Brands and retailers

H&M supply factory in Myanmar damaged in violent labour protest: Workers have destroyed a production line of a Yangon factory making clothes for the Swedish fashion chain, in a month-long dispute over conditions and benefits. Workers demanding better conditions and benefits have destroyed the production line of a Chinese-owned factory in Myanmar making clothes for Swedish fashion retailer Hennes & Mauritz, in one of the most violent labour disputes in the country in years. The month-old dispute, which also saw managers attacked, highlights the need for Aung San Suu Kyi’s government to enact social and labour reforms, analysts say, while at the same time reassuring investors looking to tap the opening of one of the world’s fastest growing economies after decades of isolation (07 Mar).

Fast Retailing to eliminate hazardous chemicals by 2020: Fast Retailing aims to eliminate the use of hazardous chemicals across the entire lifecycle of its products by January 2020, says a company sustainability report. In order to meet the goal, the company headquartered in Yamaguchi, has also set stringent quality standards against current best practice guidelines (07 Mar).

Patagonia and The North Face are saving the world, one puffer jacket at a time: “The North Face and Patagonia are both wrestling with a more consequential paradox, one that is central to contemporary consumerism: we want to feel morally good about the things we buy. And both companies have been phenomenally successful because they have crafted an image that is about more than just being ethical and environmentally friendly, but about nature, adventure, exploration – ideas more grandiose than simply selling you a jacket, taking your money and trying not to harm the earth too much along the way” (07 Mar).

McCartney pushes fashion industry on animal skins: Stella McCartney claims that fake leather is now as good as the real thing this week, and charged into the animal cruelty debate that dogs the fashion industry. With fur making a comeback on Paris fashion week catwalks, the British designer known for her label’s ethical principles showed coats and suits made with high quality synthetic suede and leather, which she dubbed ‘skin-free skin’ (06 Mar).

Retailers demand quick execution of tripartite agreement in Bangladesh: Representatives from a number of global apparel buyers and brands have requested the quick implementation of a tripartite agreement that includes releasing workers detained during strikes in December last year, and reopening of trade union offices in the Ashulia industrial belt. The request was made at a monthly meeting of the buyers’ forum, a platform for representatives of global apparel buyers and brands and leaders of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) (02 Mar). Workers were released shortly after the request: Calls to stop a government crackdown on trade unionists and garment workers in Bangladesh have paid off as the 35 activists who were arrested in a series of December raids have been released (06 Mar).

Patagonia celebrates sustainability and zero-waste initiatives: The company has embarked on a Worn Wear College Tour, highlighting college campuses with impactful sustainability and zero-waste initiatives. The tour includes a visit from a Patagonia garment repair truck, activities from sustainable on-campus organizations, and a talk about environmental activism (03 Mar).

Affordable, sustainable, and genuinely stylish sneakers from Allbirds: Allbird sneakers are made from New Zealand wool, they’re solidly priced at $95 a pop, and they have become the sneaker of choice for the Silicon Valley elite (02 Mar).

ALDI joins BEPI to step up chemical management: The ALDI North and ALDI South Groups have declared it their goal to increase the sustainability of their supply chains. For this reason, both discount retailers have now joined the Business Environmental Performance Initiative (BEPI). The move comes as the companies bid to step up their efforts towards reducing the chemical impact of their global supply chains’ operations (01 Mar).

Aldi publishes Detox progress report on textiles: German retailers Aldi North and Aldi South have published a joint Detox progress report that provides comprehensive insights into the development towards a responsible and environmentally compatible textile and shoe production. The company groups Aldi North and Aldi South have been supporting the detox campaign launched by Greenpeace since 2015 (01 Mar).

Uniqlo publishes names of nearly 150 suppliers: Fast Retailing has disclosed 146 garment factories that supply its Uniqlo clothing chain, following the lead of Western peers in responding to growing human-rights concerns. The Japanese casual clothing retailer released the names and addresses of suppliers in seven countries including Bangladesh and Indonesia. The list includes contractors with continued business relations, which account for more than 80% of order value (01 Mar).

What’s ahead for the Bangladesh garment industry? An interesting range of views expressed at a session titled, “Bangladesh Apparel Industry: Transformation and Road Ahead” held on the side lines of the Dhaka Apparel Summit a couple of weeks ago. Jochen Weikert, from GIZ, said that the apparel industry needs home grown solution to ensure its sustainability. Tim Worstall, from the Adam Smith Institute of London, told attendees, “Lets the market decide the price in this age of free market” (28 Feb).

Dillard’s recalls baby jackets due to choking hazard: Dillard’s has recalled about 1,800 units of the Starting Out Baby Girls 3-24 Months Faux-Fur Hooded Bear Coat with style numbers F64CI801I and F64CI801N. The coat is labelled for children aged 3-24 months and has metal snap closures. It is an ivory faux fur coat with animal ears on the hood. The “Starting Out” logo and style number can be found on the tag sewn into the garment (28 Feb).

Target installing solar power systems at five stores in Colorado: Target is installing solar power systems on five of its stores in the Denver metro area, its first in Colorado, the big-box retailer says. The Minneapolis-based company says that the solar power systems will generate about one-third of the power each store consumes (27 Feb).

Vaude focuses on ‘Made in Germany’: Vaude has moved into a new specialised production facility at its company headquarters in southern Germany. The new €2 million production plant is based on sustainable design principles, with natural wood and energy-efficient strategies to ensure a comfortable, healthy working space. Vaude’s ‘Made in Germany’ production is growing by about 20 per cent annually (24 Feb).

Reports, Guidelines and Standards

Fashioning a life behind bars in Panama: In a small room in a prison on the outskirts of Panama City, Kathia Thomas carefully presses the screen on a digital sewing machine to choose the colours and embroidery on her next item of clothing. Surrounded by other women, and by threads, patterns and a few religious images, Thomas, a 43-year-old mother of five children, is preparing the next collection behind bars (08 Mar).

Bangladesh acid survivors hit catwalk to fight discrimination: Survivors of acid attacks strutted down the catwalk at a fashion show in Dhaka Tuesday in an effort to stamp out prejudice against victims of these brutal assaults. Shonali Khatun, a 14-year-old student, who had her face reconstructed after being attacked with acid just days after her birth, led the charge down the runway wearing clothes designed by Bangladeshi supermodel-turned-designer Bibi Russell (08 Mar).

Was your feminist T-shirt made by factory workers in exploitative conditions? From “Feminist AF” to “Nasty Woman” merchandise, feminist fashion having a moment. But our thirst for cheap Instagrammable T-shirts and hats may have unethical consequences (07 Mar).

Cork fabric offers sustainable alternative to faux leather: Some designers view artificial leather as an environmental problem, such as Canadian-based designer Morgan Mallett. She recently introduced a sewless collection made of sustainable and ethically-sourced Portuguese cork fabric. Her inspiration for the collection was the material itself, which is tough, tear-resistant and waterproof, and also a way to avoid using faux leather, which contains microplastics (07 Mar).

Three quarters of all Leicester textile workers are exploited, claims politician: Between one-third and three-quarters of Leicester's textiles factories are exploiting workers, it has been claimed. The shock figures are what industry insiders told former Labour minister Harriet Harman MP during a fact-finding trip to the city. She heard from workers speaking anonymously, factory bosses and representatives of high street clothes chains who, she said, knew about people being paid less than half the minimum wage, sometimes making items destined for high street shelves (06 Mar).    

Plans to give councils in the UK new powers to stamp out sweatshops: Local councils could be given fresh powers to shut down sweatshops in Britain amid fresh reports that poor working conditions are rife in clothing factories (06 Mar).

Emma Watson requires eco-friendly test in choosing outfits: Watson has revealed that designers who wish to dress her on the red carpet must undergo a meticulous process which includes an eco-friendly test (05 Mar).

Fashion chains under pressure to smarten up their image: Negative media coverage has heightened fears in the retail sector that the public sees its factories and warehouses, the overseas ones especially, as nothing more than modern-day sweatshops (04 Mar).

Documentary River Blue takes on water polluting fashion industry: Producers Roger Williams, Lisa Mazzotta and Mark Angelo are bringing a water conservation message to a global audience after learning what was going on with manufacturing practices abroad. “What we saw in places like India, China, Bangladesh and Indonesia was beyond disheartening. People did not have any clean drinking water and the dyes used in the finishing of our clothing was polluting the water so heavily,” says Williams (04 Mar). See official trailer here.

Sustainability activist issues controversial charity claims: Ecoture brand manager Caitlan Clark claims less than half of clothing collection bins belong to legitimate charity recyclers. Clark claimed she was ‘shocked’ to discover a dark underbelly in charity bin collection, saying that many are fraudulently labelled collection points for commercial operators who sell “donated” items on the global second-hand clothing market (03 Mar).

IFC supports transformation of cotton sector in Uzbekistan: IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, is launching a new program in Uzbekistan in order to help cotton farmers improve their production efficiency, safeguard the environment, and improve labour practices. This program is part of an effort by IFC to accelerate Uzbekistan’s economic growth by modernizing one of the country's most important industries (03 Mar).

Meet the YEMS: Young, Ethically Minded Shoppers: A new breed of shopper is driving serious social change at Britain’s checkouts as brands take notice of the YEMS – that’s Young Ethically Minded Shoppers. Specialist online retailer has experienced significant growth over the past three years, which they put down to a growing number of young female shoppers who make their purchasing decisions based on moral grounds (02 Mar).

Global Organic Textile Standard update: The new version is a result of a comprehensive stakeholder input process in which various organizations with expertise in organic production, textile processing and social criteria participated. It follows the overall approach of GOTS to define high level verifiable environmental criteria throughout the entire processing chain of apparel and home textiles (including spinning, knitting, weaving, wet processing, manufacturing, and trading) made from a minimum of 70% certified organic fibres and requiring social criteria while still providing for a practical set of requirements that is technically achievable even in large scale industrial textile production and for mass market brands and retailers in order to achieve a considerable environmental and social impact in the textile industry (01 Mar).

Bihar’s toxic textile industry: The textile industry of Patwa Toli is polluting rivers and groundwater in the Indian state of Bihar, but businesses have failed to clean up their act claiming they provide essential jobs (01 Mar).

Human health concerns raised in textile pollution study: Researchers from the University of Jodhpur in the state of Rajasthan recently collected effluent samples from ten main industrial drainage sites in Balotra, a town which is famous for its dyeing and printing process industries, with around 5,000 units engaged in cotton and synthetic textile printing and dyeing. They found the heavy metals of iron, lead, zinc, copper, nickel and chromium to be present in “alarming concentrations” (27 Feb – Subscription required to read full article).

New wool life cycle assessment guidelines: The International Wool Textile Organisation has released a set of guidelines designed specifically for conducting life cycle assessments on wool products. Designed for use by life cycle assessment (LCA) practitioners, the Guidelines for Conducting a Life Cycle Assessment of the Environmental Performance of Wool Textiles provide clear direction for those interested in using LCA to understand environmental impacts across the wool supply chain (27 Feb).


Jeanologia shows sustainable solutions at ‘Denims and Jeans’: Jeanologia, a leader in sustainable and efficient finishing technologies for textile, coding, packaging, and other industrial applications based in Spain, presented the latest technology that increases competitiveness and sustainability in textiles at the ongoing 7th edition of Denims and Jeans, a leading denim show, in Dhaka (02 Mar).

Allied Feather & Down feathers now 100% cruelty free: The global supplier of down feathers to several filled product segments said it has become the first major down supplier to exclusively sell fully audited down that is free from live feather plucking and force-feeding of geese and ducks – in essence, the only major supplier providing 100% cruelty-free down (02 Mar).

Lenzing launches Tencel brand shop at ShopStyle: Lenzing, the Austrian company that makes Tencel fibres, has partnered with fashion search engine ShopStyle to open The Tencel Denim Shop. Tencel adds additional comfort and sustainability to denim. Tencel is made from wood pulp from sustainably harvested eucalyptus trees and is produced in a closed-loop manufacturing process at Lenzing plants in the U.S., the U.K. and Austria (23 Feb).

The Supply Chain

Bangladesh producing eco-friendly jeans: Bangladesh has 67 garments factories already that have the Leadership in Energy and Environment Design (LEED) certificates and around 220 garments factories are in the pipeline to get LEED certificates soon (05 Mar).

Plea to reverse suspension of Liberty Fashion factory: Liberty Fashion Wears Limited has reiterated its call to resume operations for the sake of 5,000 employees and family members. The export-oriented readymade garment (RMG) company also sought support and cooperation from stakeholders including government agencies, buyers and watchdogs in this regard. The company has been suspended since June 2013, following an ‘arbitrary’ report on workplace safety by the Tesco-deployed firm Medway Consultancy Services (MCS) (28 Feb).

(Image, Luca Bravo, CCO)