Brands and retailers

The Global Authentic 100: Last week saw the release of the Authentic 100, a list of the highest ranking brands in the world based on consumer perception of authenticity. Over 12,000 consumers were surveyed in 14 markets on more than 1,600 brands and asked them to rate these brands against the seven key attributes of authenticity. Here are the fashion brands that made the list (in order of ranking, with ranking number in brackets: Adidas (9), Nike (26), Levi’s (35), Calvin Klein (57), Gucci (60), Lacoste (66), Louis Vuitton (86), and Converse (97). The first ranked company was the Disney (also a major player in fashion, apparel and textiles, but not a fashion brand per se). Note also that it’s a list dominated by sportswear and luxury.

Fit for Purpose index 2016: Another ranking out this week was the Fit for Purpose index (see full list of names on the index here). ‘Fit for purpose’ refers to brands that use “their unique position, expertise and capabilities to deliver on something that matters to individuals, society or the world”. The index ranks “the world’s most socially, environmentally and economically purposeful companies. The overall trend that surfaced in this year’s index was collaborative thinking; the top purposeful brands are collaborating with stakeholders and partners within and outside the company to embed purpose in authentic and meaningful ways”. Here are the fashion brands that made the list (in order of ranking, with ranking number in brackets): Marks & Spencer (15), Nike (28), Kering (44), Inditex (89), and LVMH (97). You can download the full report here (PDF), which includes methodology. The first ranked company was Unilever (see story in section below on Unilever’s CEO on sustainability).

Kering on the sustainability and livelihood benefits of python trade: Three new reports published this week by the Python Conservation Partnership (PCP), a partnership between Kering, the International Trade Centre (ITC) and the Boa and Python Specialist Group of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), reveal that the wild harvesting and farming of pythons is ecologically sustainable and results in socioeconomic benefits for poor households in Southeast Asia. The three reports are: Sustainable Management of the Trade in Reticulated Python Skins in Indonesia and Malaysia, Trade in Python Skins: Impact on Livelihoods in Viet Nam, and Trade in Python Skins: Impact on Livelihoods in Peninsular Malaysia (all reports download as PDFs).

Pull&Bear opens first store fully-managed by disabled people: Pull&Bear, owned by Inditex, has opened its first shop staffed by people with physical or intellectual disabilities in Spain. Managed by the Galician Confederation of Persons with Disabilities (COGAMI), the retail outlet will sell items from former seasons at discounted prices (22 Sep 16). 

Patagonia's Head of Marketing speaks about the company's sustainability initiatives: Vincent Stanley speaks about the company’s sustainability initiatives in Wrigley Hall:

He told the students that when starting a business, it’s crucial to follow their values from the very beginning and that a company needs the support from the top of management for its initiatives – sustainability or otherwise – to get accomplished. Grace Strasser, a sophomore studying industrial design with a minor in sustainability, said Patagonia’s candidness is refreshing. “I’ve never heard a company speak so transparently,” Strasser said. "A professor of mine was talking about Patagonia and how their microplastics in their products are impacting bodies of water. (Stanley) brought that up and was openly talking about it during the speech” (21 Sep 16).

Patagonia co-founder Yvon Chouinard on how to live smarter: Among the many quotes:

“People can consume fashion more responsibly by: educating themselves. You have to know what you’re buying. A label could say, “organic sustainable bamboo,” but the chemicals converting bamboo into cloth are really toxic. Look for organic cotton; anything else is made of GMO seeds which require the most toxic chemicals on earth” (22 Sep 16).

Nike and H&M call for fast fashion reform: A story about recycling and the circular economy/closing the loop, which mentions a lot of brands and various initiatives. One quote from many:

For Nike to achieve its ‘moonshot ambition’ of cutting its environmental impact by half while doubling its business, the company “will need to forget the linear and move to a circular model,” said Hannah Jones, the company’s chief sustainability officer. “Incrementalism and efficiency measures will not get us there.” Anna Gedda, H&M’s head of sustainability, said the company wants to “decouple growth from resource use, so that economic and social development can happen, but within planetary boundaries” (20 Sep 16).

H&M supports proposal to restrict CMRs in textiles: H&M has backed a European Commission proposal to restrict 286 carcinogenic, mutagenic and reprotoxic (CMR) substances in textiles. Several European trade bodies have objected to fast tracking CMR restrictions, but H&M does not object as long as they are “well-grounded and possible to implement” (19 Sep 16).

H&M criticised for labour issues in lead up to New Zealand opening: Less than a week out from its grand New Zealand opening, H&M continues to face criticism over the factory conditions of garment workers. Radio New Zealand (RNZ) has run a long story (see here) based on Washington-based Worker Rights Consortium claims that hundreds of thousands of workers making H&M garments in factories in Bangladesh were doing so in dangerous conditions.

“We’re talking about severe safety hazards. For example, lack of fire doors and fire exits, lack of proper alarm systems, lack of sprinkler systems,” said Worker Rights Consortium executive director Scott Nova. “There’s no question that workers’ lives continue to be put at risk at many H&M factories and certainly consumers in New Zealand should be aware of that,” he said (26 Sep 16).

Labour rights violations in H&M’s “best in class” supplier factories in Cambodia: Working conditions in garment factories in Cambodia supplying H&M are far from decent even in those that H&M considers to be “best in class”. This is the conclusion of a report released by Cambodian NGO Center for Alliance of Labor & Human Rights (CENTRAL) and Future In Our Hands (FIOH), which represents Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC) in Norway. The report, When ‘Best’ is Far From Good Enough, is based on interviews with workers and describes labour rights violations in four of H&M’s key suppliers in Cambodia. You can see the full 52 pp. report here (PDF). The four factories named in the report are Eastex Garment Co, Vanco Industrial, Seduno Investment Cambo Fashion, and M&V International (23 Sep 16). The Sun (UK) has run this story with the headline “Fashion Victims: H&M in factory horror as workers endure ‘outrageous sweatshop conditions’ making clothes which include Beyoncé’s own line”, although the report does not mention Beyoncé or her clothing brands. The only link appears to be that Beyoncé has collaborated with H&M at one point (26 Sep 16). You can read a Cambodian perspective on the report here (26 Sep 16).

Dutch retailers paying ‘starvation wages’ to Indian textile workers: A new report from Clean Clothes Campaign, the India Committee of the Netherlands, Asia Floor Wage Alliance and Cividep India looks at living wages, working conditions, living conditions and gender discrimination in ten garment factories in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu in southern India. The ten factories included in the report supply to the following brands: C&A, Coolcat, G-Star, The Sting (Mills Brothers, Hallinger), MEXX Europe, McGregor Fashions, Scotch & Soda, Suitsupply and WE Fashion (27 Sep 16). The full report is available here (downloads as PDF).

Note from Bangladesh workers on Primark underwear? A customer at a Primark store in the UK believes she has found an encrypted address for a factory in Bangladesh written on some underwear produced there. Primark says the figures and symbols are merely “fabric marking references used routinely by garment manufacturers” (21 Sep 16). So the answer is probably no, but this is not the first story about messages/notes from workers in apparel factories to consumers. I’m sure it won’t be the last…

Levi’s, Scholastic and Project WET provide water education to 1.5 million students: Levi’s has announced it is partnering with Scholastic, the global children’s publishing, education and media company, and the Project WET Foundation to provide water impact education to an estimated 1.5 million elementary school children across 50 states in the US (28 Sep 16).

Gap asks consumers to ‘Clean Less, Do More’ with denim: Gap has partnered with garment care specialists Mr. Black on a new campaign to educate consumers about aftercare routines that prolong the lifespan of denim while saving water and energy. Together, they have produced four videos providing tips (which you can see, in order, here, here, here and here) (22 Sep 16).

Shanghai Tang to release eco-fashion capsule: Hong Kong’s Shanghai Tang will release a women’s wear capsule collection, the brand’s first sustainable collection; up-cycled using their surplus textile stock (26 Sep 16).

Adidas shows off the first shoe made at robot factory: Last week, Adidas released pictures of shoes made in its mostly automated facilities (Speedfactory) in Germany (21 Sep 16). Includes pictures and a video, which you can see here.

Emma Watson teams up with eco-retailer Zady for sustainable wardrobe: At a speech for the 71st United Nations General Assembly last week, Emma Watson approached ethical brand Zady to make sure that her clothing matched her message. Cut, sewn, and knit in California and New York, the custom pieces feature silk from a cooperative in India, wool from a sixth-generation ranch in Oregon with sustainable roots, and woven goods from a family-run mill in Italy that runs on solar power (21 Sep 16).

PVH contributes $1m to Save the Children programs in sub-Saharan Africa: PVH announced last week that it is earmarking $1 million of its 2014 commitment to Save the Children to support programs in Sub-Saharan Africa over the next three years. The investment comes as part of PVH’s recent business focus on the Sub-Saharan Africa region, including a woven shirt factory under construction in Ethiopia’s Hawassa Industrial Park to be operated as part of a joint venture, sourcing in Kenya and branded product sales through various partners in the region (20 Sep 16).

The Limited partners with I:CO to recycle denim: The Limited has launched a recycling program in partnership with I:Collect (I:CO), a global solutions provider for apparel reuse and recycling, to accept old denim and give it new life in its 110 retail stores across the United States until 10 October 2016 (21 Sep 16). You can see more at The Limited here (scroll down). 

Thread and Timberland announce program for plastic bottle collectors in Haiti: Thread, a B Corp producing sustainable T-shirts and fabric, has announced a program that includes Timberland sourcing materials made from plastic bottles collected by Haitians (21 Sep 16).

Calvin Klein could source 25 per cent of its production from Africa in five years: American clothing giant Phillips-Van Heusen (PVH), which owns Calvin Klein, could potentially source over a quarter of its garment production from Africa within five years, according to the company’s CEO Emanuel Chirico. “We have been involved in Africa for over 10 years; it represents today a little over 5-6% of our global production. We believe that production could grow… over the next five years to something that would approach over 25%,” he said during a panel discussion at last week’s US-Africa Business Forum in New York (26 Sep 16). Another report from African noted that wage pressures in China and safety issues in Bangladeshi garment factories are making Africa – especially East Africa – look increasingly attractive to US clothing manufacturers, but poor infrastructure remains a challenge (26 Sep 16).

Reports, Guidelines and Standards

Unilever CEO on the SDGs, “It is the responsibility of business to promote sustainability”: I know Unilever’s not a fashion brand, but I believe CEO Paul Polman’s views on sustainability are worth listening to:

“Our Unilever Sustainable Living Plan (USLP) is our blueprint for operating sustainably across the business - it sets clear and measurable targets. For example, we have already addressed some significant environmental and social challenges: moving to sustainable sourcing, reducing CO2 emissions from our factories, moving to zero waste to landfill - and ensuring that we respect and promote social and human rights, not just in our own operations, but throughout the entire supply chain. All of these issues are addressed through the new global goals and we will continue to work in partnership on their delivery and implementation” (25 Sep 16).

Do eco-labels work? It’s a question a lot of companies have pondered, and there’s still no definitive answer. But new research is being presented at the Sustainable Brands ‘16 Copenhagen conference this week. “Around 69 per cent of Danes use labels as a buying parameter, according to the Confederation of Danish Enterprise,” says one of the authors of the new study. “That’s a figure that surprises us, but it’s clear that the number of labels will grow in use between now and 2030” (21 Sep 16). We’ll report more on this when the report it released.

Better Work assessment says improved working conditions in apparel industry make workers’ lives better: An independent review released this week of the Better Work programme shows significant gains in quality of life for workers in factories they advise, as well as enhanced productivity and profitability for those businesses involved. The 437 pp. report (available here) is based on nearly 15,000 survey responses from garment workers and 2,000 responses from factory managers in Haiti, Indonesia, Jordan, Nicaragua and Vietnam. You can see a summary report (56 pp. here), and highlights here (26 Sep 16).

Amsterdam Denim Days to launch New York edition: The Kingpins Show, Amsterdam Denim Days and Jean School have announced the debut of New York Denim Days in 2017. Amsterdam Denim Days is a series of related events in Amsterdam that provide an opportunity for denim brands, producers, consumers, press and designers to celebrate all things denim. The festival is initiated by House of Denim, a platform for craftsmanship, sustainability and innovation in the denim industry (25 Sep 16).

The environmental cost of making a jacket in China: This factoid jumped out at me from an article about Nordic apparel and textile manufacturers:

“A report from three Italian companies, claims that the environmental cost of a jacket made in China is 165 per cent higher than for a jacket produced in Europe, using EU’s Product Environmental Footprint. The three [Italian] companies are RadiciGroup, EuroJersey Spa and Herno Spa. EU’s PET measures several parameters, including climate change, ozone depletion, human toxicity, acidification, land use and more” (07 Sep 16).

China swaps sweatshops for smart tech in bid to reclaim lost ground: An interesting article from the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong on how smart, small-batch production is replacing the old sweatshop approach of bulk manufacturing in China.

“China became the world’s No 1 manufacturer by value output in 2010, dethroning the United States, which had held the position for more than a century. On one hand, an army of workshops in China’s export bases, from shoe factories to toy makers, are struggling for survival as the country is no longer a cheap place for production. On the other, a group of manufacturers are emerging to become global players, helped not only by a deep domestic market but also true innovation” (23 Sep 16).

Chinese imports devastate garment district in Lima, Peru: Alleged dumping of Chinese-made clothes into Peru threatens hundreds of thousands of jobs in Gamarra, Lima’s historic garment district. Over 200,000 jobs have been lost and another 400,000 are at risk in the storied garment district located in La Victoria. Peru’s clothing manufacturers cannot compete with cheap Chinese imports, which they say are being unfairly priced to squeeze out competition. (20 Sep 16).

New fabric uses sun and wind to power devices: Researchers at Georgia Institute of Technology have developed a fabric that can simultaneously harvest energy from both sunshine and motion, paving the way for developing garments that could provide their own source of energy to power devices such as smart phones or global positioning systems (13 Sep 16).

Asian suppliers benefit from sustainability project: Ecotextile magazine reports that a project involving 35 apparel and footwear suppliers in Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, and Indonesia led by Puma and H&M has saved 40,000 tons of CO2 per year as well as significant savings on water and waste (15 Sep 16). (Note: subscription required to read full article.)

Upcycling as a solution to an environmental crisis: The Huffington Post continues with its series on all things fashionable and sustainable:

“Upcycling is a creative design solution to an environmental crisis - it is also the single most effective way at slowing down fashion without resorting to boycotting brands. Because we don’t need to stop buying clothes, we need to learn how to buy better, and by buying clothes made with pre-existing materials we would save an enormous amounts of water, slow down unnecessary virgin textile production and drastically reduce landfill mass with its associated emissions burden” (21 Sep 16).

African cotton popular in Norway: Ecotextile magazine reports that Cotton Made in Africa (CmiA) has entered into a new partnership with Kid Interior, a Norwegian supplier of home textiles with fabrics from Ethiopia via Turkey. (17 Sep 16). (Note: subscription required to read full article.)

Tenth annual CmiA and COMPACI conference held in Munich: Earlier this month, the tenth Cotton made in Africa (CmiA) stakeholder conference and the Competitive African Cotton Initiative (COMPACI) were held to discuss on how to achieve sustainability in the field, transparency along the supply chain, and new communication strategies for trading sustainable products (21 Sep 16).

New report on smart textiles and wearables: Cientifica, a Spanish consulting and research firm, has released a new report on titled Smart Textiles and Wearables: Markets, Applications and Technologies. (Note: full report is for purchase only.)

“Emerging technologies are critical to long-term global prosperity. They represent the innovation that adds necessary economic and social value to materials, products and processes. They provide potential solutions to a wide range of pressing global challenges including energy generation and storage, health care, climate change, food security and access to clean water, and also potential opportunities for investors and entrepreneurs” (Sep 16).

Sustainable Sourcing in the Garment Sector conference in Bangladesh: Organised by the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Dhaka for 29 September with the International Apparel Federation (IAF) and the Bangladesh Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), the conference will emphasise the need for advancing a common understanding on sustainable sourcing practices through promoting multi-stakeholders cooperation and presenting best practices. (25 Sep 16).

90 NGOs want us to Break Free from Plastic: Calling plastic a ‘human rights issue’, 90 NGOs from around the globe have come together to launch a global movement to achieve a “future free from plastic pollution.” Under the banner Break Free From Plastic, the group will educate on issues surrounding plastic, and help develop solutions (16 Sep 16).

Sustainable Fashion

Swedish Hasbeens: No, it’s not some insult hurled at former Swedish greats. Swedish Hasbeens is an ethical brand specialising in clogs. “Their designs still derive from original models of the 70s and handmade in respect to people and the environment, collaborating with small factories which have been making shoes for decades and using vegetable leather” ( 24 Sep 16).

Fabric innovation by Re-Bello: Italian brand Re-Bello is creating a limited edition of jackets made out of recycled plastic and waste wool (24 Sep 16).

Accessories maker supports anti-human trafficking organisations: RePurpose makes headbands from washed, used clothing, donating 100 per cent of its profit to two organizations; The Exodus Road and Make Way Partners. Both organizations work to actively take a stand against human trafficking (23 Sep 16).

Industry of all Nations takes manufacturing back to the regions: Three Argentinian brothers want to return clothing manufacturing to its makers while continuing to create and use sustainable, environmentally-sound production practices. Industry of All Nations is an international apparel company that takes manufacturing back to the regions where products and materials originate and help create a more competitive market place (24 Sep 16).

Bags from fire hoses: When Kresse – of Elvis & Kresse – discovered fire hoses were trashed after being damaged, she took it home to her husband, Elvis, who redesigned them into bags. Among other things, the company runs an apprenticeship program for young people in their Kent workshop that pays above the living wage (26 Sep 16).


California fine 18 Los Angeles garment manufacturers $682,344 for labour violations: Investigators from the California Labor Commissioner's Office issued $682,344 in fines to 18 garment manufacturers and contractors in a two day enforcement operation in the Los Angeles area. The penalties included a total of $603,043 in fines and stop orders for six employers with no workers' compensation insurance, and $42,300 in penalties issued to 14 businesses for garment registration violations. Investigators confiscated 85 bags of illegally manufactured garments with an estimated street value of $155,457 at nine of the businesses (22 Sep 16).

Gadsden Water Works & Sewer Board files lawsuit over water pollution: The Alabama city of Gadsden’s Water Works & Sewer Board has file suit alleging that the carpet and textile companies, and their chemical suppliers, are responsible for higher levels of perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) in the water (22 Sep 16).

Tutoring the textile industry on risky flame retardants: Environmental chemist and Duke University Heather Stapleton was recently invited to give a two day training to textile industry professionals about how people get exposed to potentially harmful flame retardants. Held in North Carolina, her presentations attracted attendees from across the US, and also Central America, South America and Europe (23 Sep 16).

Next generation of smart cellulosic yarns released: Norwegian company Monocel – a producer of eco-smart natural plant dyed yarns – has released a new range of yarns using the latest advanced dyeing technology with ancient coloration materials. The patented process uses liquid plant dyes in the new ultrasonic ‘attachment’ technique for a high level of colour fastness, with improved efficiencies in energy and emissions reductions through lower temperatures and shorter dyeing times (26 Nov 16).

Company accused of supplying US military ‘Made in the USA’ boots from China: A company selling boots to the US military since the 1960s stands accused of selling the federal government “Made In America” boots that were actually manufactured in China. An indictment against executives of Wellco Enterprises say the company defrauded the government of $8.1 million from December 2008 to August 2012 (22 Sep 16).

Recycler receives $5M investment to build first circular garment facility: A small Swedish technology company called Re:newcell has received major funding to build the world’s first recycled textile pulp production line.

“The goal with Re:newcell is to be part of creating a modern textile industry with resource- efficient processes and materials,” said co-founder Malcom Norlin. “It is with great pleasure that we take the next step in its development, with a first production line and a very strong ownership” (23 Sep 16).

The Supply Chain

Cambodian minister floats monthly wage figure: The state media has reported that the Minister of Labour Ith Samheng has said that the minimum wage for garment workers would reach at least $160 a month by 2018. This is $20 per month less than unions are hoping for next year (21 Sep 16).

1,245 Bangladeshi apparel factories remain outside safety inspections: According to preliminary statistics from the Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments (DIFE), there are a total of 4,808 readymade garment factories in Bangladesh engaged in direct export. Safety inspections have been conducted in 3,780 factories under three initiatives launched by western buyers and Bangladesh government. DIFE says that a total of 1,245 export-oriented RMG factories remained outside the scope of the inspection programs run by the three initiatives (25 Sep 16).

ILO to improve 127 Bangladesh garment factories: The International Labour Organisation has set a target to bring an additional 127 garment factories under its Better Work programme by next June, to ensure greater social compliance and workers' rights. Currently, 98 garment factories in Bangladesh are members of the programme (27 Sep 16).

Syrian worker program faces hurdles in Jordan: Since February, Jordan has been developing a jobs program that will ultimately employ 200,000 Syrians (in exchange for the EU allowing tariff-free export to Europe of a limited number of Jordanian-made products, including garments. But there are problems: unemployment has soared to 15 per cent, and over 650,000 Syrians are competing for the 200,000 jobs. In apparel and textiles, the ILO and its partner organisation, Better Work Jordan, teamed up with UNHCR – the UN’s refugee organisation, to launch a programme to integrate an initial 2,000 Syrians into the industry. But less than 50 have entered the sector so far (24 Sep 16).

Sakura garment factory strike ends with negotiations: The strike at Sakura garment factory is finally over, two months after it began. The truce required the intervention of lawmakers to negotiate a reduction of daily production targets (26 Sep 16).

(Image, Joshua Earle, CCO)