Brands and retailers

Blast in Bangladesh garment factory kills 10, foreign buyers investigate: A boiler explosion at a Bangladeshi garment factory killed 10 people and injured dozens, fire officials have said. The incident late on Monday (03 July) happened during maintenance work at the factory owned by Multifabs Limited, a Bangladeshi company on the outskirts of the capital, Dhaka. The firm supplies knitted apparel to clients in Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Russia, Spain, Netherlands and Britain, including to Littlewoods, one of Britain’s oldest retail brands, according to its website. Fashion chain Lindex, which is part of Finnish retailer Stockmann, said the Bangladeshi firm was one of its most important suppliers. Other clients reportedly include Aldi of Germany and Rexholm of Denmark (04 Jul).

Outdoor brand Fjällräven is combining sustainability and growth: Fjällräven is investing in sustainability. Thomas Gröger, member of the executive board and Country Manager for Germany, talks about sustainability, urban outdoor, and what he thinks of an ever-faster pace (03 Jul).

H&M to build new data centre with heat recovery: H&M has announced it will build a new 1MW data centre in Stockholm, Sweden. The new facility will be designed from the outset for heat recovery, so that the energy produced by servers will be recovered and allocated to the city power grid (03 Jul).

C&A Foundation supports Design for Longevity: These days, you can update your wardrobe as often as the seasons change, but that comes at a high cost to the environment. Pressure is mounting on the industry to clean up its act. One hope lies in the move to a circular economy, in which product lifespans are extended for as long as possible, and goods are repaired, reused or recycled back into production. It’s a far cry from the way the fashion industry operates today, but the €3.6 million EU-funded European Clothing Action Plan (ECAP) is exploring ways to embed a circular approach across the continent. C&A Foundation is supporting the program’s Design for Longevity (DFL) platform, coordinated by the Danish Fashion Institute, which aims to help designers extend the lifespan of the products they create (30 Jun).

Tchibo releases an upcycling tutorial video: The video provide instructions on how to turn a shirt into a girl’s dress. In German, but easy enough to follow along (30 Jun).

All guns pointed at Khaadi, but what about the rest? In May this year, the social media uproar over Khaadi’s ill treatment towards its workers drew attention to the issue of workers plight in the supply chain of domestic textile products. As soon as people learnt that one of their preferred clothing brands in Pakistan had allegedly expelled workers who were trying to unionise – on top of paying less than the minimum wage and offering inhumane working conditions – a massive exercise of social media reproduction of the news and related images ensued. (30 Jun).

Leading fashion brands join with unions to sign new Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety: Leading fashion brands are redoubling their commitments to responsible global supply chains by entering into a new Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh with global trade unions. The agreement has so far been signed by Kmart Australia, Target Australia, Primark, H&M, Inditex (Zara), C&A, Otto, KiK, Aldi South, Aldi North, Lidl, Tchibo, LC Waikiki, Helly Hansen, Loblaw and PVH. Esprit, Hüren, Bestseller, Wibra, Schmidt Group, N Brown Group, Specialty Fashion Group Australia and Carrefour have committed to signing (29 Jun).

Ivanka Trump shoe factory: “I’ll beat you right here”: Li Qiang, founder of the labour rights advocacy group China Labor Watch, said conditions at Ganzhou Huajian International Shoe City Co., which produces for Ivanka Trump, are among the “worst he has seen in nearly two decades investigating labor abuses” (29 Jun). According to other sources, companies sourcing from the company in question include Tory Burch, Kendall + Kylie, and Karl Lagerfeld footwear licensee G-III Apparel Group. Ann Taylor and G-III are now conducting independent investigations (29 Jun).

Burberry faces investor advisory groups’ wrath on executive pay: Burberry’s executive compensation faces growing opposition after the UK’s Investment Association joined the chorus of critics ahead of the fashion company’s annual meeting, where shareholders are set to vote on its pay report. The group, which advises fund managers, has issued an alert about Burberry, according to a person familiar with the issue. It focuses on awards to chief executive officer Christopher Bailey and chief financial officer Julie Brown, as well as performance conditions attached to the long-term incentive plan, the person said (28 Jun).

Target teams up with global sourcing experts to help end forced labour: Target says it will cooperate with groups such as LaborlinkVerité and others to help us accelerate the work the company is doing through new technologies, community engagement programs, more robust standards and training with suppliers over the next several years (29 Jun).

Reports, Guidelines and Standards

ILO identifies reasons for low garment sector wages: Competitive pressures, low national minimum wages and a lack of cooperation by suppliers are three of the many reasons identified by new research for keeping garment worker wages depressed in global textile supply chains. Under the auspices of the ILO, researchers interviewed 14 apparel retailers and concluded that there are a range of deeply-ingrained and institutional factors which make it difficult to raise wages among garment workers – even if there is a great willingness to do so among buyers and brands (03 Jul – subscription required to read full article). The full report – Inclusive Labour Markets, Labour Relations and Working Conditions Branch – can be viewed here (downloads as PDF).

Solar material removes pollutants from water: Engineers at Swansea University in Wales have developed a novel composite material that uses solar energy to remove synthetic dye pollutants from water (03 Jul).

Why slow fashion is picking up the pace: “There’s no question that this shift in gear reflects a new age in conscious consumerism. Nowhere is this more apparent than in fashion, where the philosophy of ‘buy less, buy better’ has acquired popular kudos. Fashion has always had activism in its DNA, so it was only a matter of time before the industry came clean…” (02 Jul).

Textile Exchange releases globally recognized recycling standards:  Textile Exchange has announced the release of Recycled Claim Standard 2.0 (RCS) and Global Recycled Standard 4.0 (GRS). The newly revised versions of these #GlobalRecycled standards include updates that solidify the RCS and GRS as the leading standards for recycled materials in the apparel industry and ensure continued growth in other industries, including metal, plastics, electronics, packaging and beyond (29 Jun).

US Department of State releases Trafficking in Persons Report 2017: Weighing in at 454 pp., this year’s report covers a lot of ground. One of the interesting general data tables can be found on p. 34 (Global Law Enforcement Data). The data for labour trafficking (as a subset of overall trafficking) show the following for 2016: 1,038 prosecutions, 717 convictions, and 17,465 victims identified. All figures are up from the year before. The task confronting the textile and apparel sector is to identify risk in supplying countries, and the report goes some way in assisting with that (29 Jun). Hit the headline link for all relevant links, or download the full report here (downloads as PDF).

70,000 textile traders protest over Indian GST: Around 70,000 textile traders in the Goodluck Textile Market in Surat, India have refused to register for the GST, and the $35 billion man-made fabric sector has come to a standstill with strikes, protests and public meetings over the past week (27 Jun).


Professor to lead national-level research on water in India: Professor Jyoti Jadhav of the department of bio-chemistry at Shivaji University, Kolhapur (SUK), will lead the national level research on coloured waste water treatment. Jadhav said, “The factories related to textiles are generally seen releasing untreated coloured waste water into the rivers. This kind of untreated water contains chemical pollutants, which can eventually pass on its poisonous quality into the river water. This water can be harmful not only for the aquatic animals and plants, bur for humans as well” (03 Jul).

Canada’s Gilden releases CSR report: In 2016, Gildan demonstrated good progress towards its 2020 environmental goals which call for a 10% reduction in energy, water, GHG emissions and landfill waste intensity, per kg of product, from owned operations, when compared to the 2015 baseline year. In 2016, Gildan’s efficiency initiatives resulted in a reduction of its energy intensity by 10% and water intensity by 5%. The company increased its industrial and domestic recycling programs globally to now recycle or repurpose 86% of total waste. Additionally, the company powered 32% of its energy needs by renewable resources (30 Jun).

Piñatex, the vegan alternative to leather: Piñatex is a natural and non-woven textile made out of pineapple leaves, which is remarkably similar to leather. It was the first raw material to win the Innovation Award in 2015 and named the Grand Designs Green Hero in 2016. The brand was also named a certified cruelty-free label in 2015 by PETA (29 Jun).

Norwegian sovereign wealth fund places Hansae apparel maker “under observation” over labour rights abuses concerns: Norges Bank has decided to place Hansae Yes24 Holdings Co Ltd and Hansae Co Ltd under observation. The companies are placed under observation because of an unacceptable risk that the companies contribute to, or are responsible for, systematic violations of human rights. The Council on Ethics has recommended that Hansae Yes24 Holdings Co Ltd and Hansae Co Ltd be excluded from the fund’s investment universe. At the same time, the Council on Ethics highlights that the companies have taken measures to improve the working conditions (29 Jun).

Textile companies denounced over water debts in Peru: The Lima Water and Sewerage Service (Sedapal) has accused 20 companies of cumulatively owing millions of soles in debt for the collection of groundwater in the capital, dating back to 2010. Companies listed include Gloria, Papelera Trupal, Backus, along with other textile companies (28 Jun).

How Chinese factories are coping with labour shortage: A survey of over 200 Pearl River Delta manufacturers in southern China by Standard Chartered bank has concluded the answer to surging wages and labour shortages is automation. 68 per cent of respondents said they planned to increase capital expenditure this year on automation. The report also said lower-end manufacturers such as textile and garment makers are more willing to move to cheaper nations than invest in automation (28 Jun).

Birla Cellulose receives industry-leading results in their first-ever independent verification by the Rainforest Alliance: Environmental not-for-profit Canopy and the Rainforest Alliance released results of the first independent verification of the fibre sourcing for viscose producer, Birla Cellulose of the Aditya Birla’s Group. The audit uses a risk-based approach and requires verifiable evidence that wood and pulp used by Birla Cellulose for the production of Birla Viscose, Birla Modal, Birla Spunshades and Birla Excel fulfils a robust verification framework and audit process that was developed by Canopy (21 Jun). To see the full audit report, see here (downloads as PDF).

The Supply Chain

Campaigner for garment worker rights snatched in Dhaka: Bangladeshi writer and labour rights campaigner Farhad Mazhar has been kidnapped. Mazhar is the founder and managing director of Policy Research for Development Alternatives (Ubinig). The non-governmental organisation provides education on the environment, trade, family planning and workplace rights, especially to women in the clothing industry (04 Jul).

Bangladesh Accord’s extension unexpected, says minister: The extension of the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety by three more years was unexpected as the decision was taken unilaterally by the trade unions, retailers and global brands, Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed said earlier this week. “The signatories could have discussed (it) with the stakeholders before taking such an important decision,” Ahmed told journalists at his secretariat office in Dhaka after a meeting with garment manufacturers and top diplomats (03 Jul).

Bangladesh garment makers oppose Accord’s time extension: Local garment manufacturers have opposed the time extension of the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety by three more years, saying factory remediation work will be completed within the current tenure. “We don’t accept the new agreement. It is a unilateral decision by the Accord,” said Siddiqur Rahman, president of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA). “We have not been included in the board of the Accord and the signatories did not even show the draft copy of the new agreement,” Rahman said (02 Jul).

(Photo by Azrul Aziz on Unsplash, CCO)