BRANDS AND RETAILERS

Levi’s CEO Chip Bergh reinvents an American original: Levi’s has seen success with innovative product and emotionally connecting with customers, with Chip Bergh including the company’s ideas about “profits through principles” (25 Oct – free subscription required to read article).

Nordstrom puts a charitable spin on sustainable fashion this fall: Nordstrom is partnering with ‘Give Back Box’ to allow customers to donate their old or unwanted clothes and accessories to local nonprofit organizations, via mail. The service, which will be completely free for shoppers, works by encouraging Nordstrom online customers to save the boxes their order is delivered in, and fill it with any clothing, shoes, accessories or small household items they would like to donate (25 Oct).

Apparel Impact Institute Launches to accelerate environmental impacts in apparel and footwear industry: The Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC), the Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH), Target, PVH Corp., Gap Inc. and HSBC and others join to advance projects with significant environmental and social promise (24 Oct).

Patagonia: sustainability pioneer presses on: 44-year-old Patagonia has stayed the course with a mission that uses business as the tool to drive environmental responsibility. Includes this quote from Rick Ridgeway: “The apparel industry collectively is responsible for a huge part of the impact on the environment, but it’s going in the right direction” (24 Oct – requires free subscription to read full article).

Nike’s focus on robotics threatens Asia’s low-cost workforce: Since 2015, Nike has been working with Flex, a high-tech manufacturing company, to introduce greater automation into the otherwise labour-intensive process of making a shoe. Flex’s facility in Mexico has become one of Nike’s most important factories, responsible not just for a growing slice of the company's production but also for a string of innovations to be rolled out across Nike's supplier base, such as laser-cutting and automated gluing. For Nike, the shift to greater automation has two huge attractions. By driving down costs, it could lead to a dramatic improvement in profit margins. It would also allow the company to deliver new designs more quickly to fickle, fashion-conscious customers at a premium (23 Oct).

Louise McCabe (Asos): “Sustainability cannot be an external part of a business organisation”: On 12th October, in Paris, Louise McCabe, Director of Corporate Social Responsibility at UK fashion retailer Asos, presented the third 'Asos Made in Kenya' collection, created in collaboration with African ethical apparel manufacturer Soko. It was the opportunity for McCabe to talk to FashionNetwork about the challenges and obstacles faced by fashion brands, as they move in the direction of sustainable development and social responsibility (20 Oct).

How Marks & Spencer are leading the way in sustainable fashion with their new £149 recycled wool 'Swhop' suit: To coincide with Wool Week, M&S have just launched a recycled wool blend suit made from 55% recycled wool. But what makes it all the more special is that it includes wool customers have donated in stores through their Shwopping initiative with Oxfam (20 Oct).

FLA accredits Adidas, Patagonia and Outerknown: The Fair Labor Association (FLA) has announced the accreditation of three social compliance programs developed by Adidas, Patagonia and Outerknown to uphold fair labour standards in their supply chains. All three companies were recognized for their innovative work in pursuit of the FLA's mission to improve workers' lives worldwide, and their adherence to the FLA's Principles of Fair Labor and Responsible Sourcing (19 Oct).

New study commissioned by Stella McCartney reveals lighter environmental footprint for fibres sourced from flax and recycled clothing: A ground-breaking Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) commissioned by Stella McCartney comparing the environmental performance of ten different raw material sources of manmade cellulose fibre (MMCF) had concluded that the choice of raw material input is key to determining the environmental profile of MMCF. While none of the ten raw materials or global sourcing scenarios was environmentally preferable across all impact categories, MMCF made from Belgian flax emerged as favourable across a majority of the impact categories, followed by viscose produced from recycled clothing. The study, by SCS Global Services can be accessed here (19 Oct).

H&M does not destroy usable clothing: H&M has responded to claims last week that it was incinerating useable clothing. “For H&M to send our products for incineration is very rare, it’s only done when they not fulfil our safety regulations (if they are mould infested or do not fulfil our strict chemical requirements). We are puzzled why some media is suggesting that we would destroy other products than those required. There is absolutely no reason for us to do such a thing” (19 Oct). See an article here from Racked, which says: “Whether or not this is true, clothing brands have made a practice of destroying unsold product in the past – including H&M, which has made a concerted effort to brand itself as an environmentally responsible company in recent years” (20 Oct).

H&M is first brand to join ChemSec Marketplace: H&M is the first downstream company to sign up to NGO ChemSec’s online marketplace for safer alternatives. The platform, launched in May, allows chemical manufacturers to advertise safer alternatives, allowing downstream users and brands to search for and buy substances (19 Nov). See additional story on ChemSec below in Manufacturers.

Veja trainers are a lesson in ethical fashion: Veja manufactures in Brazil because there was a good supply of wild rubber, organic cotton and factories where 80 per cent of workers are unionised and pay is above minimum wage. They approached the business as though the raw ingredients were bananas or Fairtrade coffee beans, working directly with 320 cotton farmers using agro-ecology methods that combine rows of diverse crops ensuring minimal soil erosion. They pay their cotton farmers twice the market rate (19 Oct).

Kering launches “My EP&L on China’s WeChat: On October 14, Kering announced the launch of  a mini program named “My EP&L” on WeChat, which teaches users how to use its signature environmental impact measurement tool to calculate the environmental impact of the luxury goods they have purchased (18 Oct).

Target commits to new climate policy, science-based target-aligned sustainability goals: Following a recent commitment to source 100 percent sustainable cotton by 2020, Target has introduced a new climate policy and Science-Based Target Initiative-aligned goals aimed at reducing its carbon footprint. By 2025, the company intends to reduce its absolute Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions below 2015 levels (18 Oct).

Inditex and the ILO reinforce partnership on labour practices in garment industry: Inditex’s Chairman and CEO, Pablo Isla, and the Director-General of the International Labour Organization, Guy Ryder, held an executive meeting in Geneva in which they explored the progress made to date on the initiatives Inditex and the ILO are collaborating on in China, India, Brazil, Indonesia, Turkey and Cambodia, among other countries (18 Oct).

Target seeks to boost supply chain transparency through automated inspections: Target has announced it will conduct factory inspections that allow for more speed, better quality and greater transparency by teaming up with technology start-up Inspectorio. “The normal time that it would take for an inspection report to be generated, a corrective action plan to be triggered and then the communication back and forth to get an action plan on average would take six to seven days. With our system, in worst case it would be down to three days” (17 Oct).

Canali to close factory, dismiss 134 employees: Italian men’s wear company Canali has begun dismissal procedures for 134 employees working in the label’s factory in Carate Brianza, a one-hour drive from Milan (17 Oct).

Can H&M reposition itself with Arket? With the launch of Arket, H&M seems to be moving away from its fast fashion image and relying more on quality and sustainability (17 Oct – in German).

Esprit sets sustainability goals: Esprit’s 2016/17 Sustainability Report released last week has outlined the company’s priorities:  “More broadly, we at Esprit aim to move into a leadership position regarding sustainability. We will source 50% of our cotton from more sustainable sources by 2021, a challenge for a brand that uses predominantly cotton; We will rethink our buying practices and align them with our goal of supporting a living wage in manufacturing regions; We will require all of our suppliers to publish wastewater data publicly by the end of April 2018; We will continue to improve conditions in factories through our environmental auditing program; we will incorporate the Higg Index Facility Environmental Module as a tool for improvement (13 Oct).

REPORTS, GUIDELINES AND STANDARDS

The Woolmark Company joins forces with the Fashion Tech Lab for innovation award: The Woolmark Company has partnered with the Fashion Tech Lab for a new prize. Twelve finalists that will be chosen for the Innovation Award powered by Fashion Tech Lab, which will be given to the collection with the most innovative and creative wool fabrication, process or development. The winner will exemplify the most exciting approach to help reduce its social and environmental footprint (24 Oct).

How technology is shaping the future of sustainable fashion: Some of the most exciting developments in fashion aren't happening on the runway; they're happening in the lab: bacteria-produced dyes, lab-grown leather, kelp-based textiles, synthetic spider silk, and chemistry-driven recycling (23 Oct).

Fashion brands ‘failing to heed warnings on viscose production’: Leading firms have committed to source the garment fibre from sustainable forests, but are paying less attention to widespread environmental damage from toxic chemicals used in its production. Ethical Corp takes a look at greener alternatives (23 Oct).

Implications for UK Reach registrations in ‘no deal’ Brexit: “With no transitional deal or other arrangements in place, chemicals trade with the EU could be thrown into chaos as UK companies’ Reach registrations would no longer be valid, regulatory lawyers have warned. This is because the registrations are for EU-based companies. Elizabeth Shepherd, a partner at law firm Eversheds-Sutherland said last week: “On exit, any Reach registrations held by UK entities would no longer be valid” (19 Oct).

Clean Clothes Campaign says new evidence reveals EU Action on Bangladesh labour rights abuses long overdue: In a white paper released last week and sent to the European Commission, Clean Clothes Campaign, the International Trade Union Confederation, the European Trade Union Confederation, IndustriALL Global Union and UNI Global Union provide clear evidence that, despite signing a “Sustainability Compact” with the European Union four years ago, the Government of Bangladesh remains in violation of this Compact, failing to make vital reforms required to ensure its garment industry complies with core international labour standards (18 Oct). You can see the white paper here, called The European Union and the Bangladesh garment industry: the failure of the Sustainability Compact. Factories mentioned in the report include: the Azim Group (Savar Sweaters and Orchid Sweater Limited), Haesong Corporation, Linktex Sportswear, Grameen Knitwear Ltd.

Why Southeast Asia’s rising minimum wages could push workers out of factories: Minimum-earning workers throughout Southeast Asia have successfully gained higher base pays this year, pushing factories and manufacturing brands toward investing in the region or seeking a lower-cost solution (18 Oct).

Amsterdam to host responsible denim event: Fashion for Good has announced it is set to host Long Live Denim!, an event that will enable brands to gather and discuss the progress made by the two-year long Alliance for Responsible Denim (ARD) project, which has recently passed its half way point (13 Oct – subscription required to read full article).

Eco-fashion’s animal rights delusion: In this exploration of the hidden stories behind materials such as wool and rayon, silk and polyester, and vegan leather, Alden Wicker – a frequent writer, blogger, and speaker on sustainable fashion – finds some inconvenient truths for the animal rights movement (particularly in relation to PETA) (12 Oct). See also Vegan fashion is not always eco-friendly (18 Oct).

Chinese scientists discover fungus that breaks down plastic: Researchers at the Kunming Institute of Botany have found a fungus that could potentially help us to address the problem of non-biodegradable plastics. The fungus is able to break down waste plastics in a matter of weeks that would otherwise persist in the environment for years (13 Sep).

MANUFACTURERS

A&E launches recycled sewing thread: American & Efird (A&E), one of the world’s foremost manufacturers and distributors of industrial and consumer sewing thread, has announced the product launch of a new recycled, air-entangled, polyester sewing thread, Magic using REPREVE, which is made from recycled plastic bottles (18 Oct).

25 polluting textile units in India lose power: The Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board has forced an order to disconnect electricity to as many as 25 textile printing and washing units responsible for discharging untreated chemical effluents (18 Oct).

DBL Group championing green production methods: Investment in energy-efficient production technologies pays off in due course – be it in terms of lower electricity and water bills or lesser carbon emissions. Take the case of DBL Group, one of the leading garment exporters in Bangladesh, which embraced green methods in a big way and is now reaping the benefits. Between 2013 and 2014, the company invested $2.4 million to upgrade its facilities, and got the returns within six months, according to its Managing Director MA Jabbar (17 Oct).

Quantifying the impact of textiles innovation: Liz Manning, Business Development Manager at Catexel, believes water scarcity and management of wastewater are pressing issues. She says, “If the effluent from the dyeing process is not dealt with properly it can cause serious environmental problems when released back into the system.” The article also cites Aquitex and Archroma (17 Oct).

Chemical companies in the textile industry joins ChemSec’s Marketplace: An NGO platform is increasing visibility of safer chemicals in the textile sector. NGO ChemSec launched the Marketplace this spring – a web-based platform where chemical companies can advertise safer alternatives for downstream users and brands. Huntsman, DyStar and Chemours are among those who have joined the initiative (11 Oct).

THE SUPPLY CHAIN

Tamil Nadu garment workers suspended after protest: Fourteen workers from the Celebrity Fashions garment factory in the MEPZ-SEZ at Chennai were suspended on 14 October following a protest by factory workers the day before demanding a 20 per cent increase in the annual bonus and reemployment of their suspended union leader. The factory employs over 2,000 workers (21 Oct).

Dhaka garment workers locked out: Workers at the Apparel-21 garment factory in Gazipur, Dhaka, were locked out on 15 October following their demonstration outside the factory the day before. They were demanding the reinstatement of a sacked worker (21 Oct).

Cambodian factory workers protest against contract offers: Workers from the Pou Yuen Cambodia garment factory protested last week outside the premises after the management decided to offer them only three-month contract extensions (20 Oct).

Myanmar workers live in shadow of poverty: A report by the Myanmar Times has discovered that with limited income, no proper access to healthcare, exposed to health hazards at workplace and absence of safety net if they lost their jobs, thousands of factory workers struggle to eke out a tough life (20 Oct).

Bangladesh Labour law to be amended by November: The government is on course to amending the labour law within the stipulated timeframe of November, although a coalition of rights groups yesterday claimed the progress was very slow (19 Oct).

Accord, Alliance to leave Bangladesh next year: Accord and Alliance, the two western buyers' platforms working to improve workplace safety in Bangladesh readymade garment sector, will leave the country at the end of the tenure on 31 May 2018 if remediation of factory buildings is properly completed. The platforms reached consensus in this regard during a meeting with Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed in the capital last week (19 Oct). According to a report on 22 October, the Accord will get a six-month conditional extension after 31 May (see here).

ETI certification boost for the garment industry: Ethical Trading Initiative’s (ETI) recognition of the Cambodian garment industry’s efforts at social compliance is a sign the sector is swiftly moving in the right direction, said a senior official of the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC) (19 Oct).

Cambodian Labour Ministry says it will scrap clauses from law: The Labour Ministry has announced that it will scrap a contentious clause from a proposed minimum wage law that would have prevented any independent research into the annual negotiation process, as well as the draft labour dispute resolution law (17 Oct).

Union wants Nigerian government to address poor textile wages: The General Secretary of National Union of Textile Garment and Tailoring Workers of Nigeria (NUTGTWN) has urged the government to hasten implementation of increased workers' wages in the country (17 Oct).

North Korean factory workers in China repatriated: According to a source, there were approximately 5,000 to 7,000 North Korean workers at various factories involved in clothing, refrigerators, and food processing (etc.) in Dandong City alone. But the Chinese government has recently advised factory owners to terminate their contracts with North Korean workers. As a result, some Chinese factories have heeded the warning and are sending their North Korean workers back home (09 Oct).

(Photo by Gaetano Cessati on UnsplashCCO)

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