Brands and retailers

DyStar and C&A share insights on developing C&A’s new Cradle to Cradle Certified t-shirts: C&A debuted the t-shirts early in May of this year, following a nine-month development process in partnership with McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry and two India-based garment manufacturers Cotton Blossom and Partibha Syntex. One of the most significant achievements in the product design stage was eliminating all sensitizing and halogenated dyes and replacing them with dyes that met Cradle to Cradle standards. Early on, DyStar was distinguished as the ideal supplier from which to source the dyes for C&A’s new product (27 Jun).

9 ways the private sector can use water more efficiently: #5. “Encourage textile factories to reduce water use: Over the past six years Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) has worked with Swedish textile companies such as H&M, KhappAll and Indiska, which do not control their production chain. Most of them buy garments from privately owned factories in developing countries. If any one of them were to place pressure on one of these factory owners to improve water management practise the owner is likely to just to turn to the competition and supply them. SIWI convened the textile companies and the factory owners and could find out from the factory owners that their largest costs (after labour) were energy and chemicals. Then we could introduce ways of saving them energy and chemicals through improved manufacturing and increased recycling. This made the factory owners happy, but also led to reduced water use and less pollution” (27 Jun).

Cotton On welcomes new sustainability manager: Adam Lloyd has joined the Cotton On Group as its new Sustainability Manager, a position within the Risk and Compliance team based at the retailer’s headquarters in Geelong. Adam brings with him over 25 years’ experience in the industry, spanning across specialty retail and large-scale department stores (27 Jun).

Turkish sock and underwear factory sacks union members: Beks Sock and Underwear Factory – which produces for H&M, M&S and Tchibo – has fired union members in response to an organizing drive (26 Jun).

Cambodian female workers in Nike, Asics, Puma and VF factories suffer mass faintings: Over the past year more than 500 workers in four factories supplying to Nike, Puma, Asics and VF Corporation were hospitalised. The most serious episode, recorded over three days in November, saw 360 workers collapse. The brands confirmed the incidents, part of a pattern of faintings that has dogged the 600,000-strong mostly female garment workforce for years (25 Jun). See more here (26 Jun).

The man who’s making Nike more sustainable: “Arthur Huang, CEO of design group Miniwiz, is a designer and trained architect. He’s been working with Nike for the better part of a decade, helping the company create NikeLab spaces and making its processes and products more sustainable. But here's the thing: He doesn’t really like design. And there’s a reason. “When you first get inspired to study design or architecture or engineering, you think you’re trying to change the world for the better,” Huang says. “Unfortunately, you see your colleagues, you see your professors, you see how things are being designed and manufactured, and you get quite sick. There’s a lot of waste … 40 percent of a product’s carbon footprint comes from shipping it” (26 Jun).

Ivanka Trump subtly supported environmental sustainability with her latest look: “[Ivanka Trump’s] outfit choice is notable because the $198 dress is from the brand Reformation, popular among Instagram It Girls. The brand is also known for being dedicated to sustainable fashion, a topic on which Trump, as the head of an apparel and accessories business, has remained notably silent” (24 Jun).

Shoe brands urged to tackle forced labour at tanneries and ranches: Leading shoe and designer clothing labels including Nike and Puma have made progress in tackling forced labour in their leather supply chains but could do more to address the issue at tanneries and ranches providing hides, according to a new study. The study, by KnowTheChain, raised particular concern over China's largest shoe retailer, Belle International, which failed to provide any information on its leather supply chain in a survey and made no commitments for improvements. Adidas was singled out for praise (23 Jun). You can see the report - How footwear companies and luxury brands tackle forced labour risks in their leather supply chains – here (downloads as PDF). Companies examined in the report besides the ones already mentioned are: (footwear) VF (Timberland), (and luxury) Hugo Boss, Kering (Gucci, Bottega Veneta, etc.), Prada, PVH (Tommy Hilfiger, Calvin Klein), and Ralph Lauren.

UNIQLO’s sweatshop labour practices: The Shimbun Akahata (the daily newspaper of the Japanese Communist Party) ran a story this week about Hong Kong-based NGO, Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior (SACOM) claims in 2014/15 that workers making UNIQLO clothes are forced to work excessively long hours with very low wages. It’s unclear why the newspaper chose to re-run this story now (23 Jun).

WRAP guide targets sustainable fashion: WRAP has produced a Sustainable Clothing Guide to share best practice on how to design, produce, and sell sustainable clothing. The charity is looking to encourage designers and technologists within brands and retailers to use the guide to embed durability in products by making them last longer and so they can easily be repaired and reused. Extending the life of clothes by nine months of active use would reduce carbon, water & waste footprints by 4-10%, WRAP estimates. A number of cases studies illustrate how small changes can make a difference. Those involved include ASOS, COS, John Lewis, New Look and Ted Baker. (23 Jun). You can download the report here (PDF).

Burberry Foundation awards £3 million to RCA for material futures research: Burberry and the Royal College of Art have established the Burberry Material Futures Research Group, supported by a £3 million grant from The Burberry Foundation. According to the RCA, this will be the first explicit STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Maths) research centre to exist at a traditional art and design university. It will focus on inventing sustainable materials, transforming consumer experience and advancing manufacturing “for the benefit of industry and the wider community” (22 Jun).

Stella McCartney to produce bags with sustainable yarn: Stella McCartney will produce one of its bags using a regenerated yarn. The company confirmed its Falabella Go bag will be made using a fabric yarn called Econyl which is synthesized from ocean waste. The yarn is produced by Aquafil, a company that aims to prove luxury brands can use high end alternatives without forsaking quality or style (22 Jun).

Anti-fur protesters disrupt Michael Kors event in New York: Anti-fur protesters stormed on stage with Michael Kors in New York on Wednesday, briefly disrupting a ticketed event at which the US fashion mogul discussed his career, dressing Melania Trump and shutting stores. “Michael Kors has blood on his hands,” chanted the more than dozen protesters who marched through a darkened auditorium at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, shortly before security ushered Kors out (22 Jun).

Is sustainable fashion completely pointless? “A number of these brands have been documented here on Highsnobiety and each has its own method of reducing its ecological footprint: many use strictly organic materials, eschew pesticides and avoid exploitative labour practices. But is this really enough? Does sustainable fashion really have much of a chance of saving the world, or at least diverting the industry off its ecologically destructive trajectory in any meaningful sense? Sorry to piss on everyone’s parade, but I would argue no.” Brands mentioned include H&M, Patagonia, Nudie Jeans, Esprit, The North Face, and Stella McCartney (22 Jun).

IFC assists Vietnam with green textile production: The International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group, has helped Vietnamese garment-textile outsourcers save over 20 percent of water and energy consumption. The information was released at a workshop reviewing the programme on enhancing resource-efficient consumption held by IFC in Ho Chi Minh City on 12 June. The sustainable production project has been carried out in 28 enterprises and factories nationwide doing outsourcing for VF Group and Target Group over the past 18 months, mostly in the stages of cutting, sewing, dyeing, printing and laundry (21 Jun). You can see more here (23 Jun).

Fast fashion industry continues to grow, but at planet, people’s cost: While the rise of online shopping has forced many retail stores to close, the fast fashion industry continues to grow. Madison van Oort attributes this to their strong commitment to innovation and exploitation of retail workers. “In almost every other aspect, fast fashion comes with enormous repercussions. Journalists and activists regularly expose the horrific conditions of employees across the global retail supply chain. The brilliantly illustrated comic Threadbare, for instance, shows fast fashion’s ties to sex trades, as international NGOs attempt to “save” sex workers by funnelling them into the garment industry, where dismal pay, long hours, and sexual harassment abound. Meanwhile, workers protesting against the garment industry have faced violent repression, including in Cambodia, Bangladesh, and Myanmar.” Brands named in the article include Zara, H&M, Forever 21 and Inditex. The article is long and academic; an interesting read (21 Jun).

How Loewe and Salvatore Ferragamo are championing sustainability in fashion design: Citrus fruit and oak trees sound like topics that would pop up at an agricultural convention, but these organic materials are central to endeavours recently undertaken by two top fashion brands. Aside from plant matter, a theme of sustainability links Salvatore Ferragamo’s Orange Fiber collection and the works by the winner of Loewe Craft Prize (21 Jun).

Ivanka Trump shoes slated for production at China factory despite brand’s denial: After three Chinese activists were arrested investigating a factory where Ivanka Trump’s shoes were made, her brand claimed none were produced after March. “But production tables reviewed by the Guardian contradict public statements made by the brand…” (21 Jun).

C&A Foundation aims to transform fashion industry: C&A Foundation has announced in its Annual Report 2016 that it intends to transform the fashion industry into a force for good. The report highlights that the foundation has benefitted 75,000 cotton farmers, workers, and community members through its cotton, working conditions and forced labour programmes. It has also funded 26 new initiatives across all its programmes. “Our vision is a global apparel industry based on dignity, fairness and the preservation and enhancement of natural capital,” says Leslie Johnston, C&A Foundation executive director. “But it is not something we cannot do on our own. That is why we support and strengthen partners and platforms to be better able to inspire all of us to play our part” (20 Jun). You can see the full C&A Foundation Annual Report 2016 here.

Patagonia’s CEO is ready to lead the corporate resistance to Donald Trump: Patagonia is preparing to sue the White House to protect public lands. The article focuses heavily on the thinking behind chief executive Rose Marcario’s thinking behind the legal action (18 Jun). For a contra view, see #BoycottPatagonia on Twitter and the same hashtag on FB. For an article from a conservative viewpoint, see here (“If Patagonia wants to lead the resistance against the man America voted into office, the company clearly doesn’t want the money of the people who voted for him. We couldn’t think of a better possible target for a boycott”). It’s also worth noting the following article (2ndVote exposes Patagonia’s financial support for Planned Parenthood): “Patagonia’s Rose Marcario is the perfect example of why conservatives are sick and tired of CEOs using their position to push a political agenda. Not only is she leading a lawsuit against the Trump administration, but her company provides financial support for the liberal agenda far beyond environmental activism” (22 Jun). 2ndVote is a conservative watchdog for corporate activism.

Reports, Guidelines and Standards

Forced labour in Uzbek cotton fields linked to World Bank funds, say rights groups: Children and adults were forced to pick cotton in at least one project funded by the World Bank in Uzbekistan, where the cotton industry has been tainted by widespread forced labour, Human Rights Watch and the Uzbek-German Forum for Human Rights said in a report on Tuesday. “The quality of education at all levels is greatly undermined even when children aren't sent out to work because their teachers are sent out to work,” said Jessica Evans, a Human Rights Watch researcher (27 Jun). The 115-page report, “‘We Can’t Refuse to Pick Cotton’: Forced and Child Labor Linked to World Bank Group Investments in Uzbekistan,” can be accessed here. Full download here (PDF).

Microplastics sloughed from synthetic fabrics in the washing machine: Billions of pieces of plastic are floating in the oceans. Their effects are also sufficiently well-known: marine animals swallow them or get tangled up in them, which can cause them to die in agony. On the other hand, we know less about the consequences of the smallest pieces of plastic, known as microplastics. Researchers have now started to investigate how microplastics are generated and where they actually come from (29 Jun).

Quick Guide to Organic Cotton: Textile Exchange has releases Quick Guide to Organic Cotton, an overview of the positive impacts of organic cotton, including frequently asked questions and supporting facts that indicate organic cotton is the preferred fibre choice compared to its chemically produced counterpart (23 Jun). You can download it free from here (in exchange for personal details).

The future of fashion: Technologists and designers are combining to produce innovative new fabrics and manufacturing processes which will reshape the fashion industry. “We make a shirt the same way we did 100 years ago and it’s insulting,” according to Kevin Plank, founder of sportswear brand Under Armour. But this is set to change” (22 Jun).

Driving G20 commitments toward bolder action in protecting supply chain rights: From Human Rights Watch (HRW): “At the upcoming G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, governments should pledge to protect human rights in global supply chains – and they should act on this pledge. The 450 million people working in global supply chains need robust rules to protect them” (21 Jun).

Concerns raised that PFC-free DWRs contain palm oil: More than a third of PFC-free durable water repellents (DWRs) were found to contain palm oil in laboratory tests carried out by a leading international outdoor brand. The findings raise the very real prospect that consumers could be wearing jackets which, while being free of PFCs, actually contain palm oil – a controversial commodity which has been strongly linked to deforestation in recent years (19 Jun – subscription required to read full article).


China textiles mills save millions in sustainability drive: A group of Chinese textiles mills last year made millions of dollars’ worth of savings by implementing simple measures aimed at driving sustainability. In the Greater Suzhou Area, 23 textile mills implemented 138 factory projects, saving US$8.4 million in water, energy, and chemical operating costs. The projects had an average payback of just 17 months and collectively saved 4 million cubic metres of water and 30,000 tons of coal (or its energy equivalent) (26 Jun – subscription required to read full article).

Cone Denim released sustainable stretch yarn: Cone Denim has released stretch denim yarns introduced this year, representing the latest evolution in stretch yarn technology. The polyester component of the newest yarns is 100 per cent recycled, making for the most sustainable superior stretch Cone Denim fabric yet (23 Jun).

The Supply Chain

Rivers around Bangladesh capital ‘died 20 years ago’: Experts and environmentalists have criticised Bangladesh's environment agency for its decision to declare four dying rivers around Dhaka as ecologically critical areas. The Department of Environment (DoE), which can declare any area as ecologically critical according to the 1995 Environment Conservation Act, has drawn the flak after Environment Minister Anwar Hossain told parliament on June 7 that the government has been working on the management of the rivers – the Buriganga, Turag, Balu and Shitalakhya – considered lifelines to the 16 million people in the capital (27 Jun).

Bengaluru garment hub’s dirty secret is sexual harassment in the workplace: “Sakina’s family and friends are baffled by her decision to put her 25-year-long career, a job in a garment factory, and family stability at risk to challenge, as they put it, “one moment of sexual harassment at work”. Sakina said a senior colleague at the factory she worked at had demanded sexual favours from her, and punished her for not complying. “Almost everyone told me that complaining about harassment would prove that I wasn’t harassed,” Sakina said, holding her head. “Because in our culture, a woman who is harassed typically does not speak up.” But that very expectation of silence egged her on” (27 Jun).

Haiti workers protest minimum wage as managers threaten exit: Hundreds of Haitian textile workers took to the streets on Monday to demand a higher minimum wage as managers of textile factories threatened to leave the country if the government did not clamp down on demonstrations. Haiti has pinned some of its economic growth hopes on the textile industry, which accounts for 90 percent of its exports (26 Jun).

16 garment workers killed as truck overturns in Bangladesh: At least 16 home-bound apparel workers were killed and nine others injured when a cement-laden truck carrying them overturned for reckless driving on Dhaka-Rangpur highway in Rangpur early Saturday (26 Jun).

Sri Lankan free trade zone shifts to contract workers: Over the past decade, companies in the Katunayake FTZ have progressively reduced the number of permanent jobs, replacing them with contract workers, and driving up exploitation rates to match their global competitors. Mr Muditha, who works for Hirdaramani Garments Katunayake in the FTZ, said: “We face this kind of exploitation in Sri Lanka with the introduction of contract jobs. Young men from the village areas are being subjected to exploitation during the day and for night work by the manpower companies. No one talks about this situation. I agree with an international program to unite workers against this kind of attack” (23 Jun).

Protests for unionist persist in Cambodia: Hundreds of garment workers on Phnom Penh’s Veng Sreng Boulevard continued last week to protest the dismissal of a union leader at a factory that supplies US retail giant K-Mart, claiming he was fired for pushing the owners to respect a recent labour arbitration decision. Workers Friendship Union Federation leader Bou Thet, who works in the machine repair section at the International Fashion Royal Co factory, said he was fired earlier, with a representative of the 80 percent US-owned factory citing his “bad attitude” (22 Jun).

How do Bengaluru’s working women make it home at night? Getting home at late hours is often made out to be an issue only for women working the night shift in the IT sector – but it affects many others as well. “At the garment factory, Kavita K.V’s supervisors were not interested in how and when she got home. “It didn’t matter to them, as long as I was back at the factory the next day,” she says (21 Jun).

Hiring people with disabilities in Bangladesh garment factories: Authored by two local experts, the article notes: “To promote an inclusive environment, RMG factories simply need to make some small adjustments at their workplaces. They also need to have disability friendly policies. With expertise in inclusion, a national Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) named Centre for Disability in Development (CDD) provided advisory services on inclusion of persons with disabilities in the workforce among 200 RMG factories from December 2014 to March 2017, with technical support from Promotion of Social and Environmental Standards in the Industry (PSES). PSES is a joint project between the governments of Bangladesh and Germany. It is being implemented by the Deutsche Gesellschaftfür Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, which works on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), in partnership with the Government of Bangladesh” (21 Jun).

Bangladesh garment factory owners fail to keep pledge over festival allowance payment: The facts appear to be in dispute:  “The Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, however, claimed that about 60 per cent of the RMG factories across the country had already paid festival allowances to their workers, while labour leaders and the Industrial Police claimed that a very small number of compliant factories started to pay the allowances and most of the other factories were yet to decide when they would start distributing the allowances” (21 Jun).

Bangladesh garment workers will get salary, bonus before Eid holidays: Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan has asked garment factory owners to clear wages, Eid bonuses and arrears for workers before their holidays start as early as 22 June. “The owners have been asked to clear all their dues before the holidays start,” he said after holding a meeting at his ministry last weekend (20 Jun).

Striking workers demand better wages, cripple garment factory in Myanmar: More than a 1,000 workers of a Chinese-owned Worldwide Value backpack factory in Shwe Linn Ban Industrial Zone in Yangon went on strike last week, demanding higher salaries and their rights in accordance with labour law (20 Jun).

(Image, Ricardo Gomez Angel, CCO)