Brands and retailers

H&M Foundation pledges over $20 million to education, clean water and women’s empowerment: A new three-year partnerships with UNICEF (Education), WaterAid (Clean water) and CARE (Women’s economic empowerment) build on the achievements and learnings made in the previous Global Programs which ended in January 2017. With this new pledge, the total donation since 2014 to the Global Programs is $41 million (23 May).

Germany’s Hakro joins CmiA initiative: Hakro, supplier of clothing for corporate fashion, work, leisure and sport, has recently signed a partnership agreement with Cotton made in Africa (CmiA) and will be buying CmiA-certified cotton in the future (18 May).

Ivanka Trump faces criticism from labour-rights group: Ivanka Trump’s apparel brand is facing criticism from a labour-rights group for relying on Chinese factories that it says force some employees to work long shifts at the equivalent of about a dollar an hour. The non-profit organisation China Labour Watch said it investigated two Chinese factories that produce goods for Ivanka Trump’s brand (18 May).

Levi Strauss Foundation pledges $1 million to protect marginalized communities: The Levi Strauss Foundation is giving $1 million in grants specifically toward supporting organizations that protect the civil liberties of highly vulnerable communities across the United States and abroad, including immigrants, refugees, the transgender community and religious minorities (17 May).

Max Mara and the Woolmark Company create 100 per cent wool denim line: Italian fashion house Max Mara and the Woolmark Company have joined forces to develop a wool denim line as part of Max Mara’s autumn/winter 2017 collection. The yarn was dyed with ecological methods (17 May).

H&M fair living wage strategy update: “One of our goals is to make sure that factory employees are represented by trade unions that can negotiate collectively. We offer trainings to the factories on workplace cooperation, negotiation skills, collective bargaining and labour law.” 290 factories are enrolled in workplace dialogue and industrial relations programs; more than 370,000 factory workers are directly covered by democratically elected worker representation through the programs; the programs are run in Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Ethiopia and India (17 May).

Adore Me launches scholarship program for women in business: Lingerie company Adore Me has announced a new scholarship program to support women pursuing a business education (17 May).

Parsons x Kering Empowering Imagination finalist talk sustainability: Parsons x Kering Empowering Imagination design competition finalist Valerie Grapek talks about sustainability: “I source my materials using Kering’s Environmental Profit and Loss methodology, which allows me to make informed decisions on materials based on their environmental impact. I like using this approach because it supports the idea that sustainability should be ingrained within fashion, not separate from it. We shouldn’t just have certain collections revolving around sustainability, we should always be sustainable, in a way that still supports our own personal aesthetic and design decisions” (16 May).

Columbia to link up with UK National Parks: On Tuesday 23rd May, Columbia Sportswear and the UK’s National Parks announced an official 5-year partnership, the first of its kind. The partnership will see Columbia work with each of the 15 UK National Parks to help enhance the quality and usability of the Parks for now and for future generations whilst also providing staff, rangers and volunteers with apparel and footwear. Money saved from outfitting staff being made available to fund important park projects (15 May).

Reports, Guidelines and Standards

BEPI and myclimate Foundation partner to fight CO2 emissions in supply chains: The Business Environmental Performance Initiative (BEPI), a business-driven initiative supporting supply chain environmental performance improvements globally, announces today a new partnership with myclimate Foundation – a Swiss initiative working for effective climate protection – aimed to further support its participating companies in their efforts to measure and mitigate carbon emissions in their supply chain (23 May).

Better Work partners with Fair Wear Foundation on factory compliance initiatives: Better Work and Fair Wear Foundation are joining forces to improve garment factory working conditions worldwide. The partnership, which is set to start its 18-month pilot on June 1, will coordinate factory assessments, streamline factory capacity building and improvement processes, and facilitate cooperation opportunities for brand partners. With the agreement, both organizations will be able to engage diverse groups, including brands and unions, and encourage effective worker-management communication at garment factories. Engaging new European brands and smaller brands will benefit Better Work, while Fair Wear Foundation will gain access to Better Work’s compliance data (22 May).

The eco guide to unusual materials: Fabrics such as cotton come at a dear cost to the environment. Look for progressive alternatives made from pineapples, eucalyptus, even mushrooms. Included are winners of the Plug and Play – Fashion for Good venture, recently held in Amsterdam to support low-impact innovations for the fashion industry, had a distinctly mushroomy flavour. These include MycoTex, a mushroom textile and Amadou, a “leather” made from the skin of amadou mushrooms (21 May).

Nearly half of all retail jobs could be lost to automation within 10 years: Between 6 million and 7.5 million retail industry jobs are vulnerable to automation within ten years, according to an exhaustive study released this week. The report, by Cornerstone Capital Group, concluded that the jobs of as many as 47% of the 16 million Americans currently working in retail could be made redundant by highly-automated e-commerce and other innovations. In-store roles most vulnerable to automation include cashiers and order clerks while salespeople and freight handlers are slightly less exposed (21 May).

Ryerson University launches first open access fashion journal: The Ryerson Centre for Fashion Diversity and Social Change is launching the first open access fashion journal in the trans-disciplinary field of fashion, in an effort to make fashion research and creative work more accessible to educators, students, policymakers, industry, media and the general public. The journal will cover such topics as: fashion and equality; fashion and the environment; fashion inclusion and representation; fashion, identity and the body; fashion and political change; and indigenous fashion (17 May).

IWTO addresses wool and sustainability: Current life cycle assessment tools fail to properly take into account the sustainability credentials of wool, according to speakers at the 86th International Wool Textile Organisation (IWTO) Congress (16 May – subscription required to read full article).

Ethical shopping is nearly impossible: Plenty of people boycott restaurants or gas stations they don’t agree with. Why is it so hard to do the same for stores? “There is not a single retailer out there that can definitively claim that they really understand their complete supply chain” (11 May).

Blockchain from farm to finished garment: London-based designer Martine Jarlgaard has launched a new pilot initiative that uses blockchain technology – a distributed and secure ledger – in a bid to enable both transparency and trust around her collections (10 May).

Interview with Berrye Worsham, CEO, Cotton Inc.: In a wide ranging interview on cotton, cotton subsidies, GM cotton and environmental issues, Cotton Inc. CEO Berrye Worsham argues that to effect real change, it would be preferable to have one environmental label, "rat”her than 101” (10 May – subscription required to read full article).


New “dating site” for safer chemistry: Chemical producers such as Clariant, Chemours and Valspar are working with environmental NGO ChemSec to raise the visibility of alternatives to hazardous chemicals, via the Marketplace – a website aimed at progressive companies looking to future-proof their chemicals management (17 May).

Jeanologia wants to make Bangladesh’s denim industry sustainable: Jeanologia, which is participating in the Bangladesh Denim Expo in Dhaka, makes sustainable technology that increases the competitiveness of production centres available to the Bengali textile industry by automating garment finishing processes (16 May).

Georgia town sues alleged polluters: The Gadsden, Georgia, Water Works and Sewer Board in Centre is suing carpet and textile mills over water pollution in the Coosa River. The lawsuit is against carpet and textile companies, manufacturers and chemical suppliers of PFCs that attorneys contend are responsible for polluting the city’s water supply (15 May).

Lenzing takes eco a step further: The producer of Tencel, the closed-loop cellulosic fibre made from eucalyptus-tree pulp, has a new eco-friendly fibre. Austrian fibre maker Lenzing has introduced a new fibre made from cotton scraps and wood. (11 May).

The Supply Chain

Textile workers in Ghana reject government’s stimulus package: The Textile, Garment and Leather Employees Union (TGLEU) has rejected the stimulus package being offered by government to textile companies to help revive the industry (21 May).

US urges Bangladesh to adopt ILO proposal on EPZ labour law: The ILO recommended removal of the portions of the draft EPZ labour law referring to freedom of association. “We firmly believe that this proposal from the ILO is a reasonable and practical suggestion, and represents an improvement on the current draft, said the US Ambassador in Dhaka Marcia Bernicat. She said other labour rights concerns continue to include the harassment of labour leaders, which reached a tipping point following the Ashulia unrest, as well restrictions on freedom of association, including union registration (20 May).

350 garment workers go on strike in Myanmar: Over 350 garment workers from the Join-Profit garment factory Industrial Zone (3) of Hlaing Tharyar, launched a strike on May 17, asking for labour rights as factory officials had committed violations, say strike workers (19 May).

Cambodian garment workers keep up wages protest: More than 600 garment workers from a factory in Kandal province’s Ta Khmao town blocked a road for a second time last week in bid to force their employer to pay their wages. Workers of Gawon Apparel first took to the streets two weeks ago, after their employer failed to hand over their April pay, which was due that day. Prack Thanthorn, vice president of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union at the factory, said between 600 and 700 workers gathered to block road 21A in front of the factory (18 May).

Effectively investigate and prosecute unfair labour practices, says Sustainability Compact: Acts of discrimination against trade unions and unfair labour practices need to be addressed in a timely and transparent manner in order to ensure workers’ rights, said Sustainability Compact members. Members also called for promoting Responsible Businesses Conduct (RBC) and a uniform code of conduct for factory audits in Bangladesh (18 May).

Germany to provide €7m grant for Bangladesh garment sector: Germany will provide seven million euro in grants aimed at enabling an effective utilization of credit, promote worker safety and improve environmental standards in the country’s Ready Made Garments (RMG) factories (17 May).

Aditya Birla Nuvo textile unit workers on strike: Workers of Aditya Birla Nuvo group firm Jaya Shree Textiles in West Bengal have gone on a strike, which the company has termed as illegal. Workers at Jaya Shree Textiles at Rishra, Hoogly, have gone on an illegal strike from May 16, Aditya Birla Nuvo said in a BSE filing. The company, however, did not disclose the reason behind the strike. Jaya Shree Textiles is engaged in the manufacturing of linen yarn, linen fabrics, worsted yarn and wool tops. (17 May).

EU should use review to push for workers’ rights and freedom of association in Bangladesh: Clean Clothes Campaign has criticised the Sustainability Compact between Bangladesh, the European Union and the International Labour Organization on the occasion of the third annual review: “Despite optimism voiced by the EU, Bangladesh is still far from meeting its international labour rights' commitments and taking concrete steps enshrined under the Compact. A striking example is the wave of repression which the Bangladeshi labour movement has faced since December 2016. Clean Clothes Campaign calls upon the EU, as well as brands, national governments and other stakeholders, to maintain pressure on the Bangladeshi government to improve labour conditions and comply with the Compact's demands” (17 May).

Documentary on poverty in Indian sweatshops: Alessandra Mezzadri, a Senior Lecturer in Development Studies, SOAS, University of London, has a long article about textile and garment workshops in India, of which one focus is to introduce a documentary by Rahul Jain. Called Machines, it is set in a textile factory in Surat, Gujarat, India (17 May). You can see a trailer here.

Businesses should ask themselves how they affect children: The Myanmar Centre for Responsible Business (MCRB) stresses that the voices of children need to be heard when firms and Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) consultants assess social impacts of projects (16 May).

Women workers in India criticise German garment manufacturer for anti-worker activities: Around 300 workers from Slam Clothing factory in Mahindra City, Kanchipuram district, mostly women including tailors, operators, checkers, helpers and housekeeping went on strike for four days demanding arrears based on a 2014 minimum wage notification, annual increment and their social security (16 May).

How Ethiopia’s nascent apparel industry can build a strong, empowered workforce: During the scoping study for BSR’s new report, “Ethiopia’s Emerging Apparel Industry: Options for Better Business and Women’s Empowerment in a Frontier Market,” the HERproject team interviewed buyers, foreign investor suppliers, government, donors, and female workers – who represent nearly 90 percent of the Ethiopian apparel workforce – to identify factors that will support inclusive growth. We learned that while Ethiopia is considered a frontier market with favourable demographics, low production costs, and promising long-term growth prospects, the industry needs to address a number of challenges. While interventions are needed in several areas, within the factory walls, three key challenges emerged: recruitment, productivity, and retention (12 May). You can download the full report and executive summary from here.

(Image, Mike Wilson, CCO)