The GoBlu View

Chinese labour survey: A new study from China that compares survey data from the general labour force with that of migrant workers shows 80 per cent of migrant workers do overtime because of factory regulations and financial imperatives. The top three reasons employees in the general labour force work overtime are financial, helping out the employer, and demonstrating their capability. Other results are just as interesting, and cover issues from gender, wages (including expectations and wage growth), education, working hours, mobility, overtime and much more.

The study is the result of a combined effort between Handshake Workers Hotline run by the Inno Community Development Organisation, an NGO that operates a longstanding and excellent workers’ hotline service out of Guangzhou, China, and the Sun Yat-Sen University Social Science Research Centre. Handshake has run a hotline service in China since 2007, working in over 700 factories with a combined workforce of 2.4 million and collecting data from over 17,000 calls. By combining its data with the Sun Yat-Sen Universities study on the general labour force, the two organisations provide one of the more interesting insights into migrant labour I’ve seen.

The document I have – provided by Inno founder Dee Lee to me this week – is not available online, but if you’d like to see an English version, please contact me at Stephen (at) and I’ll organise for Inno to send you a copy by email.

Brands and retailers

Zara launches first sustainable fashion line: Zara has launched a sustainable new fashion line made using environmentally friendly materials. The company says “the collection embraces a woman who looks into a more sustainable future” and is made with materials like organic cotton, recycled wool and Tencel, a recycled fabric derived from wood cellulose. Zara says that its Tencel is sourced from sustainably managed forests and that the farming process for its organic cotton uses 90 percent less water than usual cotton (20 Sep 16).

How sustainable brands are turning their backs on fast fashion trend: A long article from the ABC (US) that mentions the following brands as examples of the trend noted in the headline: Tom Cridland, Asos Eco Edit (sustainable fashion feature from Asos), New Balance (for zero waste), Stella McCartney, Patagonia, and Levi’s (WateLess and WaterLess) (13 Sep 16).

Catarina Midby, H&M’s sustainability manager, on BBC Radio 4’s Woman's Hour: Ethical Fashion Forum founder and CEO, Tamsin Lejeune, spoke with BBC’s Jane Garvey along with Catarina Midby, sustainability manager UK for H&M, about fast fashion and sustainability (starts at 25:21 in and runs for less than 10 minutes) (12 Sep 16).

Students use H&M recycled garments in fashion collection: Students from the London College of Fashion were recently challenged to design capsule womenswear collections using materials provided through H&M’s garment collecting scheme (17 Sep 16).

Before buying more clothes at H&M, read this”: The short version of the article from the Huffington Post is that H&M has become more ethical but has it done enough? To answer that, they list nine article we should read before we shop at H&M again (15 Sep 16). That’s a lot of reading, and I wonder how many people will plough through it before deciding if H&M is doing the right thing?

How Stella McCartney changed the face of fashion as we know it: An interview to celebrate the designer’s 45th birthday. Some interesting snippets:

“Yet in a business pinned to the use of animal skins, Stella faced (and still faces) a healthy fight. In a 2014 interview with The Telegraph, Stella admitted that her fashion business would be five times bigger if it didn’t commit to the sustainable philosophy she has built her brand on but she admitted, “Luckily, I like a challenge.” And a challenge it has most certainly been” (13 Sep 16).

Torstai first sports brand globally to use 100% Fairtrade cotton: Finnish brand Torstai, owned by Luhta, has become the first sportswear brand to commit to purchasing all of its cotton from Fairtrade certified farmers. Torstai is the world’s first sports brand to take part in the Fairtrade Cotton Program (19 Aug 16). petition for Under Armour’s Kevin Plank nears 5,000 signatures: With 4,150 signatures, a petition for Under Armour’s founder, CEO and Chairman Kevin Plank is nearing the 5,000 required to be delivered. The petition is titled “Under Armour: Trophy Hunting Is Inhumane!” and start: “Recent events have brought to light to a worldwide audience that Under Armour massively promotes Trophy Hunting, and that it supports and endorses individuals that participate in that endeavor” (21 Sep 16).

Reports, Guidelines and Standards

Independent assessment of the ILO-IFC Better Work programme to be released next week: The International Labour Organization (ILO) and the International Finance Corporation (IFC) are to issue results of independent assessment of their Better Work programme by Tufts University next week on 26 September. The assessment is in-depth, longitudinal review of the programme by a multidisciplinary team from Tufts University, based on 15,000 survey responses from garment workers and 2,000 from factory owners from Haiti, Jordan, Indonesia, Nicaragua and Vietnam, gathered between 2010 and 2016 (20 Sep 16).

Sneaker composed entirely of renewable CO2 emissions: This project is entering into futurist sci-fi territory. It’s called a ‘shoe without a footprint’, and it looks pretty cool.

“At the tail end of New York Fashion Week, a “shoe made of air” was unveiled. Quite literally, too—the collaborative effort between the energy company NRG and former Design Director at Nike, D’wayne Edwards, is a sneaker made from repurposed CO2” (15 Sep 16).

Six sustainable ideas for London Fashion Week: They are: Low carbon clothes, 30 year T-shirt, shirts that warn you about air pollution (see video here on this one), air pollution scarfs (see video on this one here), Neoprene-free wetsuits (from Patagonia, naturally), and Mohair socks that don't need to be washed (19 Sep 16).

Sustainable fashion leader from Iceland on UN’s list of young leaders: Edda Hamar has been recognised for her outstanding leadership of Undress Runways, an annual fashion show that attracts 50,000 attendees and a movement promoting sustainability and ethics in the fashion industry without compromising style (21 Sep 16). 

Consumers like ethical fashion, but won’t pay more for it: Verdict, a retail analysis firm based in London, says consumers they surveyed are willing to pay more for style, quality, range and value for money, but are not willing to pay more for ethically made clothing and footwear. Well, that’s the headline, but as usual there’s more than meets the eye:

“Verdict data shows that while 60.0% of consumers say a retailer’s sustainability/eco-friendliness credentials are important to them when buying clothing and footwear, only 15.6% of consumers say that they would not buy from a retailer if they were not transparent about their sustainable credentials … 20.2% of consumers would not pay any more for eco-friendly or sustainable products and only 3.0% percent of consumers would be willing to pay more than 21% extra” (13 Sep 16).

Princess Mary under fire for latest fashion choice: The Crown Princess of Denmark attracted criticism during a recent trip to Greenland for wearing a Great Greenland designed knee-length coat featuring several panels of seal skin. Animal rights activists including PETA condemned the choice (14 Sep 16).

Northwest Indian city upgrades smart water initiative for textile mills: The Surat Municipal Corporation is upgrading an existing tertiary treatment plant for the country’s largest man-made fabric sector by 40 million litres daily (12 Sep 16). As reported in another source, “around 60-odd textile dyeing and printing mills in [the area] have been drawing water from nearby canals and through private water tankers. A few mill owners have been indulging in corrupt practices also by tampering with water meters at their premises to steal water from canals” (14 Sep 16).

How can we better value water as global shortages start to threaten economies? This is a question asked by the Guardian last week, the answer to which – as you might expect – includes the apparel and textile industry.

“SIWI [Stockholm International Water Institute] has been working with Swedish textile companies to encourage their production plants in countries such as Bangladesh, China and Ethiopia to place greater value on water. “We talk to these factories and say: ‘You’re using and polluting many of the water resources in the local area – you should change your practices’, but factory owners would rather sell to a business that is less pushy” (13 Sep 16).

High hopes for Thai textiles, garments sector: Chedtha Intaravitak, a Research Fellow at the Thailand Development Research Institute, argues that textiles and garments doesn’t have to the sunset industry for Thailand that many people think it is. Based on research conducted by his team, he says:

“We found that, with appropriate adjustments and upgrading, this industry might be able to survive and even thrive in the international economic environment” (14 Sep 16).

Why are you wearing dirty oil? A Huffington Post article critical of the widespread use of polyester in apparel production:

“As of 2007, polyester became the most prevalent fiber used in apparel. This is a problem - not only because synthetic fibers aren’t biodegradable and stockpile in landfills, but because the rise of synthetics is allowing consumer culture around fast fashion to proceed as “business as usual” (14 Sep 16).

How to be a mindful fashion consumer: The Huffington Post suggests the following: support local shops, buy vintage, “buy less, choose well, make it last,” 30 wears, buy on ‘cost per wear’, learn about good textiles, lease rather than buy, DIY, go to swap parties, and join the Fashion Revolution (14 Sep 16).

Five chemicals in your clothing: The Huffington Post list five chemicals to watch for in clothing. They are: acrylic, azo dyes, phthalates, nanosilver and anything that says it’s static resistant, stain resistant, flame retardant, or wrinkle-free (15 Sep 16).

Fashion in a state of flux: “Fashion is supposed to be unpredictable, ethereal and in a constant state of flux. However some ground rules would go a long way in making the industry more sustainable.” Another article from the Huffington Post on sustainability in fashion (16 Sep 16).

Professor’s ambitious sabbatical project spotlights sustainability: Apparel design professor Anupama Pasricha went on sabbatical and developed the R.I.S.E. collection: Repurposed. Indian. Sustainable. Eco-friendly. She used Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) certified fabrics from Indian suppliers, and repurposed saris from her old collection, and thread made from recycled polyester (14 Sep 16). You can see a catalogue of the R.I.S.E. collection here (14 Sep 16).

How the most sustainable dress in fashion was created: I’m not sure it’s the most sustainable dress ever made, but here is how they did it:

“Designers Felder Felder unveiled their first sustainable dress as part of their SS17 collection which showed at London fashion week. Remarkably, it was made from a BMW i - the sustainable sub brand of BMW cars. The dress … was created using carbon fibre from BMW's electric vehicle programme. The … dress took over 100 hours to make” (18 Sep 16).

Something to think about before you donate your clothes: The Huffington Post takes a look at whether recycling is all it’s cracked up to be:

“We’re doing our part by donating, but our part should start way before then. “You are buying into a fantasy that you have done something good. The good thing would have been at the very beginning, at the store, to have not bought the thing you didn’t really want in the first place” (19 Sep 16).


Support for Stony Creek Colors bio-based indigo: Stony Creek Colors, a manufacturer of biobased textile dyes, and the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, a not-for-profit research institute, have received a one-year grant of $224,676 to improve the available genetic resources for plant-based indigo dye production to help make the manufacturing of blue jeans more sustainable (14 Sep 16).

Yin Group to build first ever ‘smart factory’ in China: The Shanghai Yin Science & Technology Company (Yin Group) has announced it will build a smart apparel factory of 50,000m2 in Qingdao. It will integrate hardware and software (13 Sep 16).

Santoni, Lenzing, Unitin and Tonello partner on fibre to finish for denim: A collaboration between Santoni (seamless knitting machines), Lenzing (Tencel fibre), Unitin (indigo dyed yarns), and Tonello (water-free finishing) has resulted in a new stretch denim with sustainable features (16 Sep 16).

US consumers sue Welspun over cheap sheets: Two class-action lawsuits have been filed against Welspun India Ltd. that allege the company fraudulently labelled its bed sheets and towels as premium Egyptian cotton, the latest setback for the supplier after Target cut ties with the manufacturer over the same issue (15 Sep 16).

Swedish manufacturer reduces chemical and water use: Baldwin Jimek AB provides solutions for finishing, remoistening, and water/chemical management, reducing consumption of chemicals and water and process chemistry and water waste, and providing shorter drying times for reduced energy use (19 Sep 16).

Sustainable Fashion

Supply chain transparency on textiles via phone and talking tags: An Amsterdam-based fashion brand called Karigar (which means artisan in Hindi) provides all its artisans producing the company’s handcrafted fashion textiles in the Indian Himalaya with a mobile phone. But it’s not for selfies; it’s to document the creation process.

“Karigar products come with a hangtag or a Talking Tag which has a unique QR code. When scanned using a smartphone, the QR code takes consumers to a page where they can see these videos and images and get a behind-the-scenes look into the painstaking production process of their unique handmade products” (13 Sep 16).

You can see an example of the ‘talking tag’ here on a video from Karigar.

No Nasties: Based in India and selling online, No Nasties produces pieces from 100% organic and fair trade cotton, eco-friendly dyes, and supports community development for cotton farmers (from the Ethical Fashion Forum’s Brand Directory).

Ethical Trend: Fine cashmere wool scarves and blankets from Italy. The company works with Oxfam to protect the most vulnerable, made in Nepal supporting communities farmers (from the Ethical Fashion Forum’s Brand Directory).

Rekh & Datta: A design studio in Indian producing clothing that preserves traditional hand-block printing by working directly with craftsmen in Rajasthan (from the Ethical Fashion Forum’s Brand Directory).

Icelandic clothing brand for conscious consumers: Dimmblá is an Icelandic eco-friendly fashion brand using sustainable fabrics that are produced from crops that require zero to low levels of chemicals to grow, use less water and leave less waste during production (15 Sep 16).

Utterly, a sustainable kidswear brand: Fung Global Retail & Technology profiles Utterly, a San Francisco-based emerging sustainable children’s apparel manufacturer. The company uses surplus fabrics and materials from other apparel manufacturers to make unique and high-quality clothing for children (Sep 16).

Zero-waste T-shirts: Tshared has launched an Indiegogo fundraiser for zero-waste T-shirts. Go over to see how they do it (Sept 16).

The Supply Chain

Weak minimum wage compliance in Asia’s garment industry: New research from the International Labour Organisation (ILO) has shown weak compliance with minimum wage rates in Asia’s garment sector. The Philippines was the worst performer with 53.3 per cent of workplaces failing to comply with said rates. Other non-compliance rates are (with per cent in brackets):  India (50.7), Indonesia (39.1), Thailand (37.5), Pakistan (37.4), Cambodia (25.6) and Vietnam (6.6) (Aug 16).

Tampaco factory in Bangladesh “supplied products to two international clothing retailers”: Tampaco Foils Ltd., a food and cigarette packaging factory that burned to the ground on September 10, leaving 34 people dead, more than 40 injured and 10 other missing, is reported to have “also supplied products to two international clothing retailers”, according to Roy Ramesh Chandra, a labour leader (19 Sep 16).

The role of Bangladesh factory owners in ensuring workplace safety: An article by a chartered accountant highly critical of almost all stakeholders involved in the industry.

“Avoidable accidents are happening in this ill-fated country due to negligence of so many people that makes it difficult to determine the singularity of negligence. So where does the responsibility lie to ensure that such accidents are prevented: the government of Bangladesh?  Local manufacturers? The international world-class buyers that source their clothing there? Charles Kernaghan, Director of the Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights, is quoted by CNN stating: “These are the lowest wages in the world, and the factories with the worst health and safety conditions. Yet the big companies love the cheap wages, the long hours, because they are all about the costs”” (17 Sep 16).

Bangladesh Alliance suspends business with two factories: The Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety suspended two factories earlier in September. They are: Asian Apparels Ltd., Chittagong, and Campha Outdoor Limited, Chittagong (Sep 16).

Myanmar’s workers becoming more unionised: Myanmar’s growing industrial workforce is becoming increasingly unionised and assertive while antiquated laws are hampering the resolution of labour disputes (15 Sep 16).

Owner of closed garment factory in Myanmar finally compensates workers: The South Korean owner of Hla Won Htet Tha garment factory has finally paid his 85 former employees in full after more than two months after the factory closed (14 Sep 16).

Myanmar factory workers will not be paid for protests, production quota up in the air: The Central Arbitration Council has overruled the Yangon Regional Arbitration Council, upholding a requirement that the Sakura garment factory rehire all 316 striking workers, but reversing the ruling that the owner pay them for the month-and-a-half workers spent protesting (16 Sep 16).

Majority hold out as Sakura garment dispute drags on: Nearly half of the 316 striking Sakura garment factory workers have returned to work, while the remainder are still holding out to see a reduction of the daily production target that was the primary cause of the work stoppage (20 Sep 16).

(Image, Ashim D’Silva, CCO)