THIS ISSUE

Brands in this issue include: Altiir (launches biker jackets made from vegan pineapple leather), Badger Sportswear (Beijing slams reports of forced labour in Muslim camps), G-Star RAW (sustainable line with Jaden Smith), H&M (global dispute resolution mechanism with IndustriALL), Loblaw and Joe Fresh (Rana Plaza class action dismissed by Canadian court), Saqhoute (Egyptian brand championing slow fashion, zero-waste), Zeeman (greater transparency for consumers), and more.

Reports released this week:

  • No reports released

In general news:

  • Young Kiwi’s determination to make life better for Bangladesh garment factory workers

  • To what extent can blockchain help fight slavery in the global supply chain

  • Why the smart set are now renting their clothes

  • Textiles and the Environment: The Big Picture

  • Commission adopts EU phthalates restriction decision

  • Responsible Down Standard open for review

  • Free returns aren’t free for the planet

  • The spare button represents all the ways we fail to be good consumers

In the supply chain:

  • Bangladesh: two major stories: the Accord/Alliance exit; and worker protests over wages

  • Hungary: fresh protests over so-called ‘slave law’

  • India: garment factory fire

  • Malaysia: migrant rights group chides govt for defending Top Glove

  • Portugal: minimum wage increased

Manufacturers in this issue include: Artistic Milliners, Candiani, Dynamo, Prosperity, Soorty and Lenzing (adopting recycled fibres), TreeToTextile (partnering with Stora Enso and H&M to develop new textile fibres), and more.

Quotes of the week:

  • “Bangladesh is now capable of implementing its own safety measures. It has been more than five years. I must say the Accord has done a lot for us, but there have been some attitude problems, leaving a lot of factory owners annoyed. We want the Accord to leave because of the changing attitudes. DIFE [Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments] is ready to take over now, and has more than 200 inspectors. Every brand has their own compliance teams, there are auditors. It’s not that the Accord cannot leave Bangladesh in six years.” Siddiqur Rahman, president, Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (24 Dec),

  • “Maybe spare buttons are just aspirational, designed to make us believe something about ourselves that’s not really true anymore.” Alden Wicker (14 Dec).

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

BRANDS & RETAILERS

Saqhoute: the sustainable Egyptian brand championing slow fashion, zero-waste and local artisanship: “Saqhoute is the passion project of Norhan El-Sakkout; one that brings together her vehemence on promoting ethical consumption, her well-studied fascination with Egyptian heritage and her constantly growing inspiration from the women around her” (23 Dec).

Italian fashion brand creates vegan gold and silver biker jackets from pineapple leather: “Italian fashion brand Altiir has launched cruelty-free gold and silver biker jackets made from vegan pineapple leather. The neo-classic collection was inspired by vintage, tailored biker jackets, Altiir explains on its website. The clothing is made from a pineapple-derived material, called Piñatex, which was developed over the course of ten years by Dr. Carmen Hijosa” (22 Dec).

Court of Appeal affirms decision to dismiss the Rana Plaza class action: “On December 20, 2018, the Ontario Court of Appeal released its decision in the Rana Plaza Class Action (Das v George Weston Limited, 2018 ONCA 1053) affirming the Ontario Superior Court of Justice’s decision to dismiss the claim. The claim was brought as a proposed class action in Ontario on behalf of individuals injured in the collapse of the Rana Plaza building in Dhaka, Bangladesh in 2013 and their families. 2,520 were injured and 1,130 died in the collapse. The plaintiffs sued Canadian retailer Loblaw Inc. and three affiliates (including Joe Fresh Apparel Canada Inc.), which had indirectly sourced clothing through factories in Rana Plaza, and French testing, inspection, and certification company Bureau Veritas SA and two affiliates, which Loblaws engaged to perform two limited social audits of a factory in Rana Plaza” (21 Dec).

Beijing slams reports of forced labour in Muslim detention camps: “China has hit back at US media reports that Muslim detainees in its northwestern autonomous region of Xinjiang are being subjected to forced labour. In a scheduled press briefing on Thursday, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying branded the claims “a malicious attack that severely distorts the fact”” (21 Dec). [Ed’s note: the factory in question is allegedly supplying to Badger Sportswear.]

IndustriALL unions negotiate global dispute resolution mechanism with H&M: “IndustriALL Global Union trade union affiliates representing garment workers at H&M have agreed upon a global dispute resolution mechanism with the Swedish fashion giant, as part of IndustriALL’s global framework agreement (GFA) with the company” (20 Dec).

Jaden Smith Launches Forces of Nature Collection With G-Star RAW: “Every part of the line has been carefully designed in innovative ways to be the best for the environment. Made from sustainable materials, and using the first ever Cradle to Cradle Gold Level Certified denim, the 100% organic line ensures less water, less chemicals and less energy throughout the entire process” (19 Dec).

How Zeeman wants to change its perceived image: “Zeeman is taking steps to counter the myth that there is always something fishy about very cheap clothing. The Dutch discounter will be putting the cards on the table from now on” (13 Dec).

NEWS & REPORTS 

Young Kiwi’s determination to make life better for Bangladesh garment factory workers: “Au-Young is only 26 but has already co-founded a charitable trust called Reemi, with the aim of providing healthier menstruation products and education to women who need it most. A cohort of environmental, apparel and business savvy individuals have backed her. Au-Young made the call to forgo paid work for the time being to focus fully on the initial research side of Reemi, hence the sojourn in Bangladesh” (23 Dec).

To what extent can blockchain help fight slavery in the global supply chain? “Complexity and lack of transparency of the supply chain has fostered slavery, exploiting 25 million people. Albeit early days, organisations are looking at adopting the technology to instil transparency into the manufacturing process” (23 Dec).

Why the smart set are now renting their clothes: ““I don’t have the financial income to invest in high quality but I do want to change my style regularly,” said Zoe Partridge, founder of rental service Wear the Walk, which launched last year. “So my problem was either to invest every six months in a luxury item or to buy lots of fast fashion. There was no middle ground. I wanted to create that”” (23 Dec). [Ed’s note: article also mentions Front Row, Girl Meets Dress, The Drop, Le Tote, Lena, Klädoteket, and Fresh Fashion Library.]

The year fashion fell off its heels and style came down to earth: “The past year has been a tumultuous one, politically and socially for women, with the rise of the very necessary #Metoo movement. Women’s voices are being raised across all platforms, challenging stereotypes and questioning status quos. This directly relates to the world of fashion also: more than frivolous escapism, there is a sentiment at the base of fashion trends that indicates a current mood” (22 Dec).

Sustainable fashion could ‘transform entire industry’ with innovative fungi and algae fabrics: “The H&M Foundation is helping young designers develop sustainable fabrics and materials. These designers have been selected because they have the potential to make a large-scale impact on the environment” (22 Dec).

Textiles and the Environment: The Big Picture: “As most of us start to wind down for the Holiday Season, we’ve produced a digital Special Edition of Ecotextile News, which collates our series of ‘Big Picture’ articles that we published in the printed edition of our magazine throughout 2018. Something for you to read over the Holiday Season, perhaps? This 26-page free edition features original articles on deforestation in Indonesia and its impact on local populations and wildlife, and a timely article on the issue of neonicotinoids – pesticides that have been linked to health concerns in insect pollinators that we all take for granted. Other features include a look at biodiversity and how the impact of human development means that life on Earth is becoming more uniform, a look at the health of our oceans in relation to plastic pollution and work that is being done to combat the problem. Finally, we take a look at climate change. It’s by far the biggest environmental challenge of our era. So why do big business and politicians keep side-stepping the issue?” (21 Dec).

How Sustainable Apparel Gained Momentum in 2018: “From raw materials through manufacturing all the way to retail, the apparel industry continued to be scrutinized for sustainability in 2018. Practices that might have been overlooked in the past — using polluting chemicals, trashing garments — made headlines and prompted brands to make changes” (21 Dec).

Commission adopts EU phthalates restriction Decision: “The European Commission has adopted a Decision to amend the REACH Regulation and restrict the use of the phthalates, DEHP, BBP, DBP and DIBP in consumer products on the EU market … Plasticised materials containing the substances are used in a wide variety of everyday products, from cables to coated fabrics and sports equipment” (19 Dec).

Your yoga pants are polluting the water you drink: “The impact of synthetic microfibers is not often discussed, which is a plastic pollutant that most of our clothes release through wash and wear” (19 Dec).

Responsible Down Standard open for review: “Textile Exchange has opened the Public Stakeholder Draft Consultation for its Responsible Down Standard (RDS). The standard has been under review throughout the past year, and a list of proposed changes – published by the International Working Group – has been made available to enable public engagement” (19 Dec).

Free returns aren’t free for the planet: “Just under half of all fashion bought online is sent back, it’s a crazy statistic but unsurprising in our world of instant gratification and speed of light fast fashion trend cycle. What is seen as a logistical perk by many actually is incredibly damaging to the environment says Highway Fitting, a new campaign being run with Fashion Revolution Week” (18 Dec).

The spare button represents all the ways we fail to be good consumers: “Really, the button fix is the easiest sewing project you could possibly do. There’s evidence of where the old button was located, and the holes of the new button guide your needle, while the button itself hides any sloppy work or loose threads. As long as you pick a pattern — crisscross or parallel stitches — and pull the thread tight, you literally cannot mess this up. And yet even this home ec 101 activity seems too much to ask of me and many people my age” (14 Dec).

THE SUPPLY CHAIN

Bangladesh 

As Alliance exits, Accord faces battle in Bangladesh: “While some analysts have been wondering if it is turning into a power game between buyer groups and manufacturers, Mustafizur Rahman, distinguished fellow, Centre for Policy Dialogue, Dhaka pointed out, “It’s much more serious than that. The Accord is concerned that some of the factories have not completed remediation yet and that their job isn’t quite done. But the BGMEA feel they are very intrusive and that the RCC [Remediation Coordination Cell] and the Transitional Coordination Committee [TCC] is ready to take over. “This is a very powerful business, and the pressure is extremely high, and leaders of the association are voicing their frustration as they want to get rid of the Accord,” he explained. “At the same time, there is a concern that if the Accord leaves Bangladesh, the efficacy of the work could be undermined and the remaining remediation will not be finished,” he said. One of the main points, as Rahman pointed out, has been the “tough love” between the Accord and the BGMEA. “Accord has had an acrimonious relationship with the BGMEA and BGMEA was very much against any extension,” he said” (24 Dec).

Low basic wage behind RMG labour unrest: leaders: “Labour leaders at a meeting with department of inspection for factories and establishments officials on Sunday said that extremely low basic wage and uncertainty over grade fixing were behind the ongoing labour unrest at different industrial belts including Ashulia, Savar, Gazipur and Narayangaj” (24 Dec).

Labour unrest: Work resumes after weekend, situation seems better: “Work resumed across the factories after the weekend put relapse to last week’s agitation across several industrial zones in Bangladesh’s apparel industry. Post-day report gathered by Bangladesh Apparel News has negligible unrest magnitude across Savar, Ashulia and Gazipur on December 23, and only as few as 10 factories declaring work-end after half day of production, according to local sources” (24 Dec).

Accord hands over 100 refurbished factories to local agency: “The Accord, the inspection agency of more than 200 retailers and brands, has started handing over the remediated factories to the Remediation Coordination Cell (RCC) as they have fully fixed structural, fire and electrical loopholes” (23 Dec).

10 injured as police disperse agitating RMG workers in Gazipur: “The workers of NAZ Bangladesh Ltd, a factory located at Rajendrapur, were agitating for better pay when they torched a motorbike, a covered van and smashed a human-hauler on Sunday” (23 Dec).

What’s next for the Bangladesh Accord? Q&A: What’s the latest? Why is this happening? How much does it cost to upgrade a factory and who pays? Why can’t Bangladesh fix the safety issues within its textile industry itself? What will the Accord do if it has to leave the country? (21 Dec).

50 RMG factories closed after workers protest: “Hundreds of garment workers took to the streets in Savar, Ashulia and Gazipur yesterday, protesting “discrimination” in pay structure set by the new wage board” (21 Dec).

RMG workers demo in Savar against new wage: “About a thousand factory workers were demonstrating in Savar since this morning protesting what they said was discrimination in their new wage board” (20 Dec).

Workers on the rampage: “Workers were throwing bricks at Stirling Smith when he was in Dhaka earlier in December. Our [Ethical Trading Initiative] trainer and blogger explains why he was a target” (20 Dec).

Landmark safety agreement for Bangladeshi garment workers at risk: “An international agreement that has kept Bangladeshi garment workers safe from imminent building collapses and factory fires is under threat. The Bangladeshi government is trying to remove the Bangladesh Fire and Safety Accord from the country which has been inspecting factories since the horrific collapse of the Rana Plaza factory five years ago” (20 Dec – 3:37-minute podcast).

Towards a better labour law – Recent amendments to Bangladesh Labour Act 2006: “The Bangladesh Labour Act 2006 (the “Act”) has recently been amended by the Government of Bangladesh. Overall, it is notable that the rights of workers have been expanded, but the amendments do not focus solely on workers' rights. Employers, also, have been benefited by certain changes and their duties have reduced in specific situations. This short article shall deal with the key changes focusing first on workers' rights, then employers, and concluding with an overall assessment of the amendments” (18 Dec).

California

Dept. of Labor recovers more than $1.5 million for aouthern California garment workers: “More than $1.5 million in back wages and unpaid overtime were recovered for 668 Southern California garment-industry workers, the federal government announced. The wages were recuperated by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division during the 2018 fiscal year after several investigations” (20 Dec).

Hungary

Fresh Hungary ‘slave law’ protests in Budapest: “Thousands of people have joined fresh protests in Hungary against a new so-called "slave law" that nearly doubles how much overtime employees can work” (21 Dec).

India

Garment factory catches fire in Kandivali, three suspected missing: “Three people were suspected to be missing after a fire destroyed a garment factory at Damu Nagar in Kandivali (East) on Sunday. The fire broke out at M/s Ramlut Garment Factory around 3.30 p.m following which the ground plus one structure collapsed” (24 Dec).

Indonesia

Better Work Indonesia helps communicate employment rules across the country’s garment industry: “Better Work estimates that about half of the almost 400,000 workers employed in Indonesian garment factories are recruited using non-permanent work contracts. These type of contracts, known locally as ‘PWKTs,’ were originally conceived to support factories with seasonal or temporary work stemming from specialized production, business expansion plans and new product creations” (04 Dec).

Malaysia

Migrant rights group chides govt for defending Top Glove, says sending wrong signals: “A rights group said today the government’s defence of Top Glove Corporation Bhd, the company accused of forced labour and debt bondage, could easily be misread as condoning the abuse of migrant workers. The Migrant Workers Right to Redress Coalition said Human Resources Minister M. Kulasegaran’s dismissal of the allegations was shocking and sent the wrong signal to the millions of migrant workers already living in abject conditions today” (18 Dec).

Portugal

Portugal’s government increases minimum wage: “Portugal’s Socialist government has approved an increase in the country’s minimum wage to 600 euros a month ($687) from Jan. 1. The Cabinet passed the proposal Thursday, saying in a statement that the measure would cover more than 750,000 workers” (20 Dec).

MANUFACTURERS

The denim industry inches toward a circular economy as mills adopt recycled fibers: “The denim industry is good at making “new” feel old. The plethora and popularity of vintage-inspired denim collections in the market can attest to that. However, new recycled fibers and technologies are also allowing the denim industry to become increasingly good at making “old” feel and look new. Lenzing’s Refibra technology gained momentum in 2018 as a network of global mills like Artistic Milliners, Candiani, Dynamo, Prosperity, Soorty and more, integrated fiber made from upcycled post-production cotton scraps and wood pulp sourced from certified sustainable forestry. The fiber has been implemented into 12 retail programs with brands like Levi’s, DL1961, Kings of Indigo and Reformation” (21 Dec).

Stora Enso partners with H&M group and Inter IKEA group to industrialize TreeToTextile: “TreeToTextile AB is a joint venture between H&M group, Inter IKEA group and innovator Lars Stigsson since 2014, with the aim of developing new textile fibers in a sustainable way at attractive cost levels. Today TreeToTextile announces that Stora Enso will join this partnership, and also support the industrialization of TreeToTextile’s production process by setting up a demonstration plant at one of its Nordic facilities” (21 Dec).

CONFERENCES & SEMINARS                                        

[New listings or updated information marked with *]

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

22 – 24 January, Medellin, Columbia: Colombiatex 2019: includes highlighting the best practices of 25 companies that are committed to this subject with innovation, social and environmental responsibility.

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.”

02 May, Dhaka: Bangladesh Fashionology Summit: Transparency through technology, technology for decent work and environment, future skills development.

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 Angeles Balaguer, 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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