THIS ISSUE

Brands in this issue include: Brave GentleMan (Italian wool-free suits from sustainable bamboo), H&M (applauded and criticised for living wages), Nike and Patagonia (effectively amplifying impact), and more.

Reports released this week:

  • No reports were released this week

In general news:

  • When artisan clothing is anything but “ethical”

  • 50% of cotton in Haryana, India procured without bill

  • Call for fashion designers to abandon ‘Made in NZ’ as local industry struggles

  • Garments sector poised to boom in Pathein, Myanmar

  • Fast fashion: so over for 2019?

  • Fur: Fake fur or real – do labels lie?; Serbia bans fur farms, saving 12,000 chinchillas a year; Tiffany Haddish sparks controversy by vowing to wear fur until ‘police stop killing black people’; Why the fashion industry will be ditching fur next year

  • The ‘tanker mafia’ using illegal hydrants to sell drinking water on the black market in parched Karachi

  • Romania’s sustainable fashion scene

  • Agriculture Improvement Act opens door to hemp cultivation

In the supply chain:

  • Bangladesh: the BGMEA to hold a meeting to discuss worker unrest over new wage structure; the Alliance leaves; workers go on rampage after two colleagues killed in road crash

  • Cambodia: $6m spend on pregnant garment workers; striking Prestige Garment workers seek solution from PM; striking workers at Seduno Investment Cambo Fashion and W&D continue action; four convicted union leaders call for new independent investigation into deadly 2014 crackdown

  • China: two news stories on forced labour in Xinjiang; worker protests

  • India: approves to amend bill to provide statutory recognition to trade unions

  • Mexico: new minister of labour commits to higher wages, genuine collective bargaining

  • Tunisia: 7% wage hike for garment sector

Manufacturers in this issue include: Antex Group (winning praise in Ethiopia), and more.

Quotes of the week:

  • “[H&M’s Wage Management System] really worked well in selection of skilled workers at the factory level. The productivity of the skilled workers is higher than the other workers.” Rubana Huq, managing director of Mohammadi Group, Bangladesh, on H&M’s fair living wage strategy (03 Jan).

  • “I just kind of woke up one morning in October, and I was like, ‘I don't want to do this anymore’.” Kristine Crabb, founder of the Miss Crabb, on the struggle to compete as a New Zealand-made lavel against big importers (02 Jan).

  • “[W]orkers at factories in the DIG zone [in Myanmar] were fortunate to have good and kind-hearted Chinese employers.” Ma Shwe Yi, human resources manager at one of the garment factories in the zone (02 Jan).

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

BRANDS & RETAILERS

H&M’s fair living wage strategy pays off: “Proper grading of the skilled workers ensures higher take-home salaries and inspires the workforce to improve productivity in garment factories, according to a recent study of Swedish retail giant H&MMohammadi Group is one of the leading garment exporters of Bangladesh where the H&M introduced the WMS [Wage Management System]. “The WMS really worked well in selection of skilled workers at the factory level. The productivity of the skilled workers is higher than the other workers.” (03 Jan).

Secret in a Gift Card: “[Ed’s note: by Clean Clothes Campaign East Asia] The dark side of the gift card has an unspoken secret about H&M. And we are happy to share this secret with shoppers in TST, Hong Kong” (02 Jan – 3:59-minute video). [Ed’s note: the video is part of CCC’s campaign against H&M’s promise for a living wage.]

Vegan luxury menswear brand to launch sustainable suits made from Italian bamboo: “Vegan luxury menswear brand Brave GentleMan is set to launch wool-free suits made from sustainable bamboo” (31 Dec).

Top 5 companies that effectively amplified their impact in 2018: “Nike, taking a stand with controversy-stricken Colin KaepernickPatagonia [donating] $10 million it saved from the federal tax cuts to NGOs” (28 Dec).

NEWS & REPORTS 

When artisan clothing is anything but “ethical”: “Theoretically, you should be able to buy artisan-made garments confidently knowing that its costs reflect ethical wages for the artisans who make them. In theory, that would happen. Realistically, the obfuscated system of home workers, forced laborers, and exploited artisans make up a hidden labor force that’s nearly impossible to trace or make compliant with ethical practices” (03 Jan).

50% of cotton in Haryana, India procured without bill: “Market fees and GST worth over Rs 200 crore [$28.56 million] on cotton is being evaded in Haryana every year by hoodwinking the government through non-existent firms in connivance with some unscrupulous officials, it has come to light. The unearthing of three non-existent firms by the Excise and Taxation Department last week has laid bare the modus operandi of evasion of market fees and GST in the procurement and trading of cotton” (02 Jan).

Call for fashion designers to abandon ‘Made in NZ’ as local industry struggles: “There are calls for local fashion designers to give up on the idea of “New Zealand made” after 2018 proved to be a challenging year for the country's fashion industry, with some top designers packing up shop. Designers here are struggling to keep the Made in New Zealand label a reality” (02 Jan).

Garments sector poised to boom in Pathein, Myanmar: “Chinese investors have big plans for garment production at several industrial parks near the river port city of Pathein in western Ayeyarwady Region” (02 Jan).

New Year Solutions: Clothes: “Jo Fidgen [at the BBC] explores everyday solutions to the global warming crisis” (02 Jan – 13:32-minute podcast). [Ed’s note: features Phoebe English, Professor Dilys Williams, and others.]

Fast fashion: so over for 2019? “However, before we start introducing new elements into our closets for 2019, shouldn't we really take a hard look at what we already have, and adopt a responsible approach as we thin out hanger space to make room for incoming pieces? It's never too late, and 2019 is an ideal time to really address the issue of sustainability” (02 Jan).

Serbia bans fur farms, saving 12,000 chinchillas a year: “Serbia’s fur farm ban has officially gone into effect, sparing the lives of as many as 12,000 chinchillas – the only animals raised for fur in the nation – a year. The 2009 Animal Welfare Act, which passed a decade ago, outlawed fur farming with a 10-year transitional period” (02 Jan).

Fake fur or real – do labels lie? “More luxury brands are jumping on the ‘no fur’ bandwagon, but fur supporters claim it has less environmental impact than faux fur” (01 Jan).

Tiffany Haddish sparks controversy by vowing to wear fur until ‘police stop killing black people’: “Tiffany Haddish is stirring up controversy by promising to wear fur as much as she can until “police stop killing black people.” The actress made the statement in a video she posted on Instagram Sunday to show off a fur vest given to her by a fan. “I’mma wear fur every day until they stop killing black people,” Haddish said. When the police stop killing black people, I’ll stop wearing fur. It’s my new protest.” Haddish went on to apologize to PETA, but stood by the decision, emphasizing that people matter too” (01 Jan).

The ‘tanker mafia’ using illegal hydrants to sell drinking water on the black market in parched Karachi: [Ed’s note: Pakistan is one of the most water-stressed countries in the world, which constitutes a significant risk for the apparel and textile industry. This story shines a light on the so-called ‘tanker mafia’, using illegal hydrants to sell drinking water on the black market.] (01 Jan).

Romania’s sustainable fashion scene: “Romania had a well-established textile industry during the communist era. When the authoritarian regime fell in 1989, the country opened up to major (fast) fashion brands seduced by its cheap production prices. In a country now dominated by mass clothing manufacturing and with most of its local customers having a limited economic power, what chances have sustainable Romanian brands to find their way? Here are three examples in the making” (01 Jan). [Ed’s note: the three examples are: Patzaikin, the hemp initiative; Gnana Studio, making new with old; and REDU, the upcycling heroes.]

Why the fashion industry will be ditching fur next year: “Fur, so long associated with glamour and luxury, has lost its lustre. Over the course of the past year, many of the world’s most prestigious fashion houses have announced plans, in domino fashion, to stop using the controversial material in their collections” (31 Dec).

Agriculture Improvement Act opens door to hemp cultivation: “Expect more hemp fabric to come from the United States. Under the recently passed Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, signed by the Trump administration, hemp has been removed from the Controlled Substances Act, which was signed by President Richard Nixon in 1970. By declassifying hemp as a Schedule I narcotic, the federal government has opened the door for a potential resurgence of the United States’ hemp-textiles industry” (27 Dec).

THE SUPPLY CHAIN

Bangladesh  

BGMEA to hold view-exchange meeting on Thursday: “Speaking to the Dhaka Tribune, a BGMEA member preferring to remain anonymous, said the meeting is aimed at discussing the present situation of the apparel industry, where the recent unrest over the new wage structure will be discussed in detail” (02 Jan).

Alliance leaves Bangladesh: “Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety, the platform of North American fashion brands and retailers, has ended its operation in Bangladesh on Monday as the transition period of the platform was expired on the day. ‘The Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety has ceased operations effective December 31, 2018. All email directed to the Alliance will not be received,’ the buyers platform made the announcement on its website on the last day of the operation in Bangladesh” (02 Jan).

Bus torched, 35-40 vehicles vandalised as road crash kills 2 in city: “Garment workers and locals went on a berserk in the city’s Malibagh Chowdhurypara area on Tuesday following the death of two female RMG workers, torching one bus and damaging around 35-40 vehicles. The victims were identified as Meem Akhter, 13, and Nahid Parveen Poly, 19, workers of MH Garments Factory” (01 Jan). [Ed’s note: see also RMG workers run amok as reckless driving claims two: “Agitated local people and apparel workers on Tuesday vandalised over 100 vehicles and set four buses on fire blocking traffic for about four hours on DIT Road at Malibagh Chowdhurypara in the capital after two female apparel workers were killed by a reckless bus” (01 Jan). Meem Akhter was identified as 13-, 14- and 16-years-old in different reports. Follow-up: Bus driver sent to jail: “A Dhaka court on Wednesday sent Suprovat Paribahan bus driver Junaid to jail over Tuesday’s killing of two garment workers in a road accident in the capital’s Malibagh area” (03 Jan).]

Bangladesh clothing factories: Are they safe now? “Following [Rana Plaza], two internationally backed efforts to improve safety standards were put in place. But on 31 December 2018, one of these projects winds up its operations. The other one is involved in a legal battle over whether it should continue to work in the country and under what conditions. So how safe is it now for workers in the garment-manufacturing industry in Bangladesh?” (31 Dec).

California

New California laws to alter workplace rules: “Ringing in the new year means ringing in a whole set of new laws that are important for employers to know. Most of these laws go into effect Jan. 1, but the minimum-wage increase in Los Angeles doesn’t take effect until July 1. This year, due to the #MeTooMovement, a number of laws have been implemented to make it easier for employees to report sexual harassment and for employers to speak out about investigations into the matter” (27 Dec).

Cambodia

$6 million spent on pregnant garment workers: “The government, through the National Social Security Fund, spent more than $6 million on about 65,000 pregnant garment workers last year, Labour Minister Ith Samheng said yesterday” (03 Jan).

Workers on strike, plan to ask PM for solution: “Hundreds of workers from Prestige Garment Co Ltd in Kandal province’s Kandal Stung district are on strike and said they will petition Prime Minister Hun Sen to intervene after negotiations failed to reinstate their sacked representative who stands accused of intending to form a trade union” (03 Jan).

Striking workers given ultimatum: “Garment workers on strike in Phnom Penh are defying an ultimatum made by some of their employers ordering them to return to work within 48 hours or lose their jobs. Thousands of workers from Seduno Investment Cambo Fashion and W&D factory have been on strike over the last week. They are demanding the companies pay their seniority indemnity and severance benefits” (03 Jan).

Union distances itself from striking workers: “The Cambodian Council of National Unions yesterday issued a statement blaming recent garment factory strikes in Phnom Penh on instigators. Thousands of workers from Seduno Investment Cambo Fashion and W&D factory have been on strike over the last week over unpaid benefits, including seniority indemnity and severance pay” (02 Jan).

Government ensures workers of their seniority pay: “The Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training has told workers not to worry about their seniority payments, which come into effect this year, and requested them not to pay attention to “villainous incitement”” (01 Jan).

Four convicted union leaders call for new independent investigation into deadly 2014 crackdown: “Four Cambodian union leaders who were convicted over their alleged involvement in organizing garment worker strikes that led to the deaths of at least five people in early 2014 have called for an independent inquiry into the use of force against protesters” (28 Dec).

China

China resurrects Mao-era forced labor for ethnic minorities: “Before its abolition in 2013, China’s gulag-style laogai system of re-education through work forced millions deemed to be political dissidents to perform hard labor. The emergence of a forced labor system within Xinjiang’s internment camps this year suggests Beijing is resurrecting elements of laogai … Two of Xinjiang’s largest internment camps — the Kashgar city and Yutian County vocational training centers — have opened forced labor facilities this year. Yutian’s detention center boasts eight factories specializing in vocations such as shoemaking … offering a base monthly salary of 1,500 yuan ($220), according to Chinese state media reports” (03 Jan).

Businesses in China’s Xinjiang used forced labour linked to camp system: “Some businesses in the northwestern region of Xinjiang are using forced labor at exploitative rates in connection with the mass incarceration of ethnic minority Muslims in camps, [Radio Free Asia] has learned. Beginning in April 2017, Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslim minorities accused of harboring “strong religious views” and “politically incorrect” ideas have been jailed or detained in "re-education" camps throughout the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR)” (01 Jan). [Ed’s note: this story examines the background to a case from December, which involved Badger Sportswear, its Chinese supplier Hetian Taida, and WRAP (which certified the factory as free of forced labour).]

Workers demand compensation after garment factory announced relocation in Fuzhou, Fujian: [Ed’s note: from CLB’s strike database.] (31 Dec).

Workers protest wage arrears owed by shoe company in Dongguan, Guangdong: [Ed’s note: from CLB’s strike database.] (26 Dec).

Workers protest closure and wage arrears owed by trousers company in Jiangyin, Jiangsu: [Ed’s note: from CLB’s strike database.] (25 Dec).

India

Cabinet approves to amend bill to provide statutory recognition to trade unions: “The present act provides for only registration of trade unions. The recognition of trade union is governed by guidelines in the ‘Code of Discipline’ evolved in 1958, voluntarily accepted by employers and employees. The recognition is necessary because recognised trade union of an industry or establishment gets bargaining or negotiating rights with the employer” (02 Jan). [Ed’s note: see the full bill here.]

Jordan

“Independent Trade Unions” reject amendments to the Labor Code: “The Jordanian Federation of Independent Trade Unions organized on Sunday a sit-in in front of the Chamber of Deputies to reject amendments to the Labor Law currently being considered by parliament. The participants in the sit-in called on the House of Representatives to reject the current amendments and make new amendments that preserve labor rights” (30 Dec – in Arabic).

Mexico

Interview: Luisa María Alcalde, the new minister of labour and social welfare: “We want to bring back genuine collective bargaining to pave the way for democracy and transparency. That will help us create a more balanced system and improve wages … We will campaign against abusive subcontracting practices and incentivize more formal work arrangements … We’ve been speaking with the new minister of finance and the Bank of Mexico to find ways to gradually raise the minimum wage” (03 Jan).

Morocco

Wave of protests to hit Morocco with ‘Month of Anger’ in January 2019: “Trade unions have sounded an alarm bell, threatening to start 2019 with a “month of anger” of sustained protests and sit-in campaigns until the government reconsiders abandoning the “social dialogue”” (29 Dec).

South Africa

National minimum wage effective from January 1: what does it mean for employers, employees? “[T]he minimum wage [is] set at R20 [$1.39] an hour (R3,500 a month) [$243] should also be seen as an achievement for business as it demonstrates the commitment of employers to fairer wages and better working conditions” (31 Dec). [Ed’s note: “Thousands of union members protested against the proposed minimum wage in April, saying it was too low.” See here.]

Tunisia

Tunisia garment sector prepares for 7% wage hike: “The Tunisian Textile and Garment Federation (FTTH) has signed final papers agreeing a process of salary increases over the next two years with the country’s [Tunisian General] Labour Union (UGTT) … “Salaries in the industry will increase by 7% for each year until 25 December 2020, applicable to the gross salary” (02 Jan).

MANUFACTURERS

Oeko-Tex new regulations 2019: “In 2019 the goal of the Oeko-Tex Association is again to reinforce consumer protection and sustainability along the value creation chain for textiles and leather; the existing guidelines for the Oeko-Tex product portfolio have thus been amended again for the start of the year. The new regulations will come into effect after a three-month transition period on 1 April 2019” (03 Jan).

Chinese textile firm wins acclaim for helping Ethiopia’s export, employment: “Chinese textile production firm Antex Group has won praise from among Ethiopians as the east African country moves to strengthen its export sector” (31 Dec).

CONFERENCES & SEMINARS                                        

[New listings or updated information marked with *]

15 – 17 January, Berlin: Neonyt Fashionsustain: The Neonyt Trade Show is the world’s biggest exhibition for sustainable fashion.

21 – 23 January, New York City: Texworld USA: The winter show will focus on sustainability.

22 – 24 January, Medellin, Columbia: Colombiatex 2019: includes highlighting the best practices of 25 companies that are committed to this subject with innovation, social and environmental responsibility.

24 January, London: 8th Future Fabrics Expo: “Source from 5000+ fabrics, yarns, leathers, trims with a reduced environmental impact from over 150 mills and suppliers.”

29 January – 07 February, Various locations in India/Pakistan: 1 Day Leather Processing Course: “Do you source from India or Pakistan? Get your supply chain trained in leather processing.”

18 February, Izmir, Turkey: GOTS Regional Seminar Turkey: “Through focused and challenging discussions, this one-day seminar shall address pressing issues relevant to the organic textiles industry.” 

25 February, Tempe, Arizona: GRI Reporters’ Summit: North America: “3rd Annual GRI Reporters’ Summit: Practical Solutions to Improve your Sustainability Reporting.”

26 – 28 February, Phoenix, AZ: GreenBiz 19: “Premier annual event for sustainable business leaders.”

28 February, London: The Nature of Fashion: “The panel, which will include Edwina Ehrman and Kate Fletcher, will explore how to use fashion as a pro-environmental force.”

02 May, Dhaka: Bangladesh Fashionology Summit: Transparency through technology, technology for decent work and environment, future skills development.

15 – 16 May, Copenhagen: Copenhagen Fashion Summit: “Join us this May when fashion’s most visionary and innovative minds gather to discuss the most critical issues facing our industry and planet.”

10 – 12 June, London: Ethical Corporation’s 18th Responsible Business Summit Europe: “It’s time to Lead: Innovate, Engage and Collaborate.”

18 – 20 June, Minneapolis, USA: Circularity 19: “Circularity 19 will bring together more than 500 thought leaders and practitioners to define and accelerate the circular economy.”

22 June, Barcelona: Plante Textiles 2019: “The 10th edition of Planet Textiles will be a seminal event on sustainability in the textile manufacturing sector and will see an unrivalled gathering of experts from the entire fashion value chain.”

(Photo Soorelis, CCO)

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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