THIS ISSUE

Brands in the news this issue include: Asos (clothing for the disabled), Nike (a new CSO), Uniqlo (‘don’t make Roger Federer cry’ campaign by CCC), Target (accusations of racism, sexism and ableism), Clarks and M&S (calling for slavery reporting database), Zozotown (online custom clothing in under two weeks), Louis Vuitton (ranked on ethics), H&M and Gap (fake conscious collections), Adidas, Patagonia, New Balance, Nike, Fanatics, and Under Armor (calling on Ortega to do something about union repression), and Decathlon (turning tennis balls into flip flops).

In general news: conscious collections are fake news, Germany says factory audits need reform, the Dutch Agreement on Sustainable Garments and Textile reports substantial rise in production sites, MIT develops sustainable water repellent, and how we consume microfibers in food and water.

In the supply chain: workers in Bangladesh get tougher on tripling wages (despite 90% of factories achieving CAP completion and 60 new engineers appointed to speed up RMG remediation), workers in Cambodia demand severance pay from a shoe factory while the PM accuses trade unions of holding demonstrations for foreign funding, Shahi in India fires managers accused of workplace problems outlined in a recent report, and apparel and footwear companies call on Ortega to cease union repression in Nicaragua.

In manufacturing: Thermore makes a breakthrough with a duck feather replacement, the Hirdaramani Group partners with Patagonia in rainforest project, and Tangshan Sanyou completes viscose audit.

Quotes of the week:

  • “Social audits are part of the problem rather than a solution, providing minor remedies while legitimizing worker exploitation in global supply chains.” Moniruzzaman Masum of the Comrade Rubel Memorial Center in Bangladesh (05 Jul).
  • “Workers should have access to an adequate remedy against negligent auditing companies.” Carolijn Terwindt, senior legal advisor for the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (05 Jul).
  • “One T-shirt takes 165grams of pesticide to produce.” Dying to Clothe You (05 Jul).
  • “[O]nly 21 percent of the data needed to monitor the 54 gender-specific indicators in the UN Sustainable Development Goals is up to date.” BSR (05 Jul).
  • Roman Polanski (statutory rape of a 13-year-old in 1978), Ian Connors (21 accusations of rape) and A$AP Bari (2 of sexual assault) sat front row at recent couture shows. What are these brands DOING? Wasn’t the public dumping of Mario Testino & Bruce Weber meant to mean something?” Pandora Sykes (05 Jul).

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

BRANDS & RETAILERS

Asos are now selling specially designed clothes for people with disabilities: “[Asos has] gone one step further in bringing about much-needed change within the industry. Scrolling through its 'New In' section, you will see the brand's first ever disabled e-commerce model” (05 Jul).

Nike promotes Noel Kinder to Chief Sustainability Officer: “Nike has announced … that Noel Kinder will become the company’s new VP, Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO), effective September 5, 2018” (04 Jul).

Uniqlo makes Federer cry: Federer’s new sponsor Uniqlo pays him millions, but refuses wages to workers: “Since 2015, 2,000 laid-off Indonesian workers who made clothes for Uniqlo and other companies have been waiting for USD 5.5 million of unpaid wages and severance pay. That must make Roger Federer – known for his sense of fairness – cry as much as it does us. That is why at https://www.hello-roger.ch/en fans and activists are calling on the tennis star to join an urgent international action to make his new sponsor change its stance” (04 Jul). [Ed’s note: from Clean Clothes Campaign. See also this video – from Public Eye, which has launched the letter writing campaign to Federer with CCC.]

Is Target doing right by its employees? “Employees at a Baltimore County Target lead an action to bring attention to claims of racism, sexism, and ableism by managers” (03 Jul).

Clarks and M&S among firms calling on government to set up slavery reporting database: “Firms including [Clarks and] Marks & Spencer … have signed a statement calling on the UK government to establish a single state-owned repository of modern slavery statements” (03 Jul).

Icebreaker’s sustainability report sets the new standard to follow: “Icebreaker, a maker of high-performance merino wool clothing, released its first “sustainability report” recently — and, in our opinion, in doing so, set a new gold standard. The first thing to note is that Icebreaker does not call it a sustainability report. It calls it Made Different and refer to it as a Transparency Report” (03 Jul).

Custom fast fashion from Japan’s biggest e-com company: “Later this July, … Zozotown will be debuting its first in-house line of clothes in 72 countries, including the US. Zozo, as it’s called, will sell oxford button downs, jeans, and several different types of T-shirts. All styles will be sold on its website, will cost under $100, and will be made in less than two weeks. The clincher? The clothes will also be custom-fit for every individual shopper” (03 Jul).

4 chic fashion brands doing things right, right now: [Ed’s note: a long article from Harper’s Bazaar, which includes an interview with one of the brand’s principals. The four brands are Cienne, MaisonCléo, Kamperett, and Kowtow.] (03 Jul).

Timberland volunteers help first grade students improve reading skills through TutorMate’s interactive online platform: “Timberland recently offered employees at its corporate headquarters in Stratham, NH an innovative new way to serve – from the convenience of their desks – in partnership with TutorMate, a division of Innovations of Learning (a non-profit focused on teaching students to read). TutorMate pairs adult tutors with students in need to help improve reading, vocabulary and comprehension skills” (03 Jul).

How ethical Is Louis Vuitton? A rating from Good On You, the ethical fashion app. Overall rating: “not good enough”, or 2/5 stars (02 Jul).

Decathlon contributes to the environment by recovering tennis, frontenis, paddle and squash balls to make their Reciflop flip flops: “Decathlon has launched project #DOBLEREBOTE to recover the material of tennis, frontenis, paddle and squash balls, preventing them from ending up in nature and damaging the environment, and converting them into recycled raw material to make the sole of your Reciflop flip flops” (29 Jun – in Spanish).

NEWS & REPORTS

All fast-fashion requires systemic gender-based violence: conscious collections are fake news: “Between conscious collections, in-store recycling programs, and campaign spreads of more raised fists than you’ll see at the average protest, the fashion industry has delved into the deep end of the latest trend: sustainability and political awareness -- or at least, the appearance of such” (05 Jul). [Ed’s note: article focuses on conditions in H&M’s and Gap’s supply chains.]

German ministry of economic affairs acknowledges need for reform of factory audits in the textile industry: “Today’s Final Statement of the German National Contact Point (NCP) on the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises in the Rana Plaza proceeding against the auditing company TÜV Rheinland should pave the way to fundamental reforms. The NCP recommends a dialogue with audit companies, standard setting organizations, brands, factories and trade unions. This dialogue should address transparency of audit reports and whether factory owners should pay for audits” (05 Jul).

Can audits build confidence in company supply chains? “We’ve recently been thinking about audits. There’s a lot of people out there who wonder if they're worth the paper they’re written on. Here’s our opinion” (05 Jul). [Ed’s note: article from ETI.]

Making data work for women: “As Melinda Gates put it in a speech at the 2016 Women Deliver conference: “We can’t close the gender gap without first closing the data gap.” Throughout history, women have often been uncounted and therefore invisible, and increasingly, the international community is taking notice” (05 Jul).

Textile sector gives greater insight into production chain: “The Dutch Agreement on Sustainable Garments and Textile (AGT) has reported a substantially larger number of production sites. The new production site list shows the 4,267 sites where participating companies produced goods in the past year. Publication of the new production site list coincides with the second anniversary of the signing of the Agreement” (04 Jul).

Ending slavery and child labor in global supply chains: “At [Stanford Social Innovation Review’s] recent Frontiers of Social Innovation conference, Siddharth Kara, who directs the program on human trafficking and modern slavery at the Harvard Kennedy School, spoke with Nina Smith of Goodweave International, Leslie Johnston of C&A Foundation, which works to transform the fashion industry, and Bama Athreya of USAID, about how their organizations and sectors are addressing these issues” (03 Jul – 1:05:51-hour podcast).

MIT develops sustainable water repellent: “Researchers at MIT say they have developed a water repellent textile coating using short-chain polymers in a process known as initiated Chemical Vapour Deposition (iCVD) that is both functional and sustainable for the industry” (03 Jul).

Rethinking sustainability in light of the EU’s new circular economy policy: “With the EU’s passage of the Circular Economy Package in April, many European companies are now facing mandates to reuse the products they create for as long as possible. The EU is not alone in seeking ways to convince firms to recycle. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce supports companies in developing circular economies (CEs), and China – like Europe – has developed policies and legislation around CEs” (03 Jul). [Ed’s note: from Harvard Business Review.]

Six trends that are redefining retail: #6 Ethical Shopping – “But it’s not just about your product that is catching the attention of young shoppers — what you stand for and speak up about (like Dick’s and gun control) has an even bigger effect of earning new customer loyalty” (03 Jul).

Humans, fish and other animals are consuming microfibers in our food and water: “As tiny fibers shed from synthetic textiles invade our bodies, researchers scramble to identify potential threats” (02 Jul). [Ed’s note: this is the second of a three-part series. Part one explored where microfibers come from and where they are found in the environment.]

THE SUPPLY CHAIN

Bangladesh

RMG workers threaten tougher movement if minimum wage not fixed at Tk 16,000: “Garment Workers on Thursday [04 Jul] threatened a tougher movement if their demand of fixing minimum wage at Tk 16,000 is not met at the owners’ and workers’ representatives meeting scheduled to be held on Sunday” (05 Jul).

364 Alliance factories achieve CAP completion: “The Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety (“Alliance”) announced today [04 Jul] that during the month of June, 18 additional Alliance-affiliated factories completed all material components outlined in their Corrective Action Plans (CAPs), bringing the total to 364” (04 Jul). [Ed’s note: the Alliance claims 90% of remediation is now complete.]

Govt appoints 60 engineers to expedite RMG factory remediation: “The government has appointed 60 engineers to expedite the readymade garment factory remediation works under the Remediation Coordination Cell” (03 Jul).

Cambodia

Unions hold demonstrations to keep funding flowing: Hun Sen: “Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday [04 Jul] criticised some unions for planning demonstrations and protest marches in order to secure funding from international donors” (05 Jul).

Textile workers demand unpaid severance pay: “More than 1,000 textile workers from [a factory operated by Takeo Shoes Cambodia] in Daun Keo City yesterday rallied at the Takeo Provincial Hall to demand officials intervene on their behalf to get their unpaid severance packages. (05 Jul).

India

Shahi terminates five senior managers: The Karnataka Garment Workers Union (KOOGU KGWU), which represents workers at Shahi, provides an update on the MOU signed last week: five senior managers have been issued termination notices (and another three issued show good cause as to why they must not be terminated), all back dated wages to 15 workers to be paid, compensation for lost articles and medical expenses paid, and elections of workers to committees initiated (05 Jul). [Ed’s note: An investigation in June by the Worker Rights Consortium (WRC) found Shahi 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.]

Dismal conviction rate mars rescue of child labourers: “In the past year, the Department of Labour and Employment has rescued 61 child labourers from across the State [of Tamil Nadu], but only nine employers have been convicted so far” (03 Jul).

Myanmar

Workers seek creation of labour courts nationwide: “The Myanmar Industries Craft & Services Trade Unions Federation has demanded the establishment of labour courts in the country to facilitate and hasten resolution of labour disputes” (29 Jun).

Nicaragua

Apparel brands ask Ortega to end repression: “[C]lothing, footwear and other industries operating in Nicaragua’s Free Trade Zones issued a statement on Saturday [30 Jun], demanding that the government of President Daniel Ortega respect the rule of law, cease repression and guarantee freedom of assembly and expression” (01 Jul). [Ed’s note: signatories included Adidas, Patagonia, New Balance, Nike, Fanatics, Fair Labor Association, Under Armor, Gab Inc., and the American Apparel & Footwear Association.]

The Philippines

Employers reject TUCP’s P320 wage hike bid: “Employers are not convinced that the rising prices of oil products, as well as basic consumer goods and services call for an across-the-board increase in the daily wage in Metro Manila” (01 Jul).

MANUFACTURERS

Thermore introduces Ecodown Fibers: “Despite the efforts of the apparel industry to move towards a more sustainable and cruelty-free approach, recent surveys report that 80 percent of cold weather clothing is still insulated with duck feathers. This is mainly due to the lack of a synthetic solution that provides the same look and loft as down. Thermore takes the first step towards sustainability by releasing a truly revolutionary and blowable product: Ecodown Fibers” (03 Jul).

What does ‘Made in USA’ mean without White Oak Mill? “Since the closure of Cone’s White Oak Mill in Greensboro, North Carolina at the end of last year, denim brands have been left in a difficult position in continuing their Made in USA product lines in a market without an American selvedge denim mill” (02 Jul).

The Hirdaramani Group demonstrates responsibility in the fashion industry: “For the second year in a row, Hirdaramani will join their international partner, the renowned clothing giant Patagonia to plant over 2,000 trees each in this groundbreaking sustainability initiative” (02 Jul).

Tangshan Sanyou completes viscose audit, Canopy reveals: “The independently verified audit results of Chinese viscose producer Tangshan Sanyou have been published by environmental non-profits Canopy and Rainforest Alliance” (02 Jul).

CONFERENCES & SEMINARS                                        

[New listings or updated information marked with *]

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

* 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.”

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

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.

(Photo Mike Wilson on UnsplashCCO)

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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