Brands and retailers

VF Corp tackles deforestation, human rights issues in supply chain: VF Corp, the company behind such popular brands as Wrangler jeans and Timberland boots, is adopting sourcing policies to eliminate products that contribute to deforestation and human rights violations, it said on Monday. The new policies, which affect its sources of wood pulp, come amid strong demand for performance wear that uses wood-based rayon and viscose fabrics, said Letitia Webster, VF vice president of global corporate sustainability (27 Feb).

Top brands to join Bangladesh Apparel Summit: After announcements last week (see last week’s FSWIR) that top global fashion brands would boycott the Dhaka Apparel Summit beginning 25 February in protest at the persecution and exploitation of garment workers, the BGMEA on Friday 24 February confirmed their participation. A press release from the BGMEA reads that the confusion created by media reports about top brands pulling out of the summit has been cleared up and participation by all the global brands expected to join the summit was confirmed (25 Feb). H&M, Inditex (Zara), C&A, Next and Tchibo, which account for billions of dollars in annual garment purchases from Bangladeshi manufacturers, announced last week that they would not participate in the summit as a mark of protest against the arrest and harassment of workers. “But, finally we changed our decision as the government assured us that steps will be taken for the release of the detained workers and worker leaders, who were arrested at Ashulia for their alleged involvement in labour unrest in December last year,” said a top official of a major brand (Retailers finally take part in apparel summit, 26 Feb).

H&M plans proper pay structures, worker committees in garment factories by 2018: H&M said last Tuesday it planned to have elected committees and proper pay structures for workers in its main supply factories across the world by 2018 in a bid to curb labour exploitation. Elin Astrom, head of H&M’s Sustainability Program in India, said the clothing firm was aware of the exploitation of workers in the garment industry and was working on several initiatives with its main suppliers to improve worker conditions (22 Feb).

Beyond Retro launches bag collection made from discarded prison/army uniforms: The company’s latest range of bags are made with materials that usually would go to landfill, the limited edition range uses elements of surplus army, prison uniform and original carharrtt workwear garments (22 Feb).

Outerknown partners with Ocean Conservancy to launch the #ITSNOTOK campaign, an evergreen giveback program: In Spring 2017, sustainable menswear brand Outerknown will launch #ITSNOTOK, a transformative, evergreen giveback program designed to bring awareness to environmental issues all over the world. #ITSNOTOK is a call to action, an opportunity to give the community a unified voice, and become part of the solution to solve global problems. The first priority is cleaning up the ocean (21 Feb).

Reports, Guidelines and Standards

From social entrepreneurs for incentivising sustainable fashion: “As a former employee of a large fashion company, María Almazán believes intrapreneurs – people who want to drive change from inside organizations – are key to the transformation process. “There are changemakers in every organization,” she says. “They are not doing it to get rich but to change the industry. Because the ideas they introduce may sound alien at first, they need tools and evidence to show their peers how it can be done”” (28 Feb).

Fake fashion fuels vast illicit profits, sea of human misery: Annual trade in fake products is worth around 2.5 percent of total global trade, or about $18 trillion, with the money fuelling organised crime, terrorism and the trafficking of drugs, people, sex and wildlife. “Consumers may see fakes as ‘fun’ and feel clever to buy sunglasses or sneakers that look like the real thing but cost a fraction of the price. The reality, however, is anything but fun for the workers, many of them children, who toil in appalling, often slave-like conditions in secret factories making fake products for gang bosses who, Stryszowski says, ‘have no ethics and no respect for the law.’ It’s this human cost that makes counterfeit goods one of the most insidiously dangerous criminal activities in the world today” (28 Feb).

Indonesia’s textile boom pollutes a river: The rise of fabric and textile manufacturing brought jobs to Indonesia’s West Java province. It also brought abject pollution to the Citarum River (considered one of the world’s most polluted waterways, contaminated by factory effluent, sewage and trash) (23 Feb).

Italy launches ‘Green Carpet’ fashion awards: Italy’s top luxury designers will go head-to-head to snap up the title of “greenest” brand as the sector gets on board with the latest trend: eco-friendly fashion. The national fashion chamber has joined forces with sustainability brand consultancy Eco-Age to launch the “Green Carpet Fashion Awards”, which will be held in Milan’s iconic Scala opera house (23 Feb).

Grow your own clothes: With the help of a biologist, British researcher Suzanne Lee has started developing a new method of material production called BioCouture that uses bacteria to grow a fabric. The procedure is quite simple: she brews up to 30 litres of tea and adds a couple of kilos of sugar while it’s still hot. Then she adds acetic acid. With proper thermoregulation, she gets a layer of a thick fabric in two or three weeks that has to be dried properly, since most of its mass is water (22 Feb).

Tiny plastic particles from clothing, tyres clogging oceans, says report: A report by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) says invisible particles washed off products like synthetic clothing constitute a significant part of the “plastic soup” clogging our waters, accounting for between 15 and 31 per cent of the estimated 9.5 million tonnes of plastic released into the oceans each year (22 Feb). You can download the full report here (PDF).

ILO says one third of Uzbek cotton pickers “non-voluntary”: A report by the International Labour Organisation on Uzbekistan’s 2016 cotton harvest has found that reducing the risk of child and forced labour remains a “prominent issue.” The report estimates that around a third of the 2.8 million cotton pickers believed to be involved in the annual harvest were “non-voluntary” (21 Feb – subscription required to read full article).

Consumers now prefer sustainable brands, says Canadian designer: There has been a significant rise in the number of consumers opting for sustainable clothing, according to Canadian designer Morgan Mallett, who is known for charting new aesthetic territory through various innovative processes. A drift has also been observed in the consumer preference with the increasing demand for sustainable garments (21 Feb).

SAC chief: going circular “isn’t enough”: The switch from a linear to a closed loop business model might not be enough to mitigate the ongoing negative environmental impacts of the global textile industry – that’s the view of Jason Kibbey, CEO of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (17 Feb – subscription required to read full article).


Downlite awarded Global Recycled Standard (GRS) certification: In its ongoing commitment to sustainability and environmental stewardship, Downlite, a major down and feather processor and supplier of responsibly-sourced performance fills to the outdoor, home furnishings and hospitality markets, has received the stringent Global Recycled Standard (GRS) certification, which will be offered under its new 100% recycled re/charged down (27 Feb).

“RethinK or die!” Arguing that the textile industry must reconsider the way it uses raw materials, Michael Schragger, the CEO of The Sustainable Fashion Academy, gave a talk at the ISPO ACADEMY titled “Innovation & Sustainability: Rethink or Die!” (21 Feb).

Indian textile units without water: About 60-odd textile dyeing and printing mills at Sachin GIDC are on the verge of closure following acute shortage of water for the last two months. Forget about running the mills, thousands of workers employed in the mills are not even getting water to drink (21 Feb).

US sock maker finds fresh opportunities in organic market: Locklear (the daughter of the founder of Emi-G Knitting) took her organic-sock concept to her parents, Terry and Regina Locklear, in 2008 and convinced them that was the future of the company. A year later, she created the Zkano brand and, three years after that, the Little River Sock Mill brand. Both use organic cotton and the socks are made through sustainable manufacturing processes (16 Feb).

The Supply Chain

Myanmar should regulate labour unions to help attract more Chinese investment: Over the weekend, some Chinese netizens vented their anger over an incident in Myanmar, in which hundreds of local strikers attacked a Chinese garment factory and briefly detained seven Chinese employees. The Myanmar government needs to restrict the power of local labour unions according to relevant laws to better protect foreign investors' legitimate rights (28 Feb).

GMAC requests sit-down on proposed Cambodian pay changes: The Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia has requested a meeting with the Ministry of Labour for employers to air concerns about a proposed bi-monthly payment schedule for workers floated by Minister Ith Sam Heng this month as a way to protect workers in the event of factories going bankrupt (27 Feb).

Myanmar sets up new committee to revise minimum wage: The Government of Myanmar has set up a new committee, replacing an existing body, to study and revise the minimum wage in the country. The current minimum wage of K3,600 (US$ 2.62) per day was set by the previous government in September 2015. The new committee includes financial experts, ministries and representatives from labour and employer groups (27 Feb).

Analysts call for decent working conditions in garment sector: Analysts called for ensuring decent working conditions and allowing trade unions for sustainable development of the $28 billion garment industry in Bangladesh. They made the call at a discussion at the daylong Dhaka Apparel Summit 2017 (26 Feb).

Remediation costs a factory US$614,000, says Bangladesh survey: Remediation costs a garment factory $614,000 on an average, according to a new survey. Bangladesh University in collaboration with the State University of San Francisco carried out the survey and prepared a report titled “Pains and gains of the readymade garments sector: Post 2013” (26 Feb). You can watch a video on a roundtable discussion on “Pains and Gains of the Readymade Garments Sector: Post 2013” here (26 Feb).

Bangladesh PM Hasina calls on brands to help renovate factories: Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina yesterday urged international clothing brands to help factory owners overhaul their facilities. She made the call at a clothing summit in the capital Dhaka aimed at improving the apparel supply chain in what is a vital sector for the local economy. “Various brands and buyers can come forward to assist Bangladeshi factory owners as a huge fund is required for the factories to be overhauled,” she said at the meeting organised by the garment factory owners (25 Feb).

Minister orders factory closure in Jordan after alleged abuse of guest workers: Labour Minister Ali Ghezawi on Thursday ordered the closure of a garment factory in Irbid for violations against its workers. According to a statement e-mailed to The Jordan Times, the plant in question was found in violation of the Labour Law. Last week, guest worker advocacy groups accused the garment factory of violations that they said could involve human trafficking offences (25 Feb).

China protests assault on Chinese garment factory in Myanmar by local workers: The Chinese embassy in Myanmar has lodged a protest with the Myanmar authorities following an assault by striking workers on a Chinese-invested garment factory, in the latest major security incident linked to Chinese investment in Myanmar. The diplomatic protest came a day after hundreds of striking workers attacked the factory in Yangon, detaining seven Chinese staff members and taking away their belongings, Xinhua news agency reported on Friday last week (24 Feb).

US Congress members write to Bangladesh PM to release labour rights leaders: Eleven members of the United States Congress led by Representative (Democrat-Illinois) Janice Schakowsky have written a letter to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina asking her to “personally intervene” and release the union leaders and workers who were arrested in December last year during RMG workers’ protests demanding an increase in their minimum wage (24 Feb).

Sacked garments workers in Dhaka to get back job, says minister: State minister for labour and employment M Mujibul Haque on Thursday said the workers, who were sacked following the labour unrest in the garment factories of Ashulia in December last, will get back their jobs. “We’ve taken some decisions at a meeting with the leaders of garment workers and Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) following the recent incidents of Ashulia,” he said in a press conference at his ministry (23 Feb).

Comment piece on exposure of labour abuses in Myanmar factories: “Someone recently commented to us that humans are ‘low risk and high profit’ and, after having read recent press reports about the shocking working conditions allegedly subsisting in Myanmar garment factories, this statement sadly rings true” (22 Feb).

Not paid for 2 months, Indian garment workers protest: Hundreds of workers at a garment export factory in Noida staged a protest last week, claiming that the company shut down without paying them their salaries for two months. The workers of Ivory Clothing protested for an hour and disturbed traffic movement as they blocked the road in front of the company office (22 Feb).

(Image, NASA, CCO)