THIS ISSUE

Brands in this issue include: Balenciaga (new eco-friendly collection), Designerex (growing fast), Farfetch (bans fur), Farfetch, Stella McCartney and Buberry (accelerator with sustainability focus), H&M and Zara (facing changing consumer trends), PVH, VF, Target, Gap, Deckers Outdoor and Macy’s (listed in top 100 sustainable US companies), The North Face, United by Blue, Polartec, Fjallraven, Primaloft, Smartwool, and Rumpl (outdoor wear and sustainability), Yellow Octopus (circular innovation of the year), and more.

Reports released this week:

In general news:

  • In search of a vision for the global apparel and textiles sector

  • Yes, sustainability can be a strategy

  • Less margin for fashion? Bangladesh puts more pressure on the giants of the sector

  • #MeToo in India: The women left behind

  • First-ever vegan fashion week draws major crowds in LA

  • How to end waste in fashion: stop making clothes, or value the ones we have already?

  • Fashion sustainability experts share advice on how we can demand fashion brands become more ethical

  • How sheep have to suffer for our cuddly merino sweaters

  • There’s a strong ethical case for wearing leather and fur

  • Canadian House of Commons tables a Modern Slavery Bill

In the supply chain:

  • Bangladesh: Accord seeks 281 more days to complete remediation; widespread concern over workers losing jobs/facing repression over January unrest; works protest for higher wages; Digital map charting garment factories in Dhaka launched; workers occupy closed factory; tannery workers face health and safety crisis

  • Bulgaria: lowest minimum wage in the EU

  • Cambodia: EU launches procedure to temporarily suspend trade preferences; Factory, workers start strike negotiations

  • India: Sops aplenty for labour sector

  • Mexico: 45 more Tamaulipas factories threaten to go on strike

  • Myanmar: Fresh evidence of violations amid ongoing military operation in Rakhine State

Manufacturers in this issue include: Lenzing (using more textile waste), and more.

Quotes of the week:

  • “Nowadays … proposing a transfer of production to another market is practically impossible, since none exists with the same capacity as Bangladesh.” Industry sources (11 Feb).

  • “Buy clothes. Not very many. Made mostly from plants and animals. Then cherish and care for them.” Melissa Kwasny, author of forthcoming book Putting on the Dog: The Animal Origins of What We Wear, on wearing fur and other animal products (07 Feb).

  • “Beware that much of [CSR] can be marketing fluff. If they’re “working towards” a goal, or “aiming to achieve” another that’s great for them, but they’re clearly not there yet. Similarly, complying with local labour laws is not a badge of honour, it’s a basic legal requirement.” Sirena Bergman (07 Feb).

  • “The fur-free revolution shows no signs of slowing down, and it’s making fashion houses like Fendi, and Dolce and Gabbana that are still selling suffering look increasingly outmoded and isolated.” Humane Society International UK executive director Claire Bass on the decision by Farfetch to exclude fur (05 Feb).

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

BRANDS & RETAILERS

Woman’s fashion empire connects dress owners to renters: “Now in their third year, [Designerex has] been experiencing a huge surge to the site, growing at a rate of 150 per cent, Kirsten said. “We have over 12,000 dresses listed on the site and every month $250,000 worth of luxury clothing is listed.” “There’s been a real shift in fashion with women wanting a return when investing in expensive pieces” (11 Feb).

How could changing consumer trends affect fast fashion leaders H&M and Zara? “In recent months we’ve seen evidence that the seemingly unstoppable growth of fast fashion may be slowing, or at least changing. It’s more than just conjecture that many of the mall’s stalwart brands have suffered at the hands of fast fashion giants H&M and Zara, whose ability to significantly reduce time to market as well as undercut pricing of the once iconic brands, have added to the woes of many of fashion’s specialty retailers” (10 Feb).

What sustainability looks like in 2019 according to 8 brands: “We saw a widespread desire among brands [at the Outdoor Retailer trade show] to make products using more environmentally-friendly practices and fabrics. Here are eight brands with set plans around sustainability or products for fall-winter 2019-2020 that use recycled materials that we can’t wait to get our hands on” (09 Feb). [Ed’s note: brands mentioned are The North Face, United by Blue, Polartec, Fjallraven, Primaloft, Smartwool, and Rumpl.]

Fashion brands/retailers in the 100 Most Sustainable U.S. Companies list: [Ed’s note: from Barron’s second annual sustainability ranking of public companies.] #12 – PVH; #29 – VF; #35 – Target; #49 – Gap; #52 – Deckers Outdoor; and #57 – Macy’s (08 Feb).

Farfetch accelerator has sustainability focus for 2019, adds Stella McCartney: “Stella McCartney is joining Farfetch’s Dream Assembly technology accelerator programme with Burberry also continuing its links after taking part last year” (08 Feb).

Balenciaga just launched a new eco-friendly collection, doing their bit for sustainability of fashion: “Balenciaga is the next luxury brand to be part of the bandwagon and has teamed up with Farfetch to release a new line created just through conservation” (07 Feb).

Yellow Octopus Fashion wins Circular Economy Innovation of the Year: “[Yellow Octopus Fashion was] among the big winners of edie’s 2019 Sustainability Leaders Awards, announced at an awards ceremony in London on Wednesday evening (6 Feb)” (07 Feb).

Farfetch joins list of retailers banning fur from collections: “Farfetch has become the latest fashion retailer to ban the sale of fur from its collection. The online retailer announced it would drop fur from its collections on its website from December” (05 Feb).

NEWS & REPORTS 

In search of a vision for the global apparel and textiles sector: “At Davos this year, leading fashion brands launched CEO Agenda 2019. Through the Global Fashion Agenda, they have agreed eight sustainability priorities for the future of the fashion industry. Now, ahead of the 2019 OECD Forum on Due Diligence in the Garment and Footwear Sector, ETI’s Director Peter McAllister writes that the engagingly presented Agenda is a good start but that more is needed to turn it into a long overdue vision that really drives change” (11 Feb).

Yes, sustainability can be a strategy: “In a new paper, we use data from MSCI ESG Ratings, the largest provider of ESG data in the world, for the period 2012-2017 for all companies that appear in the MSCI consistently across all years — i.e. about 3,802 companies — to ensure that our analysis is not contaminated by changes in sample composition. We find that within most industries, sustainability practices have converged over time. This finding implies that, on average, companies adopted an increasingly similar set of sustainability practices during the sample period, raising the possibility that they are becoming common practices and, as such, are less likely to serve as a strategic differentiator and more likely to be a strategic necessity” (11 Feb). [Ed’s note: from Harvard Business Review.]

Less margin for fashion? Bangladesh puts more pressure on the giants of the sector: “The largest groups of fashion distribution face a complex scenario in the first links in the value chain, that is, supply. The wages increase in Bangladesh puts even more pressure to the margins and leaves no way out: Ethiopia is far from the Asiatic country” (11 Feb).

#MeToo in India: The women left behind: “Informal workers like Meena – women employed as domestic workers, construction labour, garment workers and vendors – make up 94% of India's female workforce. But their experiences of sexual harassment or assault rarely come to light” (10 Feb).

Philly’s custom shirtmakers are shutting down as fast fashion takes over: “Nearly all the city’s legacy bespoke tailors have quietly closed up shop in recent years” (10 Feb).

First-ever vegan fashion week draws major crowds in LA: “Hundreds of people flocked to see (and buy) the hottest in stunning, cruelty-free threads from more than 50 labels” (10 Feb).

How to end waste in fashion: stop making clothes, or value the ones we have already? “The price of fast fashion items, poorly made and sold as disposable, does not factor in the human and environmental costs of their production. Shutting down fashion production is impractical, but a ‘circular fashion’ economy can be built if consumers and industry ensure clothing is repurposed” (10 Feb).

Fashion sustainability experts share advice on how we can demand fashion brands become more ethical: “If you only want to support ethical fashion companies, all you need to do is boycott brands that don't align with your values, right? Well, according to Linda Greer, a Senior Scientist for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and an expert in the sustainable fashion space, and Alden Wicker, an ethical fashion blogger and journalist, simply boycotting brands has no effect on them. Instead, Wicker offers a suggestion that, if people with a passion for ethical fashion follow, could truly have an impact on the industry” (08 Feb).

How sheep have to suffer for our cuddly merino sweaters: “Merino wool is considered a cuddly natural product. But hardly a consumer knows that millions of sheep for sweaters and outdoor jackets are tormented. Even big fashion brands do too little to end the suffering” (08 Feb – in German).

What can we do to stop the damage of fast fashion? “Pollution, human rights abuses, waste: All disastrous consequences of our current fashion industry. Is there a better way?” (08 Feb).

Nonprofit ‘Nest’ helps women around the world make a living through handwork: “This week’s Business of Giving features Rebecca Van Bergen, founder and executive director of Nest. The nonprofit works with a global network of artisans, especially women who may rely on home-based "handwork" to survive. By establishing industrywide ethical standards and transparency, as well as production quality guidelines, Nest has helped provide these artisans access to new retail partners and brands that aspire to offer authentic, sustainable fashion” (08 Feb – 30:48-minute podcast).

Your ultimate guide to buying ethical and sustainable fashion: “With confusing language and vague terminology it can be easy to get overwhelmed by what a brand actually delivers – here’s how you can make sure you’re buying clothes you know have no negative impact” (07 Feb).

Canadian House of Commons tables a Modern Slavery Bill: “On 13 December 2018, a private members Bill entitled “Modern Slavery Act” was tabled in the Canadian House of Commons. The Bill, if passed, would require certain corporations linked to Canada to report on the measures they take to prevent and reduce the risk of forced or child labour in their businesses and supply chains.  The Bill also proposes to give the Canadian Border Service Agency the power to ban the import of affected goods and impose fines of up to CAD 250,000 for non-compliant corporations, as well as their directors and officers. For more information on the Bill, see our article here” (07 Feb).

There’s a strong ethical case for wearing leather and fur: “Being “good” isn’t as easy as it might first seem. In theory, it’s as simple as minimizing the harm you cause. This is the line of thinking that often prompts people to make decisions like giving up meat, or, in the case of clothing, refusing to wear any materials made from animals – specifically leather, fur, silk, pearls, wool, and feathers” (07 Feb).

The rise of conscious fashion: “We’re no longer oblivious to what goes on behind the scenes of one of the largest industries in the world. No more can we be fooled by the built-in obsolescence of Fast Fashion and the careless “throw-away” culture it’s created. Our ignorance is fading and we simply cannot dismiss the impact our self-indulgence is having on the world around us” (07 Feb).

How Instagram influencers fuel our destructive addiction to fast fashion: “The fashion industry is a big climate culprit, but social media continues to encourage our unsustainable consumption of disposable clothing” (07 Feb). [Ed’s note: by Lucy Siegle.]

Can the high street *ever* be sustainable? GLAMOUR investigates...: “Isn’t it time we all demanded more?” (07 Feb). [Ed’s note: article references Tesco, Marks and Spencer, Mothercare, Amazon, JD Sports, Boohoo, Fashion Revolution, Adidas, Lululemon, Gap, Primark, H&M, Nike, Hugo Boss, Ellen MacArthur Foundation, Ananas Anam, FRUMAT, Aquafil, and Bolt Threads.]

THE SUPPLY CHAIN

Bangladesh  

Accord seeks 281 more days to complete remediation: “Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, a platform of European apparel buyers to improve safety standards in apparel sector, has sought an extension of around 10 more months to finish the remaining remediation process in the apparel sector” (11 Feb).

Over 11,600 Bangladesh garment workers lose jobs and face repression: “A massive wave of protesting garment workers demanding an increase of minimum wages swept across Bangladesh’ garment industry in December 2018 and January 2019. State repression following the protest has resulted in arrests and mass terminations of workers in more than a hundred garment manufacturing units” (11 Feb).

Bangladesh factories dismiss workers after pay protests: “The dismissal of garment factory workers in Bangladesh following last month's strikes over wages, has been described as "deeply concerning" for apparel brands & retailers sourcing from the country” (11 Feb). [Ed’s note: included quote from H&M.]

RMG workers stage demo for salary hike: “Workers of a Ready made Garments (RMG) factory staged demonstration demanding salary hike and other facilities by blocking the Dhaka-Mymensingh highway for an hour in Sadar upazila of Gazipur on Sunday morning. The workers of Evince Textiles Limited blocked the road and staged demonstration in the morning to press home their demands” (11 Feb).

Digital map charting garment factories in Dhaka launched: “An online map containing essential information on export-oriented ready-made garment factories situated in the Dhaka district has been launched. The digital database titled ‘Mapped in Bangladesh’ was unveiled by Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi at BGMEA Apparel Club on Saturday. BRAC University developed the digital map Titled ‘Mapped in Bangladesh’, with the support of BRAC USA. The initiative has been funded by C&A Foundation” (10 Feb). [Ed’s note: you can see the map here.]

Garment workers occupy closed factory: “About 600 Luman Fashions workers have been demonstrating since January 28 in Dhaka over the company’s sudden closure of its plant without paying outstanding wages and benefits. The factory, which produced jackets for export, employed about 800 workers. Workers have occupied the factory’s 8th floor to prevent the authorities from removing machinery” (09 Feb).

Bangladeshi tannery workers face health and safety crisis: “Most workers in Bangladesh’s export-oriented leather industry suffer from extreme health hazards due to unsafe working conditions, a new study says. About 61 percent of workers at Savar Leather Industrial Estate, near capital Dhaka, are facing a health and safety crisis, according to the Occupational Safety, Health and Environment Foundation, a Bangladeshi labor rights group … 93 percent of respondents said they had no training before joining the industry, while 61 percent said they have been suffering from health problems due to the absence of any formal or informal safety mechanisms at their workplace. About 27 percent of workers said they were suffering from headaches, 19 percent from skin burns, 16 percent from hand and leg pains, 14 percent from allergies, and 11 percent from knee and back pain, the study showed” (30 Jan).

Bulgaria

Bulgarians endure lowest minimum wage in the EU: “Bulgaria might have increased its minimum wage in January to 286 euros per month, but it still remains the lowest miminum wage of all the 22 EU states that have one” (08 Feb).

Cambodia

EU launches procedure to temporarily suspend trade preferences: “The EU has today started the process that could lead to the temporary suspension of Cambodia’s preferential access to the EU market under the Everything But Arms (EBA) trade scheme. EBA preferences can be removed if beneficiary countries fail to respect core human rights and labour rights” (11 Feb).

Factory, workers start strike negotiations: “The management of Crystal Martin (Cambodia) in Kandal province’s Ksach Kandal district and worker representatives on Wednesday started negotiations to find a solution after 4,000 workers went on strike four times to demand better working conditions” (08 Feb).

Dark clouds gather over Cambodia’s garment industry: “These are gloomy times for Cambodia’s garment industry, the country's biggest informal employer. The industry is confronted with two major challenges: a fight over seniority bonuses and the impact of the possible suspension of Cambodia from a lucrative trade scheme with the European Union” (08 Feb).

India

Sops aplenty for labour sector: “Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy [of Karnataka] has announced a number of sops for unorganised workers of garment factories, which employs mainly women. As per the announcement, child care centres will be opened at factories and accident-relief grant will be provided to the workers under a special package of Rs 10 crore. This apart, 25,000 women workers from SC and ST communities will be trained for which Rs 37.5 crore has been allocated” (09 Feb).

Mexico

45 more Tamaulipas factories threaten to go on strike, this time in Reynosa: “Workers at 45 factories in Reynosa, Tamaulipas, have threatened to take strike action if they are not given the same pay raise and annual bonus as those given to thousands of workers in Matamoros” (09 Feb).

Myanmar

Fresh evidence of violations amid ongoing military operation in Rakhine State: [A new report from Amnesty International saysthe ] military is blocking access to food and shelling villages; operation involves units responsible for past atrocities, and 5,200 civilians displaced since December” (11 Feb).

MANUFACTURERS

450 textile mills in Surat to implement energy efficiency measures: “Ministry of MSME and South Gujarat Textile Processors’ Association (SGTPA) signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) for providing dedicated world-class technology support to implement energy efficient and eco-friendly technology and modernization of the textile mills in Surat cluster on Thursday” (08 Feb).

Pushing sustainability: Lenzing to use more textile waste in its products: “Lenzing blends cotton scraps and wood pulp to lyocell fibres using Refibra technology, which fashion brands from Australia’s Country Road to US brand Patagonia have started to use in their garments. Introduced in February 2017, TencelxRefibra is a material made up of 20 percent cotton scraps that are produced during textile manufacturing - also referred to as post-industrial waste. Lenzing’s goal is to increase that to 30 percent in 2019, according to project manager Hale Bahar Öztürk” (08 Feb).

Textile industry: Official concerned over likely increase in tax: “All Pakistan Textile Mills Association (APTMA) Chairman Rizwan Ashraf lamented the government was planning to raise the tax rate on use of underground water by textile industry, which was utilised as a raw material” (07 Feb).

Recycled yarn market is grow at a CAGR of 6.3% during 2019-2025: “The global Recycle Yarn market is valued at 3400 million US$ in 2018 is expected to reach 5220 million US$ by the end of 2025, growing at a CAGR of 6.3% during 2019-2025” (06 Feb).

CONFERENCES & SEMINARS                                          

[New listings or updated information marked with *]

13 February, Mumbai: ZDHC Regional Conference: “Signatory Brands, other stakeholders and industry captains of the textile & leather value chain will meet and deliberate on how to integrate sustainable chemistry in business strategies, implement best practices in textile manufacturing and encourage innovations in the chemical industry.”

15 February, Amsterdam: Circular Textiles Ready to Market – ECAP Event: “Sharing the results and learnings of the European Clothing Action Plan after more than 3 years of work.”

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 February, Mexico City: SAC & ZDHC Manufacturer Forum: “All interested industry stakeholders and supply chain partners are welcome to participate in this manufacturer-focused event.”

26 February, London, Fashion’s Big Fix: “How do we fix the mess of the fashion industry?”

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.”

14 March, London: Drapers Sustainable Fashion 2019: “Brings together the most sustainable brands and retailers, trailblazers and unicorns, disruptors, progressive thinkers and pioneers.”

14 March, Hong Kong: Sustainability in the Leather Supply Chain Hong Kong Conference 2019: “Focus on emerging risks to the leather industry and how these may be addressed through innovation and sustainable solutions.”

* 14 March, The Hague, Netherlands: Learning Seminar for Garment and Textile Brands: ‘Sourcing responsibly in Turkey. How to do due diligence?’: “Organised by the Dutch Agreement for Sustainable Garments & Textile (AGT) in cooperation with Fair Wear Foundation (FWF), supported by the AGT Turkey Taskforce.”

21 March, Melbourne, Australia: The Australian Circular Fashion Conference.

* 08 – 11 April, Budapest: 4th Global Sustainable Fashion Week: “press conference, international conferences, workshops, eco fashion shows and cultural programs.”

09 – 10 April, Amsterdam: Sustainable Apparel and Textiles Conference: “How brands can transform factories, increase transparency and implement circularity in fashion and textile supply chains.”

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.”

03 – 06 June: Detroit: SB’19 Detroit: “Navigate your brand’s sustainability journey to deliver business success,” by Sustainable Brands.

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: Planet 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.”

15 – 18 October: Vancouver: Textile Exchange Sustainability Conference: Textile Exchange call for breakout presentations.

(Photo image, 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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