Brands in this issue include: Adidas, M&S, VF, Inditex, Gap, H&M, Hanesbrands, Next, Nike, Under Armour, Kering, Fast Retailing, Primark, Walmart, LVMH, Aeon, L Brands, Target, TJX Companies, Kohl’s, Tapestry, Nordstrom, Falabella, Ross Stores, Macy’s, Prada, Hermes, Heilan Home (all rated on human rights in a new report by Corporate Human Rights Benchmark), Boohoo, Missguided and Asos (quizzed by UK lawmakers over fast fashion sustainability), HNST (recycling denim waste), Jean Paul Gaultier (bans fur), Nudie Jeans (ditches leather back patches), and more.

Reports released this week:

In general news:

  • Responsible Business Alliance initiative launched to advance worker well-being

  • Brit sweatshop workers earning as little as £3 an hour making copycat celeb outfits

  • How wearing clothes contribute to deforestation and what you can do about it

  • Dying to Clothe You documentary crowdfunding goes live

  • Is bryanboy right – is sustainability incompatible with fashion?

  • Anand Giridharadas at BSR18

In the supply chain:

  • Bangladesh: Bank Asia brings banking services to apparel workers; EU retailers may cut ties with 532 RMG units; and Accord wants to stay beyond November

  • Cambodia: Labour Ministry receives counsel on labour rights from to US-based organisations; PM urges ministers to end all cases against union leaders; Cambodian workers weigh the cost of EU’s stand on human rights

  • India: #MeToo: Working class women share their stories of harassment

  • Turkmenistan: Teachers forced to pick cotton during fall break

Manufacturers in this issue include: HeiQ and DuPont (introduce eco-friendly water-repellent finish for Wolverine World Wide Leather), Unifi (reinvents itself as a plastics recycler), and more.

Quotes of the week:

  • “Ten years ago manufacturers could make £2 profit from a dress but these days they would be lucky to make 25p. None of the retailers are giving us an ethical price.” Factory owner Saeed Khilji, chairman of the Textile Manufacturer Association of Leicestershire, on British sweatshops (10 Nov).

  • “The kind of change elites believe in, the kind of do-gooding, philanthropy, CSR, impact investing, social enterprise, those kinds of changes that are essentially within a market frame, market mentality, are intrinsically limited because at bottom they are about changing the world in ways that keep the winner’s world the same.” Anand Giridharadas, author of Winners Take All, at BSR18 (10 Nov).

  • “[S]ustainability now means whatever the person saying it wants it to mean. He says that the way we casually use simple terms like sustainable, fair, fast, and slow is also a problem, pushing us to think that the world is black and white.” David Goldsmith from the Swedish School of Textiles (09 Nov).

  • “In the recent Fu Yuen [garment factory strike in Myanmar], the police blamed the women on strike for causing the violence that left 28 workers injured. And when students in Yangon organised a rally in support of the Fu Yuen strike, the police arrested the organisers and charged them with holding a public rally without a permit.” Stephen Campbell (09 Nov).

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


Corporate Human Rights Benchmark 2018 Key Findings: The Corporate Human Rights Benchmark (CHRB) has released its 2018 report, benchmarking companies in sectors including apparel. Brands ranked are (with % band): Adidas (80-90%), M&S and VF (60-70%), Inditex and Gap (50-60%), H&M and Hanesbrands (40-50%), Next, Nike and Under Armour (30-40%), Kering, Fast Retailing, Associated British Foods (Primark) and Walmart (20-30%), LVMH, Aeon, L Brands, Target, TJX Companies and Kohl’s (10-20%), and Tapestry, Nordstrom, Falabella, Ross Stores, Macy’s, Prada, Hermes and Heilan Home (0-10%) (12 Nov). [Ed’s note: see Most big companies failing U.N. human rights test, ranking shows: “Most big companies operating in sectors at high risk of labour abuses are failing to meet human rights standards set by the United Nations, according to an analysis of 100 major companies published on Monday” (12 Nov).]

Burak Cakmak on fashion, sustainability and the classroom: “The dean of fashion at Parsons School of Design shares his journey from developing social responsibility efforts to leading a premier fashion education program” (12 Nov).

Jean Paul Gaultier becomes latest designer to ban fur from its collections: “Jean Paul Gaultier has become the latest fashion designer to ban fur products from his collections. The designer announced his decision on live on French television where he claimed that the way animals are killed for their fur was “absolutely deplorable”” (11 Nov).

The future of sustainable fashion and social responsibility: “Ready to get on board? Here are some clothing brands that are paving the way when it comes to sustainable fashion: Reformation, H&M Conscious Exclusive, Veja, Amur, and KITX” (10 Nov).

‘A necessary change’: Sustainability in fashion is becoming a given, not a gimmick: “The Council of Fashion Designers of America announced on Wednesday the five finalists for this year’s CFDA + Lexus Fashion Initiative, a yearly program that chooses five fashion brands focusing on sustainability and places them in a nine-month residency to improve their sustainable efforts. The finalists – Public School, Tracy Reese, Jonathan Cohen, Abasi Rosborough and Araks – are diverse not only in the categories they cover but also in their thinking on sustainability” (09 Nov).

Sustainable Fashion with Violeta Villacorta, founder of Org by Vio: “Former senior designer at Patagonia, [Violeta Villacorta, founder of Org by Vio] shares her lifelong mission to create sustainable fashion” (09 Nov – 34:38-minute podcast).

Is faux leather even better than the real thing? These 3 designers say yes: Vicki von Holzhausen (Von Holzhausen’s technik-leather), Georgia Hobart (Hobes), and Melissa Losada Bofill and Marcela Velez (M2Malletier) (09 Nov).

HNST recycles denim waste into new, sustainable jeans: “The search for sustainable fashion brands can be tricky.  Few brands have been built on sustainable frameworks and most operate on legacy systems within archaic supply chains that are complex to overhaul and clean up.  For this reason, many brands can only claim incremental sustainability achievements. Not so at HNST” (08 Nov).

The suddenly surging business of recycled plastic puffer jackets: “Late last month, Everlane made the very big announcement that it was ridding its supply chain of virgin plastic. The San Francisco-based ethical label plans to do so entirely by 2021, starting now. Enter, ReNew: a line of puffers, fleeces and parkas made from recycled plastic, and a lot of it. Everlane turned more than 3 million plastic bottles — 15 to 60 bottles per garment — into clothing” (08 Nov). [Ed’s note: article also mentions Madewell, Eddie Bauer (who invented them), Eileen Fisher, Maggie Marilyn, and Rothy’s.]

The Daily Californian’s guide to top brands normalizing sustainable fashion: Everlane, Klow, Threads 4 Thought, Reformation, and thredUp (08 Nov).

Nudie Jeans says goodbye to leather back patches: “Hey, vegans! Our beef is over. Leather’s out, paper’s in. All newly produced denim garments from Fall 2018 and onwards carry our new vegan back patch” (08 Nov).

How German fashion brand PHYNE brings sustainability into mainstream fashion e-commerce: “Is it really sustainable to order online 10 t-shirts and return 9? We all know the answer to this question, but would you be willing to give up your right to return goods for the sake of a more sustainable world? The topic suddenly becomes quite personal, doesn’t it? So here’s the truth: sustainable fashion isn’t an easy topic” (04 Nov). [Ed’s note: guest column written by Andri Stocker, CEO of PHYNE.]


Responsible Business Alliance initiative launched to advance worker well-being: “The Responsible Business Alliance (RBA), a nonprofit coalition of leading companies dedicated to improving social, environmental and ethical conditions in their global supply chains, announced a new initiative to advance work-life wellness in the manufacturing sector. The initiative officially launched in Q3 and was recently announced at the RBA’s annual conference, Responsible Business 2018, in Santa Clara, California” (12 Nov). [Ed’s note: see more at the RBA website here.]

Brit sweatshop workers earning as little as £3 an hour making copycat celeb outfits: “Workers toil for as little as £3 an hour making copycat clothes to feed our “fast fashion” craze for dressing like celebs. Cheap imitations of expensive designer outfits worn on red carpets or catwalks by actresses, models and other stars now find their way online within days of making public debuts. However they are not made in sweltering sweatshops in Asia but the back streets of Leicester” (10 Nov).

How wearing clothes contribute to deforestation and what you can do about it: “Almost everyone is familiar with a fabric used in clothing called viscose, also known as rayon. Fewer people are familiar with modal and lyocell (Tencel). However, what most people don’t realise is that these fibres are made almost entirely from trees. They are called man-made cellulosic fibres, because they are created from cellulose, a component mainly derived from wood which has an average cellulose content of 40%” (10 Nov).

Anand Giridharadas at BSR18: In a plenary spotlight at the BSR Conference 2018, Anand Giridharadas, Author, of Winners Take All, challenged the audience to think about the context in which sustainable business operates. His premise is companies should focus on how they make money , rather than making up for it via philanthropy”(10 Nov – 30:05-minute vidoe).

‘Fast-fashion’ retailers called before parliament: “The environmental audit committee of MPs has requested that Boohoo, Missguided and Asos, three of the biggest online-only retailers in the UK, give evidence at a hearing this month about fast fashion” (09 Nov). [See also Amazon and ASOS quizzed by lawmakers over 'fast fashion' sustainability (09 Nov). You can also read the letter from Mary Creagh MP, Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, to fashion brands here.]

Meghan Markle went out of her way to wear sustainable fashion. Will her fans? “Here's how she ended up wearing the socially responsible pieces—and what it means for the movement” (09 Nov).

Dying to Clothe You crowdfunding goes live: “This film [Dying to Clothe You] will serve to educate people so they know the truth about how the world of fashion works. It will expose what goes on behind the scenes, telling the story which is not being openly told. It will highlight the cost of fashion to the planet” (09 Nov).

Could these balls help reduce plastic pollution? “Four inches (10cm) in diameter and made from recycled rubber, the Cora Ball imitates the structure of coral in the ocean. While it doesn't catch everything, the company says it captures between a quarter and a third of microfibres in every wash” (09 Nov).

Making fashion more sustainable: “Francois Souchet, project manager at the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, discusses what clothes manufacturers can do to make fashion more sustainable. He speaks on “Bloomberg Markets: European Open”” (08 Nov – 4:47-minute video).

Is bryanboy right – is sustainability incompatible with fashion? “[B]logger Bryan Yambao, known professionally as Bryanboy, has had enough of it. “I’m gonna jump off a bridge head first if I hear about yet another ‘sustainable’ clothing line,” he wrote last week in a tweet which has since been pinned to his profile. “There’s nothing sustainable about creating something new en masse. Just stop. Please. You wanna know what’s sustainable? Wearing your old damn clothes, that’s what. Bye.” His words are aimed squarely at brands co-opting activism to sell products and worsening the ultimate problem of over-consumption, but they also flag up a debate which has been ongoing for years: can fashion ever be truly sustainable?” (06 Nov).

Textiles Exchange’s Preferred Fiber & Materials Benchmark Program: Video from Textile Exchange featuring Tchibo, Patagonia, C&A, and others (03 Nov – 3:10-minute video).

Disruptive knitting: “New Zealander Sue Green has just been awarded her PhD at Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, it is about how knitters are changing the world” (01 Nov – 10:28-minute podcast).

Green guide to buying outdoor apparel: “This year, after a decade of work, the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) released a report about how brands are collectively tackling product and supply chain responsibility. It looked at things like chemical use, animal welfare, fair labor practices, microfiber shedding in waterways, and carbon reduction strategies” (01 Nov). [Ed’s note: you can see the OIA report, from August, here.]



Bangladesh Alliance factories completing upgrades 09 Nov to 13 NovInterlink Apparels, RR Washing and Campvalley Co. (13 Nov). [Ed’s note: this list is based on the Bangladesh Alliance Twitter feed.]

Bank Asia brings banking services to apparel workers: “Bangladesh’s efforts to deepen financial inclusion took a step forward yesterday as Bank Asia launched the country's first-ever complete banking services on the premises of [Echotex] garment factory” (11 Nov).

EU retailers may cut ties with 532 RMG units: “Some 532 readymade garment factories may lose business relations with European clothing brands and retailers if the EU retailers’ group Accord is to leave Bangladesh by November 30 deadline, as per a plan of the group” (11 Nov).

Accord wants to stay beyond November: “Accord, the platform of European clothing brands and buyers, would appeal against the High Court’s directive asking it to depart the country on or before November 30, 2018. It would also submit an application seeking stay on the decision of the High Court delivered on August 9. In the application, Accord, would seek reasonable time from the Appellate Division to depart the country so that the platform can complete its factory remediation work properly and a smooth transition of Accord listed factories to the government set Remediation Coordination Cell take place in the time” (09 Nov).


Labour Ministry receives counsel on labour rights: “Two US-based organisations sent a letter to the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training last week, following a meeting with it in October to discuss the rights of workers in the Kingdom’s garment and footwear sector, among others. Fair Labor Association (FLA) and American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA) wrote a joint follow-up letter to the minister, Ith Sam Heng, recommending that the government improve workers’ rights” (09 Nov).

PM urges ministers to end all cases against union leaders: “Prime Minister Hun Sen urged labour and justice ministers on Wednesday to finish all court cases against union leader. Speaking to more than 23,000 factory workers in Takeo province on Wednesday, he told the Minister of Labour and Vocational Training Ith Sam Heng and Minister of Justice Ang Vong Vathana to expedite ongoing court cases and to ignore complaints brought against union leaders” (08 Nov).

Cambodian workers weigh the cost of EU’s stand on human rights: “The European Union is planning to end its special trade status with Cambodia over human rights abuses in the garment and sugar industries. That would be a double-edged sword for Cambodian workers” (08 Nov).

Cambodia’s Hun Sen eases pressure on unions, as EU sanctions threat looms: “Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen told his ministers to ease pressure on labour union leaders on Wednesday, after threats by the European Union to remove the Southeast Asian country’s duty-free trading access” (07 Nov).


#MeToo: Working class women share their stories of harassment: “Despite the Vishakha Guidelines and the Prevention of Sexual Harassment and Redressal Act of 2013, working class women have been fighting for redressal and justice when it comes to sexual harassment at the workplace” (10 Nov). [Ed’s note: The Vishakha Guidelines were a set of procedural guidelines for use in India in cases of sexual harassment. They were promulgated by the Indian Supreme Court in 1997 and were superseded in 2013 by the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, which you can see in full here.]


Fighting for maternity leave: “[P]regnant workers are protected by Law No. 3/2003 concerning protection during pregnancy, and Law No. 13/2003 (Art. 82) concerning maternity leave after giving birth. According to the Act, pregnant workers are entitled to get maternity leave 1.5 months before giving birth and 1.5 months after giving birth” (10 Nov – in Indonesian).


Between labour and the law: “We interviewed author and academic Stephen Campbell on these and other issues impacting labour in Myanmar. Campbell, who authored Border Capitalism, Disrupted: Precarity and Struggle in a Southeast Asian Industrial Zone, is an assistant professor at the School of Social Sciences at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore” (09 Nov).


Teachers in Turkmenistan forced to pick cotton during fall break: “Teachers in Turkmenistan’s second largest city, Turkmenabat, are having to spend their fall break picking cotton. Schools closed on October 21st for the whole nine-day break for the first time in 15 years, and teachers and maintenance staff are having to work in the cotton fields every day” (29 Oct).


Northeast India’s first ‘water handloom hut’ inaugurated in Manipur: “North East’s first ‘floating water handloom huts’ were inaugurated at Loktak Lake in Bishnupur district of Manipur on Sunday. The five handloom huts were inaugurated by Tripura's Forest and Tribal Welfare Minister, Mevar Kumar Jamatia in presence of other government officials. The handlooms huts including looms were gifted to people of the region on an experimental basis” (12 Nov).

Handwoven textiles – a step on the path to sustainable fashion? “The fast-industrial fashion system, where profits go mostly to those at the top, and which produces high volumes of deliberate waste, is a dinosaur that will not survive the transition to sustainability. So believes textile management doctoral student David Goldsmith at the Swedish School of Textiles. In his doctoral thesis, he studied an example of its supposed opposite: a slow-artisanal social enterprise in India that makes hand-loomed fashion fabrics” (09 Nov).

HeiQ and DuPont consumer solutions introduce an eco-friendly water-repellent finish for Wolverine World Wide Leather: “To meet … consumer and brand demands, HeiQ developed the HeiQ Eco Dry line of PFC-free products. The collaboration with DuPont expands on this product line, with the first product being a PFC-free water-repellent finish for leather – HeiQ DuPont ECO-LED. Wolverine World Wide Leathers, Inc. will be the first supplier to offer treated leather to their major brand partners” (08 Nov).

Recycling breathes new life into textile leader: “Fiber producer Unifi reinvents itself as a plastics recycler that turns PET bottles into recycled fibers” (31 Oct).

CONFERENCES & SEMINARS                                        

[New listings or updated information marked with *]

14 – 16 November, New Delhi: India and Sustainability Standards: “The theme of the 5th Annual Conference of CRB is ‘Collaboration a key to SDGs: Leveraging CSR & Voluntary Sustainability Standards”.”

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.”

20 November, Brussels: Eliminating child and forced labour in the cotton, textile and garment value chains: Co-funded by the EU, ILO and FAO.

* 21 November, Amsterdam: Meet the Maker – Ms. Bay: “Hear from the co-founder of Ms. Bay, Saskia Aelen, about the sustainable handbag brand [made from recycled fish skin].”

27 November, London: Ethics and Fashion at SKC: “Join us to discuss the complex ethical issues involved in the sustainable fashion debate.”

27 November, Webinar: Recycling Matters, And Here is What is Being Done to Keep It That Way: “Recycling, for many consumers, is the iconic sustainable behavior. But, if you’ve read the headlines, recycling is in trouble.”

04 December, Webinar: Less Becomes More. Responsible Textile Consumerism: “As consumers become more aware of textile sustainability, their shopping habits are likely to change. Join researcher Ellen Karp to learn more about what to expect when sustainability-minded consumers start examining their closets and their consciences.”

* 12 December, Guangzhou, China: RBA Outreach Meeting: “The Outreach Meeting in Guangzhou, co-sponsored by GeSI is a free event geared toward RBA [Responsible Business Alliance] members, suppliers and non-member companies.”

16 – 17 January, 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, London: 8th Future Fabrics Expo: “Source from 5000+ fabrics, yarns, leathers, trims with a reduced environmental impact from over 150 mills and suppliers.”

* 18 February, Izmir, Turkey: GOTS Regional Seminar Turkey: “Through focused and challenging discussions, this one-day seminar shall address pressing issues relevant to the organic textiles industry.”  

26 – 28 February Phoenix, AZ: GreenBiz 19: “Premier annual event for sustainable business leaders.”

28 February, London: The Nature of Fashion: “The panel, which will include Edwina Ehrman and Kate Fletcher, will explore how to use fashion as a pro-environmental force.”

* 18 – 20 June, Minneapolis, USA: Circularity 19: “Circularity 19 will bring together more than 500 thought leaders and practitioners to define and accelerate the circular economy.”

(Photo Henri Apell, CCO)

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.