free finishing technologies based on renewable primary products; 3XDRY Bio and Ecorepel Bio, developed in response to the demand for sustainable products (08 Jul 16).

Arvind commits to ZDHC: Indian textile manufacturer Arvind and certification company TÜV Rheinland are the latest additions to the ZDHC Programme (as value-chain affiliates), committing to  eliminating the use of hazardous chemicals across their supply chains by 2020 (25 Jul 16).

Archroma Pakistan saving water: The Jamshoro facilities in Pakistan are one of chemical company Archroma’s largest, producing dyes, chemicals, emulsions and pigment dispersions for the textile, leather, paper and coatings industries. After an initial project on Zero Discharge the company invested heavily in a Sustainable Effluent Treatment (SET) facility, which now saves one million litres of water per day and provides surrounding communities with 136,000 litres of clean drinking water every day free of charge (01 Aug 16).

Big data future for colour management systems: Manfred Mentges from dyehouse automation systems supplier Sedo Treepoint sees the sustainable supply chain future:

“[Sedo Treepoint sees] increasing data (big data) on each machine. For example: Today’s machines are equipped with many energy counters for electricity, water, etc. We believe that this important information will be only useful if you can see trending information, related to your real production, means, how many kilowatts per hour I have used per production output like per kg of fabric. To make use of this, we will need intelligent reporting tools. Mobile applications will help to make them available wherever they are needed” (01 Aug 16).

DMAI honours Huntsman’s Textile Effects division: The Dyestuff Manufacturers’ Association of India (DMAI) Awards 2016 has awarded the Textile Effects Division of Huntsman for “Excellent Performance in Safety & Hazards Control by a Large Scale Unit”. The award recognizes the outstanding contribution of Huntsman Textile Effects in supporting environment, health, safety and sustainability in the textile industry (02 Aug 16).

Ghanaian textile manufacturers at risk over IPR theft: The Textile Workers Union of Ghana has sounded a warning that the theft of local designs by foreigners could lead to closures (01 Aug 16).

Is Vietnam becoming a “‘polluters’ paradise”? Authorities have shut down Mei Sheng Textiles Vietnam, a Taiwanese-invested enterprise, seven times since 2010 because of discharging waste water illegally. In May this year, it was fined $28,423 for the same infraction (11 May 16). But as the article says: “At least $3.5 billion worth of foreign direct investment in textile & garment projects was registered in 2015. In the first six months of 2016, Vietnam licensed 83 projects in the field, including 50 textile projects. Chinese alone registered three. Most Chinese technologies are believed to be outdated which may cause serious pollution” (29 Jul 16).

Vietnamese textile firms propose wage freeze: The Vietnam Textile and Apparel Association (VITAS) has proposed that the Government freeze minimum wage in 2017, and mandate increases only every two or three years to create favourable conditions so that textile and garment companies remain competitive (27 Jul 16).

97 per cent of Accord factories in Bangladesh behind on remediation: The Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh says 15 of its more than 1,600 factories have completed all remediation from their initial inspections, and that 34 suppliers have been terminated under the Accord Article 21 notice and warning process for failure to implement workplace safety measures. More than 97 per cent all factories remain behind schedule in their remediation (26 Jul 16). You can see more data in the Accord’s Quarterly Aggregate Report (22 Jul 16 – downloads as PDF).

Social compliance pays off for Pakistan mills: According to results from a project conducted by the Sustainable Production Centre of All Pakistan Textile Mills Association (APTMA) and GIZ (German Corporation for International Cooperation), textile complying with international standards have seen a 52 per cent increase in return on equity, a 36 per cent increase in efficiency, a 76 per cent jump in production and a 65 per cent rise in wages (24 Jul 16).

The Supply Chain

Syrian children labouring in Turkish factories: A special report from Reuters, based on interviews with Syrian children in three Turkish cities who said they have jobs making clothes or shoes.

“Of around 125 Syrian households in Istanbul surveyed by Turkish charity Support to Life earlier this year, one in four households with children said at least one child could not go to school because the family depended on their pay. Half of those children worked in textiles” (26 Jul 16).

Bangladesh Police list 4,000 foreigners for security purposes: Following a militant attack at a Gulshan cafe in Dhaka on 1 July that killed 17 foreigners, police have identified around 4,000 foreign staff at RMG factories in an effort to beef up safety (26 Jul 16).

Bangladesh Government and industry sign MOU to train ethic groups: The project aims to develop skills of ethnic groups (there are about 35 indigenous communities in Bangladesh comprising two per cent of the total population) and absorb them in the garment industry. The first training will cover oven/knit machines (26 Jul 16).

Transport workers’ strike shuts down Bengaluru garment factories: A strike by bus drivers in the southern Indian city of Bengaluru last week briefly crippled garment industry operations, according to the Bangalore Chamber of Industry and Commerce (BCIC) (27 Jul 16).

Wage negotiations for garment sector begin in Cambodia: With garment industry wages standing at $140 per month, discussions began last week as unions, employers and government officials met for the first time in the run-up to the annual battle over the garment industry’s minimum wage (28 Jul 16).

Allegations of worker abuse in Jordan’s QIZ garment factories: Tamkeen Fields for Aid, a legal aid organisation based in Amman, has condemned the “undignified” work conditions some labourers experience in the Qualified Industrial Zones (QIZ), citing violations recently discovered at the two garment factories (27 Jul 16).

(Image, Lechon Kirb, CCO)