THIS ISSUE

Brands in this issue include: Asos (boss says circular economy only way forward), Edun Apparel (records increasing lossers), Gucci (trial likely on tax evasion), H&M (hires Christopher Wylie to harness AI for sustainability; upgrades benefits for US part time workers), Kering (doubles foundation budget), KiK (in a German court over Baldia factory fire), Lane Crawford (adds sustainable packaging), OTTO and bonprix (new partnership with Fashion for Good), Patagonia (donates tax break to fight climate change), Primark, Boohoo, Missguided, Asos, Arcadia Group, Burberry and Marks & Spencer (all questioned by Environmental Audit Committee MPs over impact of fast fashion), Zara (alleged to have copied Danish brand), and more.

Reports released this week:

In general news:

  • Harnessing WeChat for worker-management dialogue

  • The Australian Modern Slavery Act 2018 – will it live up to expectations?

  • Finance & textile innovation: show me the money!

  • Fast fashion leaves charity shops inundated with cheap clothes that end up in landfill

  • Can the ‘broken’ fashion industry become more sustainable?

  • Chinese viscose sector’s sustainability roadmap fails to deliver

  • Why we should be focusing on clothing as well as plastics

In the supply chain:                                                                    

  • Bangladesh: Accord tenure extended until 6 December; new minimum wage officially gazetted

  • Cambodia: Global unions demands charges against union leaders dropped

  • Ethiopia: Women in the textile and garment sector in Ethiopia trained in labour law

  • Mexico: Mexico ratifies the Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention, 1949 (No. 98)

  • Pakistan: Lawsuit opens in Germany against KiK clothing over deadly Baldia factory fire

  • Vietnam: EU-Vietnam trade agreement will bring ethical shifts to supply chains

Manufacturers in this issue include: AlgiKnit (secures more funding), Archroma (partnering with Cone Denim for sustainable solutions), Polartec (reduces fibre shedding), Sympatex (new spun-dyed process), Tengiva (new platform to source textiles), Zhejiang Fulida (completes CanopyStyle audit), and more.

Quotes of the week:

  • “44% of people don’t realize that synthetic fibers such as polyester, acrylic or nylon are actually plastic.” (29 Nov).

  • “We are buying 400% more pieces than we were less than 20 years ago.” Professor Dilys Williams before the UK Commons environmental audit committee’s inquiry into the sustainability of the fashion industry (28 Nov).

  • “39% of suppliers in garment sector accepting orders below cost of production, mostly in emerging economies like Cambodia & Bangladesh.” Martin Buttle, Ethical Trade Initiative (28 Nov).

  • “Social audits are extremely problematic. Working conditions and structural worker exploitation are way too complex to measure them with questionnaires. Ali Enterprises and Rana Plaza had safety certificates – obviously that was not enough!” Miriam Saage-Maass, vice legal director ECCHR (28 Nov).

  • “If the Bangladesh government is reckless enough to close the Accord’s Dhaka office, the damage to the country’s garment industry will be profound and lasting,” Scott Nova, the executive director of the Worker Rights Consortium (28 Nov).

  • “Two factories in China were presented with ‘a copy of a Rains jacket [by an agent for Zara] and asked to manufacture identical [products] in terms of look, feel, and strength.’” From newly-filed declarations by owners of two Chinese garment factories and submitted by Danish brand Rains in a suit against Zara’s parent company Inditex alleging copying (28 Nov).

  • “Isn’t the real problem with the fast fashion industry that if you are selling stuff at £5 people aren’t going to treat it with any respect and at the end of its life it’s going to go in the bin?” Labour MP Mary Creagh at the UK Commons environmental audit committee’s inquiry into the sustainability of the fashion industry (27 Nov).

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

BRANDS & RETAILERS

Fashion for Good launches new partnership: “Fashion for Good and Otto Group with its companies OTTO and bonprix have announced their partnership. Both partners emphasise their commitment to a good fashion industry in their shared agenda, which drive the call for international and collaborative innovation within the circular apparel industry” (29 Nov).

Christopher Wylie has joined H&M to harness AI for sustainability: “Christopher Wylie, the former fashion trend forecaster who made headlines this year when he exposed how Cambridge Analytica harvested and exploited data from Facebook users, is turning his attention back to the business of selling clothes. The whistleblower is joining fast-fashion giant H&M Group as its director of research on December 1. At H&M, Wiley will work closely with Arti Zeighami, the retailer’s head of AI and advanced analytics, exploring how AI can help fashion better tackle its sustainability crisis” (29 Nov).

Patagonia’s CEO is donating company’s entire $10M Trump tax cut to fight climate change: “In letter posted to LinkedIn, Patagonia’s CEO announced her company is donating all $10 million to non-profit groups who work on issues related to climate change and the environment” (29 Nov).

Stella McCartney to launch UN charter for sustainable fashion: “Stella McCartney is to announce a United Nations fashion industry charter for climate action, which will be launched at next month’s climate talks in Poland” (29 Nov).

Lane Crawford adds sustainable packaging as more shoppers expect eco approach: “Luxury department stores business Lane Crawford is taking a deep dive into sustainability as survey after survey shows that consumers are increasingly judging (and patronising) retail and brand businesses based on their ethical approach” (29 Nov).

H&M upgrades benefits for U.S. part time workers: “H&M has announced its plans to boost benefits for its part-time employees by the end of 2019. The announcement follows a protest held outside the retailer's Herald Square location this past June, where company employees and union activists called on H&M to increase pay and provide guaranteed hours for part-time workers, among other issues” (28 Nov).

Priya Ahluwalia wins H&M Design Award 2019 with sustainable collection: “Today in Berlin, Priya Ahluwalia was announced as winner of the H&M Design Award 2019, H&M’s annual prize for the best graduate designers from around the world … Priya’s winning collection combined both recycled materials with new sustainable fabrics, showing the possibilities for the future of environmentally responsible fashion” (28 Nov).

Bono and Ali ethical clothing firm records increasing losses: “Accumulated losses at the ethical clothing company controlled by Bono and Ali Hewson rose to $86.4m (€76.5m) last year. New figures lodged with the Companies Office show that Edun Apparel Ltd recorded a loss of $5.7m (€5.1m) in the 12 months to the end of December last” (28 Nov).

H&M and Zara, the ‘sustainable’ fashion brands killing the environment: “H&M and Zara are the two largest fashion retailers in the world, contributing enormously to the fashion industry being worth $2.4tn. Both launched sustainable and ethical clothing collections, but do they really care for the environment or are they simply contributing to the monsters in our closets?” (28 Nov).

ASOS boss: The circular economy is the only way forward for fashion retailers: “Fashion retailers that fail to adopt circular economy principles and encourage consumers to make their clothes last longer will fail to survive in a new era of consumer awareness, ASOS's chief executive Nick Beighton has argued” (28 Nov).

Milan prosecutors wrap up Gucci tax probe, trial likely: source: “Milan prosecutors have wrapped up their probe into alleged tax evasion of around 1 billion euros ($1.13 billion) by fashion group Gucci, paving the way for a formal request for a trial, a judicial source said on Tuesday. The case will be sent to court unless in the next 20 days the parties agree on a settlement, or new evidence emerges” (28 Nov).

Kering to double budget of its corporate foundation: “Kering CEO François-Henri Pinault broke the news on the 10th anniversary of the organization that combats violence against women (28 Nov).

Rains v. Zara: "We want to motivate more companies to take up the fight”: “Rains asserted in its complaint that it became aware that beginning in 2015 until at least as recently as the spring of 2017, “Zara has sold and continues to sell and market jackets” that infringe Rains’ popular $125 “Long Jacket” and $135 “Parka” styles for a fraction of the price” (28 Nov).

Sustainability pioneer Stella McCartney to receive BoF Global VOICES Award: “As the world wakes up to ethical consumption, the sustainability pioneer — and pragmatist — has a blueprint for the future of sustainable fashion” (28 Nov).

Fast fashion: ‘How do you justify selling a £2 T-shirt?’: “Big-name retailers have defended selling clothes for £5 or less, saying their ability to sell clothes so cheaply is down to business models. MPs investigating the impact of so-called “fast fashion” asked the firms how they could justify such low prices” (27 Nov). [Ed’s note: article is about UK Government’s examination of fast fashion. Named in the article are Primark (Paul Lister), Boohoo, Missguided, Asos, Burberry and Marks & Spencer.]

MPs criticise high street fashion’s throwaway culture: “Major high street names including Primark, Boohoo and Missguided have come under fire for fuelling a throwaway fast fashion culture that has been linked to the exploitation of low-paid workers in UK factories” (27 Nov).

Primark to launch ‘take back’ scheme for unwanted clothes – 7 shops that already offer it: “The famously cheap fashion chain has plans to take old clothes off your hands to help the environment - but what brands are already offering it?” (27 Nov).

Environmental Audit Committee, Tuesday 27 November 2018: Official video of the hearing. Witnesses include “Mike Barry, Director of Sustainable Business, Marks and Spencer, Paul Lister, Head of Ethical Trade & Environmental Sustainability Team, Primark, Jamie Beck, Head of Supplier Management, Arcadia Group, Leanne Wood, Chief People, Strategy and Corporate Affairs Officer at Burberry, Carol Kane, Joint Chief Executive Officer, Boohoo, Nick Beighton, Chief Executive Officer, ASOS, Paul Smith, Head of Product Quality & Supply, Missguided” (27 Nov). [Ed’s note: there was some quite intense questioning, and although the session was over two hours duration it is worth dipping into.]

MPs scold Missguided CEO for missing sustainability enquiry: “MPs have voiced their disappointment at Missguided CEO, Nitin Passi, after he failed to attend a government-led enquiry into the sustainability of the UK fashion industry” (26 Nov).

Mud Jeans certified by Nordic Swan Ecolabel: “The Nordic Swan Ecolabel evaluates a product’s total lifecycle from raw material to waste or in our case recycling, taking into account environmental impact in each part of the supply chain. As a company [Mud Jeans] had to go through an extensive internal audit of one and a half years to dive into the details of our production processes and materials, from the recycled cotton to the dyeing and we even had to test our zippers!” (22 Nov).

NEWS & REPORTS

The State of Fashion 2019: An ‘Urgent Awakening’ for the Industry: “BoF and McKinsey & Company’s latest State of Fashion report forecasts a year of slowing growth, a paradigm shift between consumers and the fashion system, and a tipping point as Greater China overtakes the US as the world’s largest fashion market … The 10 trends that will set the agenda for the global fashion industry in 2019 [include] 4. The End of Ownership (pre-owned, refurbished, repair and rental) … 5. Getting Woke (passion for social and environmental causes has reached critical mass) 7. Radical Transparency (distrusting consumer now expects companies to reciprocate with radical transparency)” (29 Nov).

Womenswear event celebrates ‘PETA x Coalition LA’ vegan collaboration: “The cruelty-free afternoon celebrated the collaboration between PETA and womenswear wholesaler Coalition LA, which are currently working with retailers to design custom vegan outerwear capsules. The new jackets will be launched at WWDMAGIC’s next show in February” (29 Nov).

Harnessing WeChat for worker-management dialogue: “Eshan Chan has been visiting factories in China to view progress being made under the ETI-ILO SCORE training scheme. At the Hangzhou Huasheng Garments Company she saw that China’s hugely popular WeChat App (the Chinese version of Whatsapp) is being used to facilitate communication between workers and management and asked for further details” (29 Nov).

The Australian Modern Slavery Act 2018 – will it live up to expectations? “There are high hopes for Australia’s new Modern Slavery Act, but will reality match expectation? The utility of the Act as a tool for addressing human rights abuses in supply chains will only emerge over time. To gauge the Act’s likely impact, it is important to understand which aspects of the new law represent strengths, and which may hinder its effectiveness” (29 Nov).

Finance & textile innovation: show me the money! “Sustainable solutions are emerging but is there enough investment capital available to ensure they succeed? Mike Schragger talks with Fashion for Good’s Rogier van Mazijk about the innovation process, the exciting sustainable solutions that could save the fashion industry, and the need for billions, if not trillions of dollars to ensure these innovations can succeed” (28 Nov – 48:09-minute podcast).

Pure London announces new UN-backed sustainability campaign: “Pure London has announced the introduction of a new installation to its upcoming February show that aims to shine a light on the most innovative and forward-thinking ethical brands” (28 Nov).

Fast fashion leaves charity shops inundated with cheap clothes that end up in landfill: “The detrimental environmental effects of fast fashion are well documented, but now MPs are claiming that the nation’s penchant for cheap, trend-driven clothing is taking a toll on charity shops, which are being inundated with low-quality items to the extent that they are turning down donations” (28 Nov). [Ed’s note: see also Fast fashion means charity shops are getting too many clothes, head of select committee says.]

Fast Fashion with Carry Somers Fashion Revolution: “Here the BBC Breakfast News discusses the impact of Fast Fashion within our society after the UK Government is questioning leading British retail companies on how sustainable the fashion industry really is” (28 Nov – 6:48-minute video).

Can the ‘broken’ fashion industry become more sustainable? “The business model used by the fashion industry is broken and firms need help to adopt more sustainable practices, MPs have been told. The warning, from a London College of Fashion academic, comes amid increased scrutiny of the UK’s fashion retailers. Prof Dilys Williams, director of the college’s centre for sustainable fashion, said legislation and government support were needed” (27 Nov).

Chinese viscose sector’s sustainability roadmap fails to deliver: “A new report, Dirty Fashion: Spotlight on China, by the Changing Markets Foundation finds that a new sustainability initiative from Chinese viscose producers is short on ambition and will not meet NGO requirements on responsible viscose, which have been endorsed by leading fashion brands” (27 Nov). [Ed’s note: see full report here, and High-street fashion giants urge viscose suppliers to bolster sustainability: “A group of big-name fashion retailers including H&M, ASOS and Inditex are urging their suppliers to take ambitious action to make their viscose processing methods more sustainable, after an investigation found that many were dumping toxic wastewater in waterways and fisheries”  (27 Nov).]

Why we should be focusing on clothing as well as plastics: “This month, I had the pleasure of attending a conference to hear first-hand from those far-sighted businesses who have signed up to the Sustainable Clothing Action Plan. Those who helped kick everything off in 2012 deserve real credit for being the early adopters to a holistic approach which addresses the entire life-cycle of textiles and clothing. They signed up for real change and there’s been good progress so far. But the conference was far from a back-slapping exercise and there was universal acceptance there’s still much to do” (26 Nov). [Ed’s note: by Peter Maddox, director, WRAP UK.]

THE SUPPLY CHAIN

Bangladesh

Tenure of Accord extended till Dec 6: “The Supreme Court extended the tenure of Accord, a European agency for factory inspection and remediation, till December 6 as its tenure will expire today” (29 Nov).

Bangladesh to eject safety inspectors brought in after Rana Plaza disaster: “An international inspection regime put in place after the collapse of a Bangladesh garment factory killed more than 1,100 people will be forced to leave the country on Friday, with activists warning of “profound and lasting” consequences for worker safety” (28 Nov).

Bangladesh factory safety group seeks to delay closure, flags lingering risks: “A group set up by European fashion brands to improve factory safety in Bangladesh has sought a stay on a court order that calls for its local operations to end this week, its executive director said on Wednesday” (28 Nov).

Bangladesh gazettes Tk 8,000 minimum monthly wage for readymade garment workers: “The government has published a gazette fixing the minimum monthly wage of readymade garment factory workers at Tk 8,000. The new rate for around 4 million workers is a 51 percent increase over Tk 5,300, the last minimum wage set on Dec 1, 2013” (27 Nov). [Ed’s note: see also New apparel wage comes into effect next month (27 Nov).]

Cambodia

Global unions demands charges against union leaders dropped: “The BWI-Asia Pacific, along with the Asia-Pacific Regional Offices of four other global union federations, have released a statement calling on the Government of Cambodia to drop charges filed against six independent trade union leaders from the garment sector. The civil and criminal suits were filed by garment manufacturer for their participation in minimum wage protests” (23 Nov).

China

Workers protest wage arrears owed by jeans factory in Bijie, Guizhou: (22 Nov).

Ethiopia

Women in the textile and garment sector in Ethiopia trained in labour law: “Women constitute more than 80 per cent of the workers in the rapidly growing textile and garment sector in Ethiopia. A good understand of labour laws is crucial to improving industrial relations” (29 Nov).

Mexico

Mexico ratifies the Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention, 1949 (No. 98): “On 23 November 2018, Mexico deposited the instrument of ratification of the Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention, 1949 (No. 98) . Mexico, which has now ratified all eight ILO Fundamental Conventions, becomes the 166th Member State of the ILO to ratify Convention 98” (26 Nov).

Pakistan

Lawsuit opens in Germany against KiK clothing over deadly Baldia factory fire: “A German court is hearing a civil suit against a discount German textile company whose clothes were produced in a factory in Pakistan that burned to the ground in 2012, killing more than 250 people. The four plaintiffs, a survivor and three relatives, are seeking €30,000 each in damages from the KiK clothing company, the dpa news agency reported on Thursday” (29 Nov).

Hearing in KiK case in front of regional court in Germany: “For claimant Saeeda Khatoon, the first hearing in the proceedings against German clothing retailer KiK in front of the Dortmund Regional Court is an important step – regardless of its outcome. Her son died in the fire that broke out in the Ali Enterprises factory – a KiK supplier – on 11 September 2012 in Karachi (Pakistan). “For 258 people the factory became a death trap. Nobody will be able to make up for this loss. But those responsible should at least be held liable. KiK was the factory’s main customer and therefore bears some of the responsibility for the inadequate fire safety measures”” (29 Nov).

Vietnam

EU-Vietnam trade agreement will bring ethical shifts to supply chains: “[An EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement will place] emphasis on sustainable development, environmental protection and labor rights, requiring supply chains to establish and expose their practices in each of these areas. A primary chapter is dedicated to the labor and environmental matters relevant to trade relations between Vietnam and EU countries” (27 Nov). [Ed’s note: the full and official text of EU-Vietnam trade agreement can be seen here.]

MANUFACTURERS

Cone Denim partners with Archroma for sustainability solutions: “Archroma’s One Way sustainability services support its mission to expand greener solutions to consumers” (29 Nov).

Chinese viscose supplier completes CanopyStyle audit: “An independent audit of how Chinese viscose fibre supplier Zhejiang Fulida sources its raw materials, has found that although there’s a risk it may be sourced from nearby ancient or endangered forests, the company is becoming much more transparent” (29 Nov).

Tengiva, a sustainably driven sourcing platform empowering manufacturers & fashion designers: “Textile industry matchmaker Tengiva has found a new, simple way to source textile which helps manufacturers efficiently distribute and gives buyers increased access to great products [which will allow designers to] source from left-over, in-stock textiles worldwide” (28 Nov).

Canada finds two 'poly(bios)' substances used in textiles not harmful in final assessment: “A Canadian government screening assessment of five “poly(bios)” substances for their potential for harm to humans and the environment has determined that they do not meet the toxicity criteria set out in section 64 of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (Cepa) [including] tannins, used in the food, pharmaceutical, cosmetic, fabric and textile industries [and] oxidised starch, used in Canada in the paper and textile industries” (28 Nov).

Water risk report for garment industry launched: “The Vietnam Textile and Apparel Association (VITAS) and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) launched a water risk report for Vietnam’s textile and garment industry and a tool for assessing water risks in the Mekong region in Ho Chi Minh City on November 28” (28 Nov). [Ed’s note: see WWF press release here, and full report here. The report was made possible by financial support from HSBC Water Programme and WWF corporate partner Tommy Hilfiger.]

Polartec Power Air to reduce fibre shedding: “Polartec … introduces Polartec Power Air, a fabric technology engineered to reduce fibre shedding. By encapsulating lofted fibres within a multilayer, continuous yarn fabric construction, this new platform is designed to offer advanced thermal efficiency that is proven to shed five times less than other premium ‘mid-layer’ weight fabrics” (28 Nov).

Sympatex to introduce spun-dyed functional textiles at 2018 Performance Days: “In addition to saving water by relying on the Sympatex 100 percent polyether/polyester membrane, as opposed to using commercially-available PTFE membranes, spun-dyed processes reduce the amount of water needed by roughly 75 percent on average” (21 Nov).

AlgiKnit closes $2.2m seed round to develop kelp-derived yarn: “NYC biomaterials company spins bio-derived yarn from kelp. Addressing the overabundance of everlasting plastics, AlgiKnit is creating the next generation of sustainable wearable materials, produced within a closed-loop life cycle” (16 Nov).

CONFERENCES & SEMINARS                                        

[New listings or updated information marked with *]

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 January, Frankfurt: Fashionsustain:  Puts the spotlight on materials and processes, innovations, circularity concepts and industry industrial applications (with a focus on water).

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 image, 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.

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