BRANDS AND RETAILERS
Why Nike sees social responsibility as an opportunity to innovate: Nike sustainability head Hannah Jones and soccer star Abby Wambach talk with Fast Company about how international corporations and individuals alike can bring meaningful change to the world. “The reframe that happened is that we stopped seeing sustainability and labour rights as a risk and burden [and instead] as a source of innovation. Whether it’s about women’s rights or sustainability or women in the supply chain, if you flip it to be about an innovation opportunity, people step into that space with less fear. And that creates possibility” (16 Jan).
H&M deserves no sympathy – the fashion industry is built on brutal, racist exploitation: “It is valid and necessary to critique fashion houses like H&M, Gap and Zara for using business models that actively encourage the exploitation of vulnerable peoples in the global South. A racist hoodie almost pales into insignificance in the face of these facts. … But H&M deserves no sympathy. It sells cheap clothes built on a global empire of exploitation that hits the poor of the global south worst. These business practices are aided by the sweet poison of neoliberal policies in the West. You can see how some misguided creatives thought nothing of the degrading monkey hoodie shoot – it’s but a tiny pebble in the gigantic mound of the fashion industry’s ugly exploitation of poor (black and POC) people. Or indeed, that time in 2015 when H&M discreetly let it be known that black models were absent from a label campaign at the V&A Waterfront store in Cape Town because the brand wished to project a “positive image”” (15 Jan).
H&M’s offensive advert is just one thread in the rotten fabric of a deeply racist industry: “Will those angered by the H&M advert also support the fightback by the brave and resilient women of colour who produce H&M's clothes for poverty wages?” (15 Jan).
L.L. Bean becomes part of Cotton LEADS program: L.L. Bean has become part of Cotton LEADS, joining over 470 programme partners who encourage the use of sustainable and responsibly-grown cotton. Cotton LEADS is a partnership between the US and Australian cotton industries to promote responsible cotton production practices (15 Jan).
Spanish shoe brand commits to full transparency: In an interview with Damián Sirvent, founder of shoe brand Bimono, the Alicante businessman says, “Our goal is to be part of a change in which companies are not only interested in increasing their profit margin, but in having a real positive social impact, betting on local suppliers.” The price breakdown on a pair of Bimono shoes is as follows: raw material 18%, labour 11%, administration and communication expenses 18%, taxes 21%. In total, the cost of producing the shoe represents 68% of the final price (14 Jan – in Spanish).
Viktor & Rolf spins old clothes into new ones for Zalando: Viktor & Rolf are taking their conscious couture philosophy to a wider audience with a collection for Zalando that’s made from leftover clothing. (11 Jan).
VF Corporation and NC State announce a strategic, multi-year partnership: VF Corporation and North Carolina State University have announced a collaborative, strategic partnership that will support student development at NC State and advance apparel and textiles innovation within VF (11 Jan).
The fight against human trafficking begins with sourcing: An article that looks at how technology might be able to identify forced labour in supply chains, which names ASOS, Marks & Spencer and Uniqlo (11 Jan).
Fashion for Good and Adidas partner to accelerate and scale sustainable innovation in the apparel industry: Fashion for Good, a global initiative to make all fashion good, and Adidas, a global leader in the sporting goods industry, today announce their partnership to accelerate and scale sustainable innovation in the apparel industry. This partnership demonstrates a shared commitment to cross-industry collaboration and to integrating disruptive innovation in the fashion supply chain (11 Jan). [Ed’s note: Zalando also partnered with Fashion for Good during the week. See below.]
70,000 people demand that Armani and Primark reveal where they make their clothes: Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC) says 70,000 people had demanded major garment brands and retailers Armani, Primark, Urban Outfitters, Forever 21 and Walmart to make transparency part of their New Year’s resolutions and publicly disclose the factories producing their clothes. Throughout January, activists will deliver golden boxes of signatures to luxury brand Armani and cost-cutter Primark in major European cities. Other targeted brands can also expect to find signatures left on their doorsteps, the organisation says. The campaign is led by Human Rights Watch, CCC, and International Labor Rights Forum (09 Jan). See also, European fashion brands urged to own up about supply chains (12 Jan). You can also see the CCC campaign page on this issue here.
Zalando joins forces with Fashion for Good: European online fashion retailer, Zalando, has become a partner of Fashion for Good in a project designed ‘to accelerate and scale sustainable innovation in the fashion industry’. The partnership looks set to provide Zalando with access to the various platforms affiliated to Fashion for Good, while adding to an ever-growing list of brands keen to work alongside the Amsterdam-headquartered organisation. (09 Jan – subscription required to read full article). [Ed’s note: Adidas also partnered with Fashion for Good during the week. See above.]
Where things stand with angora: From PETA UK: “The following companies have told PETA or its international affiliates that they will not be using angora in future collections. It’s quite a list! And these are just the brands that are based in, or have a strong presence in the UK. Globally, more than 300 companies have banned angora so far”: from Adidas, Aldi UK, Alex and Alexa, Alexa Chung, Allsaints and Anne Klein to Warehouse, WE Fashion, Whistles, The White Company, White Stuff, Yumi International and Zara (05 Jan).
Primark’s new teaching resources explore its international supply chain: ETI member, Primark, has produced free curriculum-based teaching resources for UK secondary schools that can be accessed via their Our Ethics online webpage (04 Jan).
REPORTS, GUIDELINES AND STANDARDS
Industry unites in fight against microplastics: A new industry agreement for the prevention of microplastic release from synthetic textiles washing has been officially launched and endorsed by the European Commission. The European Textile and Apparel Confederation (Euratex), the International Association for Soaps, Detergents and Maintenance Products (A.I.S.E.), the European Outdoor Group (EOG), the European Man Made Fibres Association (CIRFS) and the Federation of European Sporting Goods Industry (FESI) struck an agreement to address the release of microplastic in the aquatic environment (16 Jan).
No one wants your used clothes anymore: For decades, the donation bin has offered consumers in rich countries a guilt-free way to unload their old clothing. In a virtuous and profitable cycle, a global network of traders would collect these garments, grade them, and transport them around the world to be recycled, worn again, or turned into rags and stuffing. Now that cycle is breaking down. Fashion trends are accelerating, new clothes are becoming as cheap as used ones, and poor countries are turning their backs on the second-hand trade. Without significant changes in the way that clothes are made and marketed, this could add up to an environmental disaster in the making (16 Jan). [Ed’s note: for an alternative view, see story below on Oxfam]
Norway to phase out fur farming by 2025: NOAH, an animal rights group in Norway, has reported a Norwegian government resolution that will see fur farming banned by 2025. Norway currently has 300 fur farms, with over 700,000 minks and 110,000 foxes killed each year (14 Jan). See also a story in Newsweek (15 Jan).
CottonConnect releases new report on empowering women in cotton growing communities: CottonConnect has conducted a detailed gendered value chain mapping in six communities in India and China, the details of which are explained in its latest report – ‘Women in Cotton: Findings from a Gendered Value Chain Mapping’. The gender mapping exercise aimed to explore the significant differences in women’s responsibilities across cotton growing communities, enabling the identification of targeted responses in each location (15 Jan). You can download the report here (PDF).
How Oxfam became the rising star of UK’s online fashion industry: Oxfam has emerged as an unlikely rising star of the UK’s fast-growing online fashion scene as it casts an increasingly canny eye over the branded cast-offs and vintage styles dumped in bin bags on its shops’ doorsteps every day (14 Jan).
Victoria & Albert Museum exhibition demonstrates how fashion and nature influence one another: From creating outfits made from vegan leathers to breeding animals in captivity, fashion has impacted nature in both catastrophic and beneficial ways, some of which will be in evidence at an upcoming London exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum (13 Jan).
Who will stop child labour now? An article by Nina Smith, CEO of GoodWeave International (which works to end child labour in global supply chain), who has good things to say about C&A and C&A Foundation have been instrumental in supporting a pilot Indian with positive outcomes. She also cites Patagonia, Eileen Fisher, and Indigenous as leaders in the move to stop child labour (12 Jan).
Employment & labour law in China: Some very useful guidance on employment and labour law in China (lengthy, but in bullet point format covering all issues) (12 Jan). [Ed’s note: A useful reference or checklist for anyone overseeing labour issues in the China supply chain.]
Child’s death highlights slavery, the Indian textile industry’s ‘dirty secret: Thomson Reuters Foundation reports India's human rights panel has ordered Tamil Nadu state to compensate the parents of a girl who was electrocuted to death in a textile mill where they worked as bonded labourers. The order highlights the plight of millions of people working as virtual slaves to repay debts throughout India, including Tamil Nadu where the textile industry is concentrated, campaigners said (12 Jan).
Woolmark judges preach virtues of sustainability in fashion in Florence: Fashion is not so much what you wear and how you look, but how sustainable your clothes are and their effect on the environment. Manufacturing processes and fabrics matter. The international judging panel at the Woolmark Prize at Pitti Uomo 93 in Florence, Italy is concerned with the look and innovation that improves our future and people in the long run. “The big thing in fashion in 2018 is surely innovation and sustainability,” designer and judge Phillip Lim says (12 Jan).
Brands’ social responsibility efforts aren’t resonating with consumers, says new report: Denim brands are pulling back the curtain on their supply chain, but are consumers retaining the information? New research indicates that brands need to do more than launch corporate social responsibility websites. A series of studies by researchers from Ohio State University found that consumers forget hard facts about products and child labour. In an online survey, participants were asked to put together an outfit that included a pair of jeans. Roughly half of the participants saw a brand of jeans described as made with child labour, while the other half saw a brand of jeans made ethically, with no child labour. Those who saw the jeans made with child labour were much less likely to remember this information than people who saw a brand of jeans made with adult labour (11 Jan). See also, Jeans made by kids? People "forget" facts when buying unethical products: Consumers who knowingly buy products that have been made unethically - using child labour or endangered trees - may cope by forgetting the truth about their origins, researchers said (10 Jan).
UK cancer charity joins network tackling supply chain slavery: Thomson Reuters Foundation reports British charity Cancer Research UK has signed up to Sedex, an organisation working to improve supply chain transparency, to ensure the clothing and merchandise sold at its 600 shops in Britain were ethically sourced and slavery-free (11 Jan).
Ethiopia achieves its first organic cotton certification: The first ever organic cotton certificates in Ethiopia have been achieved by 200 of the country’s cotton farmers in three districts where yield rates have risen by 100 per cent (11 Jan).
There is no such thing as ethical fur and no British Vogue, fur is not fashion: “Recently it felt like the fashion world was making some good decisions. With Gucci following in the steps of other major fashion brands (Ralph Lauren, Michael Kors, Stella McCartney to name a few) and going fur-free, you could be forgiven for thinking that fashion was finally catching on to the fact that fur is outdated, cruel, and unethical. But that was before British Vogue decided to feature a full-page advert for the International Fur Federation in their February issue” (11 Jan).
Sustainable trends to watch: Sustainable fabrics, repurposing fabrics, refurbishing or repairing products, fair wages, safe facilities and ethical practices, US or locally made, and proactive partnerships (11 Jan).
Dame Ellen MacArthur on building momentum for sustainability in fashion: Dame Ellen MacArthur spoke to BoF about the growing momentum among fashion companies to commit to the principles of this restorative and regenerative movement (11 Jan).
Why you need take sustainable fashion seriously in 2018: From Vogue, on living wages in supply chains: Anna Gedda, head of sustainability at H&M explained the complicated logistics of monitoring living wages. “One of the most common questions we are asked is if wages are too low, why don’t we just pay the workers more? Unfortunately, the reality is not that simple. The standard factory set up is that workers sit in rows and each of these rows are working on different brands. It can be brands that are at lower or higher price points than us and no matter, they are paid the same and work in the same living conditions. So, if we are tackling fair work wages, it is not possible to pay the workers working on H&M garments more than their colleagues. When we talk about the cost of creating a garment, we negotiate and fix the labour cost and keep that aside from the other costs of the garment production” (09 Jan).
Upcycling your clothes could reduce over a billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions: An interview with Orsola de Castro, the founder of Fashion Revolution (08 Jan).
Study underway to measure textile microfibre release: The Hohenstein Institute in Germany, along with industry partners, has been attempting to measure microplastic fibres in textile effluents. The latest findings are set to be announced and discussed at Texworld Paris in February (05 Jan – subscription required to read full article).
Cone Denim’s Mexico operations receives Oeko-Tex certification: Cone Denim is now able to provide Oeko-Tex certified fabrics on a global basis. The company announced Monday that its Cone Denim Parras and Cone Denim Yecapixtla operations in Mexico have received Oeko-Tex Standard 100 certification on selected denim products (16 Jan).
Investing in worker welfare increases productivity and firm profits: Firms often try cost-cutting methods to increase profitability, however, there is empirical evidence to prove that there is a positive relation between firm welfare and worker welfare. This means that there are positive returns in terms of productivity and profits if the firm invests in the welfare of its workers. In an exclusive interview with BW Businessworld, the three co-founders of Good Business Lab, Achyuta Adhvaryu: Assistant Professor of Business Economics and Public Policy, University of Michigan, Anant Nyshadham: Assistant Professor of Economics, Boston College and Anant Ahuja: Head of Organizational Development, Shahi Exports discuss the research of Good Business Lab into showing this correlation, and why it is wise for firms to invest in its workers’ welfare (11 Jan).
Sewpure launches strongest organic cotton thread on the market: Fiberactive Organics, a specialist in organic cotton thread manufacturing and distribution, has introduced Sewpure, which it is calling the strongest GOTS certified, organic cotton thread on the market (11 Jan).
Sutlej Textiles gains 6 per cent on board approval for green fibre project: Shares of Sutlej Textiles gained 6.5 percent intraday Tuesday as the company has approved setting up of a green fibre project. The company board has approved setting up of a green fibre project to manufacture polyester staple fibre by recycling of pet bottles in Jammu Kashmir (09 Jan).
Far Eastern New Century issues green bonds: Far Eastern New Century, a leading textile firm in Taiwan, listed US$102 million in green bonds, making it the first local private manufacturer to sell such bonds in the local market, according to the Taipei Exchange. The initiative is aimed at showing corporate responsibility about environmental protection, with the proceeds going toward funding environmentally friendly projects (08 Jan).
Xeros Technologies unveils sustainable home washing machine: Xeros Technologies, the developer of polymer technologies which radically improve the sustainability and performance in water-intensive consumer and industrial processes, has announced three new technologies to provide consumers with enhanced fabric care, superior cleaning, cost savings and a much more sustainable laundry solution that substantially lowers water usage by up to 50 per cent while addressing the environmental impact of microplastics from synthetic clothing (08 Jan).
THE SUPPLY CHAIN
Cambodian garment sector to tackle employment contract problems: As the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training finalises its latest amendment to the Labour Law, representatives and labour union leaders convened to discuss fixed duration contracts (FDCs). Recent disputes in the garment sector have largely centred on the use of FDCs versus unspecified duration contracts (UDCs), with workers in the sector, which are mostly women, complaining that short-term FDCs leave them in a precarious situation, without the peace of mind and security afforded by UDCs (16 Jan).
Families of Baldia factory fire victims to get monthly pension: Regretting that the culprits responsible for one of the worst industrial disasters in Pakistan were still at large, activists representing two major non-governmental organisations announced this week that heirs of the Baldia factory fire victims would get monthly pensions as long-term compensation from the amount paid by KiK Textilien, the Germany company for the affected families (16 Jan) [Ed’s note: More than 250 workers lost their lives in the fire that engulfed Ali Enterprise, a garment manufacturing unit, in Baldia on 11 September 2012.]
60 per cent of female garment workers in Bangladesh face violence at workplace, says study: About 60 per cent of the country’s female garment workers have experienced some forms of physical or verbal violence at their workplace, according to a new study. The study, “Measuring the Effect of HER respect: An Intervention Addressing Violence against Female Garment Workers in Four Factories of Bangladesh” was conducted by the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh. Other findings include: over half of female garment workers face spousal violence and of them 40 per cent reported symptoms of depression (see here) (16 Jan).
Phnom Penh court calls worker over Veng Sreng strike: At least one worker and potentially over a dozen more from Meng Da Footwear have been summonsed for questioning in court over their roles in a strike on Veng Sreng Boulevard in early December over allegedly unpaid bonuses (16 Jan).
Bangladesh moves to revise minimum wage for garment workers: The government has opened initiatives to revise the minimum pay for workers in the garment industry. The current wage per month for garment workers, which currently stands at Tk 5,300 (or $63.81), came into effect on 01 Jan 2014. Unions and worker organisations are demanding Tk 16,000 ($192.64) as the new minimum wage, citing rising costs of living resulting from inflation (14 Jan). See also, Apparel wage board formed to avert unrest: The minimum wage was last fixed at Tk 5,300 in 2013, up from Tk 3,000 in 2010, Tk 1,662.50 in 2006, Tk 940 in 1994 and Tk 627 in 1985 (15 Jan).
Better meals make better workers: The Vietnam General Confederation of Labour (VGCL) has helped improve the quality of meals for workers as it makes the issue part of the collective bargaining between employers and employees. In February 2016, the VGCL adopted resolution 07C/NQ-BCH, which says during collective bargaining, trade unions in companies or districts must ask employers to improve meals for workers, ensuring that each costs at least 15,000 VND (66 US cents) (14 Jan).
“Transparency is our strength”, says Bangladesh garment boss: “Bangladeshi apparel industry’s remarkable progress in transparency is impressing foreign buyers,” says Mostafiz Uddin, the managing director of Denim Expert Ltd., who is also the founder and CEO of Bangladesh Apparel Exchange (BAE) and Bangladesh Denim Expo (14 Jan).
As Jordan’s garment sector grows, activists push for better migrant workers’ rights: Jordanian labour officials have begun inspecting migrant housing, but improvements have not necessarily followed (13 Jan).
600 workers go on strike in Saigon after South Korean director disappears owing wages: The company owes nearly $1.35 million in wages and social insurance contributions, according to sources. More than 600 workers at a garment firm in Saigon have been on strike for more than a week demanding their wages after their South Korean employer disappeared. The workers at Nam Phuong Company have met with local officials but have refused to go back to work until they are paid in full (12 Jan).
Indonesia cracks down on organized labour: With crucial elections approaching, the Indonesian government is cracking down on organized labour – after unions forced huge minimum wage increases over recent years (11 Jan).
Decrease in number of garment workers fainting in Cambodia: The number of garment workers who fainted in 2017 decreased 28 percent if compared with 2016, with 18 factories hit by incidents. A total of 1,160 workers fainted in 2017, of which 1,159 were women, according to a report from the National Social Security Fund (11 Jan).
Truck crash injures 41 factory workers in Cambodia: 41 garment workers in Kampong Speu province were injured when their truck overturned last week. Chek Borin, director of the provincial labour department, said the accident happened in Oudong district and injured 41 workers, nine seriously (11 Jan).
Workers to hawk factory machines for backpay in Cambodia: More than 500 workers from the Benoh Apparel factory have agreed to sell the remaining machines in the plant to cover lost pay after the owner went bankrupt and fled the country (10 Jan).
Cambodian employers required to pay more into NSSF for workers: A government policy that went into effect at the start of the year requires employers to pay more into their employees’ government-managed social security funds, a move that will see all businesses hiring one or more employees pay 3.4 percent of each employee’s average salary each month – up to a maximum of about $8.50 – into the National Social Security Fund (NSSF). The money is intended to provide employees with injury insurance and health care (09 Jan).