BRANDS AND RETAILERS

Are Ivanka Trump’s clothes violating ethics? Activists want an investigation: “Democracy Forward, a watchdog group that scrutinizes the executive branch, submitted a letter to David J. Apol, Acting Director of the Office of Government Ethics (OGE). The letter, obtained by Elite Daily, outlines several specific requests to the OGE to investigate Trump and her business while serving a formal role in office. Elite Daily reached out to the White House and Ivanka Trump’s brand for comment and did not receive a response at the time of publication” (23 Jan).

ILRF calls on Abercrombie & Fitch to join Bangladesh Accord: The International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF) is calling on supporters to sign a petition “demand[ing] that Abercrombie & Fitch sign the 2018 Accord to protect the workers who make their clothes!” See this Tweet for an example of how ILRF is targeting the company (23 Jan). [Ed’s note: A collation of groups – Green America, ILRF, Clean Clothes Campaign, Maquila Solidarity Network and United Students Against Sweatshops – are involved in this action, which also calls on “Mango, and Topshop to renew and expand their commitments to garment workers who play an integral role in producing their clothing”.]

Corporate Knights announces 100 World’s Most Sustainable Corporations: Corporate Knights has released the results for the 2018 Global 100 Most Sustainable Corporations in the World index. The highest-ranking company in fashion, apparel and textiles are Kering (ranked 47) and H&M (57). “Marie-Claire Daveu, chief sustainability officer and head of international institutional affairs of Kering, said the ranking is a source of motivation to continue the company’s pursuit of “a more sustainable luxury” (22 Jan).

Kmart [Australia] bid to lift garment workers’ wages in global supply chain: “The head of Wesfarmers’ low-price department store, Kmart, has committed the company to working with the global union movement, to boost the pay of workers in developing countries who make clothes for the group. [MD] Ian Bailey last week hosted an industry roundtable discussion between retailers including Myer, David Jones and Cotton On, and international group ACT, which oversees an agreement between brands and the global trade union coalition IndustriALL” (22 Jan).

PETA adds Sweaty Betty to list of brands banning down: PETA UK says “activewear brand Sweaty Betty has been added to our list of retailers that are dropping down feathers” (via Twitter). For the full list, click on the link in the headline above (22 Jan).

Apparel brand to pay $2.3m settlement on Bangladesh textile factory safety: “Unions representing Bangladeshi textile workers have reached a landmark $2.3m settlement with a multinational apparel brand after it was accused of delays in remedying life-threatening hazards at its factories. … The brand, which cannot be named under the terms of the settlement, has agreed to pay $2m to fix issues at more than 150 garment factories in Bangladesh. A further $300,000 will be paid to the two unions that brought the case, IndustriALL Global Union and UNI Global Union” (22 Jan). See more here, from IndustriALL. [Ed’s note: this was the most heavily covered of all the news storiesfeatured in this week’s roundup, with many commentators calling it a “big win” for safety, supply chain accountability, trade unions, and the ability to hold companies to legally binding provisions.]

Brands commit to progress report on circular economy by May 2018: Companies who signed the 2020 Circular Fashion System Commitment in May last year at the Copenhagen Fashion Summit have said they will publish annual progress report starting May this year to highlight their activities in reaching targets. Since the launch, signatories have been working on setting their own individual targets for 2020, which have been reviewed by the Global Fashion Agenda and BSR. “64 major fashion companies, including Zara, H&M, Kering, Adidas, Eileen Fisher, Hugo Boss, Target and VF Corporation, have shared their action plans for helping accelerate the industry’s transition to a more sustainable, circular model” (19 Jan). [Ed’s note: this story got a lot of press during the week. See, for example, here, here and here.]

Inside VF’s new sustainability direction: The company will focus on the following areas: circular business models, scale for good (focus on sustainable materials), and movement makers (“positioning consumers, associates and its brands as protagonists in the change needed in apparel and footwear”) (19 Jan).

Designer bag brand turns to mushrooms: Myomy do goods, a Dutch fashion brand that produces fairtrade sustainable designer bags, has launched My Paper Bag, the first, and for now only, handbag made from mycelium textile, which is made from fungus (18 Jan).

Stella McCartney showcases cruelty-free fall line: “[Stella] McCartney has been bringing responsibility and sustainability to modern fashion since she showed her first line in 2001, turning the industry known for its reckless indulgence and reliance on animal skins, fur, and feathers, into a showcase for the future of fashion”(17 Jan).

Japanese brands confident about Bangladesh factory improvements: Fast Retailing (Uniqlo), Yondoshi and Rayan (Bicash) are among Japanese brands turning to Bangladesh for manufacturing, “confident conditions have improved sufficiently, and the time is right to capitalize on the country’s manufacturing advantages.” Yondoshi makes products in-country through wholly owned subsidiary As’ty (17 Jan).

H&M appoints global diversity leader over hoodie incident: H&M announced last week “it has appointed a ‘global leader’ in addressing diversity and inclusiveness. “Our commitment to addressing diversity and inclusiveness is genuine, and therefore we have appointed a global leader in this area to drive our work forward. There will be more from us soon,” the popular chain said in a statement” (16 Jan).

Slow fashion denim line launches in Los Angeles: Father’s Daughter – a denim label created by the father-daughter team of Jim and Su Kim – “is a return to handcrafted garments that are part of the slow-fashion movement looking for well-made items produced domestically.” As the article notes, other similar brands have moved out of LA, because “big corporations and private-equity firms have taken over these name brands, much of that high-end blue-jeans production has gone to Mexico and other overseas areas in search of lower costs” (11 Jan).

REPORTS, GUIDELINES AND STANDARDS

The Circularity Gap Report: A new report looks at how the linear economy is failing people and the planet and what we can do to close the global circularity gap. “Our world economy is only 9.1% circular, leaving a massive ‘Circularity Gap’. This alarming statistic is the main output of this first Circularity Gap Report, in which we launch a metric for the circular state of the planet. Taking the United Nations’ Emissions Gap Report as inspiration, the Circularity Gap Report provides a framework and fact-base to measure and monitor progress in bridging the gap, year on year. Being able to track and target performance via the Global Circularity Metric will help us engage in uniform goal-setting and guide future action in the most impactful way” (Jan 18). [Ed’s note: you can download the report at the link in the headline.]

Asian sweatshop fears threaten EU’s trade momentum: “Europe’s trade chief Cecilia Malmström is running into a formidable obstacle as she tries to rack up free-trade agreements across Asia: workers’ rights. An accord with Vietnam, seen as her first big coup when it was finalized in 2015, now risks being kicked into the legislative deep freeze because of a political backlash over how the communist one-party state treats its workers. Senior European parliamentarians say it is far from clear that they will be able to ratify the pact. This severe blowback over Vietnam is the harbinger of a significant new trend” (21 Jan).

China’s doorway to North Korea feels sanctions pinch: “Rows of sewing machines in one Chinese garment factory on the border with North Korea are now silent, unmanned after UN sanctions sent home their seamstresses from the secretive country. Factory owners, merchants and shop owners in the border city of Dandong – China’s main trading hub with neighbouring North Korea - are feeling the pinch from the United Nations resolutions” (21 Jan).

Will tech fix fashion’s environmental problems?Ben Alun-Jones, co-founder and creative director of Unmade, said that conservatively, 10 percent of products each season go unsold and end up in landfills. … Unmade is a platform through which fashion brands can enable e-commerce customers to customize the clothing they order within the parameters the brand specifies.” (21 Jan).

How fast fashion adds to the world’s clothing waste problem: From CBC’s “Marketplace” comes a 22-minute report: “Many of us give our old clothes to charity or drop them in a store take-back bin, but you might be surprised to learn most of it is sold and can end up in the landfill.” If you don’t have 22 minutes to spare watching a YouTube video, they is an article here, which lays out the main points. The report focuses heavily on H&M (19 Jan).

“Fast fashion is a trend that should definitely be reversed”: So says Berndt Hinzmann from INKOTA (a German development organisation, which often works with Clean Clothes Campaign). The article focuses on sharing (or renting) clothing, rather than owning it, and the recent rollout of clothing rental for young children by Tchibo is mentioned positively (18 Jan – in German).

Fewer risks, more rewards for socially responsible apparel, says report: “According to a new study by A.T. Kearney, a global management consulting firm based in New York City, “[…d]oing good,” in fact, can often translate into heftier profits.” The report is called “Social innovation offers five golden opportunities to the apparel industry”, which notes “the global apparel industry has grown significantly in the past decade, but at a heavy environmental and social cost. Social innovation can bring healthier, more holistic future growth” (18 Jan).

US apparel group queries child labour list methodology: The American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA) has questioned the US Department of Labor’s methodology in the production of its ‘List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor’, a publication released every two years (17 Jan).

Wearable waste at the Berlin Fashion Week: This year [at Berlin Fashion Week], there are fewer major sponsors. And instead of big brands, the trend is toward green fashion and sustainability. Many of the designers are showcasing products made of recycled or biogradable materials” (17 Jan).

Vancouver's Eco Fashion Week is no more: “After eight years and 12 seasons of promoting sustainable initiatives and designers in the fashion industry, Vancouver’s Eco Fashion Week will cease operations” (16 Jan).

China’s efforts to upgrade domestic textile industry are symbolic of green progress: “In 2016, China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology released the “Development Plan for the Textile Industry (2016-20),” including an explicit proposal to promote smart manufacturing and green manufacturing in the textile industry and form new momentum for development in order to push China’s textile industry toward the middle and high end of the value chain. … By 2020, China’s textile industry is expected to have cut energy consumption per unit of industrial added value by 18 percent, with a cut in water intake per unit of industrial added value of 23 percent and a reduction of 10 percent in the total discharge of major pollutants” (16 Jan). [Ed’s note: The author of this article, Wu Yabin, is executive dean of the Research Institute for Global Value Chains at the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing.]

Circular economy allies strengthen collaboration: “The Ellen MacArthur Foundation and the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute have announced a formal collaboration between the organisations, targeted at furthering their mutual ambitions to champion a circular economy” (11 Jan – subscription required to read full article).

What’s next in sustainable fashion? From Luxiders: “Today we can buy sneakers made from stone, blouses made from plastic bottles, trousers made from car seats, clutches made from pineapple leather… or T-shirt prints using sunlight” (10 Jan).

MANUFACTURERS

Esquel Group eyes zero liquid discharge: A US supplier of filtration and separation technology has partnered with Hong Kong-based Esquel Group, the world’s largest woven shirt manufacturer, in a bid to implement zero liquid discharge in the textile giant’s wet processing manufacturing facilities (22 Jan – subscription required to read full article).

Five sustainable fashion trends Eluxe Magazine loves – and 5 it hates: Love: Vietnam, influencers with ethics, vintage fashion, luxury 3D printing, and fur going the way of the dodo. Hate: automation in fashion, PVC, fast fashion purchases increasing, cloned fur/leather, and big magazines covering sustainability (because they will it on their advertisers’ terms) (22 Jan).

Technology meets sustainability: Eluxe Magazine outlines three key innovations: i) clothing made from food (Qmilk makes fabric from milk, tea and coffee beans); ii) dyes (AirDye uses 85% less energy and 90% less water than conventional dyeing); and iii) 3D printing (avoids waste, when-needed basis only) (22 Jan).

Taiwan textile firm champions clean, green production practices: “The textile industry is an energy intensive sector that uses a great amount of water in the dyeing process. In recent years, water-free dyeing techniques have been employed in Taiwan. Singtex Industrial Co. Ltd. headquartered in New Taipei City was one of the first local companies to research and develop such eco-friendly techniques” (20 Jan).

FDRA recognizes footwear factories for responsible manufacturing: The Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America (FDRA) has highlighted 10 factories for their commitment to improving factory conditions and standards. The list includes: Putian Apex Footwear (China), Ju Hui Footwear Company Ltd. (China), Dongguan Properwell (China), Ho Hsin Tai Company Ltd. (China), Huizhou Lighthouse Shoes Company Ltd. (China), Roll Sport (Vietnam) and PT Oga Mas Utama (Indonesia) (20 Jan).

SAC and ZDHC team up for manufacturer forums in Europe: Next month, the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC) and ZDHC will host two manufacturer forums in Europe (Milan, 20 February, and Barcelona, 22 February). Topics include sustainability, the Higg Index, chemical management, and verification (19 Jan).

GTI gets Eco Passport certification by Oeko-Tex: “Green Theme International (GTI), the creators of sustainable and water-free textile technologies, has qualified for the Eco Passport certification by Oeko-Tex from the Hohenstein Institute (Germany) for GTI’s new Aquavent water-repellency chemistry” (16 Jan).

Tintex ditches conventional cotton: “Tintex has announced that it has completely switched from using conventional cotton and the launch of a new range. Naturally Advanced Cotton by Tintex has a choice of four responsible cotton solutions, the company says. These include the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI), Ecotec by Marchi & Fildi, GOTS certified organic cotton, and Supima” (15 Jan – subscription required to read full article).

THE SUPPLY CHAIN

Toll-free number brings legal aid to Indian garment workers: Thomson Reuters Foundation reports workers in “south India’s textile and garment industry […] will now have anonymous access to legal aid through a newly-launched toll-free number” (22 Jan).

Call to investigate Cambodian union leader’s murder: “Unionists, workers and civil society organisations on Monday asked authorities to find the murderers of prominent union leader Chea Vichea as they marked the anniversary of his death” (22 Jan). [Ed’s note: Chea Vichea was the leader of the Free Trade Union of Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia (FTUWKC) until he was shot in the street on 22 January 2004. Shortly before his death, he had been dismissed by the INSM Garment Factory.]

Cambodian garment factory owner asks minister for help: “The director of Gawon Apparel has sued the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union (C.CAWDU) for not following a court decision and has asked the Minister of Labour to take action to open the gates of the factory. Chha Kbong Hy, 49, the director of Gawon Apparel in Kandal province’s Takmao town, said in a letter sent to Labour Minister Ith Samheng […] that C.CAWDU officials led the workers to block National Road 21 and also blocked the gates of the factory, which stopped the factory from completing orders for buyers” (21 Jan).

114,400 labour disputes handled in Guangdong in 2017: The Guangdong Provincial Department of Human Resources and Social Security has announced 2017 saw the resolution of 114,000 disputes, with approximately RMB 2.6 billion (US$406.4 million) paid out to 200,000 workers. Other statistics include: wage arrears cases including ten or more workers dropped by more than 20 per cent year-on-year; over 80 per cent of labour disputes in the province occurred in the Pearl River Delta area, and more than 60 per cent of cases were resolved through arbitration (21 Jan – in Chinese).

Workers protest wage arrears owed by garment factory in Chongqing, China: Hong Kong’s China Labour Bulletin reports on workers threatening to jump off a building in protest over wage arrears owed by garment factory in Chongqing, Sichuan. According to report on Sina Weibo (a Twitter-like platform in China), the unstated number of workers threatening to jump from the factory building were owed back wages of up to nine months (see here, including short video – in Chinese) (20 Jan).

Thailand recommends daily minimum wage hikes up to 7 per cent: Thailand’s Central Wage Committee has recommended that the daily minimum wage be increased by 7 per cent to 330 baht ($10.33) in its two most industrialised provinces, Chonburi and Rayong (18 Jan).

Workers unrest at UMC Jute mill in Bangladesh: Workers at UMC Jute Mills in Narsingdi have launched protests demanding the implementation of their wage commission among 11 other points (18 Jan).

Cambodian program incentivises drivers: “In an effort to reduce the number of traffic accidents involving garment workers, the Labour Ministry has created an incentive programme to recognise and award good drivers” (18 Jan).

Child workers dodge factory inspectors in Myanmar: [Ed’s note: the article focuses on construction, but the following quote may be of interest.] “Hay Marn, 16, whose name has been changed to protect her identity, has been working full-time at a garment factory in the Hlaing Thar Yar Industrial Zone outside Yangon since she was 12. For four years, she had been able to dodge the inspectors, who failed repeatedly to discover any of the underage children in the factory. “(The inspectors) first came four to five months after we started work. I got goose bumps; my heart was beating very fast,” she recounted. While the inspector was still at the top floor, the boss would come down and tell me: ‘The inspector is here. All children must go and hide in the toilet.’ That is what she did each time, so as to earn US$3 for every 10-hour shift. The salary cannot compensate for the “tiring” workload, she said, adding: “We get scolded if the clothes aren’t done” (17 Jan).

Cambodian unions and companies alike unhappy with draft changes to law on worker contracts: “Both unionists and private sector representatives are unhappy with draft amendments to Cambodia’s Labour Law, which would overhaul the regulations surrounding worker contracts and guaranteed employee protections” (16 Jan).

US Labor Department report identifies labor concerns in Colombia: “The Department of Labor has issued its first periodic review of progress in addressing issues identified in its January 2017 report on Colombia’s compliance with its obligations under the labor chapter of the U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement,”  noting progress but concerns remain (16 Jan).

Garment workers protest over unpaid salaries: “More than 350 garment workers at First Gawon Apparel in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district refused to continue working on Tuesday because the factory’s owner had not paid their wages for December. Khem Makara, the president of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union, said that 357 workers stopped work about one week ago over the wage dispute” (16 Jan). See also, Workers stage walkout: “More than 350 garment workers at the First Gawon Apparel factory in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district have refused to continue their work because the owner has not paid their wages for December” (17 Jan).

Disclaimer: The Fashion Sustainability Week in Review (FSWIR) is a weekly roundup of sustainability news items relevant to the fashion, apparel, textile and related industries. The views and opinions expressed in the Fashion Sustainability Week in Review of the authors and/or media outlets cited do not necessarily reflect the position of GoBlu or any individual associated with the company.

(Photo shell_ghostcageCCO)

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