THIS ISSUE

Brands in the news this issue include: Aldi South (CSR report), Allbirds (interview with founder), Allura (pyjama recall), Amazon (strikes in Germany, Spain and Poland), Burberry (burning clothes), Continental Clothing Company (shortlisted for responsible business award), H&M (union protests in the US), M&S (podcast on cotton), Patagonia (purposeful marketing), and Primark (teams up with UNICEF).

Reports released:

  • Global Slavery Index updated (including slavery in garment production)
  • New test method for measuring microplastics shedding (an academic paper)

In general news:

  • SA8000 eviscerated for failing workers
  • #MeToo was back in the news with two articles focussing on supply chains and fashion
  • A new app about to be released in the UK will scan barcodes to track how garments are made
  • Sustainable swimwear booming due to recycled nylon options

In the supply chain:

  • Bangladesh: government says Alliance and Accord out by Dec; workers reject employers’ wage rise; green manufacturing scaled up; and Accord million-dollar arbitration cases closed
  • Cambodia: will the EU suspend trade with Cambodia or not?
  • Myanmar: Prison terms for employer violations likely
  • South Africa: footwear sector strike enters second week
  • Vietnam: survey says incomes insufficient to cover living expenses

Manufacturers in the news this week include: Archroma (dyes from nuts), Covestro (new textile coating), Eurojersey (extends WWF partnership), Huntsman (calling for chemicals harmonisation) and OrganoClick (biodegradable finishes).

Quotes of the week:

  • “If we had left it to the brands, the union would be dead, its leaders blacklisted, the workforce terrorized into silence, and the managers who authored the anti-union violence probably in line for promotion.” Scott Nova, WRC executive director, on the need for media exposés (as with the one recently on Shahi Exports in India) to get companies to address workplace violations (19 Jul).
  • “You can’t reverse into a mission and values through marketing. The organisations that are struggling with this are probably the ones that are thinking about marketing first.” Alex Weller, Patagonia (18 Jul).
  • “Used clothing isn’t just used, but rather soaked in the lives of the living and the dead.” Daniel Fromson, who found a note in the pocket of a jacket he bought second-hand, which read: “This suit was in the plane with Homer on December 6, 1974. It fell clear (was in a plastic suit bag) and was returned to us by funeral home” (18 Jul).
  • “I can assure you that no incident like Rana Plaza will happen in our country as the government has set up Remediation Coordination Cell (RCC) to ensure long-term sustainability and fire safety.” Bangladesh minister for labour and employment Mujibul Haque Chunnu at a press conference announcing the government’s wish for the  Accord and Alliance to end activities by December (18 Jul).
  • “SA8000 standard places no economic responsibility on the brands at the top of supply chains. Instead, SAI offers global corporations an appealing vision of cheap and commitment-free social responsibility.” WSR (17 Jul).

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

BRANDS & RETAILERS

Burberry BURNT £28m of excess luxury clothes in a year: [Ed’s note: I know this was in the last issue of FSWIR, but the story just keeps on growing. This article, for instance, has received over 1,400 comments, many in opposition to the practice. Numerous other UK and international media outlets have covered the story.] (19 Jul).

Why a former pro soccer player and his co-founder decided to make Allbirds all about ‘simplicity’: “The co-founders of Allbirds set out to make the simplest sneaker they possibly could. That turned out to be very complicated” (19 Jul).

US watchdog uncovers violence against pro-union workers at Indian factory: [Ed’s note: new coverage by the Guardian about the WRC report on Shahi Exports in June – see here – which roped in H&M, Benetton, Abercrombie & Fitch and Columbia Sportswear.]  (19 Jul).

Continental Clothing Company and C&A Foundation finalists in Responsible Business Awards: Continental Clothing Company has been included in the “Human Rights” category for its “Fair Share Living Wage Programme”, while C&A Foundation is among the finalists in the “Diversity and Inclusion” category for “Inspiring World”” (19 Jul).

“The cotton challenge” podcast by M&S: “Over 23 million tonnes of cotton are produced every year in 85 countries and 250 million people around the world rely on it for their income. We’re all familiar with it few of us actually think about how it is grown, harvested and sold into the supply chain and the challenges – principally the overuse of water and pesticides and low pay for farmers – that make it one of hardest raw materials to cultivate sustainably. We talk to two pioneers in the industry about the story behind ‘better cotton’” (19 Jul – 15:55-minute podcast).

Fashion labels scramble to shed their skins: “Luxury brands look to impose animal-welfare standards on their suppliers; next up: lab-grown leather” (19 Jul). [Ed’s note: article mentions Hermès, Prada, Hugo Boss, Stella McCartney, Gucci, Kering, PETA, Modern Meadow, and Evonik.]

Patagonia on why brands ‘can’t reverse into purpose’ through marketing: “Anchoring its brand firmly in environmental activism, Patagonia is committed to take an unconventional, mission-driven approach to retail success, explains European marketing director Alex Weller” (18 Jul).

Walmart, H&M in spotlight after string of textile workers deaths in India: “Global retail behemoths, including Walmart and H&M, are being accused of turning a blind eye to the plight of garment workers in India’s ‘textile valley’ after a spate of [of over 100] deaths in factories and hostels [in Tamil Nadu] blamed on grueling and abusive working conditions” (18 Jul).

Hong Kong company apologises for supplying secondary school uniforms containing toxic chemicals: “The Consumer Council revealed that uniforms for two Hong Kong secondary schools were found to contain dyes with up to 173mg/kg of 4-amino azobenzene – more than eight times the level allowed in mainland China” (17 Jul).

Primak teams up with UNICEF: “Primark has committed US$ 4.5 million to fund an education programme to enable vulnerable children attend and stay in school in Cambodia. Planned activities include targeted support for children from minority language groups, children with disabilities and girls, investment in school sanitation facilities, and training for teachers in positive discipline approaches” (17 Jul).

Allura recalls children’s pajamas: “Allura has recalled about 64,000 pairs of children’s pajamas over fears they could catch fire, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission” (17 Jul).

Aldi South publishes corporate responsibility report: Aldi South has published its second CR report, focussing on customers, supply chain, people, community, and environment (16 Jul).

Amazon workers strike in Germany, joining action in Spain and Poland: “Thousands of workers will walk off the job on Tuesday at Amazon warehouses in Germany to demand better working conditions, joining colleagues in Spain and Poland in taking action that coincides with a major sales promotion” (16 Jul).

H&M workers push for a new contract: “H&M employees want a new contract and they want it now. Two weeks ago, 1,500 H&M workers across multiple Manhattan locations rallied for a new deal after they felt management had no plan to bargain with them for a new deal” (16 Jul). [Ed’s note: see tweets from RWDSU/UFCW Local 1102 here, here and here, which has initiated a signature campaign to pressure H&M into meeting demands.]

NEWS & REPORTS

Global Slavery Index releases update on numbers enslaved: See highlights of findings here, including ‘top 5 products at risk of modern slavery imported into the G20’ – with garments ranked #2 at $127.7 bn (19 Jul).

New app to help consumers track where, how garments are made: “Shoppers will soon be able to scan a barcode on a item of clothing to trace its origin. Ethical clothing advocate Samantha Jones is developing an app which allows consumers to find out where and how their clothing is made” (18 Jul).

#MeToo in the supply chain: violence is a “daily reality” for female garment workers: “In light of widespread discussion about the #MeToo movement in the fashion industry, a significant segment of women have been overlooked in the effort against sexual harassment and assault: The women who make our clothing” (18 Jul). [Ed’s note: story references a report by Global Labour Justice on Walmart, published at the end of May See the report here.]

A #MeToo movement for the global fashion industry: “When the #MeToo movement hit the fashion world, it exposed a scourge of sexual abuse tainting the runways and red carpet. But while change may be coming to the houses, the fashion world has yet to grapple with the gender-based violence faced by the women who keep the garment-supply chains running” (18 Jul). [Ed’s note: story references reports by Global Labour Justice on  WalmartH&M, and Gap, published at the end of May.]

Wood-based fibers could lead sustainable fashion out of the woods: “Wood-based fibers from sustainably managed forests represent an alternative source of fiber that could reduce the environmental impact of the fashion industry” (18 Jul).

SA8000: The “Gold Standard” for failing workers? “While SA8000 has expanded significantly since its inception – in 2000, only 74 organizations were certified by this standard – there is no empirical evidence that its growth has brought about parallel improvements in labor conditions. To the contrary, numerous case studies from the past two decades reveal its perpetual and sometimes fatal failure to protect workers in global supply chains” (17 Jul).

Worker representation works: “Businesses don’t need hotlines, apps, or NGO involvement to understand workers’ concerns. They just need to allow worker representation. & it will save them money, writes ETI trainer Stirling Smith who’s been busy with social dialogue training in Bangladesh” (17 Jul).

Do you know what you’re swimming in? “Swimwear has become rife with sustainable options because of developments in recycled nylon” (17 Jul).

Techstars LA welcomes second class of startups: ““We’ve been impressed by the breadth and depth of talent in the thriving local startup ecosystem,” Managing Director Anna Barber wrote in a blog post announcing the class. “All told, we met with over 400 companies, over half of them local to Southern California”” (17 Jul).

New test method for measuring microplastics shedding: “A new article proposes a standard test method for measuring microplastics shedding during everyday wash of fabrics and garments. This method could be used in comparing the environmental load caused by shedding from different garments, or identifying improvement possibilities in garment construction. The research is led by scientist at Swerea IVF, using samples from industry partners H&M, Boob Design and Filippa K” (16 Jul). [Ed’s note: see full academic article here.]

UK’s first comparison tool for ethical fashion brands to launch: “Compare Ethics offers eco-fashionistas a chance to really see how their favourite brands are changing the world, and introduces new fashion fans to a whole world of wonderful, ethical brands all in one place” (16 Jul). [Ed’s note: see website here.]

Closing the factory doors: “For two centuries, countries have used low-wage labor to climb out of poverty. What will happen when robots take those jobs?” (16 Jul). [Ed’s note: think piece from Foreign Policy.]

THE SUPPLY CHAIN

Bangladesh

Dhaka wants Accord, Alliance to end activities by Dec: “State minister for labour and employment Mujibul Haque Chunnu on Tuesday said the government wants Accord and Alliance to pack their activities in Bangladesh by December next as they are now well-equipped to ensure safety of the garment factories” (18 Jul).

Bangladesh Accord arbitration cases - resulting in millions-of-dollars in settlements - officially closed: “The brands have met all terms of the settlements, including paying more than US$2.3 million towards remediating unsafe conditions in Bangladesh ready-made garment factories. The Accord will distribute the money to eligible factories. “These cases prove the Accord’s power to hold companies accountable and make work safer across the supply chain,” said Christy Hoffman, General Secretary of UNI Global Union”” (18 Jul).

Labour orgs disagree with wage proposed by owners: “Workers’ organisations on Tuesday said the amount employers proposed as monthly minimum wage for readymade garment workers in the Wage Board was too low and they demanded that the board should fix the wage at Tk 16,000” (18 Jul).

Made in Bangladesh: scaling up green apparel manufacturing: “The world's highest-rated green denim, knitwear, washing and textiles mills are all in Bangladesh. Of the top 11 LEED Platinum-certified factories, eight are from Bangladesh. So far, 67 garment factories have achieved LEED certification. Of them, 17 are platinum rated and 37 gold rated. Some 280 factories are under process for LEED certification” (17 Jul).

Rules violated in appointing workers’ representative, allege leaders: “Labour leaders have alleged that the real representation of the readymade garment sector workers has been ignored in the wage board formed on Sunday for the RMG sector as the government has violated rules in appointing workers’ representative to the board” (16 Jul).

Cambodia

GMAC is confident the EU won’t suspend EBA scheme: “The Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC) has expressed confidence that the probability of the European Union (EU) suspending the Kingdom’s access to its Everything But Arms (EBA) scheme is “very low”” (16 Jul).

EU fact-finding mission concludes, officials, to determine trade agreement status: “The European Union has concluded a fact-finding visit to Cambodia to assess its membership of a vital preferential trade scheme in light of widespread allegations of anti-democratic actions and human rights abuses by the government” (16 Jul).

Will EU suspend trade deal with Cambodia? “A European Union monitoring mission was in Cambodia this week [09 – 13 Jul] to assess the country's compliance with the human rights obligations that lie at the core of the EU-Cambodia preferential trade deal” (12 Jul).

Myanmar

Labour law may add prison term for employer violations: “The Settlement of Labour Disputes Law will likely be amended to add prison penalties in the next parliament session, said an official of the Pyithu Hluttaw (Lower House) Bill Committee on Monday” (18 Jul).

South Africa

Footwear sector workers determined to remain on strike: “As the national footwear sector strike of members of the Southern African Clothing and Textile Workers Union (SACTWU) and National Union of Leather and Allied Workers (NULAW) enters its eighth day, strikers remain resolute to continue their strike action” (18 Jul).

Vietnam

Most workers said income sufficient to cover living expenses: survey: “With average monthly income of VND5.5 million (US$261), nearly half of workers in Vietnam felt that their income was enough to cover basic living expenses, according to a recent wage survey” (15 Jul).

MANUFACTURERS

Covestro develops new textile coasting with aqueous technology: “Covestro has developed new products under its brand INSQIN, which allows a water-resistant and breathable coating of textiles using aqueous technology. The new coating is applied as a two-layer system” (20 Jul – in German).

Eurojersey extends WWF partnership, launches microfibre project: “Italian warp knitted fabric supplier Eurojersey has signed a new three-year extension of its existing partnership with WWF Italia aimed at the conservation of water as a planetary resource” (19 Jul).

Sustainable textiles from Taiwan at Outdoor Retail Show: “Taiwan's leading textile brands will showcase the latest trends in sustainable textiles and performance fabrics at the upcoming Outdoor Retailer Show in Denver, US. The trade event scheduled to be held on July 23 will focus on technology advancements, sustainable performance blends and carbon footprint solutions targeted towards outdoor enthusiasts” (19 Jul).

OrganoClick's OrganoTex finish is biodegradable: “OrganoClick AB, developer and producer of environment-friendly fibre chemistry, has developed OraganoTex, a water repellent finish supplied as a spray-on or wash-in product. The product is completely biodegradable according to OECD 301A and is free from perfluorinated compounds (PFCs), isocyanates and cyclic siloxanes, said the head of the Swedish company” (18 Jul).

Global textile industry explores sustainable dyeing methods: “Numerous Chinese factories that produce synthetic dyes for the textile industry got shut down for environmental inspections starting last summer. In the wake of those closures, new dyeing methods for textiles are emerging that could help save water, reduce pollutants, save energy, and protect human health” (17 Jul). [Ed’s note: article mentions Huntsman, ColorZen, Archroma, Colorfix, Intech Digital, Levi’s and G-Star Raw.]

Recycling nutshell waste into fashion: “Archroma, a leader in colour and specialty chemicals towards sustainable solutions, has revealed its collaboration with Ternua, an outdoor brand with a strong connection to nature. Ternua has partnered with Archroma, and its EarthColors patented technology, to create a capsule collection of recycled T-shirts and sweatshirts, collecting, recycling and upcycling agricultural waste from the Basque region in Spain after food consumption” (16 Jul).

Huntsman calls for textile chemicals harmonisation: “Textile effects firm Huntsman has called on the textile chemicals sector to “take stock and consider” how to best take the next step towards the elimination of hazards and improve the industry’s economic and environmental performance” (13 Jul).

CONFERENCES & SEMINARS                                        

[New listings or updated information marked with *]

23 & 24 July (ET) webinar: How to set science-based targets: “The UN Global Compact Academy together with the Science-Based Targets initiative, are hosting two sessions to cover the same set of topics, but with a different set of expert contributors.”

23 – 25 July, NYC: Texworld: Covering a wide range of topics in the global textile industry.

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.”

* 24 August, Shenzhen: Social & Environmental Compliance Seminar: Stay up-to-date with changes in Chinese environmental and OHS laws relevant to supply chains.

26 August, Los Angeles: Study Hall in collaboration with MIT Media Lab and G-Star Raw: “[T]hemes that will be explored, as part of this critically-acclaimed conference series, are: Circularity, Denim, & Human Rights.”

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

12 September, webinar: SDG Leadership Forum for Goal 12: Responsible Consumption and Production: “As part of our ongoing series of online dialogues, the SDG Leadership Forum for Goal 12 … offers an opportunity to explore how we can accelerate our transition to a circular economy” (co-hosted by C&A Foundation).

14 – 15 September, Lüneburg, Germany: C2C Congress 2018: Special track: Fashion and Textiles.

20 – 25 September, Milan: Fashion Film Festival Milano: For the 2018 edition a particular invite is extended to the representatives of Sustainable Fashion: A roundtable, a European preview and a new category, “Best Green Fashion Film.”

27 – 28 September, Raleigh, US: 2018 Footwear Materials and Innovation Summit: “[F]ocused on helping professionals better understand current and emerging materials and material developments at an in-depth technical level.”

10 – 11 October, London: 13th Responsible Supply Chain Summit Europe: “focus on the emerging technologies, innovations and collaborations critical to sustainable, cost-effective supply chain strategies.”

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.”

06 – 08 November, NYC: A New Blueprint for Business: “[An] increasingly complex environment requires a new blueprint for business, with resilient strategies, effective governance models, and new management approaches.” BSR’s annual conference.

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.

16 – 17 January 2019, 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.”

(Photo Evgeni TcherCCO)

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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