Brands in this issue include: Burberry (cashmere project in Afghanistan), Coach, Burberry, Michael Kors, Diane von Furstenber, Asos, Dr Martens, Veja, Ecoalf and Felder Felder (PETA award winners), H&M (subject of protests over living wage), M&S, Boohoo, Primark, L.K. Bennett and River Island (all rated by ethical fashion app Good On You), and more.

Reports released this week:

In general news:

  • Getting end-consumers of Bangladesh-made apparels to care about ethical sourcing

  • For retailers and brands, sustainability needs good tech

  • The naked truth about clothing rental

In the supply chain:

  • Bangladesh: Agreement sends joint letter to Bangladeshi government on Accord; and numerous stories on the sixth anniversary of the Tazreen Fashions fire

  • Bulgaria: Towards sectoral bargaining in the Bulgarian textile industries

  • India: Union leader questions government’s doublespeak at ILO event

  • Japan: Japan wakes up to exploitation of foreign workers as immigration debate rages

  • Myanmar: Using global framework agreements in the Myanmar garment industry

Manufacturers in this issue include: Jeanologia (saving water in Bangladesh denim industry), Toray (world’s first suede texture non-woven material using plant-based polyurethane), and more.

Quotes of the week:

  • “Changing the buying habits of the end-consumer is a duty that needs to be embraced by the brands and retailers that Bangladesh trades with. It should be their responsibility to communicate with their customers and detail the steps that they are taking to produce ethically sourced product and, where necessary, detailing the impact that this has on goods in-store.” Mostafiz Uddin, managing director of Denim Expert, on getting consumers to care about where their clothes are made (24 Nov).

  • “The thing to remember is we don’t own the supply chain, but our goal is to push them forward to find the right combination of price, design and ethics.” Everlane founder Michael Preysman on connecting with consumers on sustainability (24 Nov).

  • “The least popular way to foster loyalty between a customer and a brand were initiatives related to social responsibility and good causes. This is perhaps disappointing as there has been a plethora of recent research pointing to the fact that shoppers prefer brands associated with good causes.” From the Digital Consumer in Asia 2018 report (23 Nov).

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


Black Friday for H&M: global protests for living wage during Cyber Week: “Promises are great. If they are kept. Swedish fashion giant H&M promised on 23rd November 2013, five years ago after the collapse of the Rana Plaza building, in its “Roadmap towards a fair living wage” to have “pay structures in place to pay a fair living wage by 2018” to all its workers globally (at the time, around 850,000 people in 750 factories). But now, 2018 is almost over and this has not happened” (26 Nov).

PETA fashion awards 2018: Burberry and Coach among winning forward-thinking brands: “PETA has announced the winners of its annual Fashion Awards, which celebrates the brands and events that have made major statements for animals this year” (25 Nov). [Ed’s note: brands names include Coach, Burberry, Michael Kors & Diane von Furstenberg in luxury; Asos, most progressive online platform; Helsinki Fashion Week, most progressive fashion event; Ecopel, Dr Martens, Veja, Ecoalf, Felder Felder and more.]

Caged animals resort to cannibalism on ‘high welfare’ fur farms linked to Britain’s most upmarket brands and sellers: “Mink, foxes and raccoon dogs [in Finland] have been filmed resorting to cannibalism and suffering painful wounds at a “heartbreaking” fur farm endorsed by a supplier linked with some of Britain’s most expensive luxury brands and sellers” (23 Nov). [Ed’s note: neither the Finnish farms nor the British brands or sellers are named.]

New app rates high street fashion brands on their treatment of the people, planet and animals – so how ethical is YOUR favourite?Good On You app created in Australia by former lawyer has arrived in the UK. British high street giant M&S receives one of the app’s highest ratings. Boohoo and River Island are rated ‘not good enough’ on environment and labour. L.K. Bennett received worse ranking on the app than fast fashion giant Primark” (23 Nov).

Trawling for trash: the brands turning plastic pollution into fashion: “Stella McCartney, Gucci and Adidas among companies inspired by ‘Blue Planet effect’” (23 Nov). [Ed’s note: other organisations mentioned include Parley for the Oceans, Healthy Seas, Aquafil, Moshi Moshi Mind, and RiLEY Studio.]

Soulland founders explain the difficulties of producing sustainable clothing: “Instead of overhauling its entire supply chain, Soulland took baby steps. It focused first on jersey fabric, a large part of the brand’s business but one that’s relatively straightforward to produce. Existing manufacturers were supplied with GOTS-certified cotton, which is made without pesticides and with reduced water consumption. GOTS cotton’s more benign chemistry also means pieces are easier to recycle later on” (20 Nov).

SDG1 Case Study: How Burberry is helping Afghan goat farmers cash in on cashmere: “Despite its luxury cachet, many of Afghanistan’s cashmere farmers still live in extreme poverty - Fashion giant Burberry has teamed up Oxfam and PUR Projet to try and change things for the better” (19 Nov).


Getting end-consumers of Bangladesh-made apparels to care about ethical sourcing: “The readymade garment (RMG) sector of Bangladesh has made universally applauded advances in the fields of ethical and sustainable manufacturing practices, with huge investments being made in the sector to improve working conditions and environmental standards. But, are the vast improvements that have been made being fully appreciated by the end-consumers and are those consumers willing to pay for ethically produced fashion products?” (24 Nov).

For retailers and brands, sustainability needs good tech: “I recently attended REMODE in Los Angeles, the premier event for disruptive and sustainable fashion, and heard countless conversations between senior retail leaders about embracing innovative, sustainable ideas and solutions in retail including AI, production and materials, ethical fashion, and financing” (24 Nov).

The Digital Consumer in Asia 2018: “Not a day goes by without a headline on how millennials and Gen Z consumers are radically different from their predecessors. Yet, these are all too often focused on shoppers in the West, with an Asian perspective distinctly lacking. This is why Tofugear has embarked on this research study. In partnership with Rakuten Insight, we surveyed 6,000 consumers across 12 markets in Asia to bring a comprehensive analysis of the shopping habits of today’s connected consumer – be that online, in stores or through online marketplaces” (23 Nov). [Ed’s note: I did a short video [3:47-minutes] comparing the conclusions on sustainability with those of the Fashion Revolution report from last week; watch it here.]

The naked truth about clothing rental: “[P]icture this: a world where you no longer own clothes. What would it mean to buy access to garments, rather than buying garments outright; to purchase apparel as a service rather than an owned commodity? How would this influence the design and durability of garments, or the logistics and tracking of products? And what benefits would drive consumers to shift from owning to renting what they wear?” (23 Nov).

Building a sustainable business in the era of eco-fashion: “Many sustainable-fashion experts discuss ethics, manufacturing innovations and research, but outlining how to navigate the economic shift toward greener fashion is often left out of the discussion. During its inaugural Nov. 13–14 event, ReMode’s organizers included panel discussions for industry professionals to “ReMarket” and “ReInvest” in ways that align with the mission of “ReThinking” and “ReMaking”” (21 Nov).

Pollution characteristics and fate of microfibers in the wastewater from textile dyeing wastewater treatment plan: “Wastewater discharged from wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) is suspected to be a significant contributor of microplastics (MP) to the environment, and fiber is the main shape of MP in wastewater effluent. A typical textile industry WWTP with 30,000 tons of daily treatment capacity was sampled for microfibers at different stages of the treatment process to ascertain at what stage in the treatment process the microfibers are being removed. The average abundance of microfibers was 334.1 (±24.3) items/litre in influent, and it reduced to 16.3 (±1.2) items/litre in the final effluent with a decrease of 95.1%. Despite this large reduction we calculated that this textile industry WWTP was releasing 4.89 × 108 of microfibers including microplastic fibers and non-microplastic fibers into the receiving water every day” (20 Nov).

China’s economic transformation: protests emerged in the internet plus sector. Workers of state owned enterprises’ 17 year-fight: “104 cases were identified, including 12 collective actions in Hong Kong-invested enterprises, according to The Report. In those 12 cases, at least 3000 workers were involved in the struggle” (October 18). [Ed’s note: Hong Kong-listed companies in the textile and footwear sector were Sanho Textile, Tungtex, and Yongxing Shoes Material.]



Bangladesh Alliance factories completing upgrades 23 Nov to 27 Nov: Fullcharm Fashion Knitters, South East Textiles, and Men’s Fashion (27 Nov). [Ed’s note: this list is based on the Bangladesh Alliance Twitter feed.]

Agreement sends joint letter to Bangladeshi government: “The Agreement on Sustainable Garments and Textile sent a letter to the Prime Minister of Bangladesh about improving and insuring worker safety in the Bangladeshi garment sector. The letter is sent jointly with the Fair Wear Foundation (FWF), Fair Labor Association (FLA), Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI), Ethical Trading Initiative Norway (IEH), Danish Ethical Trading Initiative (DIEH) and Amfori and addresses the worrisome situation of the Bangladesh Accord” (25 Nov). [Ed’s note: full text of letter at link.]

Victims demand justice, rehabilitation: “Injured victims of Tazreen Fashions and relatives of the deceased workers on Saturday demanded rehabilitation of the victim families and exemplary punishment of the factory owner Delwar Hossain and other responsible people for the incident that killed 112 workers and injured several hundred on November 24 in 2012” (25 Nov).

Let it be an example for others too: “Being deprived of any job opportunity, some injured garment workers of Tazreen Fashions have set up an example by setting a mini-factory after six years of torment, agony and joblessness. A national daily reported that 10 workers joined their hands to set up a mini-factory where they put together their skills and experiences for earning their livelihood … The former coworkers arranged Tk 40,000 [$477] to buy two sewing machines, an overlock and other instruments at a rented house. The initiative is a good one but their business is still suffering from a lack of needed capital” (25 Nov).

Tazreen tragedy: Victims remembered on the sixth anniversary: “Leaders of the organizations said more than two thousand workers were in the factory when the fire broke out in 2012 at Tazreen Fashions” (24 Nov).

Six years after deadly garment factory fire, Bangladesh risks new wave of factory incidents: “Today marks the sixth anniversary of the deadly Tazreen factory fire, which killed at least 112 workers who were producing clothes for a range of international brands, including Walmart, C&A, El Corte Ingles and KiK. As survivors and families of killed workers commemorate this fateful day, Bangladesh is moving fast towards a situation in which factories could quickly return to the death traps that they were in 2012” (24 Nov).

Rana Plaza: work injury compensation still missing in Bangladesh’s labour standards: “At the time of Rana Plaza’s collapse, compensation law for Bangladeshi workers was weak and widely unenforced. In response, the International Labour Organization (ILO) spearheaded a singular effort to pay compensation to the injured workers and families of those killed. The Rana Plaza Arrangement was a collaborative, voluntary agreement between global apparel companies, trade unions, the Bangladesh government, local employers and labour rights NGOs to make certain that those affected by Rana Plaza would receive at least the minimum standards of compensation specified in the ILO’s Employment Injury Benefits Convention No. 121” (23 Nov).


Towards sectoral bargaining in the Bulgarian textile industries: “Strengthening social dialogue, unions and employer structures on a path towards industry-level collective bargaining and living wages in the Bulgarian garment and footwear industries, was the main message at a seminar on 14-15 November 2018 in Sofia, attended by 40 national and local-level union representatives, industry associations, major brands, key suppliers and the Deputy Minister of Economy” (21 Nov).


Union leader questions government’s doublespeak at ILO event: “Amarjeet Kaur, first woman to head an Indian central trade union, called out government’s bluff on workers’ welfare. At an event organised by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), trade union leader Amarjeet Kaur put the government in the dock for attempting to dilute labour laws. After a representative of the labour ministry spoke of protecting the rights of the workers, Kaur, in her speech, alleged that the government was doing just the opposite” (21 Nov).


Japan wakes up to exploitation of foreign workers as immigration debate rages: “[Twenty-seven-year-old War Nu from Myanmar was lured by a job in the garment industry but] ended up simply packing garments into cardboard boxes from 7 a.m. until 10 p.m. or midnight, six or even seven days a week. The basic pay, the equivalent of just $530 a month, was half what she had been promised, while her boss didn’t stop shouting at her” (21 Nov).


Using global framework agreements in the Myanmar garment industry: “Forty-two trade unionists from Myanmar gathered in Yangon on 16 and 17 November for a workshop on how to effectively implement global framework agreements (GFAs) in the textile and garment industry … H&M brand representatives Hlwan Moe Kyaw, Sustainability Developer, and Felix Ockborn, Sustainability Manager, attended the workshop to give a presentation on GFA implementation and brands’ commitments and responsibilities under a GFA … Andrea Schill from the German Development Cooperation Agency (GIZ) gave a presentation on their programme in the region with fashion brand, Tchibo” (22 Nov).

Myanmar unions fighting obstacles to organizing: “Workers and unions in Myanmar often face difficulties in terms of union busting, low pay and rampant precarious work. IndustriALL’s union building project focuses on strengthening unions to fight back” (19 Nov).

South Africa

SAFTU does not welcome Poverty National Minimum Wage Act: “The South African Federation of Trade Unions reiterates its view that the minimum level of R20 an hour is far below what anyone should have to live on. It condemns millions of workers and their families to government-sanctioned poverty” (25 Nov).


New technology cuts denim water needs: “Consumption of water to wash denim fabric has reduced drastically over a last couple of years due to the adoption of modern technologies in the production process by denim producers, say denim-makers and machine suppliers … “Jeanologia, a Spanish company, was one of the participants at the recently held Bangladesh Denim Expo in the capital. “We have been supplying modern technologies to Bangladesh and across the world to increase productivity and cut the use of water in the washing of garment fabrics,” Jordi Juani, director-Asia division of Spanish company Jeanologia … Previously, it took 1,800–1,900 litres of water to wash 100kg of denim garments, while new the technology washes the same amount with only 30-35 litres, said Juani” (25 Nov).

Toray develops world’s first suede texture non-woven material using plant-based polyurethane: “Toray Industries, Inc., will be introducing in January 2019, “Ultrasuede BX”, a non-woven material with a suede texture which is about 30% made of plant-based raw materials” (21 Nov).

CONFERENCES & SEMINARS                                          

[New listings or updated information marked with *]

28 November, Milan: Responsible Luxury Summit: Speakers from Ecoalf, Timberland and Fashion Revolution, at Politécnico di Milano, School of Management.

28 – 29 November, Munich: Performance Days: The latest trends and innovations in the functional fabric industry, focussing this year on water and sustainability.

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.”

06 December, Webinar: Organic textile labeling in the US: “Learn more about U.S. regulations in organic textile labeling, different kinds of organic claims, and how the Organic Content Standard (OCS) and Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) can be used to help support labeling organic textiles.

06 – 07 December, Amsterdam: Friends of ZDHC Event 2018: “For brands, retailers, supply chain partners and leading sector organisations who reference ZDHC  tools.” [Hit the link to request an invitation.]

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.”

21 – 23 January, New York City: Texworld USA: The winter show will focus on sustainability.

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.”

* 29 January – 07 February, Various locations in India/Pakistan: 1 Day Leather Processing Course: “Do you source from India or Pakistan? Get your supply chain trained in leather processing.”

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.” 

25 February, Tempe, Arizona: GRI Reporters’ Summit: North America: “3rd Annual GRI Reporters’ Summit: Practical Solutions to Improve your Sustainability Reporting.”

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.”

15 – 16 May, Copenhagen: Copenhagen Fashion Summit: “Join us this May when fashion’s most visionary and innovative minds gather to discuss the most critical issues facing our industry and planet.”

10 – 12 June, London: Ethical Corporation’s 18th Responsible Business Summit Europe: “It’s time to Lead: Innovate, Engage and Collaborate.”

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.”

22 June, Barcelona: Plante Textiles 2019: “The 10th edition of Planet Textiles will be a seminal event on sustainability in the textile manufacturing sector and will see an unrivalled gathering of experts from the entire fashion value chain.”

(Photo Dimitris Vetsikas, 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.