Brands and retailers

H&M, Zara and Marks & Spencer linked to polluting viscose factories in Asia: Major fashion brands are sourcing viscose from factories in China, Indonesia and India which are polluting and damaging health, according to new report. Investigators for the Changing Markets Foundation visited 10 manufacturing sites in China, India, and Indonesia, and found severe environmental damage including water pollution from untreated contaminated waste, and air pollution. Brands alleged by the report to source from these factories include H&M, Inditex (the owner of Zara), Marks & Spencer and Tesco (13 Jun). See more here (13 Jun). The report, Dirty Fashion: How pollution in the global textiles supply chain is making viscose toxic, also names ASOS, Levi’s, United Colors of Benetton, Burton, Next, ASDA, Dockers, Debenhams, Matalan, Van Heusen, Haggar, and Eileen Fisher. You can see a press release on the report from Changing Markets Foundation here, and the report here (summaries also available in Spanish, Chinese and Indonesian).

Reality of life working in an Ivanka Trump clothing factory in Indonesia: Workers complain of verbal abuse, impossible targets and ‘poverty pay’ so bad they have to live away from their children. The reality of working in a factory making clothes for Ivanka Trump’s label has been laid bare, with employees speaking of being paid so little they cannot live with their children, anti-union intimidation and women being offered a bonus if they don’t take time off while menstruating. The factory in question is PT Buma, a Korean-owned garment company, and one of the suppliers to G-III Apparel Group (13 Jun).

A delicate balancing act: An interview with Claire Bergkamp, Head of Sustainability and Ethical Trade at Stella McCartney. “Sustainability is about finding a way to do as much good as we do bad, and to reduce as much bad as we can” (13 Jun).

Victoria’s Secret reaches $12m deal in California unpaid wages class action lawsuit: A $12 million settlement has been reached in a California overtime and labour laws class action lawsuit pending against Victoria’s Secret. If approved, the deal will end allegations brought by sales clerks in Victoria’s Secret’s California stores that the company failed to properly compensate workers scheduled for “call-in” shifts (12 Jun).

Madagascar dockworkers protest at Parliament as global union warns Africa against partnering with ICTSI: The plight of the Malagasy 43 – dockworkers sacked in Madagascar for standing up for their rights – has reached the highest levels of the Madgascan Government today with protests at Parliament and meetings scheduled with Government to try and resolve the dispute. The ICTSI operated Port of Toamasina is the main gateway for $360 million worth of textile products exported to Europe, $100 million to South Africa, and $60 million to the USA. Major international brands source clothing in Madagascar – including Esprit, Eddie Bauer, Camaieu and Levi Strauss. (12 Jun).

Christopher Raeburn does sustainable sporty chic: “Remade Reduce Recycle Raeburn” read the ribbons in the Christopher Raeburn collection, in London’s best expression of sustainable, and collaborative, chic. Says one write: “The collection, on the other hand, was an honest-to-God step forward in fashion terms. Raeburn took apart old nylon kites and reconstructed them as rain macs, anoraks and sporty tops, all done in the designer’s East London Remade studio (11 Jun).

Patagonia clothing line made from beetles: Patagonia released a new line called Clean Color for spring that forgoes traditional synthetic dyes for silkworm poop, orange peels, pomegranate rinds, herbal industry by-products and crushed up cochineal beetles (09 Jun).

New report identifies ways to mitigate child labour risks in the Turkish cotton sector: To better understand child labour risks in Turkey, a Dutch multi-stakeholder Working Group on Child Labour began working in 2015 to investigate the likelihood of finding child labour in the supply chains of garment companies doing business in the Netherlands. This working group – comprising Dutch sector organizations, garment companies, the Stop Child Labour (SCL) coalition, and UNICEF Netherlands – ultimately designed a pilot project to be implemented by additional partners to trace the garment and cotton supply chains of seven multinational companies sourcing from Turkey and selling in the Netherlands. Together with members of the working group, the US-based Fair Labor Association (FLA) and the Turkey-based Development Workshop Cooperative (DW) carried out this project over the course of 2016. The project team worked with seven garment brands: C&A, Coolinvestments, Du Pon & De Bruin, Just Brands, PVH, Varova Fashion Holding and WE Fashion (08 Jun). The full report is available online at the Fair Labor Association’s website here.

Indigenous fashion incubator partners with Ikea Canada to create salvaged collection: A Toronto fashion incubator for Indigenous artists is partnering with Ikea to launch a collection of kitchen accessories that reflect traditional ideas about conserving resources and feasting. Beginning June 8th, shoppers at Ikea's Etobicoke location can purchase one of four handmade products made entirely from salvaged textiles by Setsuné Indigenous Fashion Incubator (08 Jun).

Project JUST’S ‘Seal of Approval’ for swimwear: Just in time for summer comes Project JUST’s top picks on bathing suits and boardshorts for brands that are doing well on sustainability. The top three swim brands are: Riz Boardshorts, Finch Designs, and Shapes in the Sand (08 Jun).

Hermès to inaugurate two production sites in France: In order to support the growth of its leather goods production luxury fashion house Hermès has opened two new leather workshops in France. The move sees Hermès creating 220 new jobs while strengthening the Parisian saddler’s regional integration in Nouvelle-Aquitaine and Normandy (08 Jun).

Lindex launches ‘WE Women by Lindex’ to take action for gender equality in supply chain: This summer, Swedish retailer Lindex launches ‘WE Women by Lindex’ to take action for gender equality in the supply chain and create more equal and inclusive workplaces. The project is part of Lindex ambition to improve the lives of women in the fashion company’s global supply chain. It is a three-year project developed through a partnership between Lindex and GIZ, and in cooperation with BSR and local non-governmental organisations. The project will start with 33 of Lindex suppliers in Bangladesh (07 Jun).

Oliver Cabell and transparency in pricing: “To make its Kennedy Weekender overnight bag, the accessories and leather goods company Oliver Cabell spends $16.02 on canvas, $11.58 on leather, $5.68 on lining and 78 cents on webbing. The zipper costs the manufacturer $4.27. In total – including manufacturing, transit, duties and other expenses – the company spends $110.35 to create the bag, which it sells online for $285. … This practice, known as transparent pricing, has been gaining hold among a select group of retailers, who say that it appeals in particular to millennials – who often want to know not only the provenance of the goods they are buying, but also what, exactly, they are paying for” (07 Jun). Is this the start of something big?

New report on empowering women in apparel: In a new business brief from the global non-profit BSR business brief, “Empowering Female Workers in the Apparel Industry: Three Areas for Business Action," the organisation highlights key findings from in-depth research conducted by the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) and supported by C&A Foundation and the Levi Strauss Foundation (07 Jun). You can download the full report here (downloads as PDF).

H&M Foundation honours 500 female CEOs from emerging markets: H&M Foundation launched Foundation 500 last week, a play on the famous Fortune 500 list by Fortune Magazine. But the Foundation 500 is a different list; it presents power portraits and stories of women entrepreneurs from emerging markets (07 Jun).

Gap takes a stab at gender equality with Bridging the Gap film: The film, titled Bridging the Gap, shows the fourteen-member cast wearing Gap’s plain white tee and denim as a base look for creating their individualized style (07 Jun). You can see the video here. It has over one million view.

Olivela, the next generation of philanthropic retail? Founded by social entrepreneur, Stacey Boyd, Olivela is a retail concept with a mission to provide funding to improve the lives of children around the world. Olivela enables luxury brands the opportunity to transform inventory into measurable impact and consumers to fund important children's causes simply by buying what they love (06 Jun). See another story on the launch here (07 Jun).

Stella McCartney to use ocean recycled plastic: Stella McCartney announced that it was entering into a long-term partnership with Parley for the Oceans, an organization that works to end the destruction of marine life. One of the group’s biggest initiatives is the creation of a yarn fibre (imagine the soft upper of an Adidas knit shoe and you’ll get the idea) that is made from plastic objects such as fishing nets, debris and bottles that are collected from oceans (06 Jun).

M&S to provide eco-labelling on clothing: Marks & Spencer will provide ‘on product’ sustainability information for all its clothing products by 2025 and also launch a mechanism enabling clothing products that meet “certain sustainability criteria” to be labelled by 2019, “helping customers worldwide identify these products in store or online” (01 Jun – subscription required to read full article).

Reports, Guidelines and Standards

Water and textile interdependency in the circular economy: If you happen to be in Glasgow on Friday (16 Jun), then this could be a good use of a day. From the description: “We invite government representatives, business leaders of SMEs, industry and key experts, who want to join a revolution in new and more sustainable non harmful materials while rebuilding natural capital” (14 Jun).

European Parliament should vote for an investigation into Bangladesh labour violations: Clean Clothes Campaign is calling on members of the European Parliament to call for a trade investigation into labour rights abuses as part of a resolution on Bangladesh that will be debated this Wednesday. Such an investigation would be carried out by the European Commission in order to assess whether the ongoing and systematic repression of trade union rights in Bangladesh should disqualify it from accessing preferential trading terms with the EU (13 Jun).

Child labour plagues Indian city of Ludhiana: ““Bachpan Bachao Andolan activist Dinesh and his team have been rescuing such children. From 2006 till [now], around 650 children have been rescued. “Most of the children rescued were employed in the garment industry. They are 8 to 16 years of age. Even the minimum wages are denied to them. They are doled out Rs 50 – Rs 100 per week. The plea taken is that these children are unskilled and are being taught the work. This logic is preposterous – one does not work 14 hours a day to ‘learn’ the task!” says Dinesh Kumar” (12 Jun).

Why child labour still works: Monday was World Day Against Child Labour but without action from the Canadian government the consumer can only do so much to stop the flow of goods made by children, coming to Canada (09 Jun).

Walk Sew Good: Via Project JUST last week comes an interesting story about two Aussie women walking 3,500 km across Southeast Asia in search of positive fashion stories. You can see their website here (Walk Sew Good), their blog here (updated every couple of weeks or so), and some videos here. There’s an interesting and extensive list of brands and retailers they’ve visited so far here in Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam (08 Jun).

USFIA and Canopy join forces to protect forests: Canopy and the United States Fashion Industry Association (USFIA) have announced that they will together to keep global endangered forests out of the US fashion supply chain (07 Jun).

How shoppers use their smartphones in stores: Key info byte from the article is: “nearly 60% of shoppers look up product information and prices while using their mobile phones in stores.” This should be of interest to any brand thinking about how to communicate sustainability data in store (07 Jun).

Over 1,000 participate in Sustainable Apparel Forum: More than 1,000 attendees participated in the Sustainable Apparel Forum (SAF) that ended recently in Dhaka. It was the first ever symposium devoted to transfer of knowledge and networking around the topic of more sustainability in the textile industry. The programme hosted by Bangladesh Apparel Exchange focused on the theme ‘Making sustainability easier’ (07 Jun).

Finnish researchers are attempting to convert autumn leaves into natural textile dyes: A team of investigators from VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, is working on capturing the orange and yellow carotenoids and red anthocyanin that “paint” the leaves in the fall, in order to better utilize fallen leaves before they decay during winter (07 Jun).

Spinning on empty stomachs in India’s textile hub: “More than 50 percent of the girls are hungry through the day, skipping meals or barely eating in their rush to get to work,” said Dr Bobby Joseph, head of the community health department at the Bengaluru-based St John’s Medical College. In studying health in the garment sector, Joseph has mapped girls in Coimbatore, Dindigul, Tirupur and Erode districts (07 Jun).

Sustainability slips down political agenda: An online poll of over 600 sustainability experts concluded that the long-term health of our planet has been ignored by the main political parties in favour of shorter-term political objectives (07 Jun – subscription required to read full article).

A sustainable apparel industry starts with science-based metrics: Sustainability in the corporate context has evolved to the point where the mere presence of sustainability objectives is not enough. This is increasingly apparent in the fashion industry, where stakeholder demand for transparency is on the rise (06 Jun). This article was written by Quantis International, and is based on a Webinar in March, which you can watch here.

The case for letting robots make our clothes: “I visited the garment factory workers who could lose their jobs to automation. But could robots also change their lives?” (06 Jun). An interesting and thoughtful article about automation in the apparel industry. The short version: it’s complex.


Huntsman Textile Effects inaugurates 500 kl underground water tank in Baroda for neighbouring Luna Village: Huntsman Textile Effects in Baroda, India has officially unveiled an underground water tank it constructed to help address the shortage of water faced by Luna village. The newly constructed 500 kilolitre underground water tank stores potable water to meet the needs of thousands of villagers (09 Jun).

Guatemala’s Iris Textiles to launch recycled clothing line: Guatemalan eco-friendly apparel, yarn and fabric maker Iris Textiles is set to launch a recycled apparel line as it works to transform its business into a sustainable fashion supplier (08 Jun).

Manufacturers are turning to Central America for quick-turn apparel: The demise of a free-trade agreement between the United States and several Asian countries is breathing new life into the Guatemalan apparel industry. With intense competition heating up around the world for cheap labour, Guatemala is not the least expensive place for hourly wages, but it is a member of the Dominican Republic–Central America Free Trade Agreement between the United States and six Central American countries. That means that clothing made from fabric and materials coming from the region gets duty-free entry into the United States, lopping off up to 32 per cent in tariffs (01 Jun).

The Supply Chain

Garment factory workers protest against unfair decision: Workers from Honeys Garment Factory staged a protest against the decision of the labour dispute handling office in the Mingaladon Industrial Zone earlier this week. Factory workers reported to the labour dispute handling office the illegal sacking of workers, the breach of labour rights described in the Labour Law and the infringement of employer-employee contracts. The office urged the workers to seek a settlement with their employer (12 Jun).

Family of Cambodian garment worker who died on the job waits for NSSF: Almost two weeks have passed since the death of a garment worker at the Taiwanese-owned Accasette Garment Factory – a supplier of Dutch chain C&A – in Phnom Penh, but the National Social Security Fund has not offered her family compensation for her death, according to the victim’s husband (12 Jun).

Garment workers protest at Cambodian Ministry: About a thousand workers from Southland garment factory last week protested outside the Ministry of Labour to demand intervention from the authorities to force the company to reinstate 10 unionists suspended from work after a strike began earlier in the week (09 Jun).

EU says Bangladesh must improve labour rights to retain GSP benefits: The European Union has called on Bangladesh to show tangible progress on labour rights to avoid temporarily losing the generalised system of preferences (GSP) benefit that allows the country duty-free exports. “This will be essential for Bangladesh to remain eligible for the Everything But Arms regime,” said the EU in a letter to the government on May 31 (07 Jun).

Bangladesh Alliance congratulates six factories, suspends six factories: The Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety announced that during the month of May, six additional Alliance-affiliated factories completed all material components outlined in their Corrective Action Plans (CAPs), bringing the total number of factories to have completed their CAPs to 82. The factories include Babylon Garments Ltd, Columbia Apparels Ltd, R-PAC (BD) Packaging Co Ltd (PKG), R.S.B. Industrial Limited, Safaa Sweaters Ltd (Safaa Sewing Ltd), and Uni Gears Ltd. The six suspended were: Gladiolus Fashion Wear Ltd, Le Nouveautex Knit Fashion, C & A Fashion Limited, The Cloth & Fashion Ltd, Beautiful Jackets, and Bando Apparels Ltd (06 Jun). Additionally, one more has been suspended since this notice was issued: Liberty Poly Zone (BD) Ltd. You can the list of suspensions here. This brings the total number of factories suspended under the program to 155.

Cambodian garment factory worker’s death not from toxins: According to an investigation by the Labour Ministry’s fainting prevention committee, the death of a garment worker last week at the Taiwanese-owned Accasette Garment Factory was not caused by toxic chemical substances, as authorities had previously suspected, but was instead a case of cardiac arrest (06 Jun). See follow up in story above.

Eight Bangladesh factories submit plea to PFIs for low-cost fund: Eight garment owners have submitted applications to the participating financial institutions (PFIs), seeking low-cost fund under the Urban Building Safety Project (UBSP) for improving their working conditions (06 Jun).

BGMEA to initiate to provide food support to Bangladesh factory workers: Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association president Siddiqur Rahman said last week that the organisation would initiate a move to provide food support to apparel factory workers (05 Jun).

(Image, Takahiro Sakamoto, CCO)