Brands and retailers

Hong Kong labour rights NGO reports abuse at Chinese suppliers for Zara, H&M & Gap: A report by SACOM (Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour) titled Reality Behind Brands’ CSR Hypocrisy: An Investigative Report on China Suppliers of ZARA, H&M, and GAP (see here – PDF, or here – summary) has alleged the three brands “promise safety and healthy working conditions in supplier factories [but in reality] workers were exposed to toxic chemicals, cotton dust and hazardous dusts without protective gear.” Business & Human Rights Resource Centre has responses from the three companies online (see here).

H&M Foundation offers €1m in grants for sustainable fashion ideas: The H&M Foundation is offering a million euro grant for innovators with ideas about how to make fashion more sustainable. In its second year, the Foundation’s Global Change Awards is looking for ideas on how to create clothes for a growing population, while improving its impact on the environment (01 Sep 16).

H&M teams with London College of Fashion on sustainability: H&M is teaming with the London College of Fashion on a sustainability project which aims to explore the concept of circularity. The scheme is designed to encourage consumers to donate unwanted garments of any brand at H&M stores, which the company then re-uses or recycles in its efforts to embrace a circular business model (06 Sep 16).

H&M Foundation to open source textile recycling findings: Ecotextile reports that the H&M Foundation has entered a partnership with The Hong Kong Research Institute of Textiles and Apparel (HKRITA) with the goal of developing technologies to recycle blend textiles into new fabrics and yarn (05 Sep 16 – subscription required to read full article).

Nudie Jeans offers free repair and lifetime warranty: As the article says, Nudie Jeans is “basically the Patagonia of jeans.” The story is about how the Swedish company is cleaning up the supply chain (25 Aug 16).

Levi’s and IFC partner for cleaner supply chain: The International Finance Corporation (IFC) is partnering with Levi’s in a new program to take the lessons from the Bangladesh Partnership for Cleaner Textile (PaCT) programme into the company’s supply chain outside of Bangladesh (01 Sep 16).

Eileen Fisher recruiting a ‘social impact associate’: I’m not in the habit of including job advertisements in the FSWIR, but this one seems so unusual that I’m adding it here. The summary says: “Assist Human Rights Leader with social metrics work in support of the company’s Triple Bottom Line and Vision2020 goals. Support Human Rights Leader on implementation of human rights initiatives” (Aug 16). One of the duties is to work on the company’s “Livelihood Ranking Tool”. I really want to see what comes from all this.

PVH releases 2015 CR report: This is the third, apparel and textile industry report I’ve seen recently that incorporates the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – two others of the top of my head are Inditex and Decathlon – suggesting that the SDGs are definitely becoming a serious part of the sustainability framework for a growing number of companies. The report also covers PVH’s ambitions in Ethiopia, its human rights approach to the supply chain, and other social and environmental aspects (e.g., greenhouse gas emissions, etc.). You can download the full report here (PDF), or PVH’s CR page here.

The $1 billion ethical fashion retailer you’ve never heard of: Well, you probably have heard of Cotton On if you read this newsletter/blog, but point taken. The article is an interview with Pippa Grange, the company’s General Manager of Culture, Leadership & Ethics, and focuses on how the company has balanced 20 per cent growth per annum with “operating ethically in the sourcing and manufacturing of products across their portfolio of eight brands” (30 Aug 16).

Online Australian retailer Ozsale fined AUD 500,000 for selling non-compliant nightwear: Ozsale, a members only online shopping club, sold children's nightwear “so unsafe that it should not have been supplied in Australia at all” has been fined $500,000 by the Federal Court. The company sold more than 200 non-compliant garments and stocked more than 11,000 non-compliant garments available for supply to Australian consumers. The company admitted in court that “it did not have procedures to ensure that its children’s nightwear met safety standards” (30 Aug 16).

Reports, Guidelines and Standards

1.278 million child labourers in Myanmar, says survey: Titled Myanmar Labour Force, Child Labour and School to Work Transition Survey, 2015, conducted in collaboration with the ILO, it shows that working age population in 2015 was 33.9 million (38.5 per cent of whom were wage employees), unemployment stood at 0.8 per cent, and worked 51.6 hours a week. Average monthly income was 124,100 Kyats ($102). The number of children working was 1,278,909 (out of a total population of children numbering 12,146,463, 616,815 of whom worked in hazardous conditions). You can see the whole report here (PDF), or snippets from a local newspaper article (04 Sep 16).

“I worked in a sweatshop and know how those [AUS] $59 jeans are made”: A story from the Sydney Morning Herald focussing on the story of Rina Roat, a Cambodian garment factory worker who now works as an ambassador for the charity Hagar International. Roat now runs a fashion design and restaurant business in Phnom Penh (06 Sep 16).

ADB suggests Bangladesh to look beyond garment industry: In conduction with the ILO, the Asian Development Bank has released a study titled Bangladesh: Looking Beyond Garments – Employment Diagnostic Study (full report here – downloads as PDF), which urged Bangladesh to ‘shift workers to more highly productive sectors’ than the garment industry (02 Sep 16).

Fast fashion is creating recycling crisis: This is a long story in the most recent edition of Newsweek (European Edition), and focuses predominantly on recycling. It’s a well-researched article with lots of data, but this sentence stood out: “Fast fashion is forcing charities to process larger amounts of garments in less time to get the same amount of revenue – like an even more down-market fast-fashion retailer.” Worth a read if you’re interested in recycling (01 Sep 16).

Cotton made In Africa annual report, 2015: Cotton made in Africa has released its 2015 annual report, stating that In 2015, approximately 750,000 smallholders were verified with a production volume of just under 400,000 tonnes of lint cotton in accordance with the CmiA, CmiA-Organic and SCS standard. You can download the full report here (PDF).

RSN forms YESS initiative to drive slavery out of cotton: The Responsible Sourcing Network has created the Yarn Ethically and Sustainably Sourced (YESS) initiative to drive slavery out of cotton production. YESS is coordinating its activities with sustainable cotton initiatives and other complementary programs to ensure harmonization of a due diligence system for the entire industry. They have 39 endorsements so far, including Adidas (Sep 16).

The frayed reputation of Egyptian cotton: On the ongoing problems for India’s Welspun and fake Egyptian cotton. The money quote in this article is in the last paragraph:

“Target paid more for Egyptian cotton, so it’s rightly angry. But it’s not clear that customers should care. In fact, they’d be better off ignoring the Egyptian cotton label and just feeling the sheets for themselves. If they are equally soft and durable, Xinjiang or Queensland – or the San Joaquin Valley – is as good as the Nile Delta” (30 Aug 16).

Chinese textiles polluters named and shamed by MEP: An interesting and important story from the ever excellent Exotextile (full article only available with subscription) on China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection cracking down on polluters, which relates the following story: “one textile mill … had connected its treated wastewater to a drinking water pipe in order to dilute the treated wastewater and prevent readings from exceeding the limits for pollutant emissions” (26 Aug 16).

Mill revamp to maintain Hong Kong textile heritage: A heritage project in an old Tsuen Wan cotton mill run by the Mill6 Foundation, a non-profit arts and cultural institution supported by local property developer Nan Fung Group (which in earlier days owned and operated the mill), has kicked off an upcycling project to complement other activities aimed at fostering innovation and creativity (31 Aug 16).

Thinking about the environment is feminine: New research published in the Journal of Consumer Research asks whether being eco-friendly is unmanly. In an article titled “Is eco-friendly unmanly? The green-feminine stereotype and its effect on sustainable consumption”, the authors conclude that “the concepts of greenness and femininity are cognitively linked and shows that, accordingly, consumers who engage in green behaviours are stereotyped by others as more feminine and even perceive themselves as more feminine. Further, men’s willingness to engage in green behaviours can be influenced by threatening or affirming their masculinity” (02 Sep 16). You can find the academic article here (behind a paywall).

Parsons professor Joshua Katcher on the future of sustainable fashion: An interview with Joshua Katcher, a designer of vegan menswear brand Brave Gentleman who moonlights as an adjunct professor at Parsons School of Design. He is an outspoken advocate of ethical fashion and ridding the design and production system of animals altogether and hopes to pass that passion on to his students--or at least get them to think critically about the “fashion industrial complex” (06 Sep 16).


Further advances in sustainable PU: German supplier of high-tech polymers Covestro has announced breakthroughs in its INSQIN waterborne polyurethane (PU) technology and Impranil polyurethane dispersion products, which will enhance the applicability of waterborne PU as a sustainable technology in the textile industry (31 Aug 16).

Enzymes stabilised on nanoparticles aid dye wastewater treatment: Farrokh Sepehr Textile Co. and researchers at Amirkabir University of Technology in Tehran have applied enzymes stabilised on nanoparticles to purify and remove dye from wastewater, which can be used to prevent the leakage of toxic materials (30 Aug 16).

J-Teck3 textile inks okayed by Nike: A range of inks manufactured by Italian textile inks company J-Teck3 have recently passed Nike’s Restricted Substance List (RSL) testing process, and have been okayed by Nike for use in its supply chain (02 Sep 16).

British firm takes up mega bamboo farming to produce textile items: Africa Plantation Capital, a UK agricultural firm, is in the first stage of developing a commercial bamboo cultivation along the Kenyan Coast for the manufacture of textiles, food and fragrances (04 Sep 16).

Sustainable Fashion

Five ethical Australian brands: “Every year Australians purchase an average of 27kg of clothing, only to discard 23kg into landfill.” Good grief. Here are five brands who want to see things change: Fabrik, Little Tienda, Yoli & Otis, Little Winnie, and Vege Threads (Aug 16). As Mollie Meldrum used to say, “Do yourself a favour.”

Catching A Fish In Norway: I’m not talking about fishing, but the company. Catching A Fish In Norway (CAFIN) is an award-winning, ethical fashion brand doing what it can to help marginalised communities, and  sacrificing short-term profits to act with a conscience (31 Aug 16).

Eco-fabric company in the UK helps designers: An eco-fabric company in the UK called Offset Warehouse is helping designers make ethical choices when it comes to fabrics, with offerings such as banana fabric, recycled polyester, and hand-dyed cotton (31 Aug 16).

Barcelona brand for a better world: Ecoology uses organic materials and is tackling social issues for a more ethical industry. The article is an interview with the owner (02 Sep 16).

Indonesia Fashion Chamber launches ethical fashion movement: The Indonesian Fashion Chamber is to hold an International Ethical Fashion (IEF) event in November, including a fashion expo, fashion shows, talk shows and seminars aimed at raising awareness on ethical fashion. The event will present approximately 250 ready-to-wear fashion and accessories brands, which are eco-friendly and fair trade (Sep 16).

Fair trade hijabs: Fashion Hijab takes unused fabric from Chinese textile mills destined for landfill and turns it into hijabs (05 Sep 16).

The Supply Chain

Cambodian government revises factory closure data: After the public denunciation of the government’s claim that apparel factory numbers in the country were stable, the Ministry of Commerce last week reclassified over 120 inactive garment and footwear factory entries as closed or suspended during the first quarter of 2016, adding weight to “the view that manufacturers are pulling out of Cambodia due to rising wages and a relatively unproductive, restive workforce” (31 Aug 16). In related developments, the ILO released its Cambodian Garment and Footwear Sector Bulletin last week (see here - PDF) saying Cambodia “will remain in a precarious position unless global brands significantly raise the prices they pay to manufacturers, or the sector sees a sharp increase in productivity” (31 Aug 16).

Cambodian garment workers strike: 1,000 workers from the Garbotex Trading Company factory in Takeo province moved their protest into the town centre and blockaded a street demanding that the town authorities assist in their dispute for better conditions (03 Sep 16).

Sacked garment workers in Phnom Penh demonstrate: Hundreds of sacked workers from the Dongdu Textile factory in Phnom Penh have been protesting outside the labour ministry office demanding that the government intervene and secure the reinstatement of 800 sacked employees (03 Sep 16).

Cambodian unions reveal garment minimum wage goal for 2017: A group of independent and government-affiliated garment worker unions has informed the Ministry of Labour they plan to target a new minimum wage of about $180 for the Kingdom’s key export industry. The new figure, which was identified in a letter delivered to the ministry on Friday, represents a nearly 30 per cent increase from the current $140 (05 Sep 16).

Bangladeshi labour rights activist Kalpona Akter wins award: Kalpona Akter, a former child worker and now an activist for garment workers’ rights in Bangladesh, has been honoured with the Alison Des Forges Award for Extraordinary Activism for 2016 by Human Rights Watch. The Awards is named after Alison Des Forges, an American historian and human rights activist (01 Sep 16).

Bangladesh EPZ workers satisfied with facilities and labour rights, says minister: Tofail Ahmed has said that the working environment in EPZs is very good and suggested that workers in such zones are getting higher salaries and other facilities than non-EPZ workers. He asserted this at the opening ceremony of Remi Holdings Limited, a garments factory with a LEED Platinum Certificate with the highest score (05 Sep 16).

Accord terminates business links with Fresh Fashion Wear: The Accord on Fire and Building Safety In Bangladesh has announced the termination of business links with Fresh Fashion Wear due to the supplier’s failure to implement workplace safety measures (22 Aug 16).

Training on fire safety inspection begins in Bangladesh: A two month-long training course on electrical safety inspection in factories started last week with an aim to reduce fire incidents in the country’s industrial sector, especially in readymade garment factories. 315 inspectors, mostly from fire service department, garment sector, trade bodies and the government’s labour inspectorate, are participating in the programme (04 Sep 16).

Electrical short circuits main cause of fire in Bangladesh apparel factories: 75 per cent of fires in the country's ready-made garment (RMG) industry are electrical in nature, said a top official of Bangladesh Fire Service and Civil Defence Department (BFSCD) (03 Sep 16).

553 apparel factories face Accord wrath in Bangladesh: The Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety has warned 553 readymade garment factories of termination of business relations on charge of non-cooperation with its programmes and slow progress in remediation (04 Sep 16).

Labour department to sue non-compliant factory again in Myanmar: The government is planning to sue the Korean-owned Hla Won Htet Tha garment factory again, claiming that the owner has failed to pay his 85 workers, a labour official said (05 Sep 16).

Man electrocuted in Indian garment factory: A 24 year old man died of electrocution after being drenched in rain on the way to work and working at a faulty sewing machine. He worked as a tailor in Orient Craft Limited (31 Aug 16).

(Image, Cosmic Timetraveler, CCO)