THIS ISSUE

Brands in this issue include: Adidas, Columbia, Designworks Clothing Company, Gap, H&M, M&S, Nike, Rowlinson Knitwear, Royal Bermuda, Sears, Varner, and VF (signing the Responsible Sourcing Network’s (RSN) Turkmen Cotton Pledge), Varner, Lindex, H&M, Pierre Robert, Bergans, KappAhl and Bik Bok (working with recycling companies on a Textile Campaign in Norway), VF (CEO nominated for Responsible CEO of the Year and Lifetime Achievement Award), and more.

Reports released this week:

In general news:

  • Hongkongers fight ‘fast fashion’ as clothes-mending workshops and pop-up swaps grow in popularity

  • How Redress sustainable fashion award winners turned junk into jazz

  • How much jhut is burned in Bangladesh tobacco kilns?

  • Microplastics contaminate half of all freshwater insects, study shows

  • Bangladesh: clothing, textile manufacturers undermined by demand for low prices

  • C&A Foundation sowed the seeds of organic cotton farming for farmers to reap rich results

  • Ban fur? Proposal gets under skin of Los Angeles sellers

In the supply chain:

  • Bangladesh: 14 y.o. RMG worker raped; questions raised over minimum wage rise; green garment factories frustrated over lack of higher prices

  • Cambodia: calls to deal with garment factory waste; new website for workers to find factory jobs

  • China: SMEs seek advice on how to avoid legal responsibilities; garment factory fire

  • Ethiopia: new study finds labour turnover problems

  • India: workers in organised sector see low wage growth; machines coming for unwanted factory jobs

  • Mexico: ratification of ILO Convention No. 98

Manufacturers in this issue include: Esquel (a Hong Kong-based garment company turning to robots in the US), Modern Meadow, Bolt Threads and VitroLabs (in an article on how biotechnology is reshaping fashion), and more.

Quotes of the week:

  • “Analysts predict younger consumers in Western countries will buy fewer products made from animals generally.” BOF (01 Oct).

  • “Clothing company Zara created an unprecedented 40,000 designs last year.” Forbes (10 Oct).

  • “I think all of you here can agree, at least one-third of small and medium-sized private entrepreneurs [in Guangdong province] will have to shut down.” Bill Zhong, a labour law consultant in China, on the consequences of social welfare payment compliance from next year as the government cracks down (30 Sep).

  • “We present our collections and show the steps we have taken to improve working conditions and salaries and the investments we have made to be more eco-friendly… and buyers tell us that this is all very good, very appreciated, but we have to lower our prices. This is while we have already taken it upon ourselves not to raise prices despite the millions we have invested in our factories. I am talking about brands that triumph the importance of CSR in their collections. We get screwed!” Anonymous Bangladeshi factory owner (28 Sep).

  • “My land was like a drug addict. At first it wanted its chemical fix, but slowly, as I began to get accustomed to it. I had a hunch that the third year would be the turning point.” Pahad Singh, a cotton farmer in India, on switching from chemical and pesticide farming to organic (27 Sep).

  • “It’s basically just pushing people around.” Daniel Wachtenheim, whose family has been in the fur business for 70 years, claiming he felt personally targeted by the Los Angeles fur ban when other animal use industries were allowed to continue operations (27 Sep).

By Stephen Frost, CUHK Business School, The Chinese University of Hong Kong.

BRANDS & RETAILERS

Top apparel brands call for end to forced labor: “Adidas, Columbia Sportswear Company, Designworks Clothing Company, Gap Inc., H&M Group, M&S, Nike, Inc., Rowlinson Knitwear Limited, Royal Bermuda, LLC, Sears Holdings, Varner Retail AS, and VF Corporation … have already signed the Responsible Sourcing Network’s (RSN) Turkmen Cotton Pledge, which commits companies to not source cotton from Turkmenistan until forced labor in its cotton sector has been eliminated” (01 Oct).

How selling cheap products is hurting your company: “Consumer culture is changing, and brands are beginning to feel intense pressure to put quantity over quality when it comes to what they sell in their stores” (01 Oct). [Ed’s note: Zara is a case in point.]

Brands get behind Norwegian Tekstilaksjonen (Textile Campaign): Brands including Varner, Lindex, H&M, Pierre Robert, Bergans, KappAhl and Bik Bok have united for the fourth year with recycling companies such as Fretex and UFF to support Tekstilaksjonen, a collaborative Textile Campaign in Norway (28 Sep).

Finalists for the 2018 Responsible CEO of the Year and Lifetime Achievement Awards: “Corporate Responsibility Magazine has announced the finalists for its annual excellence in leadership awards. The awards are given to corporate leaders committed to a progressive environmental, social, and governance (ESG) agenda, and to those who are taking bold steps to move the needle on the urgent conversations of the day. [Among the five finalists this year is] Steve Rendle, president and CEO at VF Corporation” (26 Sep).

NEWS & REPORTS

Hongkongers fight ‘fast fashion’ as clothes-mending workshops and pop-up swaps grow in popularity: “Despite Hong Kong’s reputation for rampant consumerism, a nascent movement against fast fashion is taking root in the city, with clothes-mending workshops and pop-up swaps growing in popularity, and designers parading recycled fabrics on the catwalk” (01 Oct). [Ed’s note: penned by Mostafiz Uddin, Managing Director of Denim Expert Limited, Bangladesh.]

Brands work ethically if civil society acts unitedly: “An alliance of labour unions and civil society, the Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC), is up against unlawful acts by brands in the garments sector” (01 Oct).

Are companies and stakeholders focusing on the same sustainability priorities? “This year, we [BSR] conducted our 10th annual survey on the State of Sustainable Business in collaboration with GlobeScan. This year’s results show that the line between sustainability issues and mainstream business issues is increasingly blurred as businesses experience the consequences of social and political disruption in a rapidly changing world” (01 Oct). [Ed’s note: you can download the report here.]

When a picture is worse than a thousand words: “It is this power of image that has led me to become so incensed by a picture published recently by a renowned international apparel magazine, the UK-based Ecotextile News, depicting a totally incorrect image of Bangladesh’s RMG industry. To our utter surprise, the images it used were not even of a Bangladeshi manufacturing unit, and were rather shown to grab the reader’s attention” (01 Oct).

How Redress sustainable fashion award winners turned junk into jazz: “Contestants in the world’s largest sustainable fashion design competition turn waste into appealing designs” (30 Sep).

How much jhut is burned in Bangladesh tobacco kilns? [Ed’s note: this article is about tobacco kilns in Chittagong, but it includes an interesting statistic, which should interest the fashion industry.] “According to the report, 3kg of fuel are burned to produce 1kg of Virginia- cured leaves. Some kilns also use jhut (scrap fabrics from garment factories), dhaincha (scientific name is sesvania), and charcoal, to cure tobacco leaves. On average, each tobacco kiln cures 2,000kg of tobacco leaves a year” (30 Sep).

Destroying unsold clothes is fashion’s dirty secret. and we’re complicit: “We may be shocked that brands burn and shred wearable clothes, but it’s inevitable for a system that pumps out billions of pieces a year” (29 Sep). [Ed’s note: the article mentions Burberry, Chanel, H&M, Nike, Volcom and the proposed French law on end-of-life clothing.]

Microplastics contaminate half of all freshwater insects, study shows: “A newly published study by a team of scientists at Cardiff University and University of Exeter reveals that microplastics can be found in at least half of all aquatic insects living in the rivers of South Wales (ref), indicating that freshwater is seriously compromised by plastic pollution” (29 Sep). [Ed’s note: you can see the academic paper on which this article is based here.]

Bangladesh: clothing, textile manufacturers undermined by demand for low prices: ““Buyers appreciate the green revelation but sadly many of them do not become partners in this change,” said the industrialist Sajedur Rahman Talukder. “They are reluctant to add on even a single penny to invest in and run a green factory that respects these standards” (28 Sep).

FIT panelists suggest fighting fast fashion in the name of sustainability: “Panelists agreed that brands and shoppers need to be more conscientious about the root source of the products they buy and produce. PatagoniaReformation, Eileen Fisher, Tradesy, The Real Real, Groceries Apparel and Outerknown were among the sustainable-conscious labels they cited as helping to lead the charge” (27 Sep).

This foundation sowed the seeds of organic cotton farming for farmers to reap rich results: “The C&A Foundation launched a sustainable cotton programme in 2014 with an aim to improve the livelihoods of small farmers and conserve the environment through sustainable cotton cultivation” (27 Sep).

Ban fur? Proposal gets under skin of Los Angeles sellers: “Activists have praised the city’s plan, but local furriers say it will hurt small businesses and do little to help animals” (27 Sep).

Luxembourg’s first gentleman Gauthier Destenay talks sustainable fashion, Melania Trump, immigration: “At Tuesday’s Fashion 4 Development’s First Ladies Luncheon at The Pierre, the Belgian architect shared his thoughts on how fashion can lift up impoverished communities and help enlighten others” (26 Sep).

THE SUPPLY CHAIN

Bangladesh

RMG worker raped in Dhaka: “A 14-year-old female readymade garment worker has [been] allegedly gang-raped at Mohammadpur in Dhaka. [She was employed by] City Dying Garment Ltd.” (01 Oct).

Global buyers, investors for continuation of Accord: “Global buyers and investors have requested Bangladesh government to allow operation of Transition Accord in Bangladesh’s readymade garment sector until the ‘rigorous readiness’ of a national body to take over the factory safety responsibility” (30 Sep).

Not even the bare minimum: “Amirul Haque Amin, president of the National Garment Workers Federation (NGWF), explains, the wage board has only declared the minimum wage for 7th grade (entry level) workers, who constitute less than 5 percent of the total workforce. “It is a matter of concern that we are yet to know what the wages for those in higher grades would be. It is very much possible that the change in wages would be lower in the higher grades.” If that turns out to be the case, the minimum wage increase would essentially be a red herring” (28 Sep).

GWTUC wants govt to review minimum wage for garment workers: “Garment Workers’ Trade Union Centre leaders called on the government on Friday to reconsider its decision to fix the monthly minimum wage for garment workers at Tk 8,000, which the craft union has found much lower than the expected” (28 Sep).

Green garment factory owners left frustrated: “Green garment factory owners, who have spent billions of dollars for setting up the units, are left frustrated as the international retailers are not rewarding them with higher prices for the initiative” (23 Sep).

Cambodia

GMAC addresses Por Senchey industrial rubbish: “The Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia has asked the Environment Ministry to tackle a lack of industrial waste collection at factories in Phnom Penh’s Por Senchey district. GMAC said that members in the area have complained about the mishandling of industrial waste by Sarom Trading Company, designated by the government to collect and dispose factory waste eight times per month” (01 Oct).

Website to attract garment job seekers: “The Labour Ministry and the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia yesterday launched a new website to help labourers find employment in factories. The website called Bong Srey, or sister, was aided by the Business Partnership Platform and the Australian government’s Foreign Affairs Department” (28 Sep).

China

Small Chinese firms seek ‘lessons in survival’ as they brace for impact of social welfare taxes: “Already under pressure from the trade war, businesses look for ‘tricks’ to keep costs in check as authorities get tough on collecting social security payments” (30 Sep).

Garment factory fire in Jinshi: The fire broke early morning in Jinshi, a town close by Shantou in Guangdong Province. No casualties were reported, but the site warrants a fire department investigation (22 Sep – in Chinese).

Ethiopia

Ethiopia to Mauritius: how will Africa match jobs to its population boom? “A recent study of five [Ethiopian] industrial firms – including a garment maker and a shoe factory – found that only a third of new employees remained in the industrial sector after a year” (27 Sep).

India

44% of those employed in organized manufacturing are on contract, leading to slow 1.7% per annum wage rise: “Titled “State of Working India 2018”, carried out by the Centre for Sustainable Empoyment at the Azim Premji University, Bengalaru, the study, however, regrets, that the “wage growth in organised manufacturing has been slower than that in the unorganised sector – at 0.8 per cent over the whole period since 1999, and 1.7 per cent in the most recent period” (01 Oct).

Machines are coming for India’s unwanted factory jobs: “Despite an expected surge in the working-age population, factories face a dearth of willing labor” (27 Sep).

Mexico

Mexico ratifies ILO Convention No. 98: “In an historic moment for Mexico’s union movement, the Mexican Senate has unanimously ratified International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention No. 98, which guarantees the right to organize and collective bargaining” (27 Sep).

MANUFACTURERS

How biotechnology is reshaping fashion: “Modern Meadow, Bolt Threads and VitroLabs are leading a wave of start-ups tapping biotechnology to develop a new generation of sustainable and cruelty-free materials” (01 Oct).

Reliance Industries partners with Vardhman Textiles for sustainable fabric: “We are proud to be associated with the leading player Vardhman for R|Elan. We will work together to ensure the consumer’s growing demand for high-quality performance and sustainable apparel are met” (27 Sep).

Hong Kong shirtmaker Esquel turns to robots to beat US tariffs: “[Esquel] is betting on automation allowing it to set up production where its customers are, especially America” (26 Sep).

CONFERENCES & SEMINARS                                        

[New listings or updated information marked with *]

04 October, Los Angeles: Sustainable Fashion Forum: “A one-day conference focused on sustainable fashion and textile processes and practices, offering tangible ways fashion businesses can lead in sustainability, ethical responsibility, and climate change.” [Part of LA Fashion.]

* 04 October, London: Reinventing Fashion: “[O]rganised by the Hoffmann Centre for Sustainable Resource Economy at Chatham House in collaboration with the Circular Economy Club.”

05 October, London: Fashioned from Nature: Designing a Sustainable Future: “This conference will bring together industry experts to explore creative and practical ways to reduce the environmental impact of fashion, from small-scale innovations to new methods being introduced by global brands.”

* 09 October or 11 October, webinar: How to source sustainable cotton? “Join Cotton 2040 partners in this webinar to explore how the CottonUP guide can help your organisation understand the business case and main sourcing options for sustainable cotton.”

09 – 10 October, Maastricht, the Netherlands: 34th IAF World Fashion Convention: With a theme this year of “Building a Smart Future for Fashion”, the Convention will “will show many inspiring examples of a smarter apparel supply chain.” 

10 – 11 October, London: 13th Responsible Supply Chain Summit Europe: “Focus on the emerging technologies, innovations and collaborations critical to sustainable, cost-effective supply chain strategies.”

11 October, Geneva: Giving Women’s 8th Annual Conference: “The Fashion Industry: Women’s Friend or Foe”

* 11 October, New York: Sourcing Journal Summit 2018: Sseveral panels tackle sustainability in the supply chain.

11 – 12 October, Kilkenny, Ireland: Global Forum on Responsible Leather. Hosted by TextileExchange Responsible Leather Roundtable.

15 – 17 October, Shanghai: Yarn Expo Autumn: “Sustainable sources of specialty yarns, fancy yarns and chemical fibres will be the focus at this year’s Autumn Edition.”

18 – 19 October, Milan: 5th Bluesign Conference: “TraceAbility. NetworkAbility. TransformAbility. Stitching the blue way together … gathering of all the Bluesign system partners and broader sustainability community for an opportunity to exchange ideas.”

22 October: Short Course (Free): Fashion & Sustainability: Understanding Luxury in a Changing World: “Get an introduction to issues, agendas and contexts relating to fashion and sustainability in a changing world.”

22 – 24 October, Milan: 2018 Textile Sustainability Conference: United by Action: Accelerating Sustainability in Textiles & Fashion: Textile Exchange’s 2018 Textile Sustainability Conference. (See agenda update here.)

23 – 26 October, Louisville, Kentucky: 2018 EHS & Sustainability Management Forum: “This year's EHS and Sustainability Management Forum will offer five tracks, a focus on EHS&S Business Strategy, Leadership and EHS&S Tools.”

25 October, Milan: Introduction to BCI & Better Cotton: “[A]fter the Textile Exchange Conference [22 – 24 October] to find out how BCI is creating opportunities for your more sustainable cotton strategies.”

25 – 26 October, Lisbon: Sustainable Retail Summit: Hosted by the Consumer Goods Forum – “Topics on the agenda include plastic waste, migrant labour, consumer health, food waste and transparency.”

31 October – 01 November, London: Responsible Supply Chains: The future of trade: “[The] event will include analysis of key sustainability trends, the future of business models and leadership and explore new models of collaboration.”

31 October – 01 November, London: ‘What’s Going On? A Discourse on Fashion, Design and Sustainability’: “The Global Fashion Conference is a bi-annual international conference, which aims to contribute to a multidisciplinary approach to fashion studies and brings together academia and industry, promoting a more sustainable model of development.”

06 – 08 November, NYC: A New Blueprint for Business: “[An] increasingly complex environment requires a new blueprint for business, with resilient strategies, effective governance models, and new management approaches.” BSR’s annual conference.

13 – 14 November, Los Angeles: Remode: The premier event for disruptive and sustainable fashion: “[H]ear from fashion’s leading innovators, gain access to a collaborative network of relevant people and resources, and leave with an actionable plan for innovation and growth.”

13 – 14 November, San Diego: 2nd Responsible Business Summit West: “It is imperative to advance ethical leadership in today's age of digital disruption. Failure to do so will result in loss of customer trust, shareholder value and ultimately, profits.” Hosted by Ethical Corporation.

15 November, London: Leather & Sustainability in Retail Conference 2018: “Join BLC, ILM and leather industry professionals at this year’s half-day leather sustainability conference which covers sustainability and innovation around raw materials for leather, uses for waste materials within the leather value chain and circular economy. The conference will also be considering new materials coming to market and look at transparency and traceability of production within existing processes.”

16 – 17 January 2019, Delhi: International Workshop Agreement for the screening of GMOs in cotton and textiles: “The IWA is about a protocol for GMO screening in cotton and textiles.”

24 January 2019, London: 8th Future Fabrics Expo: “Source from 5000+ fabrics, yarns, leathers, trims with a reduced environmental impact from over 150 mills and suppliers.”

(Photo AndrzejCCO)

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

Comment