THIS ISSUE

Brands in this issue include: Antibad (becoming the Net-a-Porter of green style?), Badger Sportswear (WRAP says no forced labour used in Chinese supplier), Everlane (rethinking retail), Gucci (starting an ethical in-house fashion course), PVH, Guess, Gap, and Kering (making some of the biggest strides in sustainability), and more.

Reports released this week:

In general news:

  • How the fashion industry doubled down on sustainability in 2018

  • Dear millennials: fast fashion is creating an environmental crisis and it’s time you change the trend

  • Fur and the necessity of consumer engagement

  • Piece rate pay brings mixed results for garment workers, new study shows

In the supply chain:

  • Bangladesh: the new wage rates and ensuing labour unrest dominate the news; fires in two cotton warehouses; the BKMEA misses deadline for worker database; and a new report on institutional responses to Rana Plaza

  • Cambodia: worker protests at two factories; faintings increase YoY for 2019; and 95 NGOs condemn convictions of union leaders

  • India: two fires in garment factories

  • Indonesia: new guidelines to assist understanding of laws governing non-permanent employees in garment industry

  • Malaysia: government targets middlemen to end debt bondage of migrant workers

  • Myanmar: 600 workers protest after failed negotiations with factory owners

Manufacturers in this issue include: denim mills and water savings, and textile mills in India shifting due to pollution issues.

Quotes of the week:

  • “I resent the buyers for their insensitivity to suppliers’ problems and for their reluctance to share the costs of complying with Accord requirements. The buyers have never come forward to help me on compliance issues. They always say, ‘it is your problem, not mine’. They do not advance us loans in order to carry out the CAPs or even commit to giving us guaranteed orders.” Bangladesh garment factory manager (24 Dec).

  • “Buying a faux fur coat does not make one an ethical consumer, and neither does eschewing plastic straws.” Alison McArthur (24 Dec).

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

BRANDS & RETAILERS

Everlane founder Michael Preysman: ‘We’re trying to rethink retail’: “Along with authenticity, inclusivity and sustainability, transparency was a top buzzword among fashion brand marketers in 2018. Everlane can be credited with putting it on the map. With its notorious “radical transparency” promise, the direct-to-consumer fashion brand has offered transparent pricing since its launch in 2011. At the time of Rana Plaza, it extended its promise to its factories — which has since come under scrutiny for falling short (“Where we’re not transparent is that we don’t share our Italian factory names, because if someone came in and took those factories, they could completely wipe us out,” said founder Michael Preysman) — and, soon after, it tacked on its environmental impact” (26 Dec).

Gucci has started an ethical in-house fashion course: “The Italian fashion house has founded an education program aimed at improving the technical skills associated with the label’s artisanal craft and production. It’s called Gucci École de l’Amour” (25 Dec).

Chinese factory did not use forced labor to make sportswear sold on Maine campuses, watchdog says: “A factory certification group said Sunday that it found no evidence that forced labor was used to make popular college sportswear in a Chinese factory. Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production, an Arlington, Virginia-based nonprofit company that certifies factories for lawful, human and ethical manufacturing worldwide, said a story by the Associated Press on Dec. 18, followed by stories in other media … were false. The stories alleged that a Badger Sportswear factory [Hetian Taida] in China relied on forced labor to make clothing sold mostly at college stores” (24 Dec). [Ed’s note: see statement from WRAP here, which notes: “we are satisfied this particular facility is not engaged in the use of forced labor.”]

Could Antibad become the Net-a-Porter of green style?Antibad is effectively vying to be the Net-a-Porter of green style … The site is an online forum for more than 25 independent contemporary ready-to-wear and accessories vendors, including established American brands like Mara Hoffman, Samantha Pleet and Clan of Cro. There are less well known brands, too: Mud Jeans, a Dutch recycled denim brand; Bower, a recycled fishing net swim brand; and the vegan footwear brand Ethletic” (24 Dec).

NEWS & REPORTS 

How the fashion industry doubled down on sustainability in 2018: “The issue of sustainability took centre stage in the fashion industry in the year 2018, with multiple brands making pragmatic steps to addressing their environmental impact. We take a look at some of the biggest strides made” (26 Dec). [Ed’s note: mentions PVH, Guess, Gap, Kering and the UN Charter.]

Dear millennials: fast fashion is creating an environmental crisis and it’s time you change the trend: “Millennials have a thing for fast fashion as it instantly gives them an upgrade. This generation is glued to this revolutionary ideology. But this fast, handy, affordable couture has caused a huge imbalance in our lives as it is not fit for our environment” (24 Dec).

Fur and the necessity of consumer engagement: “As exemplified by the real fur vs faux fur debate, it is not always possible to reconcile these two viewpoints.  From a sustainability perspective, real fur is far better for the environment: it can often be sourced second-hand, is biodegradable, and lasts significantly longer than faux fur; on the other hand, unlike real fur, faux fur garments do not cause direct harm to animals in their creation (though it has been observed that synthetic microfibres entering the water systems from washing plastic fabric are filling the stomachs of fish)” (24 Dec).

Piece rate pay brings mixed results for garment workers, new study shows: “Garment industry workers are more likely to be concerned with sexual harassment and verbal abuse and more worried about workplace accidents and injuries if they are paid partially by the piece rather than by the hour, according to new research published by the ILO” (20 Dec).

THE SUPPLY CHAIN

Bangladesh  

Understanding the labour unrest in Bangladesh’s apparel industry: “The recent spate of labour unrest that is sweeping through Bangladesh’s apparel industry is posing to be a real threat. With unrest spinning out of control, owners are concerned whether it will mature further and swing into a full-blown labour unrest. Manufacturers are into uncertainty as to what is to be done, and there seems to be no way out other than forcing the workers to keep calm with police deployment and intimidation. But, the manufacturers know, this strategy will only last for a while” (26 Dec).

Removing anomalies in new RMG wage structure: “A sense of urgency pervades the relevant government agencies to address labour unrest over the new wage structure for the garments sector. The prelude to the national election having witnessed a spate of demonstrations at 50 factories in Gazipur, Ashulia and Narayanganj since December 09, one intense phase of agitation may have tapered off, notionally speaking.  But the unrest simmers as the inherent ‘inconsistencies’ in the new wage dispensation are likely to fuel further trouble in the sector going ahead. And, it couldn't have come at a worse time considering that this coincided with the peak season for export of some brand items in high demand in the western world” (26 Dec).

20 RMG units shut at Mirpur, Gazipur: “Worker unrest in protest against the new wage structure continues to flare up at different readymade garment factories in Dhaka and its adjoining districts ahead of the December 30 national polls as initiatives so far taken by the government and factory owners to address the workers’ demand have failed to satisfy the workers” (26 Dec). [Ed’s note: factories closed included Tasnia Fashions, Multifabs Ltd, Mondol Group, Cotton BD Proud, Cotton BD Fashions and Alim Knitwear.]

RMG manufacturers worried as election nears: “Clothing manufacturers in Bangladesh are worried sporadic violence that has affected some factories ahead of Sunday’s election will spread. Workers have been demanding higher minimum pay than proposed in September by the government of prime minister Sheikh Hasina, who is seeking her third straight term in power. She has the support of many textile factory owners, and that can also make them a target for those opposed to the government” (25 Dec).

Three burned as fire breaks out in Narayanganj warehouses: “At least three peoples sustained burn injuries as a fire broke out in two cotton warehouses at Dhamgar in Bandar upazila of Narayanganj district on Tuesday” (25 Dec).

Building workers’ database: BKMEA set to miss Dec deadline: “The Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA) is set to miss the December deadline to build the workers' database of its member factories, sources said. As a result, workers of the factories listed with the BKMEA might be deprived of getting financial assistance from the readymade garment (RMG) sector central fund, they added” (25 Dec).

Buyers evade responsibility in Bangladesh’s apparel chain: Study: “Bangladesh readymade garment supply chain still suffers from lack of ‘shared responsibility’ on the part of global buyers although transparency of the buyers and working condition in the country’s RMG factories have improved since the Rana Plaza building collapse in 2013, according to a global report” (25 Dec). [Ed’s note: the report referenced here is “Changes in the Governance of Garment Global Production Networks: Lead Firm, Supplier and Institutional Responses to the Rana Plaza Disaster – Interim Report”, which can be downloaded in full here.]

High-powered body formed to closely monitor labour situation in RMG industrial belts: “The Prime Minister Office (PMO) has asked the garments industry owners to pay the workers of their dues timely to prevent incidents of labour unrest ahead of the upcoming election. At the same time, it has also directed the security agencies to intensify vigilance in the country's key garments industrial belts (Savar, Gazipur and Chattogram) to avert any untoward situation” (25 Dec).

Workers likely to lose share of Central Fund: “Workers of garment factories under Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association might be deprived of financial assistance from the RMG sector central fund due to slow pace in completion of a single digitised database of the workers” (25 Dec).

Govt should consider workers’ interest to set wage structure: “Labour leaders at a meeting with the 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. The government has increased the wage for the seventh grade workers to Tk 8,000 from Tk 5,300 but wages for the six other grades have not been augmented proportionately” (23 Dec).

Protests hit Bangladesh’s clothing manufacturers as election nears: “Bangladesh’s clothing manufacturers, which dominate the southern Asian nation’s economy, are worried sporadic violence that has affected some factories ahead of Sunday’s election will spread” (24 Dec).

Bangladesh’s garment industry worried about rise in violence during polls: “Bangladesh’s clothing manufacturers, which dominate the southern Asian nation’s economy, are worried sporadic violence that has affected some factories ahead of Sunday’s election will spread. Workers have been demanding higher minimum pay than proposed in September by the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who is seeking her third straight term in power. She has the support of many textile factory owners, and that can also make them a target for those opposed to the government” (24 Dec).

After Rana Plaza: the politics of sharing: “Here we ask, has the Accord been the success its signatories claim, and if so why is the Bangladesh government seemingly opposed to its continuation? For our research, we interviewed 152 Bangladeshi garment factory managers and surveyed 1500 Bangladeshi garment workers (1000 women, 500 men), who were interviewed at home. Since many factories are shared, our results do not distinguish between the Accord and the Alliance. The overwhelming majority of factory managers (81 per cent) said that the most important change in the industry since Rana Plaza was improved safety” (24 Dec). [Ed’s note: the report referenced here is “Changes in the Governance of Garment Global Production Networks: Lead Firm, Supplier and Institutional Responses to the Rana Plaza Disaster – Interim Report”, which can be downloaded in full here.]

Cambodia   

Garment workers rally for severance: “More than 1,000 garment workers from Seduno Investment Cambo Fashion in Dangkor district in Phnom Penh yesterday rallied to demand their severance pay before the end of the year” (27 Dec).

Faintings increase despite efforts to improve factory conditions: “More than 2,000 garment workers have fainted so far this year in 16 factories across the Kingdom, a jump of more than 400 when compared to last year’s figures despite efforts by the government to improve factory conditions” (27 Dec).

Prestige Garment workers protest for second day: “More than 200 workers from the Prestige Garment factory in Kandal province yesterday continued a protest over the sacking of a colleague who tried to form a union” (26 Dec).

Ninety-five NGOs condemn convictions of union leaders: “Ninety-five NGOs have issued a joint statement condemning the convictions of six union leaders for their roles in a minimum wage protest at Veng Sreng Boulevard in Phnom Penh in 2013” (25 Dec).

Workers in Kandal walk-out in protest over colleague’s dismissal: “More than one hundred Prestige Garment workers in Kandal province walked out in protest yesterday after their colleague was sacked for attempting to form a local union. Pav Sina, president of the Collective Union of Movement of Workers said the worker was singled out by company for wanting to unionise” (24 Dec).

India

Mumbai: Four killed in Kandivili garment factory fire: ““The fire was confined to electric wiring, electric installation, garment and packaging material, machinery and furniture of the three garment shops” (24 Dec). [Ed’s note: this is an update to a story in the last issue of FSWIR, where it was reported three were missing.]

8 suffer burns as fire breaks out in Gurugram garment factory: “As many as eight workers suffered injuries when a major fire broke out in the basement of a garment factory in Dundahera area of the city on Sunday” (24 Dec).

Indonesia

Better Work Indonesia helps communicate employment rules across the country’s garment industry: “A new set of guidelines to help govern the use of non-permanent employees in the garment industry has been published by Better Work Indonesia and the Ministry of Manpower. The guidelines – the result of a Better Work-facilitated collaboration between employers, unions, brand partners and the government – aim to clarify understanding of existing legislation and reduce industry dependence on non-permanent contracts in Indonesia” (04 Dec).

Malaysia

Malaysia targets middlemen to end debt bondage of migrant workers: “Under pressure to crack down on labour abuses, the Malaysian government is moving to eliminate middlemen who charge millions of foreign workers exorbitant recruitment fees, leaving them saddled with debt and vulnerable to exploitation” (23 Dec). [Ed’s note: article mentions Top Glove, which “said this month it would cut ties with unethical recruitment agents, after some of its migrant workers were found to have clocked excessive overtime to clear debts.”]

Myanmar

Some 600 workers from two Bago factories open protest camp after failed negotiations: “About 600 workers from Greatmen Myanmar Garment Factory and Bell Mart Myanmar Garment Factory in Nyaunginn Industrial Zone in Bago Region opened a protest camp on December 26 as they could not reach a compromise with their employers” (27 Dec).

MANUFACTURERS

Denim mills invested in water-saving solutions in 2018: “In 2018, denim mills introduced a series of water-saving solutions to quench the denim industry’s thirst once and for all” (24 Dec).

Owners willing to shift 55 textile mills out of Surat: “After more than five decades, about 55 owners of textile dyeing and printing mills located within Surat Municipal Corporation (SMC) areas have agreed to shift them out of the city limits to help reduce the problem of air and water pollution” (19 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 Walkerssk, 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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