THIS ISSUE

Brands in this issue include: Boohoo (bans wool, and then unbans it), Compare Ethics and Wear The Walk (renting fashion made easy), Edeka, and Marks & Spencer (among brands using WWF’s Water Risk Filter), Kathmandu (conducts survey on shoppers and sustainability), Mud Jeans (leasing organic, recycled jeans), and more.

Reports released this week:

In general news:

  • Upgraded Water Risk Filter will help companies respond to worsening water risks

  • Fur trade in Hong Kong: animal rights activists call on government to ban industry in city during annual protest

  • The fast fashion trap

  • BBC launches eco-friendly fashion and lifestyle brand

  • Fashion labels are trying to be ‘woke’, but is it just a trend?

  • Tiny fibers create unseen plastic pollution

  • The invisible women and girls who make your clothes

  • Viscose supply chain deforestation risks

  • Report: Social Audits don’t detect abuse of women workers in garment factories

  • To get companies to take action on social issues, emphasize morals, not the business case

In the supply chain:

  • Bangladesh: Supreme Court postpones hearing on Accord again until 7 April as pressure mounts for continuation; more articles analysing the layoffs from factories after December/January unrest

  • Bulgaria: a new video on low wages for textile workers

  • Cambodia: several articles on the proposed EBA suspension

  • Mexico: a good backgrounder on strikes at production plants near the US border

  • Philippines: 105-day maternity leave about to be passed into law

  • Serbia: union fight for living wage in textile industry

Manufacturers in this issue include: Birla Cellulose (new eco-fabric with lowest C02 emissions), Denim Expert (commits to reduced C02 emissions), Duedillatte (spinning milk into fibre), Multifibres (textile waste merchant suffers large fire), Prym Fashion (low impact fasteners), Textures (sustainable fabrics), and more.

Quotes of the week:

  • “But the fashion industry has marked its own homework for too long. Voluntary corporate social responsibility initiatives have failed significantly to improve pay and working conditions or reduce waste.” From Fixing Fashion: Clothing consumption and sustainability (19 Feb).

  • “The Government should change the law to require companies to perform due diligence checks across their supply chains. … We recommend that the Government reforms taxation to reward fashion companies that design products with lower environmental impacts and penalise those that do not.” From Fixing Fashion: Clothing consumption and sustainability (19 Feb).

  • “…false propaganda overseas is also hindering the prospects of the country's apparel sector.” Bangladesh newspaper, The Financial Express, on the BGMEA’s push for more overseas markets (17 Feb).

  • “The [Bangladesh] Accord expresses deep concerns regarding the lack of progress in discussions with the government and BGMEA on Accord’s operations and transition of Accord’s work to the Remediation Coordination Cell (RCC).” From a statement by the Bangladesh Accord over the transition (15 Feb).

  • “Panadol becomes our main food to survive from all of our physical illness and pain. Every women who works at the factory they carry Panadol and eat it like rice because we all suffer from different pains in our body and Panadol helps to survive.” Interviewee in Bangladesh garment factory, cited in academic article on health problems in the sector (21 Jan).

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

BRANDS & RETAILERS

Boohoo bans wool, then unbans it: [Ed’s note: the story’s evolution.]

Every fashion brand that has banned fur: from Chanel to Burberry: “In 2019, it looks like fur is finally on its way out of the fashion industry” (16 Feb). [Ed’s note: article contains list of around 30 designers, high street stores and retailers – UK publication.]

Retailers are selling sustainability, but are customers buying? “In a recent survey of 1,000 Australian consumers, [Kathmandu] found that one in two shoppers do not consider the social, environmental and ethical impacts of the fashion industry when purchasing clothing items. And a whopping 97 per cent of those surveyed had not purchased from a sustainable, eco-fashion brand in the 12 months prior, or at least they had not intentionally done so” (15 Feb).

Jeans you can lease instead of buying? How fashion is coming to terms with sustainability: “Mud Jeans wants to produce clothes in a sustainable manner using organic cotton and recycled denim. The company's goal is to eventually design jeans produced from 100 percent recycled denim” (15 Feb).

NEWS & REPORTS 

Fixing Fashion: Clothing consumption and sustainability: “The way we make, use and throwaway our clothes is unsustainable. Textile production contributes more to climate change than international aviation and shipping combined, consumes lake-sized volumes of fresh water and creates chemical and plastic pollution. Synthetic fibres are being found in the deep sea, in Arctic sea ice, in fish and shellfish. Our biggest retailers have ‘chased the cheap needle around the planet’, commissioning production in countries with low pay, little trade union representation and weak environmental protection. In many countries, poverty pay and conditions are standard for garment workers, most of whom are women. We are also concerned about the use of child labour, prison labour, forced labour and bonded labour in factories and the garment supply chain. Fast fashions’ overproduction and overconsumption of clothing is based on the globalisation of indifference towards these manual workers” (19 Feb).

Upgraded Water Risk Filter will help companies respond to worsening water risks: “With water crises posing a growing threat to the global economy, WWF today announced a major upgrade to its Water Risk Filter, launching a new Respond section that will help companies and financial institutions mitigate water risks to their operations and assets around the world … Already trusted by thousands of users, the Water Risk Filter had undergone another significant upgrade in 2018, enabling users – such as Germany's largest retailer, Edeka, and Britain’s Marks & Spencer – to better explore and assess their water risks” (18 Feb).

Fur trade in Hong Kong: animal rights activists call on government to ban industry in city during annual protest: Animal rights activists call on Hong Kong government to ban fur trade in city during annual protest against industry. Pro-democracy lawmakers Claudia Mo: “But it is Hong Kong’s turn at least to seriously to consider that we should drop all fur” (18 Feb).

The fast fashion trap: “Fast fashion is making us want more, spend more and waste more. Accessibility through low costs and an abundance of styles has boosted our need for newness and we’re topping up our wardrobes at an expedient rate. It taps into our need for conformity and our desire for self-expression, but at what cost to our mental health?” (18 Feb).

It’s never been easier to rent fashion: “Mix and match with Compare Ethics and Wear The Walk. Rent pieces from sustainable fashion designers and buy your every day everyday ethical fashion in one place” (18 Feb).

BBC launches London Fashion Week sustainability project: “BBC Earth has launched a new brand to "place sustainable fashion at the heart" of London Fashion Week. The eco-friendly move, in collaboration with British Fashion Council and clothing company Mother of Pearl, will be unveiled on Monday. A short film made for the event was premiered on Saturday and will run alongside a series of talks for the #SustainableMe project” (17 Feb – 2:52-minute video). See also: BBC launches eco-friendly fashion and lifestyle brand: “BBC Planet seeks to capitalise on Attenborough’s warnings about ecological catastrophe” (15 Feb).

Climate protesters disrupt London fashion week by blocking roads: “Extinction Rebellion calls for British Fashion Council to declare climate emergency” (17 Feb).

Fashion labels are trying to be ‘woke’, but is it just a trend? “It all plays into a shift in fashion in recent years: brands are expected to be "woke" – a largely Millennial term for being "awake" to injustice and privilege in society, though one which is now often used sarcastically – and are decisively called out if they’re not. This is in part because informed consumers with social media accounts are holding brands accountable in ways the fashion industry has previously not experienced” (17 Feb).

Tiny fibers create unseen plastic pollution: “While the polyester leisure suit was a 1970s mistake, polyester and other synthetic fibers like nylon are still around and are a major contributor to the microplastics load in the environment, according to a Penn State materials scientist, who suggests switching to biosynthetic fibers to solve this problem” (16 Feb).

“I need a few more colleagues linking my arm” – Stella McCartney sounds off on sustainability, faux leather, and the lack of honesty around both: “When you think about fashion’s impact on the environment, your mind tends to go to the unregulated factories, the piles of clothes in landfills, the toxic chemicals, the wasted fabrics, etc. Leather is rarely considered the “worst offender.” There’s also the common argument that leather is better for the earth because it is “natural,” while its synthetic alternatives are made with polyester or acrylic. “Quite frankly, that’s rubbish,” McCartney says”” (16 Feb).

The invisible women and girls who make your clothes: “Two years ago, I set out to document the conditions for the homeworkers in India’s garment industry as part of a broader mission to document the exploitative labor conditions that characterize the bottom of global supply chains – from electronics to seafood to garments and more. The results of this research were released in my report, “Tainted Garments”, through the Blum Center for Developing Economies at UC Berkeley” (14 Feb).

Viscose supply chain deforestation risks: “Canopy’s Nicole Rycroft on why there is deforestation in viscose-based apparel” (14 Feb – 28:31-minute podcast).

Report: Social Audits don’t detect abuse of women workers in garment factories: “A new report from Human Rights Watch (HRW) says that social audits that apparel brands often rely on to help monitor conditions at factories in their supply chains fail to detect or deter gender-based violence and harassment against female laborers, which comprise a majority of the workforce” (14 Feb). [Ed’s note: see last issue of FSWIR for links to report.]

To get companies to take action on social issues, emphasize morals, not the business case: To get companies to take action on social issues, emphasize morals, not the business case. Conventional wisdom says to make the business case, but this new article from the Harvard Business Review says making the moral case may be more persuasive. (14 Feb).

Egyptian Cotton pilots BCI cotton project: “Under a new pilot project called The Egyptian Cotton Project, the partners are launching the country’s first Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) program. BCI connects people and organizations across the cotton sector – from field to store – to make global cotton production better for the people who produce it and the environment it grows in” (14 Feb).

Future of fashion: worker-led strategies: [Ed’s note: a new report from ILRF.] “The global apparel industry is characterized by complex global supply chains operated by large multinational brands and retailers, like Gap and Walmart, in which production is outsourced to hundreds of factories in developing nations to take advantage of low wages and weak labor law enforcement. This model of outsourced, globalized production has enabled multinational brands and retailers to not only increase profits by lowering labor costs, but also to insulate themselves from legal liability for working conditions in the factories making their products” (13 Feb). [Ed’s note: you can see full report here.]

THE SUPPLY CHAIN

Bangladesh  

Uncertainty lingers as Bangladesh Accord and government fail to reach agreement: “The future of the Bangladesh Accord remains unclear following the decision by the Bangladesh Supreme Court to postpone the hearing on the future of the organization until April 7. Until then, the country's government and the Bangladesh Accord will continue their attempts to reach an agreement” (18 Feb).

RMG worker ‘gang-raped’ in Savar: “A ready-made garment worker has allegedly been gang-raped in Savar's Hemayetpur. The incident came to light yesterday after the girl's family members filed a case with Savar Model Police Station accusing two named and two to three unnamed men” (18 Feb).

Bangladesh mass dismissals of garment workers: “ETI is very concerned about the recent mass dismissals of garment workers in Bangladesh. Additionally, we are troubled about the reportedly violent reaction of some of the policing authorities” (18 Feb).

Pressure mounts on govt for continuation of Accord: “Clean Clothes Campaign calls for solution” (17 Feb).

Accord calls out to BD govt for time to make prepared transition: “Tied in a legal battle over extension, Bangladesh Accord has called out for more time from the government for what it says to make a prepared handover of their work to local authorities” (15 Feb).

The Layoffs: “The names and photographs of hundreds of workers who had been temporarily suspended, were displayed prominently on the walls of the factory in Kathgora, Ashulia. Star Weekend spoke to six of its workers, all machine operators, who say they boycotted their work peacefully but have since been laid off” [Ed’s note: a long article taking a closer look at factory layoffs in the wake of worker unrest over wages in January. Cited are Factories cited: AR Jeans Producer (allegedly producing for Pepe Jeans, Pull&Bear, Bershka), FNF Apparels, Al Gausia Garments, Knit Asia, Hollywood Garments, FGS Denim, Abanti Colour Tex, Saybolt Textiles.] (15 Feb).

icddr,b explores sustainable ways to improve WASH at RMG factories: “icddr,b in partnership with The Waterloo Foundation, UK has undertaken a new study to explore water, sanitation and hygiene (collectively known as WASH) situation in readymade garment (RMG) factories in Bangladesh” (14 Feb).

Bulgaria

Impoverished workers in the textile industry in Bulgaria: “In Bulgaria, the low minimum wage and meagre pensions mean that many are part of the working poor and some are looking to the EU for answers” (12 Feb – 2:08-minute video).

Cambodia

EBA suspension not fatal: gov’t: “Sok Sopheak, secretary of state at the Ministry of Commerce, said the EBA will probably not be revoked, as the government still has six months to negotiate with the EU and defend its position” (18 Feb).

Workers faint in light factory in Svay Rieng: [Ed’s note: Stories of workers fainting in Cambodia almost always involve garment factories, but this is a rare example of another industry; a light factory. The workers’ fainting spells were attributed to “poor health””.] (18 Feb).

Spotlight: Cambodian garment workers concern over EU’s possible suspension of duty-free preferences: “Cambodian trade union leaders and workers in the garment and footwear sector remained concerned about the European Union (EU)’s possible suspension of duty-free trading preferences for the kingdom, though the government has taken a series of precautionary measures” (16 Feb).

Cambodia’s Hun Sen calls for destruction of opposition in leaked phone call: “Cambodia must work during the next 18 months to destroy the opposition party at the local level before European Union trade sanctions come into effect, Prime Minister Hun Sen said in a phone call to government officers leaked to social media on Thursday” (14 Feb).

Mexico

‘We won't be trampled on’: striking Mexican workers vow to fight the fight: “Strikes close or slow production at dozens of assembly plants and factories as workers demand better salaries” (17 Feb).

Philippines

The 105-day maternity leave ‘law’: “This almost-a-law-bill will benefit virtually all working women of reproductive age as it provides a mandatory 105 days of PAID maternity leave to those in the public and private sectors, as well as to women workers in the informal economy. Moreover, this “law” does not discriminate on the basis of civil status, which means that unmarried women are covered; on the basis of number of children, as there is no limit to the number of pregnancies covered; and on the basis of employment status” (09 Feb). [Ed’s note: the president cold still veto the legislation.]

Serbia

Supporting Serbian workers to win a living wage: “Meeting in Belgrade, Serbian affiliates pledged to increase organizing in the textile industries and reach for a branch collective agreement with living wages. For that, stronger unions and more representative employer associations are needed” (18 Feb).

MANUFACTURERS

Fire engulfs waste merchant: Premises owned by Multifibres, a textile, fabric and yarn waste merchants located in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, were engulfed in a major fire (17 Feb).

Denim Expert pledges cut in carbon emission: “Denim Expert Ltd, a [Bangladesh] denim exporter, has joined the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to reduce carbon emissions in manufacturing garment items” (17 Feb).

Spinning spoiled milk into an environmental revolution: “An Italian fashion designer [Tuscany-based Duedillatte] is spinning the country’s spoiled milk into clothing. Antonella Bellina, 39, has developed a method of converting milk protein into a silky fiber” (16 Feb).

Sustainable fabrics with Textures – innovative materials that feed and regenerate the planet: “Today we look at Textures, an Indian manufacturer of innovative textiles for the fashion industry. ‘Textures’ has launched an exclusive range of sustainable and eco-friendly spun fabrics made from cellulose extracted from a wide range of plants and vegetable matter, such as roses, lotus plant, banana, corn, soybean, aloe vera, and eucalyptus” (15 Feb).

Prym Fashion introduces low impact fasteners for apparel: “German trims supplier Prym Fashion introduced L.I.F.E. Certified fasteners at Premiere Vision in Paris this week. Short for Low Impact Fastener Ensemble, the line of fasteners is manufactured to significantly lower the process and environmental footprint of the company’s products compared to conventional manufacturing processes” (14 Feb).

Tintex presents water saving initiative in Munich: “ A unique initiative called The Blue Lab, created by the NGO Drip by Drip, is aimed at developing alternative textile solutions with the lowest possible water footprint, in collaboration with a network of participants” (14 Feb). [Ed’s note: organisations involved include Among the key partners are: Lenzing, Tearfil, Tintex, Blue Ben, Montebelo, and Agroho.]

Slovenian start-up develops filter to catch microfibres in washing machines. “Start-up PlanetCare has developed filters specifically designed to catch microfibres shed from textiles and clothes during washing and drying” (13 Feb).

Birla Cellulose launches eco-enhanced fabric: “This exquisite, natural based fabric gives your garments a unique combination of fluidity and luxurious softness. In addition to draping you effortlessly Liva Eco is Pro-Planet and helps save water, increases forest cover and reduces CO2 emission, so your choice not just makes you fashionable but also helps preserves the environment” (06 Feb – 1:45-minute video).

CONFERENCES & SEMINARS                                          

[New listings or updated information marked with *]

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.”

28 February: London: Sustainable Fashion and the SDGs: “The fashion industry touches upon several of the Sustainable Development Goals – so join us for an evening discussing sustainable fashion!”

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.”

08 September, Dhaka, Bangladesh: GOTS Bangladesh Seminar 2019: For sponsorship or speaking opportunities contact Sumit Gupta at the link.

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

(Photo Orlando, 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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