Brands in this issue include: Boohoo Group, Asos and Misguided (questions asked on transparency), Chanel (to halt use of exotic skins), KiK (Pakistan fire case in German court), Missguided (inspectors chased from British factory), Patagonia (giving away their Trump tax break), Tchibo (releases statement on Accord’s withdrawal from Bangladesh), Timberland (what Christopher Raeburn’s appointment means), by Tommy Hilfiger (sponsors Vietnam water risk report), and more.

Reports released this week:

  • No new reports were released this week

In general news:

  • New private sector guidance on tackling modern slavery risks

  • Fast-fashion can be just as durable as designer brands, says academic

  • Grace Forrest from Walk Free Foundation talks to Fashion Revolution Australia about the Australian Modern Slavery Act

  • The Guardian view of ultracheap clothes: costly to society

  • Tech startup gives workers the tools to report supply chain slavery

In the supply chain:                                                                        

  • Bangladesh: an update on the Accord; new wage structure has benefits for workers (or cut them – depending on your view)

  • Cambodia: Cambodia seeks to drop pending charges against unionists in about-face on labor; lethal protest union leaders’ trial date set

  • China: Two Chinese trade union officials arrested after helping workers

  • India: #MeToo has put the spotlight on limitations of law

  • Pakistan: ‘Labour department focusing on OSH as future strategy’

Manufacturers in this issue include: Ilario Ormezzano Sai (authorisation application to use sodium dichromate for dyeing of wool rejected by European Parliament), and more.

Quotes of the week:

  • “[A] forced pull-out of the Accord will significantly reduce our confidence and trust in the country.” Nanda Bergstein, Director Corporate Responsibility at German retailer Tchibo (27 Nov).

  • “Most countries use their militaries for border control or natural disasters. In Cambodia, the military is used to protect the interests of businesses, like land concessions and factories. And it’s often deployed to help the government maintain control – of protesters, garment workers, NGOs, and communities.” Naly Pilorge, director of the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defence of Human Rights (LICADHO) (03 Dec).

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


Chanel to halt use of exotic skins: “The French firm cited difficulty sourcing skins which match its ethical standards … The exotic skins in question include crocodile, lizard, snake and stingray” (03 Dec).

Patagonia’s $10 million donation: Why they gave away their US tax savings: “Outdoor brand Patagonia has announced that it will donate $10 million (£7.83 million) to help combat climate change. The number wasn’t plucked out of thin air – it’s how much Patagonia saved in 2017 after Donald Trump cut how much tax US corporations have to pay from 35% to 21%” (29 Nov).

What Christopher Raeburn’s Timberland appointment means for the future of fashion: “It's an accomplishment that would be significant to any designer on a personal level, but in [Christopher] Raeburn’s case, there are even wider implications. Raeburn’s reputation has been built equally on his innovative environmental consciousness and the strength of his design — which makes him arguably the first sustainability-centric independent designer to be granted such a prominent position at a mainstream global fashion brand” (29 Nov).

Fast fashion ethics: should clothing e-tailers be more transparent? “On November 27th, execs at fashion e-tailers Boohoo Group, Asos and Misguided attended the second evidence hearing on the sustainability of the fashion industry at the houses of parliament in London. The Committee pushed the three execs – Asos CEO Nick Beighton, CEO Carol Kane, who represented both Boohoo and PrettyLittleThing, and Missguided head of product quality and supply Paul Smith – on their manufacturing practices in the English city of Leicester” (29 Nov).

German clothing discounter KiK on trial for Pakistan factory fire: “In 2012, more than 250 people died in the fire that engulfed the factory of KiK’s supplier in Pakistan. Should KiK be responsible for working conditions in its supplier company? A court in Germany is set to decide” (29 Nov).

Online retailer Missguided claims its inspectors were chased out of factory: “Staff from one of Britain’s leading online fashion retailers were physically attacked and chased out of a Leicester factory when they went to inspect it, a parliamentary committee has heard. The claim was made by Paul Smith from Missguided, whose CEO Nitin Passi declined to give evidence to the Environmental Audit Committee hearing in Parliament” (27 Nov).


The problem with the fashion industry: ““High Street efforts are a tricky issue – there is uncertainty how much of their efforts are greenwashing / PR efforts / jumping on the trend and what is done out of genuine brand values. Without customer demand for answers and steady improvements, there is little incentive for big corporations to change their attitudes towards their supply chain and the marketing messages they bombard consumers with” (03 Dec).

Valuable report for fashion, apparel and textile companies to mitigate water risk in Vietnam: “The publication last week of a report called "Textile and Garment Sector in Vietnam: Water Risks and Solutions," by WWF and Vietnam Textile and Apparel Association (and sponsored by Tommy Hilfiger and HSBC’s Water Program) is a valuable tool for sustainability mangers to mitigate water risk in Vietnam. I can't think of a comparable document for any other country” (03 Dec – 05:12-minute video).

New private sector guidance on tackling modern slavery risks: “Practical guidance designed to support the private sector in the fight against modern slavery has been launched today by a group of development finance institutions (DFIs). The guidance helps companies and investors in emerging markets by giving them the practical tools to identify and manage potential risks proactively. The guidance features in a new Good Practice Note, “Managing Risks Associated with Modern Slavery”, produced by CDC Group plc, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), alongside the UK’s Department for International Development (DfID)” (03 Dec).

Can Chinese viscose producers clean up their act? A view from the Changing Market Foundation: “The latest report from the Changing Market Foundation - Dirty Fashion: Spotlight on China - argues that the Chinese collaboration for sustainable development of viscose (CV) will not be able to deliver on its promise. In this video, I take a look at the five previous reports from the Foundation on viscose to help make sense of why the focus has now turned to China, and why a product many believe is green appears to fall far short” (01 Dec – 09:38-minute video).

Science says your fast fashion pieces might just outlast your Balmain: “[A] new study out of The University of Leeds says that cheap clothing might not be so bad after all. The study tested a range of items, from pieces that cost just a few bucks to a host of designer labels, and found that less expensive tees and denim often outlasted their pricier counterparts” (01 Dec). [Ed’s note: see also Fast-fashion can be just as durable as designer brands, says academic: “Dr Mark Sumner, a lecturer in fashion and sustainability at the University of Leeds, said so-called fast fashion demonstrated “significantly better value for money” when compared to designer brands following a series of durability tests” (02 Dec).]

Grace Forrest from Walk Free Foundation talks to Fashion Revolution Australia about the Australian Modern Slavery Act: “Modern slavery is a complex reality that is deeply embedded within the operations and supply chain of companies across the world. However, a significant step in the right direction was taken when an inquiry into establishing a Modern Slavery Act in Australia was put forward in parliament in February last year. Such political movement is critical to the ongoing conversation regarding the implications on human rights as a result of the fashion industry” (30 Nov).

Is not shopping a radical act? “A lot of us have heard the statistics by now; we know – according to statistics from the Environmental Audit Committee’s sustainable fashion hearing – that in the UK, 23% of our clothing stay sat in our wardrobes unworn and that on average we’re buying 27 kilos of clothes a year, per person. We know that this is having a detrimental effect on our planet and that according to a report by the IPCC (that gave me a fright, to say the least), and try to put a stop on irreversible climate change” (30 Nov).

Fashion and the need for discomfort: “[A] talk [Tansy Hoskins] gave to the Fashion Communication and Promotion department at Norwich University of the Arts (NUA). It challenges future (and current) practitioners to stop being comfortable, and to engage with the harmful realities of the fashion industry. It discusses current events - Rana Plaza and the Bangladeshi Government's attack on the Bangladesh Accord; the legal fight for compensation for Ali Enterprises fire workers; attempts to get H&M to pay a living wage in its supply chain; and the Environmental Audit Committee's investigation into fashion's contempt for sustainability” (30 Nov – 23:31-minute podcast).

The Guardian view of ultracheap clothes: costly to society: “MPs are right to ask how a dress can be bought for £2.50 when it’s made in the UK, where the minimum wage is £7.83” (30 Nov).

McKinsey: this is what the fashion industry can expect in 2019: “2019 will be a bumpy ride for most fashion players, according to management consultancy firm McKinsey & Company and online publication Business of Fashion in their new joint report The State of Fashion 2019, on which they lay out the main trends and developments to be expected in the year ahead” (29 Nov).

Tech startup gives workers the tools to report supply chain slavery: “Giving staff the tools to report workplace abuses, including forced labour, should improve data for brands that are striving to ensure their products are slavery-free, a tech startup [Ulula] said” (29 Nov).



Update: What is happening with the Bangladesh Accord? “At the beginning of the year, international brands were urged to join the new Transition Accord 2018, the successor of the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, which has run out after its five-year duration in May of this year. The new Accord was to guarantee a smooth transition. However, in the meantime, the government of Bangladesh managed a restraining order on the Accord by the Bangladesh High Court, which was due to take effect on 30th November” (03 Dec).

Govt changes conditions paving way for workers’ benefit cut: “The government has brought changes to some conditions in new wages for readymade garment workers, creating scope for the owners to curtail extra benefits for the workers, labour leaders have said” (02 Dec). [Ed’s note: for a different view see here: RMG workers to enjoy all benefits beyond new wage structures: “Garment workers will be enjoying all benefits beyond the new wage structures as per the Bangladesh Labour Act 2006 and Bangladesh Labour Rules 2015, according to an amendment. The latest amendment has been incorporated in a gazette notification published on November 29, four days after the announcement of the new wage structures” (02 Dec).]

Compliance a must but not beyond capacity of factory owners: “After the Tazreen Fashion fire and Rana Plaza disaster, the inspection and remediation platform Accord has apparently become a burden to the country's garments sector for their excessive force to spend billion dollars to improve the safety of workplace. Shockingly, as per news media, the Accord has sent letters to its signatories (buyers) to sever business ties with Bangladeshi 532 RMG factories for their slow progress in upgradation - a devastating call indeed” (29 Nov).

Improving the Life of a Bangladeshi Garment Worker: Activist Kalpona Akter: “Bangladeshi garment worker activist Kalpona Akter doesn't want to simply transform her country: she wants to transform the world. On-stage at VOICES, BoF’s annual gathering for big thinkers, in partnership with QIC Global Real Estate, Akter said she was representing the disadvantaged across the globe: “With me [are] four million voices coming from Bangladesh — and millions more from other countries”” (29 Nov).

Forcing the Bangladesh Accord to leave the country – moving down the wrong path: “The Bangladesh Accord is one of the greatest achievements in the efforts to achieve better working conditions in producing countries. A few years ago, for the first time ever, we managed to bring together many of the world’s largest buyers and make the textile industry in Bangladesh safer in a concerted and binding manner” (27 Nov). [Ed’s note: statement from German retailer Tchibo.]


Critics, activists and trade unionists in Cambodia: on the verge of outlaw status? “Ms Rany, a teacher and politician in the coastal province of Sihanoukville, and 12 other teachers, all involved in politics, learned that they had been fired shortly after the opposition CNRP party was dissolved. “If the CPP continues to rule the country, I don’t think I can go back to work as a teacher,” she says” (03 Dec).

Lethal protest union leaders’ trial date set: “Phnom Penh Municipal Court has set this Friday as the start of the trial of six union leaders who were charged following protests after the 2013 national elections where demands to raise the minimum wage for garment factory workers turned violent … Prime Minister Hun Sen in November called for the courts to speed up the trials involving the union leaders. He also requested the ministries of Justice and Labour and Vocational Training to find ways to have the charges against them dropped” (03 Dec).

Cambodia seeks to drop pending charges against unionists in about-face on labor: “Cambodia’s Ministry of Labor on Thursday asked all union leaders and labor activists who have court cases pending against them to report to the ministry so it can work with justice officials to have the charges dropped, in a move by Prime Minister Hun Sen’s authoritarian regime to ease pressure by the international community over his human rights record” (29 Nov).


Two Chinese trade union officials arrested after helping workers: “Chinese police have arrested two trade union officials after they helped workers try to set up a union, a source told Reuters on Nov. 30, the latest detentions in a nationwide crackdown on labor activists” (30 Nov).


#MeToo has put the spotlight on limitations of law: “A round table on #MeToo organised recently by Saad Aangan, a local women’s collective in collaboration with International Centre Goa, on International Day to End Violence Against Women, recognised that while all women are vulnerable to sexual harassment, they are differently placed in protecting themselves from it” (29 Nov).


‘Labour department focusing on OSH as future strategy’: ““Exports in textile and garment sector can be enhanced, reducing the cost of production by adopting preventive measures which will ensure Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) of workers at workplaces. We should develop a new culture of decent work improving working environment, evolving sustainable strategies and policies for the betterment of both labour and employer community. The labour and human resource department is focusing on OSH as a future strategy to improve compliance on standards and increase profitability of the businesses”” (28 Nov).


Textile mills tie up with GEDA to reduce energy consumption: “City-based textile processors have tied up with state government-owned Gujarat Energy Development Agency (GEDA) and Man-Made Textiles Research Association (MANTRA) for reducing energy consumption in textile mills in south Gujarat, including Surat” (02 Dec).

The European Parliament votes against authorisation: “Last week, the European Parliament Environment Committee voted in favour of a resolution against the draft decision from the EU Commission to grant an authorisation for using sodium dichromate, which is classified as cancerogenic, mutagenic and toxic for reproduction. The application for authorisation was submitted by the Italian company Ilario Ormezzano Sai with the intention of continuing to use this chemical for dyeing of wool” (29 Nov).

Chinese firm eyes $100-m CEZA ‘green textile park’: “A diversified Chinese company based in Shaoxing in China’s eastern Zhejiang province has sent a five-man mission to the Philippines, taking a step closer to finalizing the terms for a “$100-million green textile industry park” it plans to set up at the Cagayan Special Economic Zone and Freeport in Sta. Ana, Cagayan” (28 Nov).

CONFERENCES & SEMINARS                                          

[New listings or updated information marked with *]

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 Jerzy Górecki, 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.