Brands and retailers

Indigenous people are asking the UN to outlaw cultural appropriation: The World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), a United Nations agency, is being asked to bring in “effective criminal and civil enforcement procedures” to prevent people profiting from cultural appropriation. Countless pieces of indigenous culture, including “designs, dances, words, medicines and more,” are stolen for profit. Urban Outfitters, for example, was charged with cultural appropriation with their “Navajo hipster panties,” as was Dsquared2, which showed its controversial “Dsquaw” collection in 2015, and more recently, Tory Burch was criticised for labelling a garment from her Resort 2018 collection as “African” inspired when it was shown to be identical to a traditional Romanian coat (see here) (19 Jun).

Evaluation of C&A Foundation programme in Mexico shows positive results for garment workers: The Yo Quiero, Yo Puedo (YQYP) initiative was funded by Fundacion C&A, Mexico and implemented by the Mexican Institute for Family and Population Research (Yo Quiero Yo Puedo - IMIFAP). It aimed to empower more than 2,500 employees (workers and mid-level supervisors) within Mexican apparel factories between 2014 and 2016. The findings demonstrate that YQYP contributed to a range of different outcomes in the lives of workers and supervisors, including improved interpersonal relationships, job satisfaction and productivity, gender equality, and health and self-care (19 Jun).

Pakistan’s Khaadi forced to negotiate with laid off workers: After protests and a local social media campaign against Pakistan apparel brand Khaadi for allegedly violating labour laws and firing its workers for demanding minimum wages, management, which was earlier not even ready to own these employees nor willing to accept that it has manufacturing units along with retail outlets, agreed to most of the demands of the workers (18 Jun).

The Romanian site where Louis Vuitton makes its Italian shoes: All but the soles of the luxury brand’s footwear are made in Transylvania before being ‘finished’ in Italy and France (17 Jun).

More than 100 big brands are now publishing a list of their suppliers: As of June 2017, Fashion Revolution has counted 106 brands across 42 companies/parent groups (with £36 million or more in annual turnover) disclosing at least some of the facilities making their clothes. Just this year ASOS, Berghaus, Benetton, Brooks Sports, Joe Fresh, Hugo Boss, and Uniqlo have started publishing supplier names. Hit the title link to see the full list (16 Jun).

Cattle slaughter crackdown ripples through India's leather industry: Last month the Indian government banned trading cattle for slaughter, including not just cows, whose killing was already outlawed in most states, but also buffalo, an animal used for meat and leather. Now the squeeze is spreading to others in the Muslim minority and to lower-caste Hindus who cart cattle, labour in tanneries and make shoes, bags and belts – including for big name brands such as Zara and Clarks (15 Jun).

Inditex founder’s donation to cancer research cops criticism: Zara’s founder is sharing his wealth by donating $361 million worth of state-of-the-art cancer fighting equipment to Spanish hospitals, but his goodwill is being slammed by those who believe the retail chain’s parent company is guilty of tax avoidance (15 Jun).

Activewear brand sundried has turned recycled coffee beans into clothing: Sundried, a UK-based sportswear brand, has designed a new range for men and women made entirely from recycled waste. The new range was made from coffee grounds processed in a low-temperature, high-pressured environment, to turn them into yarn (14 Jun).

What is fast-fashion actually doing about sustainability? The article mention numerous brands including H&M, Zara, Gap, C&A, Arcadia Group (which owns Topshop, Topman, Miss Selfridge, and Dorothy Perkins), Marks & Spencer, ASOS, and Selfridges. Comments on the article don’t appear to be from people convinced that the brands named are doing very much (14 Jun).

T.J. Maxx’s shady labour practices: How does T.J. Maxx sell a shirt for so little, and where does it come from? The answer may not be what shoppers think (13 Jun). See additional analysis here.

Adidas and ASU form athletic sponsorship entity focused on diversity, sustainability: Adidas and Arizona State University (ASU) have formed the Global Sport Institute (GSI) as part of their collegiate athletics partnership, focused on innovation, diversity and sustainability in sport (13 Jun).

GreenBiz recognises C&A’s Dhawal Mane for sustainable practices: GreenBiz has recognised Dhawal Mane for the global ‘2017 GreenBiz 30 Under 30’ award, which seeks out young individuals across the globe shaping the next generation of sustainable business. Mane works with C&A to implement its sustainable chemicals strategy in the supply chain in India and Sri Lanka (13 Jun).

Reports, Guidelines and Standards

Millennials are making it luxe to be more ethical and environmentally aware: ““They care about discreet, inconspicuous consumption,” [Elizabeth Currid-Halkett] writes in her new book, The Sum of Small Things: A Theory of the Aspirational Class. “Like eating free-range chicken and heirloom tomatoes, wearing organic cotton shirts and TOMS shoes, and listening to the Serial podcast. They use their purchasing power to hire nannies and housekeepers, to cultivate their children’s growth, and to practice yoga and Pilates” (19 Jun).

Outdoor Industry Microfibre Consortium formed: The European Outdoor Group has formed an Outdoor Industry Microfibre Consortium, in order to tackle synthetic microfibre aquatic pollution. While harmful to marine life, when polluted into the ocean, microfibres can enter the food chain, carrying hazardous chemicals with them (19 Jun – subscription required to read full article).

An insider’s take on eco fashion blogging & ethical fashion influencers: “Not all ‘ethical’ businesses behave ethically. Where money is involved, unscrupulous behaviour soon follows, and the ‘ethical’ industry is no different. The truth is that there are some ethical businesses that just don’t care about the blogger or influencer they are approaching. The only thing they care about (apart from their bottom line) is access to the blogger or influencer’s audience. These businesses aren’t genuinely interested in you as a human being or your audience or readers for that matter – they just want to sell, sell, sell their products to make a profit” (17 Jun).

New report on Microplastics from polyester fabrics: To minimize microplastics from polyester fabrics getting in the ocean, and posing a threat to the marine environment, the production design of polyester fabrics needs to change. Mistra Future Fashion now release new findings where their researchers and industry partners have investigated the relation between fabric properties and shedding for polyester fabrics, and thereby contribute to fill current research gap (15 Jun).

PETA says wool isn’t necessarily the ethical choice: “Recently, a shearer pleaded guilty to cruelty to animals in a Victorian court after beating a lamb with a hammer. The court heard that he also struck a sheep in the head with his fist as well as with electric clippers and slammed another to the ground. Unfortunately, these are not isolated incidents. He is the sixth shearer in as many months to be hauled before a court and sentenced for wilfully harming animals” (15 Jun).

EURATEX to focus on circular economy in textile & apparel manufacturing: On 8 June, about 100 delegates attended the EURATEX General Assembly conference on Circular Economy in textile & apparel manufacturing, discussing opportunities and challenges for the sector. Drawing the conclusions, EURATEX called for collaboration to develop the circular economy (including fair trade and sustainability) (15 Jun). See the full report here (downloads as PDF).

Titanium dioxide to be classed as a carcinogen: Titanium dioxide – known as 'titanium white' when used in its pigment form for textile yarns – has been proposed to be classified as suspected of causing cancer when inhaled by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA). The committee assessed the carcinogenic potential of titanium dioxide against criteria in the Classification, Labelling and Packaging (CLP) Regulation and, having considered the available scientific data, concluded that it meets the criteria to be classified as suspected of causing cancer (14 Jun – subscription required to read full article). You can see more information from the ECHA website here.

ITUC Global Rights Index 2017 says violence and repression of workers on the rise: The number of countries experiencing physical violence and threats against workers has risen by 10 per cent in just one year, says the annual International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) Global Rights Index. Attacks on union members have been documented in 59 countries, fuelling growing anxiety about jobs and wages. The report shows corporate interests are being put ahead of the interests of working people in the global economy, with 60 per cent countries excluding whole categories of workers from labour law (13 Jun). See a summary and full report here, including list of the ten worst countries (with Bangladesh ranked the worst).  

India ratifies ILO conventions on child labour: The Indian Government last week presented to the Director General of the International Labour Organization, the ratification instruments for ILO Conventions No. 138 on Minimum Age to Employment and No. 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labour (13 Jun).

Best firms have most to lose in tackling child labour in the fashion industry: New research (by Meggan Caddey, a final year PhD student, and Johanne Grosvold and Stephen Pavelin, all from the Centre for Business, Organisations and Society at the University of Bath) suggests that firms with a good reputation for ethical sourcing in the fashion industry are judged more harshly than their peers when child labour is discovered in their supply chain. “We found that a firm that had taken steps to address child labour and unsafe working conditions in its supply chain enjoyed a better reputation than a firm that had not. However, when something went wrong, people judged these firms more harshly than they did the firms that had previously behaved less responsibly” (12 Jun).

EU issues green public procurement criteria for textiles products and services: The EU has published new voluntary EU GPP criteria for textiles products and services, an area with a high annual spend by public authorities in the area of military, police and fire fighter uniforms as well as for hospital staff (07 Jun). You can see the 38 pp. working document here (downloads as PDF). Additionally, the EU GPP Helpdesk will hold its first webinar for 2017 on the new criteria on Wednesday 28 June (14:30-16:00, CEST): see more here.


Denim North America tackles biodegradable performance denim: Denim North America has paired with Poole Company, a sustainable polyester producer, to launch EcoSure BioBlast denim. The denim incorporates Poole’s biodegradable fibre made from 100 percent post-consumer recycled water bottles. The unique engineered polymer creates fibres that are soft, durable and strong (20 Jun).

Earthcolors by Archroma receives outdoor industry award 2017: Archroma, a colour and specialty chemicals company, has won the Gold Winner at the OutDoor Industry Award 2017, Sustainable innovations Category, for its EarthColors dyestuff range (19 Jun).

Our jeans are ruining the planet, but this company wants to fix that: “Here’s how you make the indigo that gives most denim its signature blue: like many things in peak-oil America, you start by drilling down. Extract petroleum from the earth and then subject it to high-heat, high-energy conditions in order to break it up into its component molecules. One, called benzene, is isolated and then mixed with a host of other chemicals, including cyanide and formaldehyde. The process produces ammonia as an off-gas. “It takes over half a pound of cyanide to make a single pound of indigo,” Sarah Bellos, the CEO and founder of Stony Creek Colors, explains” (16 Jun).

Textile industry waste management market 2017 research report: The Major players reported in the textile industry waste management market include: ChemTreat, General Electric, Lenntech, Pall Corporation, Veolia. Analysts forecast the global Textile Industry Waste Management market to grow at a CAGR of 10.57% during the period 2017-2021 (15 Jun).

Gore expands its offer of solution dyed and recycled textiles: Stemming from its ongoing commitment to Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) studies, W.L. Gore & Associates’ Fabrics Division will expand its use of textile solution dyeing and increase its offering of recycled face-fabric textiles in its Gore-Tex portfolio for Fall/Winter 2017 (14 Jun).

SoftWear Automation raises $4.5 million to build robots that sew: Five years ago SoftWear Automation received a grant for DARPA to product the first real sewing robots and they succeeded, ultimately raising $4.5 million to further advance the sewing state of the art. Founded by a set of Georgia Tech science professors, the company was a “response to the effects of offshoring textile and apparel manufacturing had on the US economy,” said CEO Palaniswamy “Raj” Rajan. They’ve received a $2 million grant from the Walmart Foundation and a $3 million Series A from CTW Venture Partners (12 Jun).

The Supply Chain

Minimum wage process in Cambodia launched: Cambodia has started training representatives set to take part in minimum wage talks that start next month, with Labour Minister Ith Samheng warning participants against using the talks for their own political ends. He said the adoption of the minimum wage in 2018 would coincide with the run-up to the national elections. Ath Thun, president of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union, said he thought the wage rise this year would be more than last year (20 Jun).

Bangladesh urged to align labour union laws with ILO conventions: The International Labour Organisation has advised Bangladesh to align the rules of union registration in the garment sector with its Convention 87 that addresses the matter of freedom of association by workers (18 Jun). More here: The ILO called upon the government of Bangladesh to ensure that the draft of the proposed Export Processing Zones (EPZ) Labour Act, 2016 allows freedom of association for workers' and employers' organisations, reports news agency UNB. The ILO wants to see that the draft EPZ Labour Act is brought into conformity with the provisions of the Convention regarding freedom of association, with consultation of the social partners (17 Jun).

Unions in Bangladesh demand wages, bonus by June 18: The National Garment Workers Federation (NGWF) and National Shop Employees Federation (NSEF) have demanded that festival allowances and wages for the month of June should be disbursed by 18 June (17 Jun).

Textile mill fire in Bangladesh signals need for expanded safety inspections and remedy: A devastating fire in a Bangladesh textile mill at the beginning of this month reaffirms the need to extend and expand the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety, due to end in May 2018. On 1 June 2017 a fire broke out in Pakiza Textile Ltd., located in Savar, injuring at least 21 workers (16 Jun).

Bangladesh garment employer files charges against workers: Workers at the Azim Group’s Orchid and Savar factories in Bangladesh, were attacked at the factory gates for wanting to form a union. Now company management has filed criminal charges against 61 of its workers (15 Jun).

Safety audit report highlights discrimination faced by female workers in the Myanmar garment industry: A new report – Safety Audit Report Launch on Women Garment Factory Workers” – by ActionAid released on the 15 June has highlighted the discrimination faced by Myanmar’s female garment workers. Moe Sandar Myint says it is necessary to guarantee the safety of female garment workers not only in the workplace but also on their way to work and going back home (15 Jun). See here also.

Bangladesh apparel workers still confront appalling conditions: “Shilpi Begum, who lost an arm in the [Rana Plaza] tragedy, said she and her chronically ill husband had to stop the education of their three daughters because of financial problems. Factories, she said, were reluctant to hire physically disabled workers. Begum, who wants to return to work and send her kids to school, asked: “How can I ensure that?” Most of the compensation the family received for the disaster was eaten up by medical costs” (13 Jun).

(Image, Sergei Akulich, CCO)