BRANDS AND RETAILERS

Vetements, Harrods to promote sustainability: Vetements is to fill the main windows of Harrods with discarded clothes to raise awareness of overproduction. The donated clothes will eventually be upcycled in aid of NSPCC, a children’s charity in the UK (07 Feb – free subscription required to read article).

70 brands sign 2018 Accord, up 10 from last week: See the updated list of brands and retailers that have signed the 2018 Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh. Ten brands have signed on in the past week (06 Feb).

Tom Ford rethinks fur: “The fur thing – of course, is a natural thing. [Going vegan] starts to make you question that. I have started using much more fake fur. I’m not yet ready to say that I’m fur-free. Now, however, I have limited the fur in these collections and going forward to food byproducts, which does not sound very sexy. “I’m selling you a food byproduct!” That means cowhide, it means shearling, it means not doing fur that is raised purely for its pelt. … I’m also very torn about this because fake fur is terrible for the environment. People think of fake fur as a disposable thing. They buy it, they wear it a few seasons, they throw it away, it doesn’t biodegrade. It’s a petroleum product. It is highly toxic. And then, you could argue that tanning leather is a highly toxic process” (06 Feb).

Meet the label that wants to give away Ninety Percent of its profits: [Ed’s note: Ninety Percent is a fashion brand aiming to donate 90 percent of distributed profits between charitable causes and people who produce the collections. That’s already quite an interesting business concept, but perhaps equally as interesting is where this idea originates.] “Ninety Percent is the brainchild of [Shafiq Ul Hassan], a successful factory owner in [Dhaka] who supplies clothes to M&S, Debenhams, White Stuff and H&M among others” (02 Feb). [Ed’s note: the news source linked does not mention it, but Shafiq Ul Hassan is the man behind Echotex, an ethical trade and LEED Platinum certified apparel manufacturer in BangladeshOn 05 Feb, Teen Vogue called Ninety Percent “the ethical and sustainable brands that’s about to blow up”, a claim that could be proven true given the coverage the company has started to receive in the last week – see here and here.]

UK buyers should put their money where their mouth is: [Ed’s note: this is an editorial from the Dhaka Tribune.] “The ready-made garment industry has been the primary engine of this nation’s economic growth, but it is regrettable that worker rights safety standards have continued to lag behind. But who is to blame? A number of major UK retailers, like Marks & Spencer, Next, John Lewis, Debenhams, and Sainsbury’s are dragging their feet when it comes to signing up to Bangladesh’s latest laws on fire and safety. Considering our foreign buyers have previously criticized Bangladesh for its poor worker safety standards, is their reluctance to sign the safety deal not an act of hypocrisy?” (02 Feb).

Adidas by Stella McCartney: “For sustainable fashion to exist, it has to be desirable. For sustainable athleticwear to exist, it has to perform. Stella McCartney excels in both areas, and her 13-year partnership with Adidas has covered many of sustainability’s biggest breakthroughs—zero-water dyes, leggings in recycled polyester, sneakers made from recovered ocean plastic. Last season, she introduced 100-percent recycled polyester for the first time—until then, she could only use a percentage of it in her blended materials—and Spring 2018 marks her most sustainable offering to date” (02 Feb).

Forensic video evidence filed in legal action against German retailer: The European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) and medico international have announced a new computer simulation from Goldsmiths, University of London’s Forensic Architecture project. … has now been submitted to the Regional Court in Dortmund, Germany, where legal action against KiK is ongoing (01 Feb). [Ed’s note:  see the story below on outsourcing risk in Reports, Guidelines and Standards for more about the video cited here.]

Burberry launches social project with Oxfam in Afghanistan: “The Burberry Foundation has announced a five-year commitment with charity organisation Oxfam and PUR Project to support the Afghan cashmere industry” (01 Feb).

Gant enters partnership with Waterkeeper Alliance: “By partnering with Waterkeeper Alliance, the largest and fastest-growing non-profit focusing solely on clean water, Gant will support the organization’s mission through an annual charity contribution” (31 Jan).

J.Crew incentivizes consumers to recycle their denim: “J.Crew has joined team Blue Jeans Go Green. The retailer announced Wednesday [last week] it is partnering with the Cotton Incorporated’s denim recycling program Blue Jeans Go Green now through the end of the year. Consumers can bring in a pair of gently worn jeans to any J.Crew store and receive $20 off a new style”(30 Jan).

Alterra Pure launches a textile system designed to change the way we think about organic bedding: “Organic home goods company, Alterra Pure, announced [last week] a new model for environmental and social sustainability. Introducing slow living methods to the home goods market, the company weaves its products in equitable partnership with a collective of villages, farms and facilities in Odisha, India, practicing zero-impact production and non-irrigation techniques. To set this new model into motion, the company is, today, introducing organic cotton sheets and duvet covers to conscious consumers through a crowdfunding campaign launching on Indiegogo” (30 Jan). [Ed’s note: Former Patagonia and Tecnica executives are behind the startup.]

Bio-based textile innovation: “Although many … new textile innovations are still at development level, the sportswear and fashion industry is embracing the use of bio-based textiles and designers are beginning to challenge themselves to create wholly bio-based products. One recent example is Swedish outdoor clothing brand Tierra’s Deterra Jacket, which was launched in 2017 as the first 100% bio-based technical outdoor jacket. … The jacket is made from outer fabric woven from EVO by Fulgar yarn, which consists of polyamide made from castor bean oil and also utilises Lavalan wool padding, corozo nut buttons and Tencel thread” (30 Jan).

Zalando collaborate with Viktor&Rolf for sustainable collection: “Viktor & Rolf [will] design a one-off capsule collection with German e-tailer Zalando [using Zalando’s stockpiles]” (30 Jan).

British brands delay signing Bangladesh Accord: “John Lewis, Marks and Spencer, Debenhams and Next have yet to sign the new agreement, while Sainsbury’s has decided not to sign at all. Jenny Holdcroft, assistant general secretary of IndustriALL, one of the founders of the accord, said it was “quite unusual” for a group of brands to collectively not sign” (29 Jan).

Thought eco-fashion was all hemp smocks? Meghan Markle proves it’s time to think again: “When Meghan Markle stepped out on a recent public engagement in Cardiff, something in the fashion world changed for ever. Not only was the royal bride-to-be wearing jeans — but jeans by an overtly eco-conscious brand. The (previously) little-known company Hiut Denim takes a sustainable approach to their designs, offering free repairs and encouraging customers to go for as long as possible without washing their jeans in order to make them ‘more beautiful’ (29 Jan).

Vaude participates in the TextileMission research project: ““Developing products that are completely safe for the environment and for people is our top priority. We would also like to make a contribution toward solving global ecological problems such as the environmental pollution caused by plastics, which can also originate from synthetic textiles,” said Antje von Dewitz, Vaude CEO. Together with various partners from environmental associations, the scientific community and the textile industry, Vaude has launched the TextileMission research project. The goal is to find solutions that will reduce the environmental impact of microplastics released when synthetic apparel is washed. Vaude is excited about the initial successful developments and is launching an innovative fleece material made of a biobased, biodegradable fiber. This is one of the innovative natural materials used by VAUDE in its new, completely sustainable Green Shape Core Collection” (18 Jan).

REPORTS, GUIDELINES AND STANDARDS

Norwegian project launches microfibre research: “A research project being conducted in association with The Research Council of Norway is underway to determine the extent of the microfibre ocean pollution and methods which could be implemented in order to remedy the situation” (06 Feb – subscription required to read full article).

ETI-ILO successfully partner in China: “Eshan Chan reflects on the ILO and ETI’s first year of jointly implementing SCORE Training in Chinese SMEs. … Sun-step Shoes Co. Ltd., a factory nominated by New Look, said that absenteeism had dropped from 4.34% in June to 3.67% in September, and the resignation rate had also decreased by 0.4% from June to September” (06 Feb).

Serving time for reporting on forced labour in Turkmenistan’s cotton fields: “Turkmen reporter Gaspar Matalaev is suffering with ill-health from the poor conditions inside the labour camp where he is imprisoned serving a three-year sentence. Mr Matalaev was arrested immediately following the publication of his report on forced labour in the cotton sector” (05 Feb).

Textile Exchange launches new site about biosynthetics: “Textile Exchange has launched a new microsite, aboutbiosynthetics.org, to demystify the subject and provide information and market intelligence for both businesses and interested consumers. “Right now, biosynthetics are a new emerging area for the textiles industry and an exciting one for us to be exploring at Textile Exchange. We are looking for opportunities to reduce our dependency on fossil fuels and reduce carbon emissions. Fibers made from polymers based on plants and other biological inputs offer huge potential,” said Liesl Truscott, Director of Materials Strategy at Textile Exchange” (05 Feb).

Can artificial intelligence drive more ethical retail? Samantha Zirkin, CEO and Founder of Point 93, delved “into the retail world to learn about the supply chain and workers’ rights [wanting] to know if people would pay $70 instead of $50 for an item they knew had been produced under fair conditions” (05 Feb).

Livia Firth launches Commonwealth sustainability initiative: “The 52 countries of the Commonwealth are launching a first-of-its-kind fashion initiative to boost sustainability, partnerships and trade across the group, with the long-term aim of also promoting female empowerment” (05 Feb).

China industrial policy at work in lingerie themed town: [Ed’s note: This article from the Financial Times is on Chinese ‘feature town’, which focus on a single industry, in this case, lingerie. It offers some interesting insights into national policy, but I thought the following quote might be interesting to some readers.] “[Lingerie producer] Midnight Charm has produced lingerie for a British high-street brand that [the general manager, Lei Congrui] asked the FT not to name because Mr Lei had acted as a subcontractor without the brand’s knowledge” (05 Feb).

7th Future Fabrics Expo: A video showing some of the fabrics and related ideas on show at the 7th Future Fabrics Expo, which was held on the 24th and 25th of January 2018. The video includes footage with people talking about: i) bioplastics, ii) a fabric that photosynthesises via bacteria (a Kering Award winner), iii) a representative from Beyond Surface Technologies (green chemistry for textiles), and iv) an Italian making textiles from apple peel (which he started experimenting on with a pasta machine ten years ago) (04 Feb).

The reputational risks lurking in your supply chain: [Ed’s note: the objective of this article to raise awareness about supply chain risk, but it does cite some interesting research.] “A European study of small to medium businesses found one in ten could not identify their key suppliers, and 70% lacked visibility over their entire supply chain. … A survey of supply chain executives and finance managers at large global organisations across a wide range of industries found almost half said they lacked the resources needed to assess risks at supplier sites, and nearly 40% said they lacked the leverage needed to force suppliers to develop adequate risk management processes” (02 Feb).

How technology is changing the business of fashion: “From downloadable sewing patterns to body scanners, technology has helped fashion enterprises to improve their operations” (02 Feb).

What really happens when you donate your clothes – and why it’s bad: “Let’s start here: Contrary to popular (naive) belief, less than 20 percent of clothing donations sent to charities are actually resold at those charities” (02 Feb).

Oeko-Tex updates its programs: “Oeko-Tex updated its advisory of harmful substances with its Standard 100 criteria. Harmful substances included the chemical compound phenol, which has been used as a disinfectant. Also deemed harmful was bisphenol A, which is used in the manufacture of epoxy resins, and aromatic amine aniline, which is used in the manufacture of polyurethane. The European Chemical Agency ECHA found that aniline is suspected of causing cancer and genetic defects. If chemical residues of these substances are found, Oeko-Tex will not certify them. The effort supports environmental organization Greenpeace’s Detox Campaign. It has challenged the world’s manufacturers, including fashion companies, to stop using chemicals found to pollute the environment. Oeko-Tex also announced that the substance quinoline is under observation. The substance is used to make dyes” (01 Feb).

European Commission warns Bangladesh again of improving labour situation before GSP goes: “The European Commission has reiterated its concern over the labour rights situation mainly in respect of freedom of association and successful implementation of the 'Compact' in the readymade garment sector of Bangladesh. It also warned of taking steps, including launching investigation, to improve the situation ahead of withdrawal of the existing trade facility under the Generalised System of Preference (GSP)” (01 Feb).

Planet Textiles agenda takes shape: “Preparations for this year’s edition of Planet Textiles, to be held at Vancouver’s Sheraton Hotel on May 22nd, are gathering pace as further speakers have been confirmed for the event’s line-up. The ever-growing issue of textile microfibre pollution will be tackled as part of the event, in addition to breakout sessions on finance, deforestation and chemical management also forming a significant part of the agenda. The annual event on sustainability, is jointly co-hosted by MCL News & Media and the Sustainable Apparel Coalition as part of a series of environmental meetings in Vancouver, and around 400 delegates are expected to attend” (01 Feb).

Sustainable apparel: How brands can transform supply chains - Conference: The latest innovations in circular business, transparency and factory engagement, 24th-25th April 2018, Amsterdam. Early bird registration is open. Hosted by Innovation Forum (01 Feb).

Turkmenistan: 2017 findings of forced labor monitoring during cotton harvesting: “Despite Turkmenistan’s international commitments to suppress the use of forced or compulsory labor in all its forms, in 2017 the government continued to mobilize tens of thousands of civil servants to pick cotton under threat of dismissal. For the first time in a decade, the authorities have also mobilized masses of children to pick cotton” (01 Feb).

Outsourcing Risk: Investigating the Ali Enterprises Factory Fire on 11 September 2012: A ‘forensic video’ recreating the Ali Enterprise factory, which burned down in September 2012, killing over 259 workers (31 Jan). [Ed’s note: this is a remarkable investigation. Making use of satellite imagery, court testimony, photographs, videos, sketches, and other artefacts, Goldsmiths, University of London’s Forensic Architecture project has created an architectural schematic allowing the viewer to travel through the factory before, during and after the fire. Constant reference to Pakistani law is enlightening. You should view this if you’re involved in supply chain fire safety. It would be very useful for training. It is worth watching to the end to see the evacuation scenarios. See story above on KiK.]

Anjelica Huston cuts up fur coats for PETA: “The Oscar-winning thespian has donated her old fur fashion pieces to the organi– zation People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), including a lynx-fur jacket, a coat trimmed with muskrat fur and a black rabbit-fur hat” (31 Jan).

Used clothes: Why is worldwide demand declining? “Overall, the global export market for worn and used clothing is estimated to be about $4bn. But a BBC analysis of data from the United Nations shows that the formerly fast-growing used clothing import/export business has declined over the past few years - both in terms of volume and in terms of value” (31 Jan).

The Six Items Challenge: UK NGO Labour Behind the Label has launched its “flagship fundraising event and raise money for garment workers worldwide. … The Six Items Challenge is designed to challenge our increasing reliance on fast fashion and raise vital funds which will enable Labour Behind the Label to keep fighting for the justice that garment workers deserve. The idea is simple – select six items of clothing from your wardrobe and pledge to wear only these every day for six weeks (31 Jan). [Ed’s note: 2018’s Six Items Challenge is during lent, which falls between 14th February and 29th March 2018. See one bloggers view on the challenge at My fashion fast to fight fast fashion.]

People Make Clothes: A Journey Through the Global Textile Industry: [Ed’s note: this is an interview with Imke Müller-Hellmann, author of People Make Clothes: A Journey Through the Global Textile Industry, which is available only in German at the moment.] “I was surprised to read workers did not complain to you about working conditions. Why is that in your opinion? – I think there are several reasons. Almost everyone wants to be proud of the work he does. You have to overcome an inner hurdle to demand change. And the conditions are so precarious that it’s incredibly difficult to organize against others. The workers are afraid to lose their jobs when they go on strike” (31 Jan – in German).

Better Work launches strategy to enhance gender equality in the garment industry: “Better Work, a joint initiative of the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the International Finance Corporation, [have] launched a comprehensive, five-year gender strategy to empower women, reduce sexual harassment and close the gender pay gap in the global garment industry. The new strategy aims to promote women’s economic empowerment through targeted initiatives in apparel factories, and by strengthening policies and practices at the national, regional and international levels” (30 Jan).

German-Dutch cooperation takes sustainability in the textile sector to the next level: “The German Partnership for Sustainable Textiles and the Dutch Agreement on Sustainable Garments and Textile signed a cooperation agreement. The core objective is to support companies in implementing due diligence by harmonizing sustainability requirements. In addition, member companies will work on joint projects to improve working conditions in risk areas and benefit from shared knowledge and support by both secretariats. Additionally, cooper-ation in working with local stakeholders such as producers, governments, trade unions and NGOs will increase the joint leverage” (30 Jan).

Time for China to reassess its labour law? Many firms are ignoring it, experts say: “China’s Labour Contract Law, which was meant to provide workers with protection from exploitative bosses, is being ignored by many companies in the mainland, according to two employment experts. … In the case of migrant workers, only 43% are currently employed under contract – and that number is decreasing” (30 Jan). [Ed’s note: This article summarises main points from a presentation on Chinese labour law by Geoffrey Crothall of China Labour Bulletin and Jonathan Isaacs, of Baker McKenzie’s China Employment Practice.]

Humanity United launches Working Capital, a $23 million venture fund to invest in ethical supply chain innovations: “Working Capital, an early stage venture fund, launched [last week] with the goal of accelerating supply chain innovations to enable corporations to operate more transparently and ethically around the world. It was founded by Humanity United, a foundation that is part of The Omidyar Group, a diverse collection of organizations, each guided by its own approach, but united by a common desire to catalyze social impact” (30 Jan). [Ed’s note: C&A Foundation, Walmart Foundation, and Walt Disney are among those backing the fund. The fund’s first two investments are: i) Provenance, “a technology platform that uses blockchain to enable brands, suppliers, and stakeholders to trace products along their journey from producer to consumer”; and Ulula, software and data analytics platform that allows organizations to engage with workers in real time to measure and monitor labor-related risks, creating more responsible global supply chains.]

Supply chain transparency: blockchain to the rescue? “Whether it is blockchain, or some other form of technology, creating more transparent supply chain operations will no longer be a ‘nice to have’ for corporations, but rather a ‘must have’. Numerous organizations are rallying consumers around the transparency movement. In the fashion industry, there are several campaigns that are trying to hold companies accountable for their supply chain actions and demanding more information about their operations. There is the Clean Clothes Campaign, which is promoted across social media under the ‘#GoTransparent’ hashtag. Then there is the Fashion Revolution campaign which encourages consumers to ask the big brands who made their clothes, again running on the hashtag ‘#whomademyclothes’” (30 Jan).

Hong Kong proposes Modern Slavery Law: “Dennis Kwok, a member of Hong Kong's Legislative Council, has sent the Chief Executive a draft Modern Slavery Bill 2017 (“Draft Bill”) for consideration. The Draft Bill is in similar terms to the Modern Slavery Act 2015 (UK) … and follows proposals for similar legislation to be introduced in Australia” (29 Jan).

JD Sports Fashion Modern Slavery report: JD Sports Fashion has released its Modern Slavery report as per the UK Modern Slavery Act (24 Jan).

Ellen MacArthur Foundation awards $1m to help create new materials that will deal with the causes of ocean plastic: “The winners of the Circular Materials Challenge are being announced at the World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos on January 23, 2018. Together the winners will join a 12-month accelerator programme, in collaboration with Think Beyond Plastic, working with experts to make their innovations marketable at scale” (23 Jan).

Blockchaining the fashion industry: “A blockchain is a list of growing records called blocks. These records (blocks) are linked together and secured using cryptography” (19 Jan). [Ed’s note: If that is gibberish, then this article might clear up some of the basic concepts.]

OECD Forum on Due diligence in the garment and footwear sector – Session notes: These notes outline the sessions and issues to be discussed in the lead up to the OECD Forum held on 30-31 Jan (Jan 18).

MANUFACTURERS

Tanneries want to save their skins: “The vegan wave continues to worry leather players who will meet on 13 February at the Salon Première Vision Leather [in Paris]. Driven by luxury, tanners must innovate and find niche markets. … Tanneries in France for lamb, sheep and goat skins have decreased since the 1980s from 460 companies to about 60 … The sector is now driven by luxury, where about 40 per cent of skins end up (e.g., Hermès, Chanel, LVMH)” (05 Feb – in French).

Indonesian President signals river pollution reform: “Indonesian President, Joko Widodo looks set to issue new regulations to accelerate the prosecution of river polluting textile facilities as the situation in the nation’s Citarum river worsens” (05 Feb – subscription required to read full article).

Naveena rebrands sustainable solutions; emphasizes the benefits of collaborations: “Naveena Denim Mills is amplifying its commitment to promote sustainable manufacturing by repackaging its eco innovations … through collaborations with chemical manufacturers Archroma and DyStar, fiber manufacturer Lenzing and sustainable technology company Jeanologia. The innovations address water and chemical usages, as well as the longevity of garments” (05 Feb).

Archroma and WWF in water conservation partnership: “Colour and speciality chemicals firm, Archroma has announced it has signed an agreement with World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF Pakistan) for formal cooperation on water conservation. The aim of the partnership is to conserve water wasted through the textile industry in Pakistan” (05 Feb – subscription required to read full article.)

Spray dyed indigo denim makes environmental gains: “A new way to dye denim in bulk using sprays instead of traditional dyebaths is currently being used by select textile mills in India, Turkey and Pakistan which it’s claimed could significantly reduce the environmental impact of jeans production worldwide. The original indigo spray dyeing process was first introduced at ITMA Milan 2015 by DyStar and German textile machine builder RotaSpray, but at that stage it wasn’t scalable for dyehouses at large denim mills” (02 Feb).

Archroma unveils new non-PFC water repellent protection: “Archroma … has unveiled the latest addition to its range of highly biodegradable, non-PFC based durable water repellent protection, the Smartrepel Hydro series. It is a nature-friendlier protection agent based on distinctive micro-encapsulated, highly biodegradable, non-PFC based technology” (02 Feb).

Japan to fund Mandalay water treatment facility: “A water treatment and quality monitoring facility for textile factories in Mandalay will be the first project Japan will fund under its environmental cooperation agreement with Myanmar” (01 Feb).

Denim manufacturer puts sustainable production and ethical fashion front and centre: Chottani Industries, “one of Pakistan’s leading apparel makers [is putting] sustainable production and ethical fashion is front and center. … “We believe that taking sustainable initiatives is the only way forward. Collaborating with market leaders such as Tonello in Italy to reduce water and chemical consumption more than 70 percent in our laundry process, by using their latest CORE technology, is one way of achieving that goal. One of our manufacturing units has been registered with the Green Building Council for LEEDS certification. Once we have achieved it, all our other units will follow”” (31 Jan).

Archroma develops first chemical free, water free dyeing solution: “Archroma’s latest move in sustainable apparel dyeing could accelerate the industry’s progress in building a more circular economy. The global specialty chemicals company is said to be using the world’s first process chemical free and water free dyeing solution with its optical brightening agent—Ultraphor KCB—and some apparel companies, including Thailand-based Tong Siang Co. Ltd., are using the process and agent to color their high-performance sportswear. Tong Siang’s textiles produced with this dyeing solution are branded as DryDye fabrics” (31 Jan).

Gore retreat from PFC’s of concern is ‘on track’: “In a move that was initiated back in February 2017, after lengthy talks with Greenpeace, Gore says that after one year of research, the company is largely ‘on track’ to meet its goal of eliminating PFC’s of environmental concern from its consumer products by 2023” (31 Jan – subscription requires to read full article).

Unifi elects PepsiCo North America CEO to the Board of Directors: “[The CEO’s] addition to [the Unifi – which manufacturers synthetic and recycled performance fibres] board comes at an excellent time, as we focus on growing REPREVE … a critical sustainability story with over 10 billion plastic bottles being saved from landfills and transformed into high-quality consumer products” (24 Feb). [Ed’s note: on a related note, see, Unifi Names Eddie Ingle Vice President of Global Corporate Sustainability (31 Jan).]

THE SUPPLY CHAIN

Jump in fainting cases in 2017 for Cambodian garment workers: “The National Social Security Fund of the Ministry of Labour said more than 1,600 workers fainted in 22 factories in 2017, an increase of more than 400 from the previous year” (05 Feb).

BGMEA panel threatens legal action as board tenure extended: “Swadhinata Parishad, the newly-floated panel in the BGMEA election, [Saturday] threatened legal action for the decision to extend the tenure of the current executive board by another year. The extension is not legal because it was done after the announcement of the election schedule, said Md Jahangir Alam, convener of the Swadhinata Parishad” (04 Feb). [Ed’s note: the Swadhinata Parishad was formed in January this year to contest upcoming elections for leadership of the BGMEA, which some people viewed are “selected on the whims of an influential quarter.” Swadhinata Parishad founding members include senior management from Design and Source, Venix Bangladesh, Nova Apparels, Parents Sweater, Alliance Apparels, Way Mart Apparels, DK Global Fashion, Azra Enterprise, and Olira Fashion.]

What should be the new minimum wage for Bangladesh apparel workers and what will be the aftermath?Saiful Islam Khan, Managing Director of Essential Clothing Ltd, said, “I think, if wage board increase minimum salary to close to 10,000 then 25-50 percent factory will be shut off. Mid to small sized factories will face toughest challenge to survive” … “Already production cost is increased 18 percent and product price decreased 5 percent. Buyers also should take responsibility of workers,” Md. Shahidul Islam, Managing Director of Rupa Group” (03 Feb). [Ed’s note: the article canvases the views of several other factory owners and industry representatives.]

Inferno decimates garment scrap warehouses in Bangladesh: “Several garment scrap warehouses in Gazipur’s Konabari were gutted by fire on Thursday night [last week]. Six firefighting units managed to extinguish the flames after a five-hour effort, but they had to work till midnight to bring the situation under control” (02 Feb).

Wages in Bangladesh’s garment sector could triple this year: “In November, it seemed that apparel organizations in Bangladesh were pushing for a wage hike double the current rate, but now it looks like workers rights unions are pushing for a threefold increase. Wages for garment workers in Bangladesh haven’t gone up since the 5,300 taka ($64) rate was set in 2013. Considering four years have passed without any addition to workers’ pay, the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) has been appealing to the government to establish a wage board to review rates on a more regular basis. Also in November, BGMEA said it was urging the wage board to double the current pay in line with the changes in cost of living since 2013, but workers’ rights organizations are demanding the wage rate reach 16,000 taka ($192), a 201 percent increase, or three times the current pay” (02 Feb).

New platform of garment TUs demands minimum wage at Tk 16,000: “A new platform of garment trade unions on Thursday [last week] demanded that the government set the minimum wage for apparel workers at Tk 16,000 and implement it within six months. Garments Sramik Mojuri Andolan (garment worker wage movement), an organisation of 25 government-registered associations, made the demands while announcing its three-point demands at a press conference held in Dhaka on Thursday” (02 Feb).

How well are female workers protected by Bangladesh law? “A comparison of our labour laws and international standards reveals that while national laws generally align with the ILO core conventions, low enforcement leads to limited protection for workers. The law also excludes workers in informal settings from these protections, limited as they are. How well female workers in particular are protected by the law is shown by the fact that two ILO conventions specific to female workers, those on maternity protection and workers with family responsibilities, are yet to be ratified by Bangladesh” (02 Feb). [Ed’s note: the article provides a useful overview of legal protection, or the lack thereof, in Bangladesh.]

Ensure ethical prices for apparel, Bangladesh government tells EU: “The government on Thursday [last week] urged European Union to ensure ethical prices of Bangladesh’s readymade garment products so that factory owners can provide better wages to the workers. Bangladesh’s factory owners have invested millions of dollars toward making the production units safer as per the recommendations of global buyers but the brands and buyers were not willing to increase the prices of products, state minister for labour Md Mujibul Haque said in a meeting with EU ambassador Rensje Teerink held at Bangladesh Secretariat” (02 Feb).

Chinese workers protest unpaid housing fund and social insurance payment owed by handbag manufacturer: Workers at Guangzhou Panyu Simone Handbag Co Ltd. have made a complaint against their employer for failing to make insurance payments on time (01 Feb). [Ed’s note: see also video here – in Chinese.]

Indian workers clash with fashion bosses as union activity rises: Thomson Reuters Foundation reports: “A growing number of workers in the south Indian garment hub [of Chennai] have been suspended or dismissed within days of joining unions or attending events primarily to demand the implementation of revised minimum wages, campaigners and union leaders said” (01 Feb). [Ed’s note: the article mentions Celebrity Fashions Ltd.]

20 hurt as apparel factory workers clash with BGMEA staff: “At least 20 workers were injured in clash with the employees of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association in front of BGMEA building at Hatirjheel in Dhaka on Wednesday [last week]. Witnesses said workers of Asiana Garments Industries Ltd at Rampura in Dhaka turned up to the BGMEA building to talk to the factory owner as they found the factory closed without prior notice in the morning (01 Feb). [Ed’s note: earlier reports suggested three had been hurt – “three BGMEA staff had sustained injuries in the attack” – and that 200-250 workers had been involved. See here and here.]

86 garment workers faint in Cambodian factory: “86 garment workers were hospitalised after they fainted on Tuesday evening [last week] at the Seduno Cambo Knitting factory [which employs 1,650 workers] … due to pesticides being sprayed on a rice field nearby” (01 Feb). [Ed’s note: a follow up article published barely six hours later, Factory workers faint again notes says, “More than 100 workers fainted again on Thursday morning at the same factory they fell ill at on Tuesday” (01 Feb). Then the following day, an article titled Nearly 200 faint from factory fumes over three days (02 Feb), said “more than 180” workers fainted over the course of three days. A worker in the factory was quoted as saying, “We work seven days a week, and Monday through Friday we work from 7am to 8pm.” See Better Factories factory assessment here.]

Five fires in Bangladesh in January: “Since the beginning of 2017, five fire incidents have been reported in newspapers. In the first incident, 30 houses were gutted at Karwan Bazar slum. The second one took place at RK Jute Mills in Kaliganj of Gazipur, causing severe damage to a unit that housed machinery. In the third, fire gutted down two units of a garments factory named Unity Fashions incident in Dewanhat area of Chittagong. Fire-fighters assumed that electrical short circuit might cause the fire. In the fourth incident, exploding of a gas cylinder triggered a fire in Mirasarai of Chittagong that ravaged three shops, causing a total loss of Tk 1.0 million. In the fifth case, fire hit underground electronics market in Gulistan” (31 Jan).

Minimum wage law talks conclude in Cambodia: “A tripartite group consisting of employers, unions and the government finished discussing the draft law on minimum wage [last week]. … From 1997 to 2017, the government increased the minimum wage in the garment sector from $30 per month to $153. Starting this month, garment industry workers are paid $170 per month” (31 Jan).

Bail plea of Baldia factory fire accused dismissed: “The Sindh High Court on Monday [last week] threw out the bail application of Zubair, alias Charya, one of the accused in the Baldia factory fire case. Dismissing the bail plea, a two-judge bench also directed an antiterrorism court to conclude the trial of the deadly fire case expeditiously” (30 Jan).

Minimum wage politicking stings employers in Southeast Asia: “After more than three decades as Cambodia’s prime minister, Hun Sen added a new routine to his schedule last August: visits to the garment and footwear factories that employ some 700,000 citizens nationwide. … [but he] is not the only Southeast Asian leader using wages to woo voters, raising hopes for better living standards but creating headaches for employers. Manufacturers are increasingly asking themselves whether countries in the region offer enough other benefits to justify paying employees more” (30 Jan).

Low wages, child labour, other issues yet to be resolved, says Pakistan minister: Sindh Minister for Labour Syed Nasir Shah has admitted that despite the fact that labourers’ issues of low wages, duty timings and child labour still remain to be resolved it is only Sindh government which has formulated labourer-specific laws. The minister said while talking to journalists at Sindh Museum on Thursday [last week] that the provincial government had established a complaint cell and helpline for workers to lodge complaints against violation of labour laws” (26 Jan).

(Photo jplenioCCO)

Disclaimer: The Fashion Sustainability Week in Review (FSWIR) is a 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 or any individual associated with the company

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