Brands and retailers

Men probing Ivanka Trump brands in China arrested, missing: A man investigating working conditions at a Chinese company that produces Ivanka Trump-brand shoes has been arrested and two others are missing, the arrested man’s wife and an advocacy group said Tuesday. China Labor Watch Executive Director Li Qiang said he lost contact with Hua Haifeng and the other two men, Li Zhao and Su Heng, over the weekend. By Tuesday, after dozens of unanswered calls, he had concluded: “They must be held either by the factory or the police to be unreachable” (31 May).

India’s new cattle laws threaten a $5.6 billion industry that supplies to Armani and M&S: India’s recent move to ban cattle slaughter could be bad news for the country’s massive leather exports business. On May 27, the environment ministry notified a clampdown on the sale and purchase of cattle (including cows, bulls, buffaloes, bullocks, calves, heifers, steers, and camels) at animal fairs and livestock markets. The move is likely to cause a shortage of raw material and impact the supply chain for India’s Rs37,688 crore ($5.6 billion) leather export business that counts Marks and Spencer, Inditex (owner of Zara), Mango, Kenneth Cole, and Armani, among others, as key buyers (30 May).

Sustainable K-fashion finds fans in Korea as Seoul designers adopt eco-friendly strategies: South Korea is already the home of fast fashion that’s bold and bright, and now a group of designers have banded together to turn heads with a sustainably produced ‘slow’ fashion collection, Wear Grey (29 May).

Ashoka and C&A Foundation launch social impact fund for apparel industry innovators: Ashoka and C&A Foundation have launched a new €250,000 'Scaling Impact Fund' as part of their joint Fabric of Change initiative supporting social innovation in the apparel industry. The fund, launched last week at the Fabric of Change 'Globalizer' Summit in Bangalore, India, will award financial support to participating social entrepreneurs – Ashoka Fellows – to facilitate transition from scaling up strategy planning to strategy implementation. A total of €250,000 has been allocated to the C&A Foundation Scaling Impact Fund (26 May).

Zara and H&M back in-store recycling to tackle throwaway culture: Britain alone is expected to send 235m items of clothing to landfill this spring, the majority of which could have been re-worn, reused or recycled. Major retailers are coming under pressure to tackle the waste. In response, brands including H&M and Zara are stepping up in-store recycling initiatives, which allow customers to drop off unwanted items in fashion “bins” in high-street shops. Adidas and luxury group Kering – the owner of brands including Alexander McQueen and Gucci – agreed at this month’s Copenhagen Fashion Summit to set 2020 targets for garment collection (26 May).

Global Brands, NGOs, and The Prince of Wales Unite for Sustainable Cotton: Last week in London, thirteen of the world’s most renowned clothing and textile companies signed up to a sustainable cotton communiqué, through which they have pledged to use 100% sustainable cotton by 2025. The pledge was the result of a high level meeting attended by HRH The Prince of Wales and organised by The Prince’s International Sustainability Unit (ISU) in collaboration with Marks & Spencer and The Soil Association. The brands are: ASOS, Eileen Fisher, Greenfibres, H&M, IKEA, Kering, Levi Strauss & Co., Lindex, M&S, Nike, Sainsbury’s, F&F at Tesco and Woolworths Holdings (26 May).

UW demands Nike allow labour investigators unprecedented access to sweatshops: The University of Washington will cut its contract with Nike unless the apparel giant allows independent labour investigators unprecedented access to the factories in which its clothes are produced. In an internal letter, UW President Ana Mari Cauce said that she is “prepared to let the contract lapse” with Nike to produce UW-themed apparel unless Nike requires its supplier factories to give on-demand access to the Worker’s Rights Consortium (WRC), an investigatory and advocacy group (26 May).

Whitenife unveils the world’s largest digital ethical gifting platform, transforming India’s gifting industry: Whitenife, founded by Sonia Agarwal Bajaj, leads the fast-growing gifting industry, with its new technology platform that showcases over 500+ eco-friendly & socially empowering gifts suitable for all special occasions. The company aims to use the power of gifting to empower communities and conserve the environment by promoting the concept of ethical gifting. Associated with 65+ brands & NGOs, Whitenife extends its support to a spectrum of socio-environmental causes such as education, women empowerment, animal cruelty, fight against hunger, environmental degradation, water pollution, social development & disease control (25 May).

Three apparel brands in Gartner’s 2017 Supply Chain Top 25: Gartner released findings from its annual Supply Chain Top 25 last week, identifying supply chain leaders and highlighting their best practices. Making the list were Inditex (#3), H&M (#5) and Nike (#8). On the “CSR component score” the scores were, respectively, 10, 10 and 6 (25 May).

Asics to release supplier list and develop energy efficiency: In its recently released 2016 sustainability report, Asics says it expects to double its total use of renewable electricity in Europe, with the result that renewable sources will account for 10% of the company’s total global electricity usage. Furthermore, the company plans to conduct energy efficiency audits in its most energy-intensive locations and implement efficiency improvements where necessary. In addition, the company will also publicly disclose which suppliers it partners with in the manufacturing of Asics, Asics Tiger and Onitsuka Tiger footwear, apparel and accessories (24 May).

Wrangler ventures into sustainable cotton farming with pilot program: VF Corp’s Wrangler announced it is launching a cotton pilot program along with a special denim collection to draw awareness to improving soil health and sustainability in cotton growing practices (24 May).

Stella McCartney talks about sustainability: “I can say what I believe in and give valid reasons for not killing billions of animals a year in the name of fashion, talk about water consumption and inefficiency, and how ridiculous and old-fashioned I think the system is. But if I don’t have a healthy business to back me up, then I can only have that conversation for a certain period of time” (24 May).

Levi’s announces more than $350,000 to fund future apparel leaders: Levi’s has announced it is granting more than $350,000 to the inaugural class of LS&Co. Collaboratory fellows who are working to create a more sustainable apparel industry. The funding will go towards new approaches and innovations in the apparel supply chain. Projects include expanding a natural indigo dyeing facility, creating products that are less water-intensive and making wastewater treatment solutions more accessible to small artisan workshops (24 May).

When “Made In China” means sustainable, ethical, and expert: A wave of fashion start-ups are looking to Chinese factories that treat workers well and churn out top-notch products. “Les Lunes, a fashion label headquartered in Paris and San Francisco, makes its clothes in a factory in the Qingpu district, on the outskirts of Shanghai. If you happen to drop in on any given weekday, you might find the seamstresses’ children playing in a little nursery set up for them. At lunchtime, workers gather in a sunlit room to eat and chat. Many are close friends, having worked in this factory together for decades. They visit each other’s families during Chinese New Year. When someone is out sick, co-workers stop by that person’s home with hot food. It’s a world away from the typical image–and reality–of factory life in China” (24 May).

Chinese designer shows high-end customers how to dress green: As the luxury industry continues to place increasing emphasis on sustainability in the fashion ecosystem, China is also witnessing a wave of innovative ‘green’ initiatives in its high-end fashion circles. From Zhang Na’s made-to-order upcycled garments, to Shanghai Tang’s capsule collection featuring recycled luxury fabrics, Chinese designers are hoping to pique consumers’ interest in the eco-friendly fashion movement (23 May).

Global Brands Group bans angora across its controlled brands: PETA has reported that Global Brands Group, which controls Frye, Juicy Couture, Spyder, Aquatalia, David Beckham, Jennifer Lopez, Jones New York, Buffalo, Joe’s, Rosetti, and Kathy Van Zeeland, has committed to banning angora wool (23 May).

The ugly problem of pretty packaging: Brands like Glossier and Net-a-Porter are heavily invested in beautifying e-commerce, providing shoppers with brightly covered boxes, ribbons, and other cutesy delights that make the purchase feel extra special. Whimsical packaging has even ignited a popular, albeit strange, genre of unboxing on YouTube and Instagram. But at what expense do these extras come? And is any of it even worth it if it ends up in the trash 20 seconds later? (23 May).

Vivobarefoot partners with Bloom to make the first-ever moulded shoe, made from algae: London-based barefoot shoe company Vivobarefoot has announced its partnership with San Diego based Bloom, which uses algae biomass harvested from freshwater sources around the world (and cleaning them up in the process) to make EVA foams out of a non-fossil fuel for the first time. One pair of Men's shoes, made with Bloom's patented algae technology, returns 57 gallons of clean water to the habitat; reduces 40 balloons worth of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere (23 May).

H&M says working to improve labour conditions in India, Cambodia factories: H&M has said it was collaborating with trade unions, government as well as the U.N. to improve workers’ conditions after a study found violations in supplying garment factories in India and Cambodia. The study by the Asia Floor Wage Alliance (AFWA) found workers stitching clothes for H&M in factories in Delhi and Phnom Penh faced problems such as low wages, fixed-term contracts, forced overtime and loss of job if pregnant (21 May).

Reports, Guidelines and Standards

Your organic cotton t-shirt might be worse for the environment than regular cotton: Your organic cotton t-shirt may have actually used up more resources to produce than one made of conventionally grown cotton, and could have a greater overall impact on the environment. One major reason, as various speakers pointed out at a May 23 panel held by Cotton Inc., a research group that serves the cotton industry, is that conventional cotton varieties have a higher yield, meaning a single plant will produce more fibre than its organic counterpart. That’s because conventional cotton has been genetically engineered for that purpose. In the past 35 years, cotton yields have risen 42% (pdf), largely due to biotechnology and better irrigation techniques (28 May).

5 sustainability threats facing fashion: 1. Cost of raw materials; 2. Labour disruption; and more (25 May).

The future of fashion? For U.S. graduates, it’s all about sustainability: For the first time ever, the CFDA is presenting a showcase of graduates of five fashion schools in the United States under one roof. Deemed the CFDA Fashion Future Graduate Showcase, the event was created in partnership with NYCEDC culls together top talents from Parsons School of Design, the Fashion Institute of Technology, the Pratt Institute, the Academy of Art University, and the Rhode Island School of Design at midtown’s Center415 (24 May).

First ever audit of forest-based fabrics: Canopy has announced the release of the CanopyStyle Audit, the first ever comprehensive, third party audits of a global viscose and rayon producer to assess their risk of sourcing from the world’s endangered forests (24 May).

Cotton 2040 initiative promotes sustainable cotton: The Cotton 2040 initiative has been designed by Cotton Australia to drive change in cotton supply chains by taking collaborative cross-industry action so that more sustainable cotton becomes a mainstream commodity. The organisation met the stakeholders across the cotton supply chain in Berlin to progress the work of the Cotton 2040 initiative (23 May).

Will clothes companies do the right thing to reduce microfiber pollution? Synthetic fibers are polluting the world’s oceans – but a new report shows how apparel companies have been far too slow to respond. Can they change their ways? (13 May).

Africa Sourcing & Fashion Week to focus on sustainability: The central theme of the upcoming Africa Sourcing & Fashion Week is “Sustainability in Clothing”. From 3-6 October 2017, a conference running parallel to the trade fair will discuss the themes that are currently dominating the textile industry (05 May).


Lenzing announces new eco-friendly fibre: The Austrian speciality fibre-maker Lenzing will soon be launching EcoVero, a viscose with the lowest environmental impact in the industry. According to Robert van de Kerkhof, chief commercial officer and a board member at Lenzing, the new viscose fibre would be based on three pillars: use of sustainable wood resources, an ecological production process and a 100 per cent supply chain transparency (29 May).

Toxic waste pollute two rivers in Bangladesh: There are about 1,500 yarn dyeing and processing factories at over a dozen weavers' villages beside the two rivers in Kalihati Upazila (about 75 kilometres northwest of Dhaka). Many of them have been releasing untreated toxic waste into the rivers, defying the factory act. Few have effluent treatment plants despite the factory law requiring it (29 May).

NGT allows reopening of textile units in Rajasthan: The National Green Tribunal has allowed the conditional reopening of 578 textile units in Rajasthan’s Pali district that had been shut for the last eight months for flouting pollution norms. The Jodhpur bench of the tribunal, comprising Justice Jawad Rahim and member B.S. Sajwan, permitted the reopening of these industries, engaged in dyeing and printing of cloth, after the unites gave an assurance that they would comply with any direction passed by the tribunal (27 May).

Chinese manufacturing moves to Africa: “Labour costs in China have risen … Helen Hai, the prime mover behind Huajian shoe factory outside Addis Ababa, said that 85 million Chinese jobs are being relocated. This includes 20 million in textiles and garments. The Chinese textile worker is now earning about US$700 per month” (26 May).

Kingbird introduces Oeko-Tex Standard 100 Certified yarns and threads: Kingbird, a yarns and threads manufacturer in China, has introduced Oeko-Tex Standard 100 Certified yarns and threads as part of the company’s commitment to adhere to all global quality standards (26 May).

EU textile colourant standards toughened: The European Committee for Standardization (CEN) has updated the standards for determining restricted aromatic amines derived from azo colourants in textiles. The two updates are linked to prohibitions on the use of azo colourants in textile and leather articles that may come into contact with human skin or oral cavities (25 May).

Arvind presents sustainable clothing at SAC annual meet: With an aim to promote sustainable clothing, India’s leading lifestyle and fashion conglomerate, Arvind Limited showcased its eco-friendly garments at the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC) annual member meeting in Bangalore. The display included sustainable collection of products by Arvind such as denim, tops and khadi clothes among others (24 May).

Sympatex closes the loop with 4.0 functional jacket: The material basis of the jacket is a 100% recycled laminate from the current Sympatex portfolio. The membrane’s production waste is completely reused via the Sympatex pre-consumer recycling consists of 100% polyether-ester and is produced in a completely climate neutral way just like the textiles. The 100% recycled outer fabrics and linings consist of polyester fibres certified by GRS (global recycled standard) and bluesign®. Compared to 1 kg of oil-based polyester fibres, the production of 1 kg of recycled polyester fibres guarantees an excellent life cycle assessment: 32% CO2 reduction, 60% energy savings and 94% less water consumption. Instead of 60 litres, only about 3 litres are needed (23 May).

The Supply Chain

Garment industry facing subcontracting threat, says ILO: Cambodia’s garment factories appear to be ramping up their use of subcontractors, which tend to get the least attention from regulators and raise the most fears of abuse among labour rights groups, according to a report released on Monday (30 May).

Bangladesh factories don't follow standards for work-hour, study finds: Factories in Bangladesh follow some core labour standards of the International Labour Organisation, but they do not properly follow the non-core standards for minimum work-hour and workplace safety, a study finds. Germany-based organisation Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) and Bangladesh Institute of Labour Studies (BILS) jointly conducted the focus group study between October last year and May 2017 by interviewing workers and the unionists (30 May).

Hundreds of factory workers collapse in Bangladesh heat wave: At least 400 employees at eight garment factories fell sick due to scorching heat at Konabari and Kashimpur in Gazipur last week (26 May). Another report claimed, “Panic broke out in more than a dozen factories in Bangladesh's capital as hundreds of garment workers fell ill in a heatwave, forcing the plants to close (26 May).

CPP asks employers to give workers day off to vote: The ruling Cambodian People’s Party has asked all employers to allow their employees sufficient time off next month to ensure that they can vote in the June 4 commune elections. “The CPP encourages all companies, owners of factories to give workers and their staff, particularly those registered to vote in the commune elections, appropriate time off so that they may have a chance to cast their votes,” a letter from the ruling party says (25 May). In follow up news, The National Election Committee (NEC) has also urged factory owners and other employers to provide adequate time off for workers who need to travel to vote in the elections, though a Labour Ministry spokesman said most had the day off already (26 May).

Underpaid labourers choose to work overtime: A survey by the Vietnam General Confederation of Labour (VGCL) conducted in March and April on 2,500 workers revealed that labourers work overtime for the extra money, not because they want to (25 May).

Workers to enjoy freedom of association in Bangladesh EPZ: Workers in the Mongla Export Processing Zone will be able to elect their representatives through forming Workers Welfare Association, which can work like trade unions to establish workers’ rights (24 May).

Governments, agencies review progress on labour rights, trade in Bangladesh: The governments of the European Union, the United States, Bangladesh, and Canada met with the International Labour Organization (ILO) to review progress made in improving worker rights, health, and safety in Bangladesh, four years after signing on to the “Bangladesh Sustainability Compact” after the Rana Plaza factory disaster. Meeting on 18 May in Dhaka, Bangladesh, the event marked the third formal “follow up” to the Bangladesh Sustainability Compact, which aims to address concerns over working conditions (24 May).

Egypt’s Labour Ministry steps in to solve issues affecting 265 workers: The Ministry of Labour has ordered the head of the labour force in Ismailia to negotiate with the administration of a garment company in the Free Zone of Investment in the province to disperse the sit-in of 265 workers and hand over late payments (25 May).

Private initiatives encouraged for safer RMG factories: The partners of the Sustainability Compact have encouraged private initiatives to remain engaged with the government and renew their commitments to work for safer RMG factories in Bangladesh during the coming years (22 May).

(Image, Miguel Mateo, CCO)