THIS ISSUE

Brands in the news this issue include: Asos (which banned feathers, silk, mohair and cashmere and stirred up a storm), Carcel (for ‘made in prison’ luxury), Primark, Target and Levi Strauss (questioned over making pride t-shirts in countries with anti-gay laws), Primark (rated by ethical fashion app Good on You), Zalando (a response to NGO Femnet’s questions on transparency), C&A (a case study in a new report on the circular economy), The North Face and Wrangler (case studies in a new report on regenerative supply chains), and Puma (it’s CEO was subject of an award-winning academic article on cognitive complexity and CSR).

Reports released:

In general news, there were podcasts with Orsola de Castro and José Teunissen, a critical assessment of factory improvements in Bangladesh, questions raised – again – over farming in Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, claims that raising the cost of a t-shirt by 20 cents would provide Indian workers a living wage, and a video about how your clothing might be destroying orangutan habitats (about viscose), and vegan down alternatives (from PETA).

In the supply chain, there were reports on the glacial pace of Bangladesh’s minimum wage board, another factory transport vehicle accident (claiming one life), the Indian government’s decision to rescind the ‘hire and fire’ clause inserted into the Industrial Employment Act last year, and claims Myanmar’s female garment workers fear rape and robbery.

In manufacturing, Radici has designed a 100 per cent recyclable gilet, and OrganoClick won the Scandanavian Outdoor sustainability award for its textile waterproofing.

Quotes of the week:

  • “We kind of assumed #WhoMadeMyClothes would be a relatively easy question to answer, and yet no one could answer it at all.” Fashion Revolution co-founder Orsola de Castro (21 Jun).
  • “When an enterprise identifies that it has caused or contributed to actual adverse impacts, it should address such impacts by providing for or cooperating in their remediation.” OECD Watch, reiterating a point made in the recently-released OECD Due Diligence Guidance on Responsible Business Conduct (20 Jun).
  • “PVC, incidentally is highly toxic, and Asos right now is selling cheaply produced PVC dresses for less than $30 each.” Clare Press, in Vogue, wondering why Asos has banned mohair, cashmere and silk but still sells PVC (19 Jun).
  • “There are no real trends anymore. It’s just a push market where people just try and launch things in the market. It’s very wasteful.” José Teunissen, London College of Fashion (18 Jun).
  • “Fashion was more sustainable in the past because fewer people could afford large wardrobes.” Edwina Ehrman, curator of the V&A exhibition “Fashioned From Nature” (18 Jun).
  • “One of the reasons small factories prefer not to be a member of a major trade organisation is to avoid oversight and compliance like paying workers timely and conforming to all safety requirements. And that is what the government must address.” Editorial, The Daily Star, Bangladesh, on non-payment of wages and bonuses to garment factory workers (14 Jun).

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

BRANDS & RETAILERS

To fake or not to fake: the responsible sourcing dilemma: “The recent announcement from Asos that they will be banning all feathers, silk, mohair and cashmere has started a social media furore, quite rightly. Not because the ban in itself is a mistake – it shows that they are indeed taking into account their customers’ concerns in regards to animal welfare; concerns that our insatiable desire for soft, fluffy and silky materials poses a real threat to animals and their environment. The controversy arises from our suspicions that this new policy will not introduce better solutions to replace unethical, environmentally-unfriendly fabrics” (21 Jun). [Ed’s note: by Orsola ee Castro, co-founder of Fashion Revolution.]

C&A releases Global Sustainability Report 2017: Circular fashion (1.3 million C2C t-shirts), fewer natural materials, driving more sustainable cotton (67%), transparency (over 2,000 factories in public supplier map), women, sustainable products, sustainable supply, and more (21 Jun).

Bestseller Only label to launch innovative black jeans as part of eco focus: “Bestseller’s Only brand is hailing a step forward in jeans technology and is preparing to launch “innovative black jeans” next month that underline the parent company’s “ongoing drive for a more sustainable future””(21 Jun).

Star Sock achieves ‘leader’ status in FWF performance check: “Star Sock has shown progress and met most of FWF’s performance requirements in 2017. In its third year of membership, a monitoring percentage of 100% and a benchmark score of 79 means that FWF has awarded Star Sock the ‘Leader’ rating” (20 Jun).

Would you buy luxury fashion made in a prison?Carcel, a new luxury brand launching on Net-A-Porter this week, proudly stamps each of its products with the rather more unique handle; ‘made in prison’” (20 Jun).

Indigenous named by B Lab as ‘Best For The World’: ““Impact Fashion” pioneer Indigenous, leader in ethical and sustainable clothing, has been named by B Lab as Best For The World. It has been awarded for making a positive impact in two categories - Overall and Community” (20 Jun).

11 of our favourite sustainable brands: [Ed’s note: from Harper’s Bazaar, and includes Reformation, Kitx, Gabriella Hearst, Amur, Nak, Bottletop, Tome, People Tree, Simon Miller, Edun, and Veja.] (19 Jun).

Do you know where your pride t-shirt was made? “[S]ome retailers, including H&M, the European fast fashion retailer Primark, Target and Levi Strauss, manufacture their merchandise in countries where it is either illegal to be gay or where persecution is commonplace” (19 Jun).

Asos is banning mohair, cashmere, silk and feather products – why are they unethical? “You might be surprised to hear that some of these products aren’t particularly ethical, but why is this the case?” (19 Jun).

Why has Asos banned mohair, cashmere and silk? “Okay, nobody wants to support cruelty to animals. It’s obviously horrible. But these issues aren’t black and white. … it’s complicated, and to me at least this Asos story feels a little too cynically crowd-pleasing, because the truth is less headline-grabbing isn’t it? It’s certainly more confusing” (19 Jun).

How VF Corporation is leveraging sustainability to remain relevant at a consumer and market level: “[An interview with] Anna Maria Rugarli, VF Corporation’s Sustainability & Responsibility Senior Director EMEA to learn more about why VF is going circular and how aims to achieve this” (19 Jun).

H&M reopens Paris flagship store, offers clothing repair: “[H&M’s] Parisian address will be the first store to permanently feature H&M’s “Take Care” service, which was launched as a pilot in Hamburg in April. “Take Care” allows customers to repair their clothes in-store, buy garment-care products and get advice on how to take better care of their pieces” (19 Jun).

Simply Be debuts new line of sustainable jeans: “Simply Be is joining the war on plastic by using recycled plastic bottles to create a new line of sustainable denim. The brand has partnered with Coolmax EcoMade technology to create its first performance denim range made from 97% recycled sources” (19 Jun).

How ethical is Primark? [Ed’s note: from the Good On You app, which you will need to have installed to read article. GOY questions how ethical Primark is, and scores the company on: environmental impact, labour rights and animal welfare. The overall score is ‘It’s a start’, and GOY suggests users to divert to brands that offer better, long lasting products instead.] (18 Jun).

Guess partners with I:CO to launch wardrobe recycling program: “Guess is proud to partner with I:CO, short for I:Collect, a global solutions provider and innovator for the collection, certified sorting, reuse and recycling of used apparel and footwear, to launch a wardrobe recycling program. The program, Resourced, launches in California on June 18, 2018, expanding to all North America by the end of 2018 and globally by 2020” (18 Jun).

Zalando’s response to NGO concern about supply chain transparency: [Ed’s note: on 23 May, Gisela Burckhardt of the German women’s rights NGO Femnet, spoke at the Zalando AGM in Berlin questioning the company’s transparency. Zalando has provided its response.] “Our goal is to be one of the leading online shopping destinations for sustainable fashion by 2020. For us, this means continuously increasing our selection of sustainable fashion by 2020 and offering our customers transparent navigation options. For this we are also reliant on the industry, and since the estimated share of sustainable fashion in the overall market is only 1%, the offer is unfortunately still limited” (15 June – in German & English).

Five executives sentenced in ‘Made in USA’ scheme: “Five executives involved in a “Made in the USA” scheme have been sentenced on federal fraud and smuggling charges. For nearly four years these executives guided the sale of more than $8 million of China-made boots to the U.S. military, claiming the footwear was made at the company’s Morristown-based facility” (11 Jun). [Ed’s note: the company in question is Wellco Enterprises.]

NEWS & REPORTS

Better Work explores ways to help make garment factories more environmentally compliant: ““Helping factories become compliant on environmental regulations sets them up to participate in –and ultimately fulfil the basic requirements under the Higg measuring and scoring process,” explains Thanh Nguyen, of Better Work Vietnam. “It’s important for the factories, as brands look on the Index as the industry standard for assessing environmental and social sustainability throughout the value chain” (21 Jun). [Ed’s note: the project involves Li & Fung, Vina Korea Co., and Shinwon Ebenezer Hanoi.]

Podcast with Orsola de Castro on growing fashion revolution into a global movement by inviting everybody to participate: “How did Fashion Revolution, which has become a global movement, get started and grow to have the impact and reach it has today? What does it mean for us that people express interest in buying less and buying better, but often aren’t doing so because of things like price, convenience, and style options?” (21 Jun).

C&A Foundation launches 2017 Annual Report: “C&A Foundation published its fifth annual report, not only sharing progress in 2017 and insights from its grant-making, but making a strong call to action to industry players” (21 Jun).

Uzbek farmer: “I will definitely be bankrupt this year”: “A monitor from Uzbek-German Forum interviewed a farmer from the Khorezm region who described his experience with the command system of management in the Uzbekistan’s agriculture sector. Farmers do not have the freedom to choose what crops to grow; the state sets the prices and can arbitrarily and punitively “redistribute” the land of the farm at any time” (20 Jun).

The New Big Circle. Achieving Growth and Business Model Innovation through Circular Economy Implementation: “New report from the Boston Consulting Group and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development details business benefits and best practices from circular economy leaders [features C&A’s C2C t-shirt]” (19 Jun).

Since Rana Plaza, have fast fashion retailers actually materially improved conditions for their workers? ““Five years on from Rana Plaza, both people and the environment still suffer as a result of the way fashion is made, sourced and consumed. Most companies are still operating in broadly the same way that enabled the Rana Plaza disaster to occur, relying on auditing for basic legal compliance. Fashion brands had repeatedly audited the factories in the Rana Plaza complex, but the risks went either undetected or ignored”” (19 Jun). [Ed’s note: authored by Tom Cridland, designer behind the 30-year t-shirt, sweatshirt, jacket and others.]

The price for Turkmen cotton is too high: “Turkmenistan may represent only 2% of the world’s cotton exports, but the rampant human rights violations in their cotton production demand our attention. Much of the country’s cotton is produced using a system of state-sponsored forced labor” (19 Jun).

Connecting to the Farm: How Companies are Engaging in Agriculture to Build Regenerative and Thriving Supply Chains: [Ed’s note: a report from Pure Strategies, which describes the efforts of The North Face and Wrangler (among others) “to engage in their supply chains and help shape the future of sustainable agriculture to a more regenerative and thriving system” (19 Jun).

How designers, consumers and influencers play a role in making fashion more sustainable: “Ethical fashion took center stage at Fashionista’s “How to Make It in Fashion” conference” (19 Jun).

It would cost you 20 cents more per t-shirt to pay an Indian worker a living wage: “If we really care about protecting the people who make the things we wear and use, we need to raise wages for workers in supply chains to above the poverty line. Our research shows that this only requires a 20-cent increase in the retail price for a T-shirt made in India” (18 Jun).

“The fashion system is very much in transition” says State of Fashion curator José Teunissen: “There are 50 examples of sustainable fashion on show in the Netherlands for the inaugural State of Fashion exhibition, including textiles created from salvaged plastic bags and shoes made of fish skins. … José Teunissen reveals her highlights” (18 Jun).

Conscious Chatter podcast – SO3 Episode 119 with José Teunissen, the Dean of the School of Design and Technology at London College of Fashion: ““Primarily, I also think this time period will be – it’s a paradigm shift, probably a big paradigm shift - maybe it’s only the start of it, but I think we are definitely in a period where we start to redefine what fashion is”” (18 Jun – 36:06-minute podcast).

Why consumers don’t buy more sustainable fashion? “Consumers say they are becoming more concerned about the impact fashion brands have on the planet. However, there is a huge gap between what consumers are saying and how they behave” (18 Jun).

China strengthening environmental monitoring efforts: “The government of China is now strengthening its environmental monitoring efforts as its economic development has shifted from that of a traditional industrial economy to a green economy where economic development and the ecological environment co-exist in harmony. Environmental protection agencies can now order illegal polluters to cut or cease production” (18 Jun).

Innovation in apparel: 2018 pulse check: “Whether you’re a supplier, spinner, manufacturer, designer or brand, we’re all charged with bringing innovative solutions to the table and shaping consumer education and perception of sustainability” (18 Jun).

Has your clothing destroyed orangutan habitats? “Did you know that the dress you’re wearing, or the jacket you’re rocking, or the new polo you’re sporting might be destroying orangutan habitats in Indonesia?” (15 Jun – 5:30-minute video). [Ed’s note: about rayon, aka viscose. Names Gucci, Eileen Fisher, H&M, Zara, Alexander McQueen, Levi’s. Includes interview with Nicole Rycroft, Canopy.]

Second hand clothing platform launches in the UK: “Spain’s Micolet, a platform that sells second hand clothes, has launched in the UK. Having already sold 500,000 pre-loved items, it could become a serious player in the fight against fast fashion” (14 Jun).

The US$660 billion sustainable supply chain finance opportunity: “[BSR’s] new report, Win-Win-Win: The Sustainable Supply Chain Finance Opportunity, shows how supply chain and trade finance mechanisms can be leveraged to create tangible cash incentives for suppliers, drive sustainable behaviors, and transform global supply chains. This is a significant opportunity for buyers, suppliers, and financial service providers” (12 Jun).

Vegan down alternatives from PETA: [Ed’s note: list includes alternatives and in some cases the brands using them. E.g., PrimaLoftBlack Diamond, Patagonia, The North Face, Adidas; Climashield (by HarVest Consumer Insulation) – Arc’teryx, Eddie Bauer, Mountain Equipment; ThermoreBrooks Brothers, Hugo Boss, Aspesi. There are 18 alternatives listed.] (07 Jun).

Professor wins award for management research on Puma CEO’s cognitive complexity and corporate sustainability: “Tobias Hahn, ESADE Professor in the Department of Social Sciences, has won the first prize of the Prix Académique de la Recherche en Management, a top French management-research award, for his article “The Co-evolution of Leaders’ Cognitive Complexity and Corporate Sustainability: The Case of the CEO of Puma,” published in the Journal of Business Ethics” (06 Jun). [Ed’s note: you can see the article here. Main finding: “As [the Puma] CEO developed a more complex mindset that also included non-business lenses, [he] developed a more inclusive understanding of sustainability and adopted proactive initiatives that went beyond business-as-usual.”]

THE SUPPLY CHAIN

Bangladesh

Bangladesh Alliance factories completing upgrades 19 Jun to 22 Jun: IFA Printing, Medlar Apparels, BP Wears, Well Designer Ltd., Well Dresses Ltd., Talisman Ltd. (22 Jun). [Ed’s note: this list is based on the Bangladesh Alliance Twitter feed.]

Global capitalism undermines progress in workplace safety in Bangladesh's garment industry: “More than 270 garment factories—164 in the Alliance and 109 in the Accord—have been “terminated” by the initiatives for refusal to correct identified safety hazards.  Many of these factories—now banned to supply Accord or Alliance brands—continue to produce garments under hazardous conditions for the domestic market or other international brands” (22 Jun). [Ed’s note: by Garrett Brown, long time activist on OHS issues globally.]

Minimum wage board for RMG workers at a crawl: “Minimum wage board formed for reviewing wages of readymade garment workers is going slow in making recommendations for minimum rates of wages as the board held only one meeting in four and a half months since its formation” (19 Jun). See also, Slow process of fixing minimum wages irks garment workers (21 Jun).

Taking health to the RMG workers: “[A] one-year project, from 1 April 2018 to 31 March 2019, to be extended further if successful. The first three months have focused on preparation, recruitment of medical team members, training, and garment factory selection” (20 Jun).

Hold errant RMG factories accountable: “It is atrocious that 40 percent of the garment factories should have erred in paying their workers, some for as many as three months. And most of these do not belong to any of the two major garment or knitwear manufacturers' associations like the BGMEA or BKMEA.” (14 Jun).

Cambodia

Workers seek pay after owner shutters factory: “Some 300 garment workers from Kbal Koh Garment factory in Chbar Ampov district in Phnom Penh, whose owner unexpectedly shut the factory in January last year, protested again outside the Ministry of Labour on Tuesday to seek compensation” (20 Jun).

Garment worker dies in crash, dozens injured: “One garment worker died during a traffic accident involving two factory transportation trucks” (18 Jun).

India

Government to do away with the ‘hire and fire’ clause of Industrial Employment Act: “The clause [inserted last year] allows companies to employee and sack up to 300 contract employees according to their business needs without giving them compensations” (21 Jun).

Committee to study demands of garment workers: “[Karnataka] Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy on Tuesday [19 Jun] directed officials to set up a committee involving Labour Department officials, textile manufacturers, Central trade unions, and garment workers to study the long-pending issues plaguing garment workers, including notification of minimum wages” (20 Jun).

Bangalore garment factory labourers: Understanding their plights and demands: “The IT capital of India, Bengaluru, is also home to one of India’s largest unorganised sectors, i.e., the garment factory workers. There are around 1200 such factories in and around the city which employ lakhs of people, mostly women” (19 Jun).

Myanmar

Myanmar’s female garment workers still in fear of rape and robbery: “According to a recently published report titled “Women, work and violence in Myanmar, Nepal and Pakistan,” female garment workers in Yangon have reported feeling physically unsafe while traveling to and from work - an issue which has a substantial impact on the industry’s productivity” (19 Jun). [Ed’s note: the report cited was published in March 2017. You can read it here.]

Labour group decries country’s record on unions, worker rights: “Myanmar is among 24 countries that have very bad records on supporting labour unions and the right of workers to form unions, officials of the Confederation of Trade Union Myanmar said. … The conference noted that the Freedom of Association and Protection of the Rights to Organise Convention, which Myanmar ratified in 1955, is poorly implemented in the country” (15 Jun).

The Philippines

Certification for Philippine garment firms availing GSP: “The Philippines has adopted rules on securing certificate of accreditation for garment manufacturers, exporters and subcontractors availing of preferential tariffs under the generalized system of preference (GSP) scheme. A certificate will be issued by the department of trade and industry (DTI) accreditation board confirming that minimum labour standards have been met” (20 Jun).

Vietnam

“Guide to Vietnamese Labour Law for the Garment Industry” – sixth edition: “This sixth edition of the guide includes updates following recent changes in Vietnamese laws pertaining to trade union activity, the collective bargaining process, discrimination and occupational safety and health (OSH), as reflected in newly-adopted documents and circulars” (20 Jun).

MANUFACTURERS

Radici designs 100 per cent recyclable gilet: “In a move to explore the potential for new circular business models for the global textile sector, the Radici Group has produced a ‘100 per cent recyclable’ nylon gilet made of over 20 separate nylon components that can be recycled multiple times” (20 Jun).

Feeling blue? How this entrepreneur revitalized a natural dye industry: “Tennessee-based Stony Creek Colors (SCC) is changing [how indigo is made]. Started in 2012 by Sarah Bellos, SCC is the first company in the United States to grow the indigo plant at a scale usable by the commercial denim industry” (20 Jun).

OrganoClick bags Scandinavian Outdoor sustainability award: “OrganoClick’s new biodegradable and fluorocarbon-free textile impregnation for consumer, Organotex textile waterproofing, has bagged the first prize in the sustainability category at the recently held Scandinavian Outdoor Awards in Germany” (19 Jun).

CONFERENCES & SEMINARS

[New listings or updated information marked with *]

25 June, online course: Who Made My Clothes? The University of Exeter and Fashion Revolution deliver a three-week course where participants will discover who made their clothes, share their stories, and influence global change.

25 June, Brussels: Five Years after the Launch of the Sustainability Compact: Taking Stock and Staying Engaged: “The fourth high-level follow-up meeting of the [Bangladesh] Sustainability Compact.”

26 – 27 June, London: Fashion SVP: 121 producers attending from over 21 countries for seminars and information sharing around sustainable sourcing.

26 – 28 June, Brussels: Scaling Impact through Collaboration: “The BCI 2018 Global Cotton Conference will bring the entire sector together … to collaborate on a more sustainable future for cotton.”

27 June, London: Sustainable Supply Chains 2018: “Aligning procurement & supplier engagement practices with sustainability strategy.”

3 – 5 July, Berlin: Ethical Fashion Show Berlin: “The Ethical Fashion Show Berlin stands for urban zeitgeist, sustainable lifestyle and fashion.”

3 – 5 July, Berlin: Greenshowroom: “Like no other fashion event in Europe, the Greenshowroom stands for elegant designs and sustainable high-grade materials.”

18 – 19 July, London: The London Textile Fair: With a new section completely dedicated to sustainable fabrics.

24 July, New York City: Footwear Sourcing and Innovation Summit: Includes themes such as innovation in sustainable materials and production.

25 -26 July, London: Jacket Required: Spotlighting the growing emphasis and importance placed on sustainability; see, for example, the sustainable brands showing (Fjällräven, Re:Sustain, Tretorn, Sandqvist, Ohmme, et. al.).

* 28 July, New York City: Fashion for Freedom: Free The Slaves teams up with Fashion Revolution USA to fight for a slavery-free fashion industry

28 – 30 July, Hofheim-Wallau, Germany: Innatex (Sustainable Textiles): “Innatex stresses the importance not only of ecological factors in the supply chain, but also social aspects.”

01 August, São Paulo, Brazil: SAC & ZDHC Manufacturer Forum: The first such forum in Brazil.

12 – 14 August, Las Vegas: Sourcing at Magic: “The show will mainly emphasise on helping the fashion industry reduce its impact on the environment with new design opportunities that meet market demand for sustainable fabric and fibres.”

16 August, London: Bare Fashion, London’s first vegan fashion show: “[W]ill feature autumn clothing lines from vegan, sustainable and ethical brands from the UK and beyond.”

05 September, Hong Kong: Manufacturer Forum: The first SAC & ZDHC Manufacturer Forum in Hong Kong.

22 – 24 October, Milan: 2018 Textile Sustainability Conference: United by Action: Accelerating Sustainability in Textiles & Fashion: Textile Exchange’s 2018 Textile Sustainability Conference. (See agenda update here.)

31 October – 01 November, London: ‘What’s Going On? A Discourse on Fashion, Design and Sustainability’: “The Global Fashion Conference is a bi-annual international conference, which aims to contribute to a multidisciplinary approach to fashion studies and brings together academia and industry, promoting a more sustainable model of development.”

13 – 14 November, Los Angeles: Remode: The premier event for disruptive and sustainable fashion: “[H]ear from fashion’s leading innovators, gain access to a collaborative network of relevant people and resources, and leave with an actionable plan for innovation and growth.”

* 13 – 14 November, San Diego: 2nd Responsible Busin4ess Summit West: “It is imperative to advance ethical leadership in today's age of digital disruption. Failure to do so will result in loss of customer trust, shareholder value and ultimately, profits.” Hosted by Ethical Corporation.

(Photo by IlonaCCO)

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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