Brands in the news this issue include: Columbia Sportswear, Abercrombie & Fitch, Benetton, and H&M (for sourcing from India’s Shahi Exports, the subject of a critical NGO report), The North Face (a case study in a report on sustainable sports), Zara (rated by Good On You, the ethical fashion app), Cotton On and Kmart (among others in New Zealand over allegations of underpaying retail workers), Chanel (which released its Report to Society), and Inditex (meeting with suppliers in India).
- Report to Society, the first report of its kind from Chanel (with lots inside on sustainability)
- Worker Rights Consortium assessment Shahi Exports Pvt. Ltd. (Bangalore, India): Findings and recommendations, which focuses on an Indian supplier to major brands
- Case closed, problems persist: Grievance mechanisms of ETI and SAI fail to benefit young women and girls in the South Indian textile industry, by HWW, ICN and SOMO (to which ETI has responded)
- Playing for Our Planet: How sports win from being sustainable, by UEFA, WWF and Green Sports Alliance (featuring The North Face)
In general news, the UK Parliament has announced an enquiry into the environmental footprint of fast fashion, questions were asked about the ethics of haul videos and silk, the popularity of vegan leather was noted, as was the doubling in price for used clothing in the UK.
In the supply chain, there were reports on the Bangladesh government’s limited progress on the Sustainability Compact, the growth of trade unions in Kenya’s garment sector, violence in Madagascar’s, a union drive in Pakistan for workers’ welfare, and dispute in a Sri Lankan free trade zone.
Quotes of the week:
- “We do not want to be tough like the Accord, as it would hurt your feelings and cause financial losses.” Bangladesh’s Minister for Labour and Employment Md Mujibul Haque (22 Jun).
- “Fashion shouldn’t cost the earth.” Mary Creagh MP, Chair of the UK’s Environmental Audit Committee, on announcing a parliamentary inquiry into the social and environmental investigation into the fashion industry (22 Jun).
- “This woman is not fit to be a worker. Her caste is meant to burn dead people and that is what she should be doing. Beat her and throw her out.” Shahi garment factory production manager in India, ordering physical assault of a female worker, cited in new WRC report (21 Jun).
- “But why should I pay to have the right to work? It’s unfair.” Vololona Rasamoelison, textile worker in Madagascar, who paid a ‘toll’ to a foreman every day to keep her job (19 Jun).
By Stephen Frost, CUHK Business School, The Chinese University of Hong Kong.
BRANDS & RETAILERS
H&M, Columbia, and others are accused of ignoring disturbing abuses at a large Indian supplier: “A report by an international watchdog group is alleging that retailers including H&M, Abercrombie & Fitch, Columbia Sportswear, and Benetton have largely ignored reports of violence and other serious abuses against workers at an Indian factory making their clothes” (25 Jun). [Ed’s note: see the full report here, by WRC, which is about Shahi Exports. The article also includes responses from American Eagle, C&A, Columbia Sportswear, Gap, H&M, Marks & Spencer, and Shahi Exports.]
How ethical is Zara? “The Verdict: ‘It’s a Start’” (25 Jun). [Ed’s note: from Good On You app. 3/5 stars.]
Kathmandu receives U.S. FLA accreditation: “New Zealand-based outdoor retailer Kathmandu is the first southern hemisphere brand to receive its Fair Labor Association accreditation from the U.S.” (24 Jun).
Sixteen retail chains in New Zealand accused of underpaying staff: “Tens of thousands of minimum wage workers are potentially collectively owed millions of dollars in unpaid wages, with 16 of New Zealand‘s largest retailers now accused of forcing their employees to work without pay. [Among them are] Hannahs, Rebel Sport, The Warehouse, Cotton On, Farmers, and Kmart]” (23 Jun).
Chanel issues Report to Society: [Ed’s note: Chanel’s 76-page report includes substantial sections on raw material traceability and sustainability (e.g., working in Bhutan with the UNDP on science skills and sustainable sandalwood extract in New Caledonia). partnerships for innovation (mainly in fragrances), the company’s climate strategy (global carbon footprint), sustainable retailing (LEED and circular sales promotion material), human rights in Chanel’s supply chain (1,400 suppliers for fashion), and governance.] (20 Jun).
Inditex suppliers from India meet to pledge social dialogue: “More than fifty Inditex textile and garment suppliers in India gathered in Bangalore and Delhi to ensure effective implementation of IndustriALL’s Global Framework Agreements (GFAs)” (20 Jun).
NEWS & REPORTS
Cottoning on to the circular economy in the garment industry: “From cellulose technology to high street take-back schemes, fashion is waking up to the problems posed by the make-wear-discard business model – but with less than 1% of fibres recycled a year, the challenges are huge (25 Jun). [Ed’s note: from Ethical Corporation magazine; scroll down to p. 29. Mentions Burberry, Gap, H&M, Nike, Levi Strauss, Primark, Evrnu, Vigga, C&A, Eon, and Re:newcell.]
Unpicking the confusion over ‘sustainable’ cotton: “A new initiative by Forum for the Future aims to help brands navigate the multiple programmes striving to cut the environmental and social impacts of the water-intensive textile” (25 Jun) [Ed’s note: from Ethical Corporation magazine; scroll down to p. 35 Mentions Marks & Spencer, Better Cotton Initiative, C&A Foundation, C&A, Eileen Fisher, Inditex, Primark, and Decathlon.]
Sugar coated solution for nylon textile microfibres: “Italian researchers claim to have developed a new textile finish based on sugars derived from agricultural waste products, such as sunflower oil and fruit juice, that reduces the release of nylon microfibres when washing clothes by up to 90 per cent” (25 Jun).
Fashion brands aren’t being open and honest with you: “Fashion is beaten only by the oil industry for the tarnished crown of being the dirtiest industry in the world. And in recent years, fashion’s impact – on both people and planet – has been documented in innumerable news reports and exposés of garment factory fires, workplace sexual violence and widespread pollution” (23 Jun).
Price for used clothes in the UK doubles in last decade: “The price rag dealers pay for used clothes has climbed from about £220 a tonne in 2007 to about £500 a tonne today [but] each year in the UK a staggering 300,000 tonnes of clothing is sent to landfill” (22 Jun).
MPs to examine environmental footprint of UK fashion industry: “Inquiry will explore the carbon impact, resource use and water footprint of growing throwaway ‘fast fashion’ sector” (22 Jun). See also a press release from the UK Parliament here (22 Jun).
How circular innovation is creating business opportunities: “Can you give us a real-life example? [Thijs Maartens]: Sure, take denim jeans. The position that we take is that you need to start at the molecular level. You need to know what’s going into a product in order to know what will come out at the end. Our assessments require product manufacturers to provide details of all materials for which there are traces of 100 parts per million or more. For denim, the critical issue is the dyes that manufacturer use” (22 Jun).
Here’s why haul videos need to change: “A closer look at the YouTube subculture and its impact on shopping habits” (21 Jun).
IEEE announces winner of retail digital transformation grand challenge: “IEEE, the world's largest technical professional organization dedicated to advancing technology for humanity [has] announced … the winning entry of the Retail Digital Transformation (DT) Grand Challenge [to] Shimmy Technologies” (21 Jun). [Ed’s note: Shimmy Technologies uses AI to accelerate conventional apparel design workflows now while laying the groundwork for apparel’s next chapter: mass customization, circularity, and automation.]
Is it unethical to wear silk? “As with almost anything we wear, buy, or eat, the ethics of wearing or eschewing silk aren’t entirely straightforward, and a person’s decision ultimately comes down to what factors matter most to them” (21 Jun).
ETI responds to ICN report on its work in Tamil Nadu: [Ed’s note: in June 2018, HWW, ICN and SOMO released a report titled Case closed, problems persist: Grievance mechanisms of ETI and SAI fail to benefit young women and girls in the South Indian textile industry, which concluded, “ETI and SAI complaint mechanisms do not provide the needed remedy to the affected workers.”] ““This inaccurate and misleading report refers to a specific incident that took place in 2014 which has since been resolved. The report not only misrepresents our complaints procedure, it contains major factual errors about our work in Tamil Nadu” (20 Jun).
Future of Procurement: [Ed’s note: a 20-page supplement from Raconteur, which looks broadly at procurement with a focus on sustainability and ethics. Although covering other sectors, fashion is highlighted. You can see “Cleaning up the fashion supply chain,” one of the articles in the report, without signing up for the full report.] (20 Jun).
Student design teams compete for PETA’s animal-free wool prize: [Ed’s note: vegan wool from hemp and coconut fibre (Woocoa), microfluidic vegan skin (Kerasynth), and proteins, DNA and enzymes (Werewool).] (19 Jun).
Collaboration’s positive impact on apparel supply: “There’s evidence for mainstreaming of sustainability into clothing value chains, but the challenge remains getting to scale” (15 Jun – 11:55-minutes podcast). [Ed’s note: interview with Alison Ward, CEO CottonConnect.]
Vegan leather is becoming so popular, it’s threatening the cow leather market: “According to Jocelyn Thornton, senior vice president of creative services at a fashion and retail advisory firm called Doneger Group, younger consumers are at the forefront of the trend of ditching real leather” (15 Jun).
Playing for Our Planet: How sports win from being sustainable: [Ed’s note: a report by UEFA, WWF and the Green Sports Alliance, featuring The North Face’s “Clothes the Loop” program, which allows consumers to drop off their unwanted clothing and footwear at retail and outlet stores for proper recycling.”] (02 May).
THE SUPPLY CHAIN
Algerian government escalates its war on independent unions: “The government of Algeria is escalating its war on worker rights and independent trade unions following a critical report issued by the ILO Committee on the Application of Standards at this year's International Labour Conference. Independent unions face a new wave of repression and have been personally, viciously attacked by the Labour Minister, who has also threatened to withdraw Algeria from the ILO” (22 Jun).
Little Progress on Sustainability Compact: “This week the partners of the Sustainability Compact are meeting for a fourth time to follow-up on the progress made. However, there is little progress to report. The ILO supervisory bodies continue to express serious concern over the lack of respect for the rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining as well as the persistent violence and discrimination against workers. Moreover, the continuation of the Accord on Fire and Building Safety, which had been assuring the safety of garment factories for the past five years, is now facing serious opposition from the Government of Bangladesh” (25 Jun).
Bangladesh could risk trade benefits if it does not get serious about workers’ rights: “The European Union and the government of Bangladesh face an excellent opportunity to show they are serious about workers’ rights in the garment industry” (25 Jun). [Ed’s note: by Clean Clothes Campaign.]
Govt may face questions over slow remediation of RMG factories: “Slow progress in fixing safety faults in the readymade garment factories inspected under national initiative and extension of the tenure of buyers-led initiatives Accord and Alliance would be high on agenda in the 4th Sustainability Compact review scheduled for June 25-26 in Brussels” (23 Jun).
Government warns RMG factory owners to improve safety or face closure: “Ready-made garment (RMG) factories face closure if their owners fail to complete safety upgrades by December, the government warned on Thursday [21 Jun]” (22 Jun).
Factories to be fined if lacking medical bay: “Labour Minister Ith Samheng has announced that his ministry will begin to fine factories lacking a medical facility to treat sick employees in a bid to further prevent cases of fainting among garment factory workers” (22 Jun).
Worker Rights Consortium assessment Shahi Exports Pvt. Ltd. (Bangalore, India): Findings and recommendations: “An investigation by the Worker Rights Consortium (WRC) has found that in late March through mid-April 2018, the management of a garment factory in Bangalore, India, operated by Shahi Exports Pvt. Ltd., a supplier of clothing to more than a dozen top US and European retailers, engaged in a campaign of vicious repression and retaliation against workers’ exercise of fundamental labor rights – which included physical beatings; death threats; gender, caste, and religion-based abuse; threats of mass termination; and the expulsion from the factory of 15 worker activists” (21 Jun). [Ed’s note: brands named as sourcing from the Unit 8 facility are Columbia Sportswear, Abercrombie & Fitch, Benetton, and H&M. The report is 29-pages long. See here for a copy of the most recent Shahi newsletter, citing a workplace project with Good Business Lab and VF, Gap and H&M. H&M and Columbia have both released statements on the issue (see here).]
Union success in growing garment and textile sector: “Global brands are increasingly eyeing Kenya to source their apparel as the garment and textile sector rebounds after many years of decline. The Tailors and Textile Workers Union is organizing workers and winning good agreements in this growing industry. Brands including Arrow, Calvin Klein, H&M, Izod, Cherokee and VF Corporation source from Kenya” (22 Jun).
The reality of violence at work in Madagascar: “While workplace violence can differ depending on a country’s development level, the most common forms occur everywhere. In the poorest countries, unacceptable practices are often exacerbated by poverty. [The ILO] looked at the situation in Madagascar” (19 Jun).
Group of labour unions launch rights movement for workers’ welfare: “A group of labour unions on Thursday [21 Jun] announced to launch Mazdoor Huqooq Tahreek (Labors’ Right Movement) aimed at bringing visible improvement in the lives of workers ahead of general elections of 2018” (21 Jun).
UK says dispute with Sri Lankan glove maker should be resolved by the company and local authorities: “The British High Commission in Colombo says the dispute between a trade union and a Sri Lanka-British partner company [ATG Ceylon Pvt. Ltd.] in the Katunayake Free Trade Zone should be resolved by the local authorities and the union” (22 Jun).
Syrian refugees have a right to equal pay for equal work: “Some 1.6 million Syrians in Turkey are of working age, but just 20,000 have work permits. As a result, tens of thousands of Syrians are working in cities all over Turkey without documentation or any basic labour rights in every field, especially construction, textiles and agriculture” (20 Jun).
Lenzing and Duratex plan biggest dissolving wood pulp plant in Brazil: “Austrian textile and cellulose fibre producer Lenzing Group and Brazilian company Duratex announced plans on Thursday to build the world’s largest single line dissolving wood pulp plant close to Sao Paulo, Brazil” (25 Jun).
Orta celebrates sustainability in the future of denim: ““The way we manage our energy – we’ve already reduced our energy usage year to year by 20 percent,” Orta’s West Coast sales representative, Paul Minestralla, said” (22 Jun).
Protest by unpaid construction workers at Jilin Chemical Fibre Group: Migrant workers protested over wage arrears (21 Jun).
FDA-approved PFAS and drinking water – Q&A on textile mills and environmental permits: “Question 1: Could textile mills also be a source of PFASs in drinking water? The answer is “probably”” (21 Jun).
Kraig Biocraft Laboratories produces first roll of pure Dragon Silk fabric for U.S. Army: “Kraig Biocraft Laboratories … has just finished the production of its first roll of pure Dragon Silk fabric, marking the first time that [its] proprietary recombinant spider silk fibers were used to create a 100% pure woven silk fabric” (21 Jun).
Earth Alive launches the hemp and cotton clean fiber initiative: “Earth Alive … a leading Canadian Clean-Tech company … [has announced] the launch of the Clean Fiber Initiative, a collaborative research project to improve the production of natural fiber crops in Canada and around the world” (20 Jun).
CONFERENCES & SEMINARS
[New listings or updated information marked with *]
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.
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.