GoBlu Special Report

Managing tuberculosis in the Chinese supply chain: This week, GoBlu presents an exclusive case study from Inno in China that provides lessons on dealing with tuberculosis in the Chinese supply chain. The case highlights the necessity of having procedures in place to i) ensure worker safety, and ii) safeguard public health. The case involves a major Chinese supplier to a luxury brand (neither of which are named). If you source from China, then you should read this report (984 words) (17 May).

Brands and retailers

Patagonia's new clothing uses Archroma EarthColors dyes: Archroma, a colour and specialty chemicals company headquartered in Switzerland, has announced its latest collaboration with Patagonia. Patagonia’s Clear Color Collection has selected EarthColors, a range of dyes synthesised from agricultural waste by Archroma (16 May).

Nike, H&M join Circular Fibres initiative promoting circular economy: The Ellen MacArthur Foundation, a U.K. charity founded in 2010 to promote and support the circular economy announced last week the launch of a Circular Fibres Initiative aimed to support such innovations in the fashion industry. Nike and H&M are the “core corporate partners” in the effort (15 May).

Westfield minimizes textile waste with recycling program: Westfield has partnered with I:Collect – a reputable global provider that handles the recycling and reuse of clothing, shoes and textiles – for its Refashion the Future initiative, with the goal of cutting down on landfill waste while preserving valuable materials that are otherwise recyclable (12 May).

Reformation’s fight against toxic denim: Reformation’s Kathleen Talbot estimates environmental savings in Reformation’s “Cropped Cigarette” jean. Manufacture of the garment releases four pounds of carbon dioxide and takes 170 gallons of water. The industry standard is 1,435 gallons of water and 32 pounds of carbon to make a similar garment. “Doing eco denim remains a tough venture, Jeff Shafer said. He is founder and chief creative officer for denim brands Agave and Bluer. “Ecologically sustainable denim is a bit like saying ‘clean coal.’ It’s better, but better is just a tiny improvement,” Shafer said” (11 May).

Gearing up for a circular fashion system: The organisers of the Copenhagen Fashion Summit have asked the global fashion industry to come together and work towards the adoption of a circular economic model. This call to action has already been co-signed by some of fashion’s biggest and most influential businesses, including Adidas, Kering, H&M and Target (11 May). [See story immediately below for a contrary opinion by Greenpeace.]

How NOT to make the fashion industry more sustainable: “This year's Copenhagen Fashion Summit is focusing on “circularity” – an industry buzzword that promises relief to the problem of limited resources within one of the world’s most resource intensive industries. In 2015, the fashion industry consumed nearly 80 billion cubic meters of fresh water, emitted over a million tonnes of CO2 and produced 92 million tonnes of waste. The Summit admits that the industry has a disastrous environmental impact and that we face “increasingly higher risk of destabilising the state of the planet, which would result in sudden and irreversible environmental changes” … While their focus on circularity sounds promising, it’s simply not enough. Industry leaders rarely talk about the real solution: reducing the overall volume of production. All their talk about sustainable investing and innovative new materials and technologies comes under the assumption that the industry continues to grow. But unlimited growth is impossible on a planet with finite resources” (11 May). [From the Greenpeace blog.]

Sustainable gym clothing line inspired by the Vikings: Descended from Odin is produced using 100 per cent eco-friendly and sustainable materials. The office is also powered by renewable energy, and 10 per cent of clothing sales are donated to environmental charity Whale and Dolphin Conservation (10 May).

Adidas and Nike join Planet Textiles line-up: High profile representatives from Nike and Adidas will be speaking at this month's Planet Textiles event in Bangalore, organised by MCL News & Media, the publisher of Knitting Trade Journal. The question of implementation of clean textile technology in the dyeing and finishing sectors will be a major focus of a special breakout session at the forthcoming event, which takes place on 24th May. Moderated by James Carnahan, Head of Sustainability at Swiss textile chemicals supplier Archroma, the session will how the textile industry can accelerate implementation within the textile value chain (10 May).

Walmart looking into note found recounting forced labour in China: Walmart said last week that it is looking into the origins of a note describing forced labour conditions in China that a customer claimed to find in a purse bought at a store in Arizona. The note detailed long hours, beatings and malnourishment of workers at a prison in the Chinese region of Guangxi, according to the customer's family who contacted local media (10 May).

H&M joins global effort to boost energy productivity: H&M has joined a global campaign encouraging influential businesses to commit to doubling energy productivity. It said that by 2030, the company was planning to build future stores using 40 per cent less energy per square meter compared to those built today (09 May).

How fashion retail is cleaning up its supply chains: Four years on from the Rana Plaza collapse, Drapers looks at what steps have been taken by fashion retailers to prevent a similar disaster and how once secretive supply chains are being opened up. Brands named include: H&M, Asos, Uniqlo, Patagonia, Stella McCartney, Nike, and Finisterre (09 May).

Emma Watson and sustainability on Instagram: “The white Burberry off-the-shoulder gown is crafted from 100% organic silk,” Watson wrote. “It’s created using traditional techniques in an Italian workshop where female artisans, some of whom started as apprentices, represent 80% of the workforce” (09 May).

Reports, Guidelines and Standards

The sewbots are coming! An American ‘sewbots’ start-up has become the symbol of a new industrial revolution in garment manufacturing. What does the rise of automation mean for the business of fashion and the wider world? (16 May).

Ethical Fashion Forum launches sourcing database: The Ethical Fashion Forum has announced that it is launching a new online sourcing database that promotes sustainable firms. Announced at the Copenhagen Fashion Summit, the new online platform named ‘Common Objective’ aims to be an intelligent business network that matches fashion professionals with suppliers, buyers, experts, and resources, to help them to succeed sustainably (15 May).

Is ‘pleather’ really any better for the environment? ‘“There are two reasons that any product impacts the environment; that is the impact of the manufacturing process, and the impact the waste product has,’ says Lauren Withers, an Environmental Scientist working in the water quality space on the Great Barrier Reef, QLD, Australia. Most fake leathers are made from some kind of plastic, and the two most commonly used – polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and polyurethane – are also two of the worst. PVC is made with highly toxic ingredients, like chlorine and petroleum, and neither of these products are environmentally sustainable to extract or refine” (14 May).

No, Cato Institute, sweatshops are not feminist: “Chelsea Follett wrote the most incredible piece for The Hill the other day. I can’t believe it’s real, and I’ve read it about a dozen times. Follett is the managing editor for Human Progress, which is the salesman face of the libertarian, globalism-peddling Cato Institute. Cato is a project of the Koch Brothers. Just when I think the far right has lost their power to surprise me, they arrive with an offering like this: “The feminist side of sweatshops.” It’s 754 words, but everyone is just a gem” (12 May).

At Copenhagen Summit, turning sustainability commitments into action: “If we had to go to yet another conference where we hear pledges, promises, discussions on what it will look like, we will all become old before it actually happens” (13 May).

Miroslava Duma launches Fashion Tech Lab with $50 million to invest: Miroslava Duma is setting up a hybrid venture that is part investment fund, accelerator and experimental laboratory to commercialise new technologies and sustainable innovation for the fashion industry. The new venture that funds, connects and develops cutting-edge technologies and sustainable innovation with the aim of transforming the fashion industry. Investment targets will focus on the fields of materials science, biotech, nanotechnology, wearable electronics and high–performance fibres and fabrics (12 May).

€1.35 to double garment worker wages: New research claims it would cost just €1.35 to double the wages of people producing t-shirts that retail for €25 each. The research claims it is time for the global apparel industry to “re-balance its industry economics,” in order to improve the lives of millions of textile industry workers by ensuring they receive a fair and equal wage. “There is a long journey ahead before reaching that target, but brands are well-positioned to start the journey today,” claims report by The Global Fashion Agenda, in collaboration with The Boston Consulting Group. (09 May – subscription required to read full article). You can see the full GFA/BCG report here (PDF).

China proposes new textile chemical restrictions: China’s National Consumer Product Safety Standardisation Technical Commission has conducted a public consultation for a proposal to restrict chemicals in consumer goods, including textile and apparel products. If approved, the draft standard will propose limit values for 103 chemicals which are used in a wide range of consumer products, drawing on similar restriction guidelines to those set out in the EU's REACH Annex XVII. The welcome move offers further evidence that China is placing environmental regulation and sustainability issues at the heart of its latest five-year economic growth and development plan (09 May – subscription required to read full article).


Canopy launches partnership with circular economy producer CRAiLAR: NGO Canopy has announced that natural fibre producer, CRAiLAR Fiber Technologies International Inc., has a launched a leading-edge policy. CRAiLAR is one of a growing number of solutions technology enterprises in the textile and nonwovens supply chain and a leading innovator in its commitment to only source agricultural residues. In using agricultural residue fibres to make the next generation of fabrics, CRAiLAR offers eagerly anticipated options for brands and retailers seeking sustainable alternatives to fabrics currently made from ancient and endangered forests (10 May).

Launch of first 100 per cent recycled permanent odour control technology at fibre level: Polygiene have developed a new type of yarn together with Sinterama, the European leader in polyester yarn production. Polygiene’s Permanent Odour Control Technology is added to 100 per cent recycled fibre “Newlife”, opposed to standard topical application of odour-control in the yarn and fabric finishing stages (09 May).

Twin Dragon introduces new eco initiatives for denim: California-based Twin Dragon Marketing Inc. has introduced several new environmental initiatives for 2017 for the company’s denim facilities in Mexico and Asia. “After three years of development, we are proud to introduce pre-reduced liquid indigo and eco-finishing, which, when used together, has achieved an 85 per cent reduction in environmentally hazardous chemical discharge, which could become the new gold standard in the denim textile industry,” said Dominic Poon, chief executive officer of Twin Dragon, in a company statement (04 May).

The Supply Chain

Bangladesh launches Remediation Coordination Cell to ensure garment industry safety: Launched in Dhaka on Sunday, the RCC is supported by the International Labour Organization (ILO) with funding from Canada, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. It will focus on managing the remediation process for garment factories under the Bangladesh government’s National Initiative. The new unit will be staffed and supported by seconded members of regulatory bodies, including the Department of Inspections for Factories and Establishments, Fire Service and Civil Defense, RAJUK, Chief Electrical Inspector and Public Works Department. They will be supported by private sector engineers hired to provide technical expertise for remediation follow-up (15 May).

Cambodian garment factory workers protest unpaid wages: About 300 garment workers in Kandal province’s Ta Khmao Town blocked the street in front of their factory for two hours on Friday last week after their employer failed to pay them their wages. Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union vice president Prack Chanthorn said workers of First Gawon Apparel took to the streets after their employer did not pay them their April wages, which were due on Friday (15 May).

Only 4.9 per cent of Vietnamese workers spend unemployment benefits on vocational course: A speaker from the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung foundation has noted that only 4.9 per cent of labourers spent their unemployment benefits on vocational training courses. He emphasised the need to raise labourers’ awareness as a lack of skills will make many of them face unemployment in the next 10 years when the Industrial Revolution 4.0 kicks in (12 May).

Progress in Bangladesh under Sustainability Compact is fantastic, says EU: The Sustainability Compact, which promotes improvements in factory safety and labour rights in Bangladesh's ready garment manufacturing industry, has made fantastic progress, according to the European Union (EU). The third review meeting of the Compact is slated to be held on May 18 in Dhaka to discuss what needs to be done in the near future (12 May).

Union says Cambodian garment workers need time off to vote: An independent union has urged the National Election Committee to ask the Labour Ministry to grant garment workers two additional days off to vote in the upcoming commune election. Cambodian Labour Confederation (CLC) president Ath Thorn sent a letter to the NEC on Tuesday asking that workers be given leave on June 3 and June 5 to return to their respective provinces to vote during the June 4 election (11 May).

Marking the anniversary of the landmark agreement on workers' safety in Bangladesh: The first ever legally binding supply chain agreement to address critical building safety concerns – the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety – was signed between global trade unions and some of the world’s most powerful fashion brands four years ago. As we mark the anniversary of the Accord, Clean Clothes Campaign, one of the witness signatories, takes stock of progress made and looks to the future (11 May).

Nigerian workers threaten nationwide strike over minimum wage, pension: The National Union of Textile Garment and Tailoring Workers of Nigeria (NUTGTWN), an affiliate member of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), issued the threat in Kaduna on Thursday. Alongside John Adaji, General Secretary of the union and Vice President IndustriALL Global Union, Issa Aremu called on the Federal Government to urgently constitute a committee on the review of the current national minimum wage (11 May). See more here.

Bangladesh’s garment industry Child labour and options: “…it would appear that Bangladesh’s garment factories are using child labor (particularly that of young girls) more pervasively than even the most sensational media reports suggest” (11 May).

Bangladesh PM calls workers to take care of mills: Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina last week called for workers to be more sincere in keeping mills and factories, which made arrangements for their butter and bread, operational. The Prime Minister, while distributing cheques among successors of the workers who killed in accidents or died, also urged the factory owners to be more sympathetic to the workers and look their wellbeing (11 May).

‘Locals have become too aware of their rights’ explains why Bengaluru garment factories are hiring migrants: “About 80% of garment workers in Bengaluru have always been from rural areas, but now there are more interstate migrations. In the past five years, the fashion industry’s requirements for cheaper and faster labour have prompted garment companies to focus on rural India – by recruiting migrant workers from distant villages in eastern and central India, and relocating Bengaluru factories to villages in South India” (09 May).

Extend Accord’s tenure with conditions, says BGMEA: Bangladesh garment makers want an extension of the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh’s tenure by three years to see through the factory remediation works that the international retailers agency set in motion, but under certain conditions. One of the conditions for extension of the tenure is inclusion of representatives from the government, the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association, buyers, International Labour Organisation and labour federation in the steering committee of the Accord (09 May).

Dhaka forum on apparel sustainability 17 May: An event on the sustainability issues of apparel industry titled 'Sustainable Apparel Forum (SAF)' is being held in Dhaka today. The theme is ‘Making Sustainability Easier' and consists of an opening session and four knowledge sessions: saving water, resources and cost; energy efficiency, green factories and sustainable financing (09 May).

Committee finds police excesses during Indian garment workers’ protest last year: A fact-finding report by the People’s Union for Civil Liberties-Bengaluru (PUCL) and the Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS) has found police excesses during the garment workers’ protest in April last year. The leaderless protest that erupted in the garment hub of Bommanahalli, Peenya and Jalahalli in the city after the Centre’s decision to prevent garment workers from withdrawing their employers’ contribution to Provident Fund was quelled with police brutality and illegal detention of women, the report released last week stated (08 May). You can see the full report here.

(Image, Falco Negenman, CCO)