BRANDS AND RETAILERS
Adidas executive arrested in American college basketball corruption probe: The FBI has charged Jim Gatto, the director of global sports marketing at Adidas, of participating in a bribery scheme in which college basketball players were paid to attend universities affiliated with the brand and then later signed with Adidas if they turned pro. The charges, outlined in a federal criminal complaint, provide a glimpse into the underbelly of college athletics and the role sports brands play in steering athletes to certain school (26 Sep).
As Ivanka Trump’s political influence grows, so does secrecy surrounding her fashion brand’s business ties in China: It is no secret that the bulk of Ivanka Trump’s merchandise comes from China. But just which Chinese companies manufacture and export her handbags, shoes and clothes is more secret than ever, an Associated Press investigation has found (26 Sep).
H&M’s latest collection is proof fast-fashion can be sustainable: Available early October, H&M’s denim-focused Close The Loop collection consists of consciously-made denim jackets, pants, and skirts, which means a higher chance that your closet is on its way to becoming more of a curated collection of eco-friendly staples than ever before. The goal is to collect two million pounds of post-consumer waste by the end of this year, and the company has collected upwards of five million pounds since 2013 (26 Sep). Related story here.
How C&A created the world’s first cradle-to-cradle T-shirt: In June, C&A, the international Dutch chain of retail clothing stores, launched a line of T-shirts certified to the cradle-to-cradle standard, meaning that they were designed and manufactured in a way that is benign to the environment and human health, and whose materials can be recirculated safely back into industrial materials or composted into the soil (25 Sep).
Zara, Next and Mango urged to pay workers’ wages in Turkish factory: Zara, Next and Mango are being called on to step forward and take responsibility for the pay of Turkish factory workers. Former garment workers of Bravo Tekstil factory complex in Istanbul, Turkey are campaigning for their lost wages and severance pay after working for three months with no payment following the sudden closure of the factory in July 2016 (25 Sep).
Inditex donates one million dollars for earthquake relief in Mexico: Inditex is donating one million dollars (18 million Mexican pesos) to help fund the emergency relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction work needed urgently in the wake of the devastating tremors that have shaken Mexico to its core (24 Sep).
Why retailers must fine-tune sustainability communication: Retailers must be careful not to ‘bombard’ consumers with information, despite heightened external pressures to champion Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) issues, according to delegates from Kingfisher, H&M and Debenhams. “Communication is tricky,” H&M’s sustainability manager for UK and Ireland Catarina Midby said. “There’s so much we can communicate, but there’s a limit to how much consumers want to know” (21 Sep).
With fame comes power and influence…what about responsibility? Some of the biggest names in music and pop culture in the world have put their names to clothing and footwear lines, including Beyoncé (Ivy Park), Kanye West (Yeezy), Kate Hudson (Fabletics), and the Kardashian and Jenner clan (Kids Supply, The Kylie Shop, Arthur George, Kendall + Kylie, Good American) to name just a few. Project Just takes a deeper look, assessing how responsible these brands really are (21 Sep).
Patagonia launches Worn Wear, an online store for used gear: Patagonia has launched a permanent online version of Worn Wear, a website where you can trade, sell, and buy second-hand Patagonia goods (21 Sep).
Guess releases second sustainability report: This year, Guess assessed the water footprint of its denim, and mapped its denim production by global water availability. The company is currently working on a comprehensive water action management plan to address these impacts that will be released next year (21 Sep). See more here, at Guess.
European supply chain league table: Gartner’s 2017 Logistics and Supply Chain Excellence Awards have ranked the top European companies for “Supply Chain Excellence.” CSR is one of four categories scored. Inditex was ranked #2, H&M #3, and Adidas #13 (21 Sep).
LVMH sets ambitious environmental targets: As LVMH celebrates the 25th anniversary of its environment department, the company has announced it will double its internal carbon funds as of 2018. An initial target of using 10% renewable energy has already been achieved and increased to 30% by 2020. It also aims by 2020 for 70% of leather sourced from tanneries to be certified by the Leather Working Group (20 Sep). See also, LVMH keen to be green as sector embraces ethical fashion (21 Sep).
Eileen Fisher exhibition showcases transformation of old designs: In partnership with Eileen Fisher, The Invisible Dog Art Center in Brooklyn is unveiling Circular Design, a new installation that showcases how 800,000 pieces of the designer’s clothing – acquired from 2009 – were transformed into completely new pieces via the brand’s Renew program (20 Sep).
The outdoor apparel industry is fighting for public lands: REI and Patagonia are using their platforms to speak out for national monuments. An interesting statistic buried in the article: “U.S. consumers now spend nearly as much on outdoor recreation as they do on financial services and insurance, and as the popularity of hiking, biking, hunting, fishing, and other outdoor pursuits continues to grow, the industry is becoming an increasingly formidable economic and political force” (20 Sep).
Kering recognised by sustainability index: French fashion conglomerate, Kering has been recognised for the third time by the Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI), as it scored the highest in its environmental and social performance in the ‘Textiles, Apparel and Luxury Goods’ sector. The DJSI says it assessed 23 criteria in three categories. The company says it tries to embed sustainability across its entire supply chain and have begun to implement its ‘2025 sustainability strategy’ (19 Sep – subscription required to read full article). See more here.
REPORTS, GUIDELINES AND STANDARDS
Simulation game to expose poor working conditions: Baptist World Aid Australia, the publisher of the annual Ethical Fashion Report, has released a simulation game designed to expose international labour conditions. The game explores the working environments of those manufacturing clothes in international factories in Bangladesh (25 Sep). You can see the simulation game here. [Editor’s note: I’ve downloaded the material – it requires you to provide name and email – and it looks interesting enough for me to think about using it this term in the undergraduate CSR course I teach at the CUHK Business School.]
Forget fur – is it time to stop wearing wool? “Wool? Well, they’re never going to win that one. “Oh, we will!” [Ingrid Newkirk, the co-founder and president of PETA] exclaims. “Young people, they’re right on top of it. They understand it. And sheep are so gentle, they’re so dear!” Last year, secret footage that PETA had gathered from sheep-shearing huts in Victoria, Australia, helped to bring about the first convictions of sheep shearers in Australia for cruelty” (24 Sep).
Can an awards show solve fashion's sustainability challenge? Livia Firth’s sustainability consultancy Eco-Age and the Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana (CNMI) have teamed up to co-host the Green Carpet Fashion Awards, a glitzy event which will showcase the “Made in Italy” supply chain, celebrate the Italian producers that champion ethical practices, and spotlight sustainability success stories before a crowd of celebrities and industry insiders (23 Sep).
The crisis of workplace violence against women: From IndustriALL: “All too often, women working in IndustriALL’s sectors – including mining, textile and manufacturing – are afraid to speak out against abuses they face out of fear of losing their jobs, being stigmatised, or being socially ostracised both at work and at home. When they do speak out they are often ignored or blamed” (22 Sep).
Water: Garments’ invisible price: “Bangladesh boasts as being the world's number two garment exporter. Every third European has a T-shirt made in Bangladesh on his back. Every fifth American wears jeans manufactured in Bangladesh. But this is not a story of how many million pieces we export. This is a story about the invisible price we pay every time a [pair of] jeans rolls out of a factory in Bangladesh. A western buyer knows little about how much water, that precious resource, was used to wash and dye his trousers.” How much? Every year, 1,500 billion litres of water is used to dye and wash the cotton and clothes for the garment industry (22 Sep).
The fashion industry emits as much greenhouse gas as all of Russia: “The apparel sector is one where there's a lot of uncertainty about what exactly the impacts are,” said Nate Aden, senior fellow at the World Resources Institute, at a panel discussion on climate change in NYC. “The best number we have now is about five percent of [global] greenhouse gas emissions [come from] this sector. To give you some sense of perspective, that’s about equivalent to the impact from the aviation sector, so all the planes flying in the world. Or in country terms, that’s about equal to Russia. So it’s pretty significant” (22 Sep).
Switch to Green Campaign unveiled at London Fashion Week: The British Fashion Council (BFC), the Mayor of London and designer Vivienne Westwood collectively urged the nation’s fashion brands to switch to greener energy suppliers by 2020 (22 Sep).
Southeast Asian fashion designers push eco-friendly designs and save traditional culture and methods: After almost a year on the road in Southeast Asia, eco-fashion campaigners Megan O’Malley and Gab Murphy are hoping a growing number of designers offering sustainable alternatives will help offset waste and exploitation in the region’s garment industry (22 Sep).
Why India and China may be the solution to the world’s fast fashion crisis: This article says “65% of consumers in emerging markets actively seek out sustainable fashion versus 32% or less in mature markets” (22 Sep).
It may not be possible to slow down fast fashion: “The fashion industry has some major sustainability problems. By 2030, it is predicted that the industry’s water consumption will grow by 50% to 118 billion cubic metres, its carbon footprint will increase to 2,791m tonnes and the amount of waste it creates will hit 148m tonnes” (21 Sep).
Textile scientist says synthetic clothes are ending up in our food: Clothing designer and textile scientist Emily Cooper is urging brands to ditch the synthetics. Cooper says new studies show fibres from synthetic clothing are the biggest plastic polluter of oceans and not plastic bags (12 Sep).
Dutch researchers attempt to quantify apparel waste: A Dutch study has examined the culture of mass apparel production, the subsequent wastage and potential improvements as part of a paper published by the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences. Researchers found that on average, consumers in the Netherlands purchased 46 clothing items per year, figures that were lower than that of other participating nations (21 Sep – subscription required to read full article).
End of the informal economy in India: A thought provoking opinion piece from India that casts a gloomy eye on the textile industry as a result of the GST, which will – the author argues – destroy the informal sector. One interesting quote: “The informal sector, in other words, is a source of flexibility that the hypocrisy of first-rate labour standards in a combination of third-rate capacity to enforce norms and a bounty of unskilled manpower denies Indian producers” (20 Sep).
Minimum wage hike in Thailand will have unintended outcomes: An opinion piece from Thailand that argues a trade union call to double the minimum wage (from 300 baht a day now to 700 by 2018) will drive low skilled workers out of jobs faster by making it more attractive for factory owners to invest in automation (20 Sep). The issues laid out here may impact the fashion, apparel and textile industry more quickly than many imagine. Not everyone will agree with the author, but it’s certainly worth thinking about.
Recycled fabrics have unique cotton/viscose feel: Researchers in Finland have developed their first range of knitted textiles made from chemically recycled cotton yarns that are said to have a water footprint that is around 2 per cent of virgin cotton and 10 per cent of viscose – and will enable new industrial applications of previously unusable textile waste. The researchers also say that fabrics made from this new process have unique properties that are ‘halfway between cotton and viscose fibres’ (20 Sep – subscription required to read full article).
Oritain diversifies into ‘cotton transparency’: Supply chain specialist Oritain Global plans to implement its ‘fingerprint’ identification technology, currently used in the food industry, to improve transparency and traceability in the cotton industry. The company, which analyses and then compares crops with the composition of the soils in which they are grown, has announced new partnerships with American Supima cotton grower, J.G. Boswell, Australian upland cotton producer, Auscott and home textiles firm, Welspun, in India. The move comes as the provenance of Indian organic cotton is once again being brought into question (14 Sep – subscription required to read full article).
AAFA urges US government to plug loophole in military procurement: The American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA), an alliance of groups representing firms from the Canadian, Mexican and US textile sectors, has urged the US Government to plug the loopholes in the implementation of the Berry Amendment in military clothing, textile and footwear procurement and stop the patronage offered to Federal Prison Industries (FPI) (25 Sep).
Grasim Industries’ Birla Spunshades gets USDA bio-based certification: Grasim Industries Limited, a flagship company of Aditya Birla Group has been awarded the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) certified bio-based product label for its dope dyed fibres – Birla Spunshades. Utilising renewable, bio-based materials displaces the need for non-renewable petroleum based chemicals (20 Sep).
LA manufacturer launches non-profit mobile laundry to aid city’s homeless: A chance encounter with a homeless woman sent apparel manufacturer Jodie Dolan on a path to connecting her 13-year-old manufacturing business with doing social good. Dolan is the president and founder of the Dolan Group. Her latest project is The Laundry Truck LA, a non-profit she founded this month (14 Sep).
THE SUPPLY CHAIN
Talks on Cambodian garment worker wages begin: Three minimum wage figures for workers in the garment and textile industry have been tabled by parties comprising the tripartite technical working group of the government’s Labour Advisory Committee. The government has suggested a monthly minimum wage of $162.67, the unions $176.25, and employers $161 (26 Sep).
Factory workers in Myanmar demand minimum wage increase: Close to 1,000 workers from 15 factories demonstrated in the Mandalay region on Sunday with six demands, including an increase of the daily minimum wage from 3,600 kyat to 5,600 kyat ($US4.11). Among the other demands were protection for labour unions, establishment of labour courts, worksite safety laws and rules to penalise employers over unfair dismissals (23 Sep).
Vietnamese protesters to maintain blockade of polluting textile factory: Protesters in northern Vietnam have vowed to continue blocking the entrance to a textile factory that has polluted local water supplies, despite threats from local authorities, until the company ceases operation and moves from the area. For more than two years, Hong Kong-owned Pacific Crystal has been discharging smoke into the air which people have described as “horrible” and smelling like “burnt plastic.” Noise from its production operations has prevented residents from sleeping at night, and water in the vicinity has turned black, protesters said (22 Sep). See update, Vietnam uses water cannon to disperse protest at global fashion brands supplier: “Vietnamese authorities on Monday used water cannon and electric rods to end a five-month long protest by villagers blockading a textile plant that serves global fashion brands, an official and a villager said” (25 Sep).
Bangladesh government should publish reports on factories it inspects, says HRW: Following a fire in Munshiganj, Human Rights Watch has urged Bangladesh to publish its inspection reports on how factories terminated from the Accord and Alliance are faring. “If the government wants to be considered a credible labour inspectorate, it should at least publish reports. It’s not just an investment in transparency. It’s also a strategic investment in business,” said HRW’s senior counsel (women's rights division) Aruna Kashyap in an article published on the HRW website on Friday (22 Sep). See the full article at HRW here.
Workshop to raise awareness among trade unions in Bangladesh: Bangladesh’s trade unions were briefed on Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) in regards to unfair labour practices and union registrations at a workshop held in Dhaka on Thursday. Some 34 representatives of the National Coordination Council for Workers Education (NCCWE) and the IndustriALL Bangladesh Council (IBC) discussed the SOPs and provided feedback on their implementation on the ground (22 Sep).
South African unions prepare for national strike against corruption and retrenchments: The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) has called for a national strike on 27 September to protest “state capture”, corruption and retrenchments. The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and the Southern African Clothing Textile and Allied Workers Union (SACTWU), affiliated to COSATU and IndustriALL, will take part in the strike (21 Sep).
Building collapse in Mexican earthquake involves fashion companies: The Mexican press is reporting on the collapse of a three-story building in Obrera, in the centre of Mexico City, which housed four companies, including New Fashion, owned by Israeli businessman Jaime Azkenazi, and a maquiladora (a factory run by a foreign company) owned by a José Lee, which produced women’s clothing (21 Sep – in Spanish).
Factory fire kills 6 workers in Bangladesh: At least six workers were burnt to death as a fire broke out at Ideal Textile Mills last week. Sparks from welding at the gate of the factory building came into contact with flammable chemicals stored at the warehouse, causing the fire. The victims were identified as Israfil, 23, Nazmul, 22, Babu Miah, 22, Sajib, 23, Ratan, 22, and Hasina, 50 (21 Sep).
Surviving violence in a Bangladeshi garment factory: “Laws against gender-based violence at work exist in Bangladesh, but their protective power is as thin as the paper they're printed on” (20 Sep). An interview transcript plus video of a conversation with Kalpona Akter, a labour activist who organises garment workers in Bangladesh.
Forced labour and child trafficking in India’s garment sector: “The ILO estimates that in India, 5.8 million children from 5 to 17 years old work under poor conditions, representing the highest rate of child labour in South Asia. While the agriculture industry has the highest number of forced child labourers, increasingly, other industries such as the garment sector are attracting more child workers as they expand” (20 Sep).
No easy answers for ending forced labour in India: A 25-point document by activists and academics who work on various forms of extreme exploitation in India, endorsing the commitment of the Government of India to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially SDG 8 on Decent Work and SDG 8.7 on Forced Labour, Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking (20 Sep).